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Christmas travel to France: What you need to know about strikes, services and prices

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 14 Dec, 2022 Updated Wed 14 Dec 2022 16:45 CEST
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For the past two Christmases strict Covid rules prevented many people from travelling - this year that isn't an issue, but there are strikes, service reductions and high ticket prices to contend with.


Whether you're a foreigner in France planning a trip back home to see friends or relatives over the festive season, a second-home owner or you're planning a Christmas or New Year trip to France, here's what you need to know. 


Let's start with something particularly French - strikes.

Rail workers - specifically signal operators - are planning to strike from December 15th to 19th, after "insufficient" proposals from SNCF management during pay negotiations. So far, only the Sud-Rail union has called on workers nationwide to strike, though the CGT union has supported local actions. 

Train services in France could also be impacted by industrial action over the Christmas (December 23rd through 26th) and New Year (December 30th to January 2nd) weekends, with unions representing conductors and ticket collectors threatening to strike during those days. Previous strikes in December by conductors and ticket collectors were highly disruptive, causing 60 percent of high-speed and intercity trains to be cancelled during the first day of a three-day strike. Negotiations are still ongoing, so at present these are only provisional strike notices.

Cabin crew on several airlines have also threatened strike action in a series of increasingly bitter pay disputes - again, negotiations are ongoing. One such strike was called off in mid-December - EasyJet cabin crew withdrew their strike notice for the Christmas period after reaching a deal with management over salary increases.


To the UK

If you're travelling to the UK you need to be aware of multiple strike actions planned by British workers - including a strike of border staff in all of the country's major airports that travel bosses have warned could lead to flight cancellations and very long waits at the border. 

Strikes have also been called on the Eurostar over the Christmas period - this action is by UK-based security staff so will only affect London-Paris services.

Also be aware that British rail workers are currently engaged in a protracted battle to secure pay increases that will help them cope with the soaring cost of living, and several rail strikes are planned over the holiday season.

To the rest of Europe

If you're going to Italy there are widespread air and rail strikes that could continue into December, while Germany has also seen airline strikes. Low-cost airlines in Spain are also staging strike action that is currently scheduled to last until after Christmas. You can find the latest in Italy here, Spain here and Germany here.

You can find all the latest information about France on our strike page HERE.

But just because a strike is called, it doesn't necessarily mean that you won't be able to travel - we take a look here at how to interpret French strike threats, and whether you should cancel your trip.



After two years of limited services as passenger numbers crashed during the pandemic there is now a lot more choice - but some services are still restricted compared to 2019. 

French trains are back to pre-pandemic levels and in fact many lines have increased services as more and more people opt to take the train for environmental reasons. This includes international services like the Lyria to Switzerland, Thalys to the Benelux and Renfe to Spain but not the Eurostar (see below).

READ ALSO How to save money on French train tickets

Airlines have largely resumed their pre-pandemic timetables between big cities such as the Paris-New York flights, but several regional French airports still have fewer services than before. New rules on domestic French flights mean that some routes within France such as Paris to Nantes have been stopped altogether. 

Services between France and the UK have also seen some post-Brexit effects with both the Eurotunnel and ferry companies running fewer services - although the Eurotunnel is planning to offer services every half hour over the Christmas period. People taking the ferry from the UK are advised to allow 90 minutes for pre-boarding checks at busy times. 

Travel to France: What has changed since Brexit?

The Eurostar is running around one third fewer services in order to avoid massive queues due to the post-Brexit passport check rules, and passengers are now advised to allow 90 minutes for pre-boarding checks. Financial troubles at the company have also seen ticket prices rise.

If you're planning a ski holiday, there is now a direct train from London to a selection of French ski resorts, although the Travelski Express can only be booked as part of a package holiday.


But for many people, the prices have ruled out travel over the holiday season - with many American readers telling us that they have either decided not to travel, or have travelled at a different time of year to see friends and relatives.


Prices for long-haul flights have seen big increases, almost doubling on some routes, while short-haul flights seem to be less affected.

If you're planning to take the Eurostar, it too has raised its prices in response to financial troubles at the parent company.

Prices on French trains have not seen a significant increase - although one is planned for 2023 to cope with rising utility prices - while other operators have seen smaller price rises, keeping in mind that Christmas and New Year is always an expensive time to travel. 

You can find the latest travel news in our travel section HERE, and we will update this article with any new developments ahead of the festive season.



The Local 2022/12/14 16:45

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