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TRAVEL NEWS

Reader question: What are the rules if I travel to France via Switzerland?

As the ski season continues many travellers will be coming to the French Alps and often the most convenient route is to fly into Geneva and then cross the border into France - but what does this mean for travel rules?

Reader question: What are the rules if I travel to France via Switzerland?
The France-Switzerland border is fully open. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Question: I will be flying into Geneva with my family and then travelling to a ski resort in France, but I’m confused about whether I have to follow the French travel rules or the Swiss one, or both?

Both France and Switzerland have relaxed their travel rules in recent days, but they do not have the same requirements.

Technically, anyone entering France from an orange list country (including the UK, USA and Canada) via Switzerland must follow the French entry rules for their country of origin, unless they have been in Switzerland for the previous 14 days. In reality the Franco-Swiss border, being a Schengen border, is very lightly policed and travellers are rarely asked for paperwork – that doesn’t mean that it never happens though. 

Into Switzerland – Switzerland has just announced the end of all its travel rules, so you no longer need to show proof of vaccination at the border or fill in an entry form.

Into France – France has relaxed some of its travel rules, but others remain in place.

Fully vaccinated – France still requires proof of vaccination at the border, and you also need to complete a declaration stating that you do not have Covid symptoms, find that HERE.

Not vaccinated – If you’re not vaccinated there are different rules depending on whether you are travelling from an EU or Schengen zone country (including Switzerland) or from outside the EU. Technically, if you’re just passing through Switzerland you should follow the rules for the country of origin.

If you’re not vaccinated and coming from the EU/Schengen zone you need to show a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours (if a PCR test) or 48 hours if you’re using an antigen test.

READ ALSO Can I use a lateral flow test to travel to France?

If you’re not vaccinated and coming from an orange list country, you cannot travel to France unless your trip is essential. You can find the full list of accepted reasons HERE, but it does not include skiing holidays. 

Children

The French testing and vaccine rules apply to all children aged 12 and over, however unvaccinated children over 12 can travel if they are accompanied by fully vaccinated adults.

Vaccine pass

If you decide to stop off in Switzerland you won’t need to show a vaccine pass since the rules were scrapped on February 17th. Masks are also no longer required in the majority of indoor spaces.

Once you get to France, however, the rules are a lot stricter.

The vaccine pass is required for entry to a wide range of venues including bars and cafés, for ski lifts and to access long-distance transport such as TGV trains.

EXPLAINED How France’s vaccine pass works

Children aged 12-15 need a health pass, while those aged 15 and over need a vaccine pass – full details HERE.

For adults, a booster may be required in order to get a valid vaccine pass – full details HERE.

Masks are required in all indoor public spaces, including public transport. The mask rule relaxes on February 28th, but they will still be required after this date in shops and on public transport – full details HERE.

The France-Switzerland border is once again fully open after crossings were limited during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. 

Member comments

  1. I want to visit my son in Berlin, driving from UK passing through France, and then back to France for a longer stay. Do I need a lateral flow test for both passing through France to Germany and then back to stay in France?

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TOURISM

What to know when visiting France’s lavender fields this summer

Known affectionately as 'blue gold,' France’s lavender fields are a popular tourist attraction every year. Here is what you need to know about visiting them:

What to know when visiting France's lavender fields this summer

Lavender is the “soul of Provence,” the French region where the fields can be found. Like wine, lavender was brought to France around 2,000 years ago by the Romans. The flower is the emblem of ‘Haute Provence’ regional identity, though the fields stretch from just outside of Nice almost all the way up to Valence, and they are not fully exclusive to France.

Even the washerwomen, those whose job it was to clean clothes and linen, were referred to as les lavandières in France. 

The flowers, which can be found mainly in two species in Provence, have several uses – as oils for cooking and bathing, as a perfume for soaps, and even as an antiseptic for healing wounds and scars.

The lavender essential oil that comes from Provence is even an AOP (L’Appellation d’origine protégée) in France. 

When is the best time to see the fields?

Typically, the lavender flowers from around mid-June to early-to-mid August. However, depending on the weather, especially if there is a drought or hotter temperatures, the lavender might flower sooner than normal, which is likely the case for this year.

This is unfortunately also a side effect of climate change, which might be pushing up the lavender flowering season.

Where should I go?

The Valensole plateau is perhaps the most famous place to go for lavender fields. Speckled with several small Provencal towns, the area is beautiful, with a mountainous backdrop in the distance. If you go here, you might also be able to see the sunflower fields too.

Sault is perhaps a bit less known, partially because due to its altitude, the lavender typically flowers a bit later.

It is still a great place to go see the fields, and every year the town hosts a Lavender Festival in August. Walking (or cycling) between the villages (Aurel, Saint-Trinit and Saint-Christol) is very manageable.

This is not too far from the Sénanque Abbey, a medieval 12th century abbey which is surrounded by lavender fields. You might notice some small stone houses called bories in the fields, which were historically used for field workers.

Luberon Valley is another location that comes highly recommended. In the area, there is a regional national park, home to rosé wines, castles (chateaux) and charming villages, like Gordes, a stunning hilltop village.

Here you can also find the Musée de la Lavande, if you are looking to learn more about harvesting, producing and distilling lavender, its industry, and some interesting regional history.

How to get there?

You can take a TGV train to Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, or rent a car. With a car, you can also enjoy the several scenic routes that allow you to see the fields from the roads.

What else is there to do while in the region?

The area is also known for its rosé wine, so you could take the opportunity to go visit some vineyards or spend some time wine-tasting. 

In the summer months, the south of France can get quite warm. If you are looking to go swimming or enjoy the water, the Gorges du Verdon are not too far away. Though a bit of a tourist hotspot, the canyon is a beautiful and a wonderful place for paddling along in a canoe.

If you’re a fan of hiking, you can always go for a (light) hike along the Ochre Trail near Roussillon. Here, there are two marked paths that will take you through sunset-colored red and yellow cliffs in an old quarry.

Words of Wisdom

Unless you have been given express permission, do not pick the lavender, as this is the farmer’s livelihood. You can always buy a bouquet from nearby souvenir shops for your photo shoots! 

Also, stick to the paths that exist to avoid trampling any crops, and of course do not litter in the fields. 

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