Covid rule advice for UK October half-term holidaymakers to France

From health passes to entry requirements, we explain the rules for adults and children for a visit to France

30 September 2021

There are a series of Covid-related rules in place for travellers visiting France. Pic: Halfpoint / Shutterstock

By Emma Morgan

If you are travelling to France for the October half-term holiday, there are a series of Covid-related restrictions that you may need to observe both during and after your trip. 

Getting a French health pass 

Whether travelling alone or with children, you will need to consider creating a French health pass for every member of your party aged over 12 years and two months, in order to access a range of public spaces and services, including restaurants, cafés, theme parks and museums. 

Read more: Checklist: Where and when should I use the French Covid health pass?

October half-term falls in the week of October 25-29 this year, by which dates all children over 12 years and two months in France will need to show a pass. 

Read more: Children will only need French health pass at 12 years and 2 months

Read more: How UK families can get French health pass for October half-term break

A health pass can consist of: 

  • Proof that the individual was fully vaccinated at least seven days before

  • Proof of a negative PCR or antigen test result within the last 72 hours

  • Proof that the individual had and recovered from Covid-19 within the last six months. 

All 12 to 17-year-olds in the UK are being offered a first dose of the Pfizer jab – unless eligible for both due to medical reasons – but France only considers someone to be vaccinated one week after their second dose (or four weeks after their first in the case of the Janssen vaccine).

Proof of recovery from Covid normally takes the form of a positive test taken 11 days to six months before, which in France carry a QR code that can be uploaded to the health pass app TousAntiCovid. 

However, in the UK positive test results do not generally come with a QR code and so cannot be scanned. 

The French Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs also states that the service charged with generating health pass QR codes from foreign vaccination documents cannot convert non-EU certificates of recovery. 

Some venues might accept a printed test result from the period specified, but this is at their discretion and it should not be assumed that they will. 

Therefore, the most practical way for UK children to obtain the health pass is often to carry out and pay for a Covid test every 72 hours. 

The cheapest option is to take antigen tests, which are offered by most pharmacies, as well as in several airports and at the entrance to some theme parks. 

Antigen tests normally cost €25-€35 and a certificate – complete with a QR code – with the results will normally be sent to you via email within half an hour. This can be used continuously until the end of the 72-hour period. 

You can find the details of different test centres close to where you may be staying in France - and can select an antigen option on the map and search fields here.

What safety measures must I observe while out and about in France? 

In many French towns and cities mask-wearing is no longer compulsory, but it is still commonplace in enclosed public spaces. 

It is not necessary to wear a mask in establishments that require a health pass to be shown, apart from in long-distance transports such as TGV trains – and indeed all public transport. 

However, some restaurants, cinemas, cafés and other venues where health passes must be shown may still require their customers to wear a face covering. 

When mask-wearing is mandatory, all people over the age of 11 should comply, as well as observing social distancing measures. 

What entry requirements does France have in place for travellers? 

The UK is currently on France’s amber list

Fully vaccinated people can travel to the country for non-essential reasons, including holidays, and do not have to quarantine on arrival. 

Before travelling they must be able to present: 

  • proof of being fully vaccinated at least seven days before (or 28 days in the case of the single-dose Janssen vaccine). For further information about what counts as full vaccination in France, please consult the French government advice. 

  • a completed ‘sworn statement’ (engagement sur l’honneur, on the French government website here) form self-certifying that they are not suffering from symptoms associated with coronavirus and have not been in contact with confirmed cases in the preceding fortnight.

Non-fully vaccinated people can only enter France for essential purposes which do not include holidays. 

Most essential reasons involve having the right to live or work in France but also include the need to enter the country because of the death of a close family member, a university exchange programme, emergency medical treatment or professional sports commitments. 

Read more: Covid-19: Rules for travel to and from France

Children aged 12 and over who are not fully vaccinated but who are travelling with a vaccinated adult are required to present a negative test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 24 hours of departure but do not need to present an essential reason or quarantine on arrival. 

However, if they are over 12 and travelling alone they are subject to the same conditions as unvaccinated adults and cannot go to France for a holiday. 

Children aged 11 or younger do not need to present a negative test to travel. 

What do I need to do to return to the UK? 

In the 48 hours before travelling to the UK, you will need to complete a passenger locator form. Each adult will need to present their own document, but under-18s – or under-16s in the case of Scotland – can be added to the form of any adult they are travelling with.

By October half-term, fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK from non-red list countries – currently including France – will no longer need to take a PCR or antigen pre-departure test in the 72 hours before they travel. 

Under-18s who are resident in the UK will be subject to the same rules as fully vaccinated adults. 

For further details of what constitutes fully vaccinated in the UK, please visit the gov.uk website.

The UK government has also announced that fully vaccinated travellers to England from non-red list countries will also be able to swap their day two PCR test for a cheaper lateral flow from “later” in October “for when people return from half-term breaks.” 

The exact date of this change for this has not yet been specified. 

Scotland has said that it will "align with the UK post-arrival testing regime" but details are yet to be finalised. 

Currently, Northern Ireland will still be requiring travellers to take a day two PCR test. 

Wales has not yet made a decision about removing the PCR test requirement. 

Non-fully vaccinated adults entering the UK will still need to take pre-departure, day two and day eight tests, and quarantine on arrival. 

Children over five must also take day two tests. The Connexion has contacted the Home Office to ask whether they will be allowed to take a lateral flow rather than a PCR test after the rules change at the end of October. 

What do I do if I get Covid while in France? 

The French government states that anyone displaying symptoms of Covid while in the country should stay at home – or in their holiday accommodation – avoiding contact with other people. 

You should phone a doctor rather than visiting in person. If you do not know any local doctors you can try calling the non-premium cost number 09 72 72 99 09 for help in finding one. It is open Monday to Friday from 08:30 to 17:30.

The doctor may ask you to take a Covid test, and you must stay in isolation until you have the results. 

Read more: What should I do if I get covid while on holiday in France?

If you test positive you should quarantine until 10 days after you first experienced symptoms. If you still have a temperature after this time, you should wait until it has returned to normal and then for an extra 48 hours before leaving isolation. 

If the symptoms get worse and you have trouble breathing, phone the emergency medical line on the number 15, or anyone with hearing difficulties they can message the service on 114. 

People with Covid symptoms are not permitted to travel, which means that if you contract the virus while on holiday you will have to prolong your stay in France. 

Related articles 

9 key dates for Covid rule changes in France in October and November

US to allow vaccinated visitors from the EU to come from November

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