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Should I cancel my trip to France because of farmers' protests?

The Local France
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Should I cancel my trip to France because of farmers' protests?
Farmers block with their tractors the A4 highway near Jossigny, east of Paris. Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP

If you're following French news you will no doubt have heard about the highly disruptive protests organised by French farmers - so what's the situation if you are planning a trip to France?


For over a week now French farmers have been organising a series of highly disruptive protests aimed at paralysing the country's road network in order to bring attention to their grievances.

READ ALSO 5 minutes to understand French farmer protests 

So just how bad is the disruption and how will it affect anyone planning a trip to France?

Transport services

Let's start with things that aren't disrupted - the protests are almost exclusively concentrated on roads - public transport services such as buses and trains (including international services like the Eurostar or Lyria) are running as normal.


Flights are also running as normal, although there have been some blockades on roads leading to airports. 

Within cities, transport services like buses, trams and Metros are running as normal. This includes public transport links to airports such as the Paris RER B or Orlyval. 

Cross-Channel ferries are also running as normal and a brief blockade at the Port of Calais targeted only freight transport, without affecting passenger entrances to the port.


The country's road network, on the other hand, is severely disrupted as farmers use their tractors and piles of dumped rubbish to block roads, mainly the autoroutes (motorways or highways).

The exact locations of the blockades varies from day to day - you can find daily updates on our homepage HERE - but they have mainly targeted the biggest and busiest routes. Farmers have at various times also targeted the access roads to airports.

Meanwhile there are also numerous opérations escargots or rolling roadblocks, which is basically when two or three vehicles (usually tractors) drive very slowly down a main road, causing traffic to back up behind them and long delays.

These have been seen on both autoroutes and the ringroads and several cities including Toulouse, Bordeaux, Marseille, Lyon and Lille. 

Towns and cities

Initially the protests kept out of the towns and concentrated on the motorways, but in more recent days there have been town centre protests, often outside préfectures, which involve piles of rotting vegetables or other waste being dumped. In some towns taxis have joined in with the protests, operating rolling roadblocks to create long traffic jams.

The towns protests have been peaceful - if noisy and smelly - and have not involved passers-by. Police have, for the moment, been ordered to practice 'light touch' policing, so the risk of being accidentally tear-gassed by police as you walk past a demo is much lower in this case than with previous protests.



Farmers have also enacted the 'siege of Paris' - slightly less dramatic than it sounds, it involves blocking all eight of the autoroutes that form access points to the capital, effectively blockading the city. Access on smaller roads is open, but traffic on these alternatives routes is heavy.

Within the city itself, life continues as normal.

A similar operation has been in place in Lyon.

How long will they go on for?

There is no end date for the protests, and unlike strikes which must be announced in advance there is no limit on how long farmers (who are mostly self-employed) can protest.

The inbuilt limitation for the protesters is that their farms still need to be run so they cannot be away indefinitely, even though this is a fairly quiet time in the agricultural year.

The largest farmers' union the FNSEA says it intends to keep going until at least Thursday, February 1st, the date of a key EU meeting. The government is hoping that further concessions may end the protests, although some of the smaller unions say they will keep going "indefinitely".


So what does this all mean for visitors?

It very much depends on how you intend to get around while in France - if you're planning a city break and are travelling by public transport, you probably won't really notice the protests.

If you're in rural France and mostly driving on smaller roads you'll likely see signs of the protest itself, but probably won't be seriously inconvenienced.

If, however, your planned trip involves driving significant distances on the autoroutes, you should probably expect disruption.

You can find daily updates of which roads are affected at The Local, and it's also advised to listen to local radio or follow local authorities on social media in order to get the latest updates for each area.

If you have a flight to catch, it's advisable to give yourself a lot of extra time to get to the airport.

The protests themselves look very dramatic - often with burning tyres pouring forth clouds of thick black smoke - but so far none have been violent.

So although getting stuck in a very long traffic jam is extremely annoying - and you might miss a flight and/or have to pee on the side of the highway - there is no risk of anything worse.



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