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TRAVELLING TO FRANCE

LATEST: How visitors from outside the EU can access the French health pass

If you're planning a trip to France you will need the vaccine pass to access venues including bars, cafés and tourist sites, but getting this if you were vaccinated outside the EU, Schengen zone or UK can be complicated. Here's how it works.

LATEST: How visitors from outside the EU can access the French health pass
Photo: Pierre Verdy/AFP

The EU digital travel pass means that those vaccinated in EU countries have vaccination codes that are compatible with the French system, and the same is true of people vaccinated in a Schengen zone country or in the UK.

However visitors from outside the EU/Schengen/UK area need to obtain a European code before they can use the vaccine pass, and the process for doing this has changed several times.

The French government has now shut the online portal for this, and introduced a new system.

Here’s how it works:

Who?

This applies to anyone who was vaccinated outside the EU. What passport you hold is largely irrelevant, although French citizens vaccinated outside the EU do have their own separate system.

In order to apply for the French code you must be

  • Over the age of 12
  • Fully vaccinated with either Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines
  • You may also need a booster, depending on when you had your second vaccine dose – full details here 

Those vaccinated with Sinopharm or Sinovac can get a French code if they have had a single top-up dose of either Pfizer or Moderna.

Those vaccinated with Sputnik or any other vaccines not recognised by the WHO need two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna before they are accepted as fully vaccinated in France.

Why?

Since January 24th 2022, the vaccine pass is compulsory to access a wide range of venues including bars, cafés, cinemas, tourist attractions, gyms, leisure centres, cinemas, theatres, museums, ski lifts and long-distance trains.

How?

Previously tourists and visitors were told to email or apply online in advance of their trip to get their code, but now codes can only be issued by pharmacies.

This means that tourists will have to wait until they have arrived in the country and then sort out the necessary code, which is available on a walk-in basis from pharmacies.

A vaccine certificate from your home country will be accepted at the border as proof of vaccinated status.

Not all pharmacies offer this service, visitors will have to go to a participating pharmacy and, as the map below shows, there are not many of these and they are heavily concentrated on cities, especially Paris.

You can find an interactive version of the map HERE to find the closest pharmacy to you.

Once at the pharmacy, you show your original paper vaccination certificate and your passport and the pharmacist will give you a QR code. The code can then be scanned into the French TousAntiCovid app and this creates the vaccine pass.

Find full details on how the vaccine pass works HERE.

Charles de Gaulle airport

If you are coming to France by air and you are flying into Charles de Gaulle airport, there is a pharmacy at the airport that offers this service. 

It’s called Pharmacie Bonassoli, but it does not operate 24/7.

How much?

Previously the swapping service was free, but now pharmacists can charge up to a maximum fee of €36.

Why the change?

The process for tourists and visitors from outside the EU to get the necessary code has never really worked very well, and The Local has received dozens of emails from people who were unable to get the code, or who waited weeks for their application to be processed, leaving them without a pass on their holidays.

Most of the rollout of the health pass and then vaccine pass has gone very (some might say surprisingly) smoothly, but this area has definitely been a weak spot.

The most recent system was an online application form, but many people reported that it took weeks to get their code so it was probably understaffed.

By moving the task back to pharmacies the government has at least provided a service that is accessible on a walk-in basis.

French vocab

Pass sanitaire – health passport 

Attestation de vaccination étranger or Certificat de vaccination étranger  – Foreign (ie non-EU) vaccination certificate

Code QR (pronounced coo-aire) – QR code

Conversion de certificats de vaccination étrangers en format européen – Conversion of foreign vaccination certificates into a European format (this is the formal name for this service, so look out for pharmacies offering this)

Bonjour, pouvez-vous tranformer mon certificat de vaccination étranger en un QR code français pour le pass sanitaire ? – Hello, can you swap my foreign vaccination certificate for a French QR code for the health pass?

