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Reader question: Can I use my American vaccination certificate to enter France?

Europe has said it will welcome fully vaccinated Americans with open arms this summer, but exactly how you prove you are vaccinated is a slightly more complicated question.

Reader question: Can I use my American vaccination certificate to enter France?
Health passports can be scanned at the border. Photo: Thibault Camus/AFP

The head of the European Commission said the bloc – which had blocked non-essential travel for more than a year – will this summer allow US tourists to visit. 

In France there is a provisional reopening date of June 9th for travel from the USA, although this depends on the health situation.

“All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by European Medicines Agency,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the New York Times in April, outlining plans to allow US tourists to travel to Europe.

READ ALSO What’s the latest on how the EU’s vaccine passport will work in practice?

Proof of vaccination

Anyone vaccinated in a non-EU country, such as the USA, must have received a vaccine authorised by the European Medicines Agency.

The EMA has authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (known as Janssen in some countries) vaccines. So, good news for Americans hoping to travel to Europe, anyone who has had those vaccines will be fine to travel when the bloc does reopen. 

As Ms von der Leyen said in that New York Times interview: “Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines. This will enable free movement and travel to the European Union.”

But the EU needs to recognise the US’s vaccination/test certificates.

It has opened talks with the USA, to ensure mutual recognition of US/EU but there is at present no formal agreement in place.

Bear in mind, also, that – despite updated advice from the CDC saying that vaccinated Americans can travel at low risk to themselves – both the US State Department and the CDC still advocate against non-essential travel.

How it will work

Making sure all certificates can be scanned and the various countries’ health passport apps ‘talk’ to each other correctly is something the EU has been working on. 

It is still finalising details of its ‘digital green pass’ – while we don’t know exactly how this will work as yet, the principle is that each EU/Schengen zone country develops its own domestic app like France’s TousAntiCovid and these can all be used to produce a QR code that can be scanned at any border within the Bloc.

READ ALSO How France’s health passport will work this summer

The plan is for this to be in place from mid-June, paving the way for travel within the EU and Schengen zone from July 1st. The situation on travel from outside the EU depends on negotiations with individual countries on mutual vaccine passport recognition.

For people who don’t have a scannable code on their certificate – or don’t have a smartphone – you will be able to present paper certificates at the border.

If the certificate carries a QR code, it may be scanned, otherwise the certificate will have to be examined by an official (which will probably mean a longer queue).

This needs to be an official health authority vaccination certificate that bears the holder’s name and date of birth, dates when both doses were administered, as well as the name and batch number of the vaccine.

Once we can travel, are the rules likely to change?

It’s entirely possible. Individual countries within the EU retain the right to “quickly and temporarily” limit travel to avoid the spread of Covid variants – as a number of EU countries have already done because of the spread of the Indian variant in the UK.

They also have the right to impose extra restrictions such as testing and quarantine – even on the fully vaccinated – if the health situation demands it.

What about people who haven’t been vaccinated?

The French and the EU vaccine passports have provision to upload three things – a vaccination certificate, a recent negative Covid test or proof of having recently recovered from Covid. So people who either cannot be vaccinated or don’t want to be have the option to present instead a negative Covid test at the border.

Children under 11 do not need to present a test, but over 11s do. Since most countries are not yet vaccinating under 18s, travel abroad with children this summer will likely involve Covid tests.

For the latest on travel rules in and out of France, head to our Travelling to France section.

Member comments

  1. My daughter lives in Paris with her husband and 2 children under 10 yrs old. She and her husband have been vaccinated. The children have not. The children (and my daughter) have French and American passports. What kind of restrictions will the children have if they have no vaccinations by the time they leave Paris around July 25th. Will they need a current test coming and going. Thanks so much for your help. Karen M.

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Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

Ever seen those drivers who avoid the queues at toll booths and driving straight through? Here's how they do it.

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

If you’re driving on French autoroutes one of the things you need to know is that they are not free – you will have to pay regular tolls, payable at toll booths known as péage.

Usually, drivers pick up a ticket from a booth at the start of their journey, then pay the required amount at a booth at the end of it – or when they move onto a different section of autoroute – based on the distance they have travelled.

But the toll booths themselves can be busy, especially during the summer, and long queues sometimes build up.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

This is where automated pay systems – known as télépéage – come in, especially for those who use the motorway network regularly.

As well as allowing you to pass straight through péages without stopping for payment, it’s also very useful for owners of right-hand drive vehicles, who may otherwise find that they’re sitting on the wrong side for easy and speedy payment.

Here’s how it works

Order your télépéage badge online

Click on the Bip&Go website here and follow the instructions to order a scannable personalised device (up to a maximum of two per account for private users). You will need to set up an account to arrange electronic payment of charges.

The website is available in English, French, German or Dutch.

You will need to supply bank details (IBAN number), address (for delivery), mobile phone number (to activate your account) and the vehicle’s registration details.

Your badge will be dispatched to your address within 48 hours from the opening of your online account. You can have the device sent to addresses outside France, but allow longer for it to arrive. 

If you’re in France, you can also pick up the device at one of Bip&Go’s stores, if you prefer – you will need need your bank details, proof of identity and a mobile phone.

Attach your badge 

Place your device on on the windscreen to the right of the rearview mirror. It is activated and ready to go. Then, simply, drive.

At the péage

All toll booths are equipped with the sensors that recognise that the vehicle is carrying the necessary device. At most, you will have to stop briefly for the device to be recognised and the barrier to lift.

You will also be able to drive through certain booth areas without stopping. These are indicated by an orange t symbol on the overhead signs. The maximum speed you can pass through these booths is 30kph.

Payments

Payments are processed automatically. You can monitor the amounts you have to pay on an app.

Do I need separate badges for motorway networks run by different companies?

No. The badge allows holders to travel on the entire French motorway network, no matter which company manages the motorway, and you can also use it to cross a number of toll structures in France such as the Millau Viaduct, the Tancarville Bridge or the Normandie Bridge, and pay to park in more than 450 car parks. 

Is it only valid in France?

No, with certain packages, you can also as easily travel on motorways in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and use a number of compatible car parks. You can even use them on Italian ferries.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

Subscriptions to the Bip&Go service depend on what type of service you want. A fixed price rolling subscription is €16 a year – plus toll charges – but assumes you’re a regular user of French motorways. 

A pay-as-you-go subscription is €1.70 for every month the badge is in use – plus toll charges – and carries a €10 additional fee if the badge is not used in a 12-month period.

How much are the toll charges?

They depend on the road you’re on, how far you travel along it, and the vehicle you’re driving.

Heading from Toulouse to Biarritz along the A64 will cost a total €23 in fees for a private car and if you’re driving all the way from Calais down to the Mediterranean coast expect to pay around €70 once you add up the various tolls along the way.

You can find out tariffs for autoroutes on the website of France’s official autoroute body AFSA – where you can also calculate the cost of your journey – including fuel.

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