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Revealed: How strictly is France enforcing Covid testing and quarantine requirements?

Since the beginning of the health crisis, France has imposed restrictions including quarantine, Covid tests and proof of essential travel on arrivals from certain countries - but just how carefully are these things checked at the border?

Revealed: How strictly is France enforcing Covid testing and quarantine requirements?
Photo: Thibault Camus/AFP

We asked readers of The Local to share their experiences of pandemic travel to give us an idea of exactly how strictly checks are being carried out on the ground.

READ ALSO How does France’s traffic light travel system work?

We received well over 100 responses, with a wide range of different experiences when crossing the border.

Here is a summary of what people told us.

Red list countries

The rule – Travel from red list countries including India is very heavily restricted, with entry allowed for essential reasons only for both vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers, although French citizens and residents are allowed to return.

All arrivals over the age of 11 need a negative Covid test. Vaccinated arrivals must quarantine at home for 7 days, while non-vaccinated arrivals need to quarantine for 10 days and this quarantine is enforced with visits from the police.

The reality – French citizen Olivier, who lives in Paris, said: “I’ve travelled to and from very many places since the start of the pandemic – United States 4 times, Colombia 4 times as well, Kenya once, and most recently Tanzania (once, last week of June).

“The border checks have consistently been much easier than they make it sound on paper. At most I’ve been asked to show my covid test, but never (never!) have I been required to supply my attestation de déplacement professionnel or certificat sur l’honneur. If anything, the checks the airlines perform to get on board the aircraft have always been more thorough than the checks performed in Paris on arrival.”  

But non-French national James Middleton, travelling from Dubai, had a very different experience, saying: “It’s a miracle I got on the plane. The airline is charged €10,000 for each “inadmissible” they allow to arrive in France by the French state so I understand their motivation to be especially diligent, but my copious documents (each time I travel) are typically vetted by three different levels of review prior to being allowed to board. All serious about proper evidence of essential reasons for travel.”

Verna West, who was also travelling from Dubai, said: “Everything was checked. I then had a PCR test on arrival. Mandatory 10 days isolation at home – the gendarmerie checked five times.” 

Orange list countries

The rule – Arrivals from orange list countries which include the UK can travel for any reason – including holidays – provided they are vaccinated. Non-vaccinated people can only travel for essential reasons and at present anyone who received AstraZeneca’s Indian-produced Covishield vaccine is regarded as ‘unvaccinated’ in France, due to the product’s lack of a European licence.

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

Everyone over the age of 11 needs a negative Covid test and unvaccinated people must quarantine for seven days at home.

The reality – The most regularly-checked document was the negative Covid test, which 78 percent of respondents said had been checked by either border guards or travel representatives when they boarded the plane/ferry/train/tunnel.

Michael Whitehouse, who travelled from London on the Eurostar, said: “They seemed most interested in the test result. I was not asked if I was vaccinated. Passport and test result were all I needed. I have an EU passport so maybe that helped.”

John Wood, who travelled from Portsmouth by ferry, had all his documents checked and added: “They asked us purpose of visit only (holiday) not our date of return. Passport was stamped with date of entry.”

Of the people who travelled via the Channel Tunnel, more than 80 percent reported having their Covid test, health declaration and vaccination certificate (if applicable) checked, with EuroTunnel producing its own checklist for passengers to fill in. 

Likewise most people who travelled via Eurostar reported that Covid tests, health declarations and vaccine certificates were all asked for by Eurostar staff when checking in.

Gary Mofield, travelling from London, said: “Very easy journey. No delays or long queues. Immigration officials who checked paperwork were very nice.

“I had documentation for one vaccine done in the UK on the NHS App which they accepted and another done in the USA on a paper document which they accepted. I thought that might create a problem however it was not an issue and it all went very smoothly.” 

Susan Burrow, who flew from Stanstead, had all documents checked prior to boarding. She said: “All checks were done before getting on the plane, the health declaration was not looked at by French border control.