Member comments

  1. so glad I got mine early, this was one of my biggest concerns, the online trick was do it at 2am est in USA, received QR in 5 mins. Paris here we come.

  2. Arriving off the Eurostar with a two hour transfer to catch a fast train to the Spanish border. What are our chances of getting the new pass from a pharmacy in this time? And do the high speed trains insist on the health passes?

    1. Sometimes you need to show the pass to get on the train but not always. I have been asked to show it before entering the platform at Gare du Nord. It only takes a few minutes for the process of getting you the barcode… the trick will be finding a participating pharmacist close to the gare. Hopefully, there will be some in or adjacent to the gare that join the program.

  3. The pharmacie mentioned is not *at* CDG, it is *near* CDG. Hopefully, one (or all) of the pharmacies in the airport will offer this service…

  4. If you arrive to another EU country that uses the EU Covid Health Pass before entering France, will this be suffice? Or do you need to get a specific France Health Pass once you enter the country?

  5. I had two Pfizer vaccinations in France but a Moderna booster while on a short trip to the UK. I still cannot find out how to get the UK one seen as a booster in the AntiCovid app. The NHS QR code scans into the app but I am still getting warnings that the pass will be de-activated on 15 Jan. Anyone got any ideas?
    Thanks,
    Steve

  6. How do American tourists register their booster onto the tousanticovid pass Sanitaire. I have the pass from a trip to France in September 2021 but have since been boosted. I’m planning another trip in April 2022 . Do I need to “start over” when I get to Paris for €36, or can I somehow update it online for no cost?

  7. I have been in Vietnam for the Past 3 months, working. I have just received a Booster shot “Pfizer” and I am still not due to travel back to france for a few weeks. is there an online way to add this to my antiCovid app from here, or do I have to wait to come back to france and go to my local Pharmacie
    Thanks

  8. When using the interactive site for pharmacies ( linked in this article), you will find many more listings if you enter your zip code. The initial map is just an overview.

  9. O so I need this to travel on the trains but how do I get this when coming by Eurostar then having to go via underground to catch a connection at another station! I am an older person and would find rushing round Paris impossible so will there be an easier way before Spring anyone know!

  10. Can anyone confirm that a pharmacie at CDG (not merely near CDG) will convert a vaccine certificate to a vaccine pass?

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READER INSIGHTS

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local asked readers for their top tips for places to visit along the French coast and we were overwhelmed with suggestions for beautiful beaches, off-the-beaten-track villages and lively resorts.

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local has been seeking out France’s best coastline in recent weeks, after a disagreement on an episode of our Talking France podcast where Editor Emma Pearson defended La Vendée as home to the best (and most underrated) coastline in the country, while journalist Genevieve Mansfield fought for Brittany. 

To settle the debate, The Local asked its readers to share their favourite place to go on France’s shores, and the results are in, along with exclusive recommendations:

Brittany wins

Almost half (48 percent) of those who responded to The Local’s survey about the best part of France’s coastline voted for Brittany. 

Where to go

Several people recommended the Morbihan département.

Angela Moore, said her favourite part of this area was the islet between Vannes and Lorient, which is home to romanesque chapel and the Etel river oyster, a delicacy in the area. 

Others chose the Morbihan for its “lovely little coves, wonderful beaches and seafood,” as well as for boat rides in the gulf. Meanwhile, some pointed out Carnac, as a spot to visit, as the town is known for its prehistoric standing stones.

Some preferred travelling further north in Brittany, and they recommended the Finistère départment.

Rebecca Brite, who lives in Paris’ 18th arrondisement, said she loves this part of France for the overall atmosphere. Her top recommendation was to “Go all the way to the Baie des Trépassés and stay at the old, traditional hotel-restaurant of the same name. Pretend you’re in the legendary kingdom of Ys, swallowed up by the sea on this very site.”

The other part of Brittany that came highly recommended was the Emerald Coast (Côtes d’Armour) – specifically the Côte de Granit Rose.

