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France travel restrictions – what are your rights to refunds on trips?

France is set to reintroduce strict limits on travel from the UK, meaning that holidays, visits to second homes and visits to family and friends are no longer possible - so what is the situation for those who had booked trips?

France travel restrictions - what are your rights to refunds on trips?
Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson/AFP

At present, France’s travel rules say that travel from the UK is allowed for any reason, including holidays, provided people take a Covid test and self-isolate for seven days on arrival.

But from Monday, May 31st, these rules will change and travel will again only be allowed for vital reasons including essential work and medical emergencies – you can find the full list of accepted reasons HERE.

French citizens and people who have their permanent residence in France will be allowed to return.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel between France and the UK

So if you have booked a trip that will now needs to be cancelled, what are your rights to a refund?

In short, not great.

The UK government, while allowing travel to France for any reason, officially advised against it. While people were free to ignore this, travelling against official government advice invalidates most travel insurance policies, so it is highly unlikely that travel insurance will pay out for cancelled planes, trains, ferries or accommodation.

Airlines, ferry companies and the Eurostar were already running a reduced service between France and the UK and in the light of the extra restrictions it is likely that this will be reduced further in the coming days.

If the service you booked is still running, however, you are not entitled to a refund if government travel rules change.

Desperate to lure customers back, many transport services have been offering free alteration or cancellation of tickets, so check the policy of the company that you booked with, although when you read the small print some of the ‘free cancellation’ policies entitle you only to vouchers, rather than an actual cash refund.

Likewise many hotels and gîtes have been offering free re-booking or cancellation policies, and the same is true for many hosts on Airbnb so when it comes to accommodation you may find it easier to get a refund, although again it depends on the policy that you booked under. Travel insurance would be unlikely to cover this.

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What to expect if you’re travelling to France in December

From Covid rules to strikes, snow to festivals here's what you can expect if you are travelling to France in December or January.

What to expect if you're travelling to France in December

Covid rules

Travel over the previous two Christmases was heavily restricted because of Covid, but this year things are very different.

There are currently no travel restrictions in place, no requirement to show proof of a Covid vaccination to enter France and the vaccine pass is no longer in use.

Regarding masks, these are only compulsory in certain healthcare settings and are no longer required in other public places. However, the country is experiencing a surge in cases and the Prime Minister has called on people to wear masks on public transport, especially at peak times.

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: essential Covid information for tourists in France

Strikes

If you’re planning to use public transport you might need to keep an eye on strike announcements as several sectors have threatened strike action over the Christmas and New Year period.

On the railways, conductors and ticket collectors have filed a provisional strike notice that covers the weekends of December 23rd-26th and December 30th to January 2nd, while cabin crew at both Easyjet and Air France have also filed provisional strike notices for the Christmas period. Whether these strikes go ahead depends on the result of ongoing pay negotiations.

Meanwhile if you are intending to travel by Eurostar, security staff in the UK have called a strike on December 16th, 18th, 22nd and 23rd. Eurostar says it will notify passengers nearer the time if any services are cancelled or delayed on those days.

READ ALSO Should you travel to France if there is a strike on?

You can keep up to date with the latest at our strike section HERE

Weather

The long-term forecast for France, and indeed the rest of Europe, is a winter of above-average temperatures. However forecasters say there will be a “cold blast” and that will be concentrated in December, so expect chilly temperatures and flurries of snow, especially on higher ground.

If you’re planning to ski then snow will be exactly what you want – many of France’s Alps ski resorts saw delayed opening dates because of a lack of snow but as of the start of December the higher resorts – like Tignes, Val d’Isère and Courchevel – were open.

Power cuts 

Countries across Europe are grappling with power issues this winter due to the shortage of Russian gas, and France is no exception.

Local authorities have been asked to put in place emergency plans in case scheduled power cuts are required – here are the details – although the government insists this eventuality is unlikely.

Trains, hospitals and schools: How will handle possible blackouts this winter

There is a website and app called Ecowatt which gives the latest information on whether power cuts are likely, and which areas will be affected. Here’s how it works

Holidays

France has only two public holidays over the festive period – December 25th and January 1st. This year, both of these fall on a Sunday, meaning no extra day off for workers. Most shops will be closed on those days although on December 25th many boulangeries and patisseries will open in the morning only, along with some florists.

Other than that, you can expect most shops, restaurants and cafés to be open as normal over the holiday period, although offices are often closed for longer. French schools are closed between December 17th and January 3rd.

Traffic 

You can expect traffic to be heavy on certain days as French people travel to spend time with their families. The traffic forecasting site Bison futé predicts that traffic will be heavy on Thursday, December 22nd and very heavy on Friday, December 23rd, especially in the greater Paris Île-de-France region. 

The roads are also expected to be busy on Sunday, January 1st and Monday January 2nd. 

Festivals and events

You can also expect lots of fun festivals and events at this time of year, especially Christmas markets and light festivals.

Here’s our pick of some of the best Christmas markets and festive events

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