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Travel to France: What has changed since Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ended on January 1st 2021, but Covid-related travel restrictions means that many people have not travelled abroad since then - so here's what you need to know about what has changed.

Travel to France: What has changed since Brexit?
Travel from the UK to France is more complicated since Brexit. Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP

Passports

Your British passport of course remains a valid travel document, even if it no longer makes you a citizen of the EU. However, two things have changed here.

First your passport needs to have at least three months of validity left for travel into the EU (although some travel operators demand six months validity, so check carefully when booking). If your passport runs for longer than 10 years, which some do, the situation is slightly more complicated – it might be easier to say it should be renewed nine and a half years after it was issued.

Second your passport is likely to be stamped as you enter France, so that authorities can see clearly your date of entry.

The passports of Brits who are permanent residents in France should not be stamped but they will need to show proof of residency such as a carte de séjour or visa- here’s what to do if your passport is stamped in error.

Visas

If you are entering France for a short holiday, to visit family or friends or make a short visit to your second home you do not need a visa. However if you are moving to France to live or intending to stay longer than 90 days in a 180-day period you will need either a visa or a residency permit – find out more about the 90-day rule HERE.

If you are coming to France to work you may need both a visa and a work permit depending on the type and duration of your work – full details HERE.

France is thankfully not actually locking up Brits who don’t have the correct paperwork, but there are still checks and you can be turned back at the border if you try to enter France for a longer stay without the correct paperwork.

Extra paperwork

When entering France as a non-EU national you may be asked to provide any of the following at the border.

In practice the level of enforcement on this varies and most people will not be asked, but French border guards are within their rights to ask you for;

  • Proof of accommodation during your stay (booking for hotel, gîte, Airbnb or B&B for tourists, second-home owners may need to provide proof of address such as a utility bill and if you’re staying with friends or family you may need an Attestation d’accueil, see below)
  • A return ticket or the means to acquire one
  • Sufficient financial means to cover basic costs during your stay. The guideline figures for this are; €65 per day if you have a hotel booking, €120 per day if you have no hotel booking, €32.50 per day if you are staying with friends or family
  • Insurance that covers health costs and the cost of repatriation if required (see health cover section below)
  • If you are transiting through France you may be asked for proof of your right to enter your final destination

READ ALSO Health insurance – what are the post-Brexit rules for Brits visiting France

Registering British guests with the Town Hall?

You may have seen reports that anyone who is hosting a British guest in their home has to register in advance with their local Mairie. Here is how this works, and the alternative if obtaining the attestation d’acceuil is not possible. 

90-days

With the ending of freedom of movement comes the 90-day rule, which states that out of every 180 days, Brits can only spend 90 of them within the EU without a visa or residency permit.

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule HERE, together with the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out our allowance.

It’s worth pointing out that the 90-day limit applies to the whole EU and Schengen zone, not just France. 

Health cover

In case you need healthcare while in France you will need either an EHIC or a GHIC health insurance card, or private health or travel insurance.

Be aware, that the EHIC/GHIC only covers emergency care and do not include the cost of things like repatriation. If you are travelling without a visa or residency card you may need to show proof that you have cover for repatriation costs, but this can be through either health insurance or travel insurance, there is no requirement for a separate health insurance policy to enter France.

Phones

Remember the olden days when you had to either turn off data roaming on your mobile phone when leaving the UK or face a big bill on your return? Well, they are back for customers of certain providers.

The EU clamped down on excessive roaming charges, but companies operating in the UK are no longer bound by that rule. After initially saying that they would not increase charges, an increasing number of phone companies have announced the return of extra charges for using your phone abroad, so make sure you check with your provider if you don’t want to be hit with a big bill. 

READ ALSO How to avoid big ‘roaming’ bills in France

Driving

While driving licences have been a thorny issue for British residents in France there is better news for visitors – you can continue to drive on your UK or NI licence in France and there is no need for an International Drivers’ Permit.

The European Commission has also announced that it will waive the requirement for British drivers to have a ‘green card’ from their insurance company.

You will, however, need to swap the ‘GB’ sticker on your vehicle for a new UK sticker.

Ham sandwiches and other British delicacies

There are now strict rules on what products you can bring into the EU from the UK, which rule out almost all animal products (meat, fish, dairy etc) as well as flowers and plants.

Find the full list of banned items HERE.

Furniture, DIY and other high-value items

As well as the products that are banned outright, there is also a limit on the total value of goods you can bring in – any loads of more than €430 in value can be liable to import duties.

There is an exemption for people moving to France with all their worldly goods, but not for second-home owners who want to bring over furniture or DIY items for a renovation project. Full details on the rules HERE.

If you are coming to France to work and are bringing equipment other than a laptop with you, you will need a detailed inventory and a carnet.

Pets

And it’s not just people who have stricter travel rules, the European Pet Passport is no longer valid for UK-dwelling pets to travel into France. Instead you will need to see your vet ahead of your trip to get an Animal Health Certificate – full details HERE. Unlike the Pet Passport, a new AHC is required for every trip.

After some initial confusion, French authorities have clarified the rules for pets belonging to second-home owners

Delays

All these new rules obviously mean more checks at the border, so check-in times can take longer. Passengers travelling from the port of Dover, the Folkestone Channel Tunnel terminal and the London St Pancras Eurostar terminal have all reported much longer queues, so make sure you arrive in plenty of time.

READ ALSO Will UK-France travel be a nightmare all summer?

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STRIKES

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Unions representing cabin crew on several airlines have threatened to take strike action over the Christmas holidays in a series of increasingly bitter pay disputes.

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Cabin crew for Air France have already outlined dates for possible strike days, while unions representing staff at Easyjet and Ryanair are threatening “massive disruption” unless their demands are met.

The SNPNC-FO union, which represents cabin crew working in France, is calling for pay increases for its members working for budget airline Easyjet, warning that if no agreement is reached there will be a “very high risk” of walk-outs over Christmas.

Strikes, prices and services – what you need to know about travel over Christmas 2022

No exact dates have been proposed yet, but the union says that the current pay offer does not cover the rising cost of living, adding “the management will be responsible for the disruptions suffered by our customers”.

Cabin crew at Air France have filed a provisional strike notice from December 22nd to January 2nd, although whether staff actually walk out depends on how the pay negotiations go.

“This notice should serve as a warning to our management,” explains a union leaflet. “If this warning is not heeded, only a strong mobilisation will be able to tip the balance.”

So far the only confirmed strike action is at Air Antilles and Air Guyane – which mostly run flights between France and the Caribbean and French Guyana. Their staff will be walking out between December 17th and December 22nd, unless there is a breakthrough in pay negotiations. 

Ryanair crew working in Belgium have also threatened strike action over Christmas, although so far their French colleagues have not revealed any strike plans. 

Things look better for rail and ferry travel, with no strikes currently planned – although anyone with a trip to the UK planned should be aware of strike days planned by British rail staff over the Christmas and New Year period.

French airport ground staff and air traffic controllers won themselves a pay rise after strike action over the summer holidays. 

You can find all the latest strike information for France on our strikes page HERE.

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