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TOURISM

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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For members

STRIKES

France’s pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

The final day of January marks the second - and almost certainly not the last - day of mass strike action in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. Here's what to expect on January 31st.

France's pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

Unions have promised the ‘mother of all battles’ against Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reform the French pension system, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

However, the action for the moment is mostly concentrated into a series of one-day actions, with the first taking place on January 19th.

The next ‘mass mobilisation’ is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31st. It is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that support is likely to be high and disruption severe on certain services.

Workers in essential services such as transport must declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance, allowing transport operators to produce strike timetables, which are usually released 24 hours in advance. We will update this story as new information is released.

Trains

Rail unions are strongly backing the action – on January 19th, 46 percent of all rail workers walked out, and unions say they expect a similar level of support on January 31st. This would likely lead to a similar level of disruption with around half of high-speed TGV trains cancelled and 9 out of 10 of local TER services. 

International services including Eurostar could also see cancellations or a revised timetable. 

Some unions have filed a provisional strike notice running from 7pm on January 25th to 8am on February 2nd, with the option of a renewable strike after that – however it is not yet known how well supported this action will be. 

City public transport

Workers on Paris’ RATP network also saw high levels of support for the previous strike – with most Metro lines running rush-hour-only services and some closed altogether, while buses ran a severely limited service. The full details of exactly what will be running will be revealed on Monday evening by RATP.

Other cities including Marseille, Nice, Lyon and Nantes will likely see a repeat of severely disrupted bus, tram and Metro services.

Ports

The CGT union representing port and dock workers are also set to walk out on January 31st, but have filed a strike notice running from January 26th. Full details of their action are yet to be clarified.

Schools

The major teaching unions have called for another 24-hour walkout, so some schools are likely to close. The January 19th action saw roughly half of teachers across France walk out.

Ski lifts

The two unions that represent more than 90 percent of workers in ski resorts have called an ‘unlimited’ strike beginning on January 31st. So far Tuesday is the only confirmed strike day, but others could be announced. Strikes in ski resorts generally mainly affect the operation of ski lifts.

Petrol stations

The hardline CGT union has announced extra strike dates for workers at oil refineries, and also threatened blockades. This can result in shortages at petrol stations as supplies of petrol and diesel are blocked from leaving the refineries and reaching filling stations.

Power cuts 

CGT members working in the state electricity sector have also threatened more ‘direct action’ including power cuts to selected towns. This is not a legitimate strike tactic – in fact France’s labour minister says it is “a criminal offence” and will be punished accordingly – but it could happen nevertheless.

On January 19th two towns – one in the greater Paris region and one in northern France – lost power for a couple of hours in what was described as a deliberate cut. The union says it intends to target towns that elected MPs who support the pension reform.

Demos

January 31st will also see another day of marches and demonstrations in towns and cities around France. On January 19th more than 1 million people took to the streets and unions will be hoping for a similar turnout on January 31st. One striking feature of the demos on January 19th was the comparatively large turnout in smaller French towns that usually do not see large demos.

Other strike dates

The above information relates to January 31st only, and services before and after this date are expected to run as normal.

Some unions, however, have declared ‘unlimited’ strikes, so there could be disruptions on these services on other days – these include ski lift operators, truck drivers and oil refinery workers.

It is highly likely that further one-day or multi-day strikes will be announced for February and March, as the pension reform bill comes before parliament, you can keep up to date with out strike calendar HERE.

We will update this article as more information becomes available, and you can also keep up with the latest in our strike section HERE.

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