UPDATE: Your questions answered on new travel rules between France and UK

Passengers board a Eurostar train. France has imposed tougher restrictions for travellers coming from the UK.
France has imposed tougher restrictions for travellers coming from the UK (Photo by NICOLAS MAETERLINCK / BELGA / AFP)
France announced has announced new restrictions for people travelling from the UK. Here are some clarifications or common points of confusion based on reader questions.

Are even fully vaccinated passengers affected by these rules?

Yes. The French government has made it clear its statement on Thursday that the new rules apply to both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.

The UK is still officially classed as an orange country in France’s traffic light system. Whilst there have been tighter rules for travel to and from orange countries for non-vaccinated passengers, the French government now groups them together under the new rules for the UK.

So basically, starting at midnight Saturday (2300 GMT Friday), the French government said, travellers will need “an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated.”

So what is an essential reason for travel?

The list of motifs impèrieux or compelling motives for travel are clearly laid out by the French government and we cover them in this article here.

But it’s confusing because they are different for whether you are travelling from France to UK and from the UK to France.

However Britons returning home from France to the UK are covered as are French residents who live in UK. French nationals returning from France to the UK for Christmas are also covered.

But what about family members and partners?

This has been a point that has confused many. Whilst French nationals, residents of France and EU nationals heading to France could all bring close family members it wasn’t clear if British nationals in France could bring their French family to the UK.

But the French government’s attestation or permission form suggests they would be covered under essential reasons as can been in the form below.

“French nationals or foreigner  returning to the country of residence or origin (without guarantee of returning to France unless they have an essential reason) as well as their partners and children,” reads the form.

This then appears to cover the many Britons who want to head to UK with the partners and children for Christmas.

However bear in mind the French government is asking people to postpone their trips and it has said clearly that trips for “tourism and professional” reasons are not allowed. Is visiting family at Christmas tourism?

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See also on The Local:

What about transiting through France to from another country in Europe?

A few people have asked if they can drive via France to the UK and back from countries like Switzerland or Italy.

Again the answer is not quite clear.

The list of compelling reasons for travelling from UK to France includes people transiting the country for “less than 24 hours” or EU citizens returning home to another country in Europe. See below two valid motifs impèrieux:

  • EU citizens who have their permanent residence in France, or in another EU country and are transiting through France in order to return to their home. Spouses, partners and children of EU nationals living in France or another EU country are also covered by this.
  • Travellers spending less than 24 hours in France in transit to another country

However there is nothing similar in the list of compelling reasons to travel via France to the UK.

Again we have asked for clarification. If you are in this position you may just have to explain your situation to the border police at Calais and hope they let you pass.

What kind of test do I need to travel to France from UK?

Those who fit into the essential travel criteria and still plan to travel to France must take an antigen or PCR test at least 24 hours before their departure. This window has been shortened from 48 hours. 

Getting PCR test results in such a time frame can be extremely difficult in the UK. Travellers must get tested by a private certified test provider – and not on the NHS. 

These tests can be self-administered as long as the results are verified by a lab and the travel certificate provided by testing company contains all the relevant information such as time and date of test and the name of the lab. Travellers are urged to check with their testing provider that the certificates will meet the criteria for travel to France.

The rules say “all” travellers need a test, even children?

No, the test rules for entering France only apply to over 12s. However note that the Day 2 tests in the UK apply to over 5s.

So how many tests do I need for a return trip from France to the UK?

It’s gone up from one to three or four in a matter of a couple of weeks. They are as follows:

  • Pre-departure test to enter the UK (48 hours in advance – all over 12s)
  • Day 2 test in the UK (over 5s, on or before Day 2)
  • Pre-departure test to return to France (over 12s within 24 hours)
  • For those who want to leave quarantine early after returning to France they can take a test (PCR or antigen as far as we know) on their return. 

How long is the mandatory quarantine in France?

All arrivals in France must quarantine for a minimum of 48 hours. 

