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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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TRAVEL NEWS

What to expect from traffic during upcoming three-day weekend in France

L'assomption - or the Assumption of Mary - is coming up for Monday, giving people working in France their last three-day weekend of the summer. As such, the roads are expected to be very busy.

What to expect from traffic during upcoming three-day weekend in France

As the last three-day weekend of the summer approaches, France’s traffic watchdog, Bison futé has announced their forecast for congestion on the roads. 

Traffic is expected to be quite difficult this weekend, with Saturday classified as almost entirely ‘red’ across France for both departures and returns, with the Mediterranean area coloured black – the highest alert level – for departures.

The different congestion levels range from green (normal), orange (difficult), red (very difficult) to black (extremely difficult).

“Throughout the weekend, traffic will be very difficult in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and on the Mediterranean Arc, especially on the A7, A8 and A9 freeways”, warned Bison Futé in their statement.

Here is the breakdown per day:

Friday, August 12

Friday is mostly green for departures, aside from the Paris region and the Mediterranean, which can expect some minor delays, as they are coloured in orange. The traffic watchdog recommends leaving or crossing through the Paris region prior to noon.

For returns, however, the situation will be less calm. The majority of the country is on orange alert, with the Mediterranean area coloured red. 

Bison futé predictions for Friday

Specifically, for departures motorists are advised to:

  • leave or cross the Île-de-France before 12:00,
  • avoid the A10 freeway, between Paris and Orleans, from 2pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the A63 freeway, between Bayonne and Spain, from 8am to 8pm,
  • avoid the A7 freeway, between Lyon and Orange, from 11am to 9pm and between Orange and Marseille, from 2pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the A9 freeway, between Orange and Narbonne, from 10am to 9pm,
  • avoid the A75 freeway, between Millau and Lodève, from 3pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the A62 freeway, between Bordeaux and Toulouse, from 3pm to 7pm,
  • avoid the A61 freeway, between Toulouse and Narbonne, from 3pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in the direction of Italy, from 12:00 to 15:00 (wait time will likely be greater than 30 minutes)

For returns, Bison futé’s advice is to:

  • return to or cross the Ile-de-France before 2pm,
  • avoid the A10 freeway, between Bordeaux and Paris, from 2pm to 7pm,
  • avoid the A63 freeway, between Spain and Bayonne, from 5pm to 7pm,
  • avoid the A6 freeway, between Lyon and Beaune, from 3pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the A7 freeway, between Marseille and Lyon, from 10am to 8pm,
  • avoid the A8 freeway, near Aix-en-Provence, from 10am to 7pm,
  • avoid the A9 freeway, between Narbonne and Orange, from 11am to 7pm,
  • avoid the A62 freeway, between Toulouse and Agen, from 2pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the A61 freeway, between Narbonne and Carcassonne, from 2pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel on your way back to France, from 2pm to 9pm (wait time will likely be more than 1 hour)

Saturday

Saturday is slated to be the most difficult day on the roads this weekend.

For both departures and returns, the whole of the country can expect significant delays and congestion, under the ‘red’ classification. For departures, roads in the Mediterranean area are expected to be the most packed and will be classified as ‘black.’ 

Bison futé predictions for Saturday

Bison Futé advises you to avoid the big cities, from as early as 8am for the Paris region. 

The roads you should pay avoid for departures on Saturday are:

