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What does the UK government’s ‘amber traffic light’ mean for travel to France?

As the UK government prepares to allow travel again, France has been placed on the amber list - here's what it means for people travelling between France and the UK.

What does the UK government's 'amber traffic light' mean for travel to France?
Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

At present the UK rules prohibit travel out of the country for non-essential purposes, meaning holidays to France are not possible, although there is an exemption in the rules for second-home owners – full details here.

However, this will be lifted from May 17th, and at that stage the “traffic light” system will kick in.

This involves giving each country a designation – red, amber or green – based on data including case numbers and vaccination rates in the country.

The list was published on Friday and France, along with almost all European countries has been given an ‘amber’ rating.

The list as published applies only to England. The devolved nations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have not announced when they will lift travel restrictions but have not so far indicated that they intend to impose different rules to England’s.

MAP: Where in France are Covid cases falling?

However not being on the green list doesn’t mean that travel isn’t allowed – it just means that people will have to quarantine and test on arrival in the UK.

People can travel from amber list countries to the UK for any reason – there is no need to prove that your trip is essential and entry is not limited to UK nationals or residents.

However, there are rules on testing and quarantine in place.

Arrivals must;

  • Have a negative Covid test to show at the border
  • Complete the passenger locator form – find that HERE
  • Quarantine for 10 days – this can be done in a location of their choice including the home of a friend or family member and there is no need to pay for a ‘quarantine hotel’.
  • Arrivals also have to pay for travel-testing kits which cost around £200 per person.
  • Essentially this the regime currently in place for most arrivals.

If France in the future makes it onto the green list, then no quarantine is necessary, but a negative Covid test is required to enter the country, plus another test on or before day 2 of their stay. 

The French rules

The above is what you need to know to enter the UK, but what about travelling the other way?

Travel into France from the UK is currently allowed for all purposes, including tourism, family visits and second-home owners. France plans to open up tourism from all non-EU countries from June 9th, but there was already an exemption in place for seven non-EU countries, including the UK.

READ ALSO Who can travel to France as the country lifts its lockdown?

Until May 3rd, France’s lockdown rules banned all non-essential travel of more than 10km, which in effect ruled out most trips, but that has now been lifted and travel within France for all purposes is again allowed with no need for permission forms.

There is still a curfew, however, and plenty of other closures and restrictions in place until at least June – find the full calendar for lifting lockdown HERE.

All arrivals into France need to present a negative Covid test, taken within the previous 72 hours. This test must be a PCR test. You also need to fill in a declaration stating that you do not have Covid symptoms and have not been in contact with anyone who has. You can find the form HERE.

Once in France, travellers from the UK are asked to quarantine for seven days and then take a second test. The quarantine can be done at a location of your choice and it is not enforced by police, unlike the strict quarantine in place for arrivals from ‘high risk’ countries including India and South Africa.

The UK currently advises against its nationals visiting France for leisure or tourism purposes – this doesn’t mean that you can’t go, but this official advice can invalidate your travel insurance, so check your policy before travel.

What about vaccine passports?

Neither France not the UK as yet have vaccine passport systems up and running, although France is expected to have a ‘health pass’ in operation by June 9th, which will allow people to upload either a vaccination certificate or a recent negative Covid test.

READ ALSO How will France’s ‘health pass’ work?

That means that, for the moment, even fully vaccinated people will have to abide by the testing and quarantine rules.

Member comments

  1. Can I stay one night in France (driving en route to Italy, permitted business) without having to quarantine.

    Lots of advice of rules for staying in France, but none for transiting.

    Thank you for advice!

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Everything you need to know about travel to France from within the EU

After two years of limited travel many people are planning a holiday this year and France is a popular destination - but it's easy to lose track of the latest travel rules. Here's what you need to know if you are coming to France from a country that is within the EU or Schengen zone.

Everything you need to know about travel to France from within the EU

Restrictions

France operates a ‘traffic light’ system that has been in place since summer 2020, assigning countries a colour based on their Covid infection rates.

These days most of the world is green – the lightest level of restriction – including all the countries in the EU and Schengen zone. Find full details on the government website here.

Map: French interior ministry

Vaccinated – if you are fully vaccinated according to the French definition (see below) and travelling from a green zone country all you need to show at the border is proof of vaccination. There is no requirement for extra paperwork such as passenger locator forms or health declarations and no Covid tests needed. Once in France you are not required to quarantine.

Unvaccinated – if you are not fully vaccinated according to the French definition (see below) you will need to show a negative Covid test at the border. The test can be either a PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours or an antigen test taken within the previous 48 hours. Once in France you are not required to quarantine.

Fully vaccinated – in order to qualify as ‘fully vaccinated’ you must be vaccinated with an EMA approved vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca or Janssen) and must be at least 7 days after your final dose (or 28 days after in the case of Janssen). If you had your vaccine more than nine months ago, you will need a booster shot in order to still be classificed as ‘fully vaccinated’ if you are aged 18 and over.

Anyone vaccinated within the EU/Schengen zone will have the EU digital vaccine pass, but vaccination certificates issued outside the EU are also accepted at the French border. 

Children – The rules on vaccination apply to all children aged 12 and over. Under 12s do not need to supply proof of vaccination at the border. Children aged between 12 and 18 do not need a booster shot, even if their vaccine took place more than nine months ago.

The above rules apply to all EU and Schengen zone countries – if you are travelling from the UK click HERE, click HERE for travel from the USA and HERE for travel from other non-EU countries.

In France

So you’ve made it into France, but what are the rules once you are here?

On May 16th, France ended the mask requirement for public transport, representing one of the last Covid restrictions still in place.

Masks – masks are now only compulsory in health establishments, although they remain recommended on public transport. They are not required in other indoor spaces such as shops, bars, restaurants and tourist sites, although private businesses retain the legal right to make mask-wearing a condition of entry.

Health pass – the health pass was suspended in March and is no longer required to enter venues such as bars, restaurants and tourist sites. It is still required to enter establishements with vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. In this case it is a health pass not a vaccine pass – so unvaccinated people can present a recent negative Covid test.

Hygiene gestures – the government still recommends the practice of hygiene gestures such as hand-washing/gel and social distancing although this is a recommendation and not a rule.

Self-isolation – if you test positive for Covid while in France you are legally required to self isolate – full details HERE.

READ ALSO How tourists and visitors to France can get a Covid test

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