The Mediterranean coastline

The Mediterranean remained a very popular vacation spot for readers of The Local, with almost a third of respondents claiming it as their favourite part of the French coastline. From sailing to cliffs and architecture, the Mediterranean had a bit of everything according to The Local’s readers.

Cassis and the Calanques were among of the most popular responses for where to go and what to see in this part of France.

One respondent, Gini Kramer, said she loves this part of France because “There’s nothing like climbing pure white limestone cliffs rising right out of the sea. The hiking is spectacular too.”

Some counselled more lively parts of the riviera, like the old port in Marseille, while others suggested the quieter locations.

David Sheriton said he likes to go to the beaches of Narbonne: “It’s a gentle slope into the sea so great for the (grand)children.” He said that the area does have a “few bars and restaurants” but that it does not “attract the party crowds.” 

In terms of beautiful villages, Èze came recommended for being home to “the most breathtaking views of the French coastline,” according to reader Gregg Kasner.

Toward Montpellier, Dr Lindsay Burstall said that La Grande Motte was worth visiting, for its “coherent 60’s architecture.” Burstall proposed having “a chilled pression au bord de la mer while watching the world go by…”

Meanwhile, three readers listed locations near Perpignan, and all encouraged visiting the area’s “pre-historic sites.”

Sally Bostley responded that her favourite areas were “between Canet-Plage and Saint-Cyprien-Plage” and she advised visiting “Collioure, Banyuls with the aquarium, Perpignan, nearby prehistoric sites, Safari Park, Prehistory Park.”

Other parts of the coastline

Though these locations may have received less votes overall, they still stood our in the minds of The Local readers:

Normandy did not receive as many votes as its neighbour Brittany, it is still home to unique attractions worth visiting. The WWII landing beaches “plages de débarquement” came highly recommended, along with cathedrals and abbeys in the region, like Coutances in the northern Manche département.

Reed Porter, who lives in Annecy, likes to go to Êtretat when he visits Normandy. He had several recommendations, starting with “les falaises!” These are the dramatic cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Porter also suggested visitors of Êtretat head to “the glass stone beach” and the “old town” for its architecture. If you get hungry, there are “oysters everywhere all the time.”

Basque country was also highlighted for its proximity to the Pyrenées mountains. Maggie Parkinson said this was the best part of France’s coastline for her because of “The long views to the Pyrénées, the pine forests, the soft, fresh quality of the air, the many moods and colours of the sea – gently lapping aquamarine waves to thunderous, crashing black rollers churning foam onto the shore.”

A huge fan of the area, Parkinson had several recommendations ranging from cuisine to “cycling the many paths through the tranquil pines, visiting Bayonne, the Basque Country and the Pyrénées or northern Spain (for wonderful pintxos).”

She said that she loves to “[chill] on the endless, wide sandy beaches or [rest] on a hammock in the park” or “[catch] a local choir sporting blue or red foulards singing their hearts out to traditional or rock tunes.”

Similar reasons were listed in favour of Corsica as France’s best coastline, as it is also home to tall mountains with beautiful views over the water.

If you are looking to visit Corsica, Paul Griffiths recommends “having a good road map” and then “just [driving] quietly along the coast and over the mountains.” He said that this is “all easily doable in a day” and along the way you can “find beautiful beaches, lovely towns with good restaurants – especially Maccinaggion and Centuri – to enjoy one day after another.”

Finally, the preferred coastline location for The Local’s France Editor, Emma Pearson, also got some support by readers, with one calling La Vendée an “unpretentious” and “accessible” place for a vacation.

Respondent Anthony Scott said that “Les Sables d’Olonne and Luçon both epitomise the spirit of Vendée.” He enjoys the “inland serenity and historic sites, beautiful beaches and inviting seashores” as well as “traditional appetising meals.” He also noted that the area is “not too expensive.”

READ ALSO Brittany v Vendée – which is the best French coastline?

Many thanks to everyone who answered our survey, we couldn’t include all your recommendations, but feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below.

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