  • the A1 freeway, between Paris and Lille, from 10am to 5pm
  • the A84 freeway, between Caen and Rennes, from 10am to 12pm
  • the A11 freeway, between Paris and Le Mans, from 8am to 7pm and between Le Mans and Angers, from 8am to 5pm
  • the RN157 national road, between Laval and Rennes, from 10am to 5pm
  • the national road RN165, between Nantes and Lorient, from 11am to 8pm
  • the A10 freeway, at the Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines tollgate, from 6am to 2pm and between Paris and Bordeaux, from 7am to 5pm
  • the A63 freeway, between Bordeaux and Spain, from 9am to 8pm
  • the A6 freeway, between Beaune and Mâcon, from 8am to 12pm
  • the A7 freeway, between Lyon and Orange, from 6am to 6pm and between Orange and Marseille, from 9am to 7pm
  • the A54 freeway, between Nîmes and Salon-de-Provence, from 10am to 4pm
  • the A9 freeway, between Orange and Narbonne, from 7am to 5pm and between Narbonne and Perpignan, from 8am to 5pm
  • the A20 freeway, between Limoges and Brive-la-Gaillarde, from 10am to 12pm
  • the A71 freeway, between Orleans and Bourges, from 9am to 12pm
  • the A75 freeway, between Clermont-Ferrand and Saint-Flour, from 10am to 12pm, and between Millau and Lodève, from 8am to 6pm,
  • the A750 freeway, between Lodève and Montpellier, from 11am to 1pm
  • the A62 freeway, between Bordeaux and Toulouse, from 9am to 5pm,
  • the A61 freeway, between Toulouse and Narbonne, from 8am to 4pm,
  • the A43 freeway, between Lyon and Chambéry, from 10am to 4pm,
  • the Mont-Blanc tunnel towards Italy, from 12pm to 3pm (wait times expected to be more than 30 minutes).

Motorists are also advised to:

  • return to or cross the Ile-de-France before 2pm
  • avoid the A83 freeway, between Niort and Nantes, from 10am to 4pm
  • avoid the A84 freeway, between Rennes and Caen, from 10am to 3pm
  • avoid the national road RN165, between Lorient and Vannes, from 11am to 3pm
  • avoid the A10 freeway, between Bordeaux and Paris, from 10am to 5pm
  • avoid the A63 freeway, between Spain and Bayonne, from 11am to 1pm
  • avoid the A6 freeway, between Lyon and Beaune, from 9am to 6pm
  • avoid the A7 freeway, between Marseille and Orange, from 8am to 5pm and between Orange and Lyon, from 9am to 7pm
  • avoid the A8 freeway, between Italy and Fréjus, from 10am to 12pm and between Fréjus and Aix-en-Provence, from 9am to 2pm
  • avoid the A54 freeway, between Salon-de-Provence and Nîmes, from 10am to 12pm
  • avoid the A9 freeway, between Perpignan and Narbonne, from 10am to 1pm and between Narbonne and Orange, from 9am to 5pm
  • avoid the A20 freeway, between Brive-la-Gaillarde and Limoge, from 10am to 1pm
  • avoid the A71 freeway, between Clermont-Ferrand and Orléans, from 1pm to 5pm
  • avoid the A62 freeway, between Toulouse and Bordeaux, from 9am to 5pm
  • avoid the A61 freeway, between Narbonne and Toulouse, from 9am to 7pm
  • avoid the A43 freeway, between Chambéry and Lyon, from 9am to 1pm
  • avoid the A48 freeway, between Grenoble and Lyon, from 10am to 12pm
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel on your way back to France, from 2pm to 9pm (wait times are expected to be greater than 1 hour)

Sunday 

Bison futé predictions for Sunday

The traffic situation will be considerably calmer this Sunday, with slowdowns for departures mostly concentrated around the Mediterranean area and for returns around in the greater southeast region.

For departures, motorists are advised to avoid:

  • the A63 freeway, between Bayonne and Spain, from 10am to 8pm
  • the A7 freeway, between Lyon and Orange, from 9am to 7pm and between Orange and Marseille, from 2pm to 8pm
  • the A9 freeway, between Orange and Narbonne, from 10am to 7pm
  • the A61 freeway, between Carcassonne and Narbonne, from 10am to 12pm

For returns, you should also avoid:

  • the A7 freeway, between Marseille and Lyon, from 9am to 7pm,
  • the A9 highway, between Narbonne and Orange, from 10am to 8pm,
  • the A61 freeway, between Narbonne and Carcassonne, from 5pm to 7pm,
  • the Mont-Blanc tunnel on the way back to France, from 1pm to 8pm (wait times will be greater than 1 hour).

Finally, traffic will be more or less back to routine circulation in both directions on the jour férié of Monday, August 15th. The Paris region is the only part of France that is not green, and this is still only for returns. 

Motorists heading back to Ile-de-France are advised to either cross through or return before 2pm.

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