France publishes initial relaxation in UK travel restrictions

The day after the announcement that France would look to relax its strict travel restrictions for the UK, the first alteration of the rules was announced.

France publishes initial relaxation in UK travel restrictions
Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Although travel between France and the UK is still only allowed for essential reasons, the list of accepted reasons was on Thursday evening expanded to include work trips.

A work trip that cannot be postponed will now be allowed, with an attestation from the employer stating that the trip is essential. The new rule covers travel both to and from France, and takes effect immediately.

Also added to the list of allowed reasons for travel is people passing through France on their way to their home in another EU country. Previously this had only been allowed for EU citizens, leaving Brits who live in another EU country unable to travel through France to get home. 

The change was welcomed by Alexandre Holroyd, the MP responsible for French citizens living in northern Europe, including the UK, saying it was “a first step in easing travel restrictions, which I continue to advocate”.

Those travelling for work will still need a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours, plus all the existing paperwork. Hauliers have always been exempt from the ban. Elite athletes are also permitted to travel for tournaments with the agreement of the French sports ministry.

Although a welcome relaxation of the rules, this will come as a disappointment to the many people who still cannot travel, including those travelling for family visits or compassionate reasons, tourists and second-home owners.

The UK is now the subject of the strictest French rules after African countries including South Africa and Lesotho were removed from the ‘scarlet list’ which was created at the beginning of December over fears of the Omnicron variant.

Travel between France and the UK is only allowed for people who meet the criteria for motif impérieux (vital reasons) – these include citizens returning to their country of origin or country of residence and – now – essential work travel. Find the full list of reasons HERE.

Those who do meet the criteria for travel face a mountain of paperwork and with all travellers – including the fully vaccinated – have to show a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours to enter France.

READ ALSO The 9 essential pieces of paperwork for France-UK travel

The rules also require those leaving France for the UK to for the vital reasons criteria.

The rules were put in place in December when the UK began to see spiralling numbers of cases of the Omicron variant of Covid, but since then France has seen its own record case numbers and the Omicron variant has become dominant, leading many to complain that there is no longer any justification for such strict rules.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the government was ready to relax the restrictions “soon” but stopped short of promising complete end to the de facto travel ban , speaking only of widening the categories for essential travel.

READ ALSO When will France lift travel restrictions on UK?

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Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro