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LATEST: What you need to know if you’re travelling from France to the UK

From Monday, October 4th, the UK government's travel rules for arrivals from the EU have been relaxed - but be aware that there are still restrictions and testing requirements in place.

LATEST: What you need to know if you're travelling from France to the UK
A Brittany Ferries boat waits in the port of Le Havre. Passengers from France to UK face Covid rule changes in October. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

Previously, if you were travelling to England from an amber list country such as France, you had to take a pre-departure Covid test, then book and pay for a Day 2 test. 

Fully vaccinated arrivals could leave it there, but those unvaccinated had to quarantine for 10 days and pay for further tests. You also needed to be ‘fully vaccinated’ by UK standards (more on that below).

From Monday, October 4th, however, this has changed.

The announced rule change is for England, if you are travelling to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, click on the relevant country link.

The UK government has done away with its amber list and now has only green or red – all European countries are on the green list.

For those countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Austria and Germany who were on the green list under the old system, the rules remain the same for fully vaccinated arrivals but have become more strict for those who are not vaccinated.

Here’s what the new rules say:

Vaccinated

Fully vaccinated arrivals no longer need to take a test in France and show it before boarding the train/plane/ferry.

Crucially, however, you still need to book and pay for the Day 2 test, and this must be done before leaving France.

At the border you will need to show the Passenger Locator Form, and this cannot be completed without a booking reference number for a Day 2 test.

These tests have a byzantine booking system and are frequently infuriatingly expensive – find the full breakdown on booking HERE.

The Day 2 test is required even if you are spending less than two days in England (yeah we know, it makes no sense to us either).

The UK government has said that in the future Day 2 tests could be the cheaper antigen (lateral flow) tests rather than PCR tests, but there is no firm start date for this policy.

Unvaccinated arrivals 

People who are not vaccinated (or who do not meet the UK government definition of vaccinated) have to quarantine for 10 days on arrival, this can be done at a private home and you do not need to go to a hotel.

In addition, they have to book and pay for both a Day 2 test and a Day 8 test before leaving.

There is an option to pay extra for a Day 5 test and end quarantine early, but be warned that quarantine does not end on Day 5, it only ends when the test results arrive. Many readers have reported long delays in getting test results leaving them spending 9 or 10 days in quarantine anyway, but having paid more for an extra test.

Who is vaccinated?

The UK government accepts people as ‘fully vaccinated’ if they have received either Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines and received their final dose at least 14 days ago.

The French or EU vaccine certificate is accepted as proof at the border.

After a confusing period, the UK government now accepts as fully vaccinated people who had a ‘mixed dose’ eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer.

However people who only received a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – as is standard practice in France and other European countries – do not count as vaccinated, and this has not changed even under the more relaxed rules.

READ ALSO I had Covid and a single-dose vaccine – what are my travel options?

From the UK to France

The travel rules coming into France remain unchanged – fully vaccinated people need to show only proof of their vaccination, while unvaccinated people can only enter if they fit one of the criteria for essential travel – find the full details HERE.

All travellers need to fill in a declaration that they are not suffering from any Covid symptoms – find the form HERE.

Also bear in mind that Brexit has changed things at the UK/France border so there are restrictions on bringing in items including food, plants and pets – full details HERE.

Member comments

  1. Hi I think you have made the link regarding travel to an out dated article. There is a newer article with more accurate information which was update last week. EXPLAINED: How does France’s Covid traffic light system for travel work?

    From the UK to France

    The travel rules coming into France remain unchanged – fully vaccinated people need to show only proof of their vaccination, while unvaccinated people can only enter if they fit one of the criteria for essential travel – find the full details HERE.

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For members

TOURISM

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Amid accusations of racism at fancy seaside resorts and legal controversies surrounding US statesmen, we take a look at the law surrounding private beaches in France.

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Question: I read that all beaches in France are public property, but down here on the Riviera there are a lot of ‘private beaches’ – how do the rules actually work?

In France, everyone has the right to a dip in the ocean, though it might not seem that way when walking through certain areas.

There are 1,500 of these “private beaches” in France – the vast majority of them located on the Côte d’Azur.

They have become a source of controversy recently, after two private beaches in Juan-les-Pins were accused of racism and discrimination following an investigation and video circulated by French media Loopsider. The video (below) shows how a white couples receive different treatment than North African or Black couples.

So what are these ‘private beaches’ and are they even legal in France?

In reality, none of these beachfront hotels, resorts or beach operators actually own that land, as the sea and the beach are considered ‘public maritime’ and are therefore the domain of the French state.

This means that technically there are no private beaches in France, as no one is supposed to be allowed to own the beach, though there are some caveats to that rule.

Since 1986, the State has been able to grant ‘concessions’ to allow for parts of the beach to be temporarily rented. Thus, hotels, resorts or beach operators can request a temporary rental of the beach for a specific period of time – the maximum duration being twelve years, which is renewable. If the local town hall agrees, then the renter will pay a fee (typically between €15,000 and €100,000 per year). 

This might seem like a de facto way of allowing beaches to be privatised, but the few who manage to ‘rent the beach’ are still subject to some constraints. For instance, they are only allowed to occupy the beach for six months of the year (sometimes this can be extended up to eight months with the permission of the town hall, or twelve months in less common circumstances).

At the end of the season, they are required to dismantle their installations, so permanent private structures on the beach are therefore not allowed.

So you might see a waterfront resort, but they do not technically have ownership over the beach.

What about private deckchairs or sun beds next to the water? 

This is another rule that is not always perfectly respected. Legally, any organisation that rents a part of the beach is required to leave a strip of “significant width” along the sea.

This is usually about three to five metres from the high tide mark, where members or the public can walk along the water or bring down their own towels or deck chairs down to the beach.

If a ‘private beach’ has deck chairs or sun-loungers right up against the water, there is a good chance the renting organisation is not following the rules.

Beachfront property

As the public has the right to be able to access the beach, homeowners are not allowed to block passage and can even incur fines for doing so. 

The public must be able to pass through land to get to the beach, and cannot be blocked from the beach in front of a property.

Public access to the beach came into the spotlight due to a controversy surrounding a property of former American presidential candidate and statesman, John Kerry.

Kerry’s family owns a villa in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in Brittany, and has fought a three-decade legal battle to be able to block the coastal trail on the property, which by French law, should be accessible to the public. 

Despite the family siting potential ‘security threats’ should the beach front path be open to the public, local authorities backed plans to continue allowing public access in 2019.

What about building a waterfront property?

First, keep in mind that building in general in France is a heavily regulated process that requires planning permission.

You will not be able to build within 100 metres of the shoreline. If you buy a pre-existing coastal property, you will need to remember the three-metre rule discussed above and, as the Kerry family discovered, you are not allowed to block public access to the beach. 

For ‘coastal zones’ specifically, there are more strict regulations and most plots of land by the sea are listed as protected natural areas, and therefore are not allowed to be built on.

Can access to the beach ever be forbidden?

Yes, as per the Coastal Law of 1986, local authorities can forbid access to the beach for “security, national defence or environmental protection.” During the Covid lockdowns several local authorities banned access to beaches to avoid illicit partying.

There are also several rules about what you are allowed to do – and not to do – while visiting French beaches, and some of them might surprise you. 

READ MORE: The little-known French beach rule that could net you a €1,500 fine

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