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Strikes, prices and services – what you need to know about Christmas travel to France

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.

Strikes, prices and services - what you need to know about Christmas travel to France
Photo by DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP

Whether you’re a foreigner in France planning a trip 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. 

Strikes

Let’s start with something particularly French – strikes.

At present there are no strikes confirmed for the holiday season. However, Cabin crew on several airlines have threatened strike action in a series of increasingly bitter pay disputes.

Train services in France could also be impacted by industrial action during the Christmas (December 23rd through 26th) and New Year’s (December 30th to January 2nd) periods, 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.

Even though strikes have yet to be confirmed for the Christmas period, they can always be called nearer to the time, you can find all the latest information 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.

If you’re taking a trip to the UK, be aware that 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. Strikes have been called on the Eurostar over the Christmas period and on UK domestic rail services. 

If you’re going to Italy there are widespread air and rail strikes in November 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.

Services

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.

Prices

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.

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DRIVING

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

France's Ministry of Transport has announced that toll-fees will increase in 2023. Here is what motorists in France can expect.

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

With French motorists already expecting increases in fuel prices starting in January, the cost of travel on many of France’s motorways will also increase in 2023.

Toll rates on the main routes across France are set to go up by an average of 4.75 percent starting on February 1st, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Transport on Friday.

These rates already rose by two percent in 2022. 

While the increase is still lower than the rate of inflation (six percent), motorists in France can still expect driving to become more expensive in 2023, as the government does away with its broad-scale fuel rebate (€0.10 off the litre) at the start of January.

As of early December, the French government was still discussing plans for how to replace the fuel rebate. The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, told Les Echoes in November that the government was considering a targeted, means-tested “fuel allowance” for workers who depend on their vehicles to commute to and from work. 

How much will I be affected?

The degree to which drivers will experience increased costs depends largely on what kind of vehicle they use, in addition to how far you plan to drive on the toll-road. 

Vehicles are broadly classified as follows:

Class 1 (Light vehicles): these are cars and minivans. This class also includes vehicles pulling trailers with a combined height of no more than 2m and a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of less than or equal to 3.5 tonnes.
Class 2: Large utility vehicles and camping cars
Class 3: Heavy goods vehicles, coaches, other 2-axle vehicles, motorhomes taller than 3m
Class 4: Vehicles taller than 3m with a GVW greater than 3.5 tonnes
Class 5: Motorbikes, sidecars, quad bikes, three-wheeled motor vehicles 

The next determining factor for how significant the price rise will be depends on which company is operating the road you use, and there are several different companies that operate toll-roads in France. 

Each year, toll (péage) prices in France are adjusted and re-evaluated for the following year on February 1st, following discussions between the government and the main companies that operate the French freeways. The fees are in part used for road maintenance costs. 

To estimate the cost of tolls for your next French road trip, you can use the calculator on this website

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