Technically, this quarantine period extends to 10 days but people can choose to take a test after arriving in France and if the result is negative they can end self-isolation after 48 hours.

Initially the French government said the quarantine was for 7 days but the ministry of interior has since updated the information and it specifies 10 days.

What is this online platform we need to register with?

The French government said all travellers from the UK will have to sign up on an online platform before their departure to France. They must mention where they will be staying for the period of self-isolation. 

On Friday morning the French government published a link to the platform here.

Law enforcement authorities may check at the address you have listed to ensure you are not breaking quarantine rules.

How long will the restrictions be in place?

No date, even a provisional one, has been given for an end date to the travel restrictions.

Why is the French government introducing these restrictions now? 

The UK has recorded a record number of Covid cases on Wednesday – close to 79,000. The new Omicron variant is thought to responsible for about one quarter of them, while the rest are mostly Delta infections. 

Relatively lax restrictions in the UK have contributed a rapid spread of the virus there. 

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The French government meanwhile has adopted a more stringent Covid policy since the start of the pandemic.

So far, France has detected only 240 cases of the Omicron variant. Officially, the new travel restrictions have been brought in to avoid further contagion, from a strain that French officials say is spreading “extremely rapidly” in the UK. 

France is thought to be approaching the peak of the fifth wave. It does not want to see its efforts, like strengthening health pass rules, enforcing mask wearing or encouraging limited social interactions over Christmas, derailed. 

Do the new travel rules apply to Brits in other European countries who plan on visiting France this Christmas? 

The new travel rules apply specifically to people travelling from the UK, not British citizens as such. 

Most EU countries are on France’s green list, making entry into the country pretty easy. Vaccinated travellers will need to present proof of vaccination. Unvaccinated travellers will need a PCR or antigen test within 24 hours before departure. 


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Are British tourists in France allowed to return to the UK? 


Although you will need to book a Day 2 test before leaving for the UK, fill out a passenger locator form and take a pre-departure test.

This can be either a PCR or antigen test and must be taken within 48 hours of departure time. Click HERE to find out how to access Covid tests in France.

All travellers to the UK, British or otherwise, are required to fill in this form before departure. 

For more details on UK entry rules, read our guide HERE

Member comments

  1. What is the situation regarding Ireland? If I was to fly to Dublin can I visit Northern Ireland and then return to France (I have an Irish passport but am resident in the UK) and can my husband travel with me on the Irish route (he is a British national with French residency)?

  2. What if you are coming from the US, but your flight has a short layover in London such that your connecting flight is originating in London? I fear this means I cannot travel even though my flight actual originated in the US. And my airline hasn’t yet shown my flight has cancelled.

  3. The Consulate-General of France in London has published updated information (in French) to take into account the new travel rules for travel between UK and France. See here: https://uk.ambafrance.org/Conditions-de-deplacement

    In the section that covers leaving France to go to the UK it opens by saying that everyone will need a compelling reason for travel “un motif impérieux”. It then says “Le fait d’être ressortisant britannique ou d’être résident britannique constitue un motif impérieux.” So, that says that having British nationality is enough to be allowed to leave France for the UK.

  4. Hello, I’m due to fly to Edinburgh with a 5 yr old and a 7 yr old on Monday. Do they need to do Day 2 tests and passenger locator forms? Scottish Govt website says under 11s don’t have to… Thanks!

  5. Can I fly to Milan and drive into France legally? What restrictions are there on the Italy/France border?

  6. If you are reporting numbers of Covid in the UK and France, please comper like for like. Yesterday, (Thursday 16th December) the UK reported 85,000 and France reported 74,000, not 240 as reported above.

  7. What if travel via rotterdam into Hull? (we are residents in france – one British, one American, with American children hoping to visit the grandparents in north of England). please advise!

  8. The entry form states you can transit through France if under 24 hours in a « zone internationale ». Reports I have read elsewhere suggest this would mean like an airport international transit zone, rather than free passage to drive across France. Can anybody confirm that’s correct ?

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