‘A till receipt is not proof of vaccination’ – a French airport employee explains travel in the Covid era

'A till receipt is not proof of vaccination' - a French airport employee explains travel in the Covid era
Photo: Ian Langsdon/AFP
Travel in the Covid era is a complicated matter, requiring various different combinations of vaccine certificates, Covid test results and health declarations depending on where you are going - and the people at the frontline of dealing with the new rules are airport staff.

One airport employee in France has prepared some handy ‘top tips’ on her Twitter account, detailing the problems that she encounters on a daily basis with travellers who have not read or understood the new rules.

Although France has lifted many of the travel restrictions that have been in place for the past 18 months, travel from red list countries remains heavily restricted while arrivals from some other countries need to be able to prove their fully vaccinated status.

READ ALSO How France’s traffic light travel system works 

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If you’re departing from France you need to read carefully the rules of the country you are travelling to – all countries have their own rules and all are slightly different, even within the supposedly harmonised EU.

To make things more complicated, countries define ‘fully vaccinated’ differently, so you also need to check whether your vaccine proof is acceptable.

You then need to make sure you have the appropriate combination of vaccine certificate, test results or passenger locator forms – either in paper format or digitally on a mobile phone that has sufficient battery life left for checks.

If you are flying, these checks will be done by airport staff who cannot let you onto the plane if you do not have the necessary paperwork.

Here, one British-French dual-national who works at an airport in France explains some of the scenes she sees at work.

Travel from France to the UK has several pitfalls for the unwary.

First is the Day 2 test – although fully vaccinated arrivals from France no longer need to quarantine, everyone needs to book a ‘Day 2 test’ for after your arrival in the UK. The Passenger locator form which is compulsory for all travellers cannot be completed without a booking reference – meaning you need to book your Day 2 test before leaving France.

READ ALSO How to book that ‘Day 2’ travel test

Second is the fact that everyone, even the fully vaccinated, needs a negative Covid test to enter the UK. This can be either a PCR or antigen test, but home-test kits are not accepted. The test must be taken within 72 hours of travel.

READ ALSO How tourists can book a Covid test in France

Third is what counts as ‘fully vaccinated’ according to the UK government – which doesn’t include people who had mixed vaccine doses or people who had a single vaccine dose after recovering from Covid. People not counted as fully vaccinated can travel, but must quarantine and pay for two Covid tests on arrival.

Tests

Many countries demand pre-departure Covid tests, especially for people not fully vaccinated, and these should be done before you arrive at the airport.

Most countries accept either PCR or antigen tests, but check the rules of your destination country before travelling to ensure that you have the right type. The standard antigen tests available at French pharmacies fit the UK’s travel criteria and can usually be accessed without an appointment. Very few countries accept home-test kit results for travel purposes.

The standard test results certificate in France for either PCR or antigen test includes a QR code that can be used for travel, so there is no need to ask for a special travel test certificate (although a till receipt does not cut it as proof).

EU vaccine passport

If you are travelling from France to another EU country, you may need to update or download again your vaccination certificate to ensure that it is compatible with the EU-wide digital passport – more details here. If you were vaccinated in France and your vaccination certificate appears in the TousAntiCovid app with a little EU flag emoji next to it, then you’re good to go.

Children

Most countries that require negative Covid tests have a cut-off age for children, but these are bewilderingly different, ranging from babies to teenagers. Check carefully the cut-off age of the country you are travelling to if you are travelling with children.

READ ALSO Can families with unvaccinated children holiday in France?

Check-in time

All this extra paperwork and checks take time

Masks

Don’t forget about masks.

Masks – worn so they cover the nose and mouth – are compulsory in all airports and other public transport networks in France and unlike in some countries there are no medical exemptions to the mask rule. 

Face shields are not accepted as masks, neither are scarfs or bandanas worn over the face, or masks worn dangling under your chin. Failure to comply with mask rules can net you a €135 fine from police, as well as a polite reminder from airport staff.

And finally – be nice to airport staff! Even if the rules seem to you completely insane, they were not devised by the worker at the airport.


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