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Easter holidays: What to expect if you’re coming to France

Tourism to France has been very limited over the past two years for obvious reasons, but as most countries lift their Covid-related travel restrictions, visitors are returning. But people who haven't visited since 2019 may notice some changes . . .

Easter holidays: What to expect if you're coming to France
Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP

From the Covid rules that remain in place to the more subtle changes that two years of pandemic have brought about, here’s what to expect if you’re planning a trip to France.

Travel rules

First things first, will France let you in?

Travel rules have been greatly relaxed since the start of the year, but there are some restrictions still in place. If you’re fully vaccinated you can travel to France for any reason from any country in the world – at the border you will need to show proof of vaccination plus for certain countries a declaration that you do not have Covid symptoms. You do not need a Covid test.

If you’re not vaccinated, the rules depend on where you are coming from. If you’re coming from a green list country (eg the USA, Canada, South Africa) you can enter France for any reason but need to show a negative Covid test.

Since March 31st, the UK has also been on the green list.

If you’re coming from an orange list country – which includes Australia – you can only enter France if your journey is for essential reasons – find the full list of reasons here. Full details of the traffic light system HERE.

Speaking of travel, if you’re coming from the UK and you haven’t been to France since the end of the Brexit transition period (January 1st, 2021) then remember that things have changed and there are a lot of extra rules in place – full details HERE.

And for UK travellers, there has been some transport disruption in recent days, so check with your travel operator before setting off. 

In France

So assuming that you make it to France, there are still some Covid-related rules in place. The great majority of restrictions, including the vaccine pass, have now been lifted but the virus is still around so some rules remain in place.

Masks – masks are required on all public transport and in all public transport hubs (eg airports, train stations). Failure to wear a mask covering your nose and mouth can net you a €135 fine and there are no exemptions to the mask rule. 

Masks are also required in hospitals and other medical establishments. Elsewhere the rule has been relaxed, but private businesses such as shops are within their rights to make mask-wearing a condition of entry. 

Health pass – the vaccine pass has been scrapped but a health pass – showing either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test – is still required for access to non-emergency healthcare or to visit places that house vulnerable people such as nursing homes.

Full details on all the health rules HERE.

What else?

That deals with the rules still in place, but the past two years have been an unusual time and have led to some long-lasting changes which you might also notice on your visit.

READ ALSO 9 ways that the pandemic has changed France

Contactless payment – previously contactless card payments were used much less in France than some other countries, but a desire to avoid contact during the pandemic has led to the payment method becoming more common.

The government passed legislation to increase the upper limit to €50 and now many shops and bars have the option to pay sans contact. In the cities at least, it’s become common even for small purchases like a coffee or a baguette.

Online – there’s also been a more general move online, as people spent many months working remotely and you’ll notice that many more functions can now be performed online. During the lockdowns, the government encouraged shops to improve their online and delivery services, and many of these are now here to stay.

Takeaways – likewise with food and drink to take out, during the many months when bars, cafés and restaurants were closed, they were allowed to offer food and drink to be consumed off the premises, and takeout sales were not included in calculations for government support.

This led to an explosion in the number of places offering a takeout service and while some have gone back to the traditional methods, others have kept their takeaway options.

Paris terraces and cycle lanes – if you’re visiting Paris you’ll definitely notice some structural differences. During the pandemic city authorities created coronapistes – temporary cycle lanes to encourage people who needed to travel to get off the crowded buses and Metros and cycle instead.

These proved a hit with the locals and many of them have become permanent. If you’re visiting the Louvre, you’ll notice that large sections of the Rue de Rivoli are now car free.

Another temporary move that seems to be here to stay is allowing cafés to expand their outdoor seating areas onto pavements, parking spaces and sometimes the street, in order to encourage social distancing. These expanded terraces proved very popular and they’re now here to stay, re-branded terrasses estivales (summer terraces).

Kissing – the cheek-kiss greeting known as la bise was obviously out during the pandemic. It’s now starting to make a comeback, but in a more limited way.

Some people have enthusiastically re-embraced it, while others have decided to retire it or at least limit it to close friends and family. Likewise, not everyone has returning to handshakes and the fist-bump has become a lot more popular than pre-pandemic days. 

But don’t worry, most of the France that we know and love is still recognisable – the food and the wine are great, the drivers are terrible and there will probably be a strike. Vive la France.

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TRAVEL

‘IT problems’ blamed for cancellation of flights from French airports

The French holiday weekend of Ascension has been hit by travel problems after Easyjet cancelled dozens of flights.

'IT problems' blamed for cancellation of flights from French airports

Easyjet announced on Thursday that it would have to cancel several dozen flights, many of which were set to depart from French airports like Paris Charles de Gaulle, Lyon, Toulouse and Nice.

The British budget airline tweeted an apology to the customers impacted, explaining that ‘IT system issues’ were to blame. 

In total, 200 flights across Europe were affected, confirmed the British newspaper The Independent.

Several customers expressed frustration at the hours-long wait times, many taking to Twitter to vent, like this user below:

So what happened?

Easyjet has not been very specific about the issue aside from explaining that the root of the problem was a computer system failure. They announced quickly that they were working to restore their systems and that in the meantime customers should continue to check Flight Tracker in order to verify the status of their flight prior to leaving for the airport.

While flights were set to resume on Friday, Thursday’s cancellations have had a domino effect, bringing about further delays and cancellations for flights originally scheduled for Friday. 

If you have flights booked, it is best, as stated above, to keep an eye on Flight Tracker in order to avoid potentially long wait-times at the airport.

Will passengers be compensated?

While Easyjet initially explained the IT problem as “beyond [their] control” and an “exceptional circumstance,” the company eventually retracted these statements and released a new statement saying that “Customers can request compensation in accordance with the regulations.” Here is the link to their website to find out more.

If you plan to request a refund, be advised that under European regulation for air passenger rights, travellers should be entitled to compensation between €260 to €410 per person depending on the duration of the flight, with the latter representing flight distances of over 1,500 km. Read more here.

Since Brexit, passengers departing from the UK may no longer be covered by the European compensation rules.

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