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Traveling to France during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

<i>sam74100 / Getty Images</i><br/>France's coastline
sam74100 / Getty Images
France's coastline

CNN Staff

If you’re planning to travel to France, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

France has some of the most stringent Covid-19 restrictions in the world. Although it reopened to visitors over summer 2020, the country has been put back into lockdown twice since then, and is now tentatively reopening from a less restrictive third lockdown.

What’s on offer

The historic boulevards of Paris, the fashionable sweep of La Croisette in Cannes and the rolling lavender fields and vineyards of Provence. France remains one of the world’s most enduring tourist destinations.

With superb food, even better wine and landscapes and cities to satisfy every kind of traveler, it never disappoints.

Who can go

France has implemented a traffic light system that separates countries into categories, with different rules for travelers who are fully-vaccinated and those who have not been vaccinated.

As of June 9, fully vaccinated travelers from EU countries, as well as others designated “green,” can enter without submitting a negative Covid-19 PCR test or going into quarantine.

Non-vaccinated travelers from “green” countries are required to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 72 hours of departure. But they do not have to quarantine, or provide a “compelling” reason for their visit.

The US and Canada were added on to the “green” list to June 17.

Fully vaccinated travelers from “amber” countries, including the UK, can visit provided they submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 72 hours of departure.

However, non-vaccinated travelers coming from destinations designated “amber” will have to provide a “compelling” reason for their visit, as well as submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 72 hours of departure and spend seven days in mandatory quarantine on arrival.

Fully vaccinated travelers on France’s “red” list can only enter if they have a valid reason, and are required to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 72 hours of departure and go into quarantine for seven days.

The same rules applies for non-vaccinated travelers on France’s “red” list, however, they face a slightly longer quarantine period of 10 days.

To be classed as fully vaccinated, travelers need to have had two doses of one of the four EU-approved vaccines. Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. The second dose must have been administered at least two weeks prior to travel.

While France has not been charging foreign tourists from red list countries for PCR and antigen tests taken on arrival, authorities have announced that travelers will be required to pay for these tests from July 9.

France has also introduced a health pass (“pass sanitaire”) that stores digital versions of users’ vaccination certificates, proof of a negative PCR or antigen test taken in the past 48 hours, or evidence of having recently recovered from Covid (provided they’ve tested positive more than two weeks ago and less than six months ago).

The pass, which can be accessed via the French Covid-tracker app TousAntiCovid or as a QR code, has been approved for use for summer travel from July 1.

Paper versions of the documents will still be accepted, along with photo identification.

The move comes as seven member states, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia, and Poland, roll out digital Covid-19 certificates, allowing EU travelers to move freely around member countries.

It’s still unclear when France’s health pass will be extended to international tourists, but officials have indicated that it will be at some point.

What are the restrictions?

As stated above, a traffic light system is now in place, with different rules depending on a traveler’s vaccination status, and whether the country they’re traveling from has been designated green, amber or red.

The list of compelling reasons certain travelers must declare before they are allowed to enter now includes further family situations, so that couples and parents split between France and another country can travel to visit each other and/or their children.

What’s the Covid situation?

France has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, with more than 5.8 million cases and over 111,000 deaths as of July 2.

Cases were soaring earlier in the year, with 117,900 new cases reported on April 11 alone. But the numbers have dropped considerably since then, with 2,664 new cases being tallied on July 2.

Over 54 million vaccination doses have been administered in the country as of July 2.

France relaunched its test and trace app in October. TousAntiCovid is available for iPhone and Android devices.

What can visitors expect?

France went into national lockdown again on April 3 due to a sharp increase in coronavirus cases.

However, President Macron has since laid out a roadmap for easing restrictions in the country cautiously, and some measures have already been lifted.

Domestic travel restrictions were lifted on May 3, meaning residents are permitted to travel within the country again.

Elementary schools and nurseries were reopened on April 26 after being closed for three weeks, while high school students returned to indoor classes on May 3.

Restaurants, cafes and open-air terraces reopened for outdoor service on May 19, with a maximum of six people per table, and nonessential shops have also opened their doors again.

Spectators are allowed back into arenas, and museums, monuments, theaters, auditoriums with seated audiences can reopen with a maximum capacity of 800 people indoors and 1,000 outdoors.

Gyms reopened on June 9, while indoor dining has resumed at restaurants and cafes, with establishments operating at 50% capacity indoors. Nightclubs are allowed to reopen from July 9.

Residents can also use the health pass, which stores proof of vaccination, negative PCR tests or evidence that the user has recently recovered from Covid-19, to attend stadiums and large events.

The national curfew was pushed back to 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. on June 9 and is now due to be lifted completely on June 20, ten days earlier than expected.

Rules around mask-wearing while outdoors are also being eased. As of June 20, masks are only mandatory outside in crowded places such as markets and stadiums. However, masks are still required while in public spaces indoors and on public transport.

Useful links

French government official site

Advice for foreign nationals planning trips to France

Tous Anti Covid app

Covid-19 official advice

Our latest coverage

Read more about how France has imposed new Covid-19 restrictions and how feminist street art is becoming commonplace around Paris.

In other developments, the European country has passed a law protecting the “sensory heritage” of its rural areas, and its future for sleeper trains looks bright. Want to know what it feels like to try to become French? CNN’s Channon Hodge gave it a go back in 2008.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Joe Minihane, Julia Buckley and Tamara Hardingham-Gill contributed to this report

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