Several people travelling from the UK flagged that the necessity to have a declaration of good health is not well explained on UK travel information sites – this form is a requirement for all entries into France and can be found HERE.

Green list countries

The rule – Arrivals from countries on the green list, which includes the whole of the EU and Schegen zone and was recently expanded to include the USA and Canada, can travel for any reason whether they are vaccinated or not.

Non-vaccinated people need a negative Covid test, but vaccinated people do not. No arrivals from green list countries are required to quarantine.

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

The reality – As people who regularly travel over Schegen borders will know, checks are usually minimal and although some crossing points have tightened controls during the pandemic others have not, especially for arrivals by road.

Judith Hale, who was travelling from Italy, said: “I had so many documents, both for us and for our dog and was dreading the French border. No border controls, nothing. It took some miles into France before I would believe my husband that we were actually in the country.”

Charles Tyack, also travelling by car from Italy, said: “Nothing was checked at the border but there were gendarmes in motorway parking near Nice, about 25km from the border.”

Sarah Rousse, who travelled by car from Spain, echoed this, adding: “I have travelled across the border France/Spain and Spain/France many times during the past few months. I have never had my Covid test checked going into Spain and only once re-entering France. The police at the border seem to favour the toll booths on the left hand side, so we tend to go to the right!”

For people travelling by air, there were more checks in place.

Steve Strandberg flew to Paris from San Fransisco and said: “Air France checked the Covid test, and on the airplane were ruthless about staying masked, but border guards had no interest in seeing my vaccination certificate.”

Nicolas Sturman, who flew from Boston, had a similar experience, saying: “The checks were only done when boarding in Boston, nothing at the layover in Iceland, and nothing at Charles de Gaulle airport.”

There had been concerns over whether US vaccine certificates, which are generally on paper and do not have QR codes, would be recognised, but none of the respondents travelling from the US reported any problems.

Thank you to everyone who filled out the questionnaire and shared their experiences.

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Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

France's Ministry of Transport has announced that toll-fees will increase in 2023. Here is what motorists in France can expect.

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

With French motorists already expecting increases in fuel prices starting in January, the cost of travel on many of France’s motorways will also increase in 2023.

Toll rates on the main routes across France are set to go up by an average of 4.75 percent starting on February 1st, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Transport on Friday.

These rates already rose by two percent in 2022. 

While the increase is still lower than the rate of inflation (six percent), motorists in France can still expect driving to become more expensive in 2023, as the government does away with its broad-scale fuel rebate (€0.10 off the litre) at the start of January.

As of early December, the French government was still discussing plans for how to replace the fuel rebate. The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, told Les Echoes in November that the government was considering a targeted, means-tested “fuel allowance” for workers who depend on their vehicles to commute to and from work. 

How much will I be affected?

The degree to which drivers will experience increased costs depends largely on what kind of vehicle they use, in addition to how far you plan to drive on the toll-road. 

Vehicles are broadly classified as follows:

Class 1 (Light vehicles): these are cars and minivans. This class also includes vehicles pulling trailers with a combined height of no more than 2m and a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of less than or equal to 3.5 tonnes.
Class 2: Large utility vehicles and camping cars
Class 3: Heavy goods vehicles, coaches, other 2-axle vehicles, motorhomes taller than 3m
Class 4: Vehicles taller than 3m with a GVW greater than 3.5 tonnes
Class 5: Motorbikes, sidecars, quad bikes, three-wheeled motor vehicles 

The next determining factor for how significant the price rise will be depends on which company is operating the road you use, and there are several different companies that operate toll-roads in France. 

Each year, toll (péage) prices in France are adjusted and re-evaluated for the following year on February 1st, following discussions between the government and the main companies that operate the French freeways. The fees are in part used for road maintenance costs. 

To estimate the cost of tolls for your next French road trip, you can use the calculator on this website