France holiday travel options and coronavirus rules

 Here's a summary of points about travelling and holidaying in France this summer

6 July 2020
By Connexion journalist

Tourists can travel between France and England without restrictions from July 10, when coronavirus quarantine requirements between the two countries are lifted.

That means the mandatory 14-day self-isolation requirement for anyone entering England from those countries will be lifted. France, too, will lift its voluntary 14-day quarantine for Britons entering France.

Note that the Westminster government's lifting of restrictions applies only to anyone travelling to and from England. The governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland maintaining their own policies on coronavirus restrictions. 

France had already lifted border restrictions for other European countries on June 15. Border restrictions between France and certain countries outside of the European Union are now slowly being lifted for countries that have the epidemic “under control” - though tourists from the United States of America are currently not permitted to enter EU countries.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has already lifted its advice against foreign travel for non-essential reasons for a number of European countries, including France.

Here we answer questions travellers will have regarding trips to France. 

What lockdown restrictions are in place in France?

Despite previously having one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe – with residents required to carry documents for any journey outside their property – the situation is now more relaxed after France entered the 'third phase' of deconfinement after its coronavirus lockdown.

On June 14, President Emmanuel Macron declared the whole of France a "green zone" for coronavirus cases. Bars and restaurants were allowed to open fully, and schools reopened for the final weeks of the summer term. All establishments must maintain “strict sanitation rules”.

How can I travel to France from UK?

The usual ways are open - but travel services are fewer than usual, and health measures are in place. 

Eurostar has been running daily services between London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord. A face mask is required for travel on SNCF and Eurostar trains.

The Eurotunnel is open. It has recently been offering hourly services from 6h until 22h.

Ferries are crossing the Channel. P&O Ferries has been operating five daily sailings between Dover and Calais, while DFDS, which has continued to operate freight and passenger services for 'essential journeys' during lockdown, is set to welcome tourists again from July 10. In line with government advice, it is a requirement that all passengers/drivers, wear a face covering when travelling.

Brittany Ferries began a staggered resumption of passenger services from June 29.

Flights between Britain and France are operating - with strict health measures in place.

Airlines such as easyJet and Air France offer different routes to travel from Paris to Nice, Paris to Bordeaux, Paris to Toulouse, from Lyon to Biarritz and Nantes, from Toulouse to Nantes. There are also tickets available for Corsica from Lyon, Toulouse, and Paris with easyJet.

EasyJet has been operating some flights since June 15 from key airports and aims to have half its normal service operating by the end of July. Face masks must be worn at the airport, at the gate when boarding the aircraft, and throughout the flight. Full information is available on easyJet's Fly with Confidence web page.

British Airways is running limited flights between France and the UK, including from Paris to London, and Nice to London. 

Ryanair restarted more than 1,000 flights from the UK to 200 European destinations from July 1 - and had been operating some services before then. Ryanair's travel advice is available here.

There will be health and temperature checks at airports and you must wear a mask at the airport and in the plane.

Will I be able to get travel insurance that covers Covid-19

There have been concerns over travel insurance due to Covid-19 - and many insurers have introduced a clause excluding coronavirus claims - travellers in the EU with an European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) will be able to get medical treatment in hospitals in France if they become symptomatic. 

Read more: What the end of UK quarantine means for travel insurance

Will I be stopped by French authorities?

No, as long as you do not present any coronavirus symptoms, there should be nothing stopping travellers from the UK being permitted into France. Be aware, as per travel guidelines, you may be required to complete additional health forms before you travel.

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?*

No, you are not obliged to self-isolate when you get to France.

Quarantine on arrival to France has been voluntary as a reciprocal action taken in light of the UK's own 14-day quarantine restrictions on arrivals to the country. The French government appealed to travellers' "common sense" but said that there would be no consequences for not undertaking the quarantine.

With England set to lift its obligatory quarantine requirement for arrivals from France from Friday, July 10, France is expected to follow suit immediately, which means that even voluntary quarantine will not be requested if you are coming from England.

However, if you are travelling from elsewhere in the UK, the government is still imposing a voluntary quarantine as a reciprocal measure until Wales, Scotland and Northern Island update their restrictions.

Read more: What does end to quarantine mean for France-UK travel?

Are hotels open?

Yes. Campsites and hotels in France were allowed to reopen in June. 

Read more: Motor home rental in France a hit for this summer

Read more: Explore France in a campervan or motorhome this summer

What about restaurants and shops?

Like hotels, gîtes and campsites, cafes, bars and restaurants - and shops - are open to the public. 

Bars, restaurants and cafes are allowed to open inside and outside areas, but they have to follow strict hygiene rules. Customers are asked to wear a face covering when walking inside, but this can be removed when seated. No service is allowed at the bar and a distance of 1m is kept between tables.

Most shops and open-air markets are also open in France, again with health measures in place. You must wear a mask if the shopkeeper requires it, and maintain social distancing. Some smaller shops limit the number of customers permitted inside at any one time.

What requirements are in place for using public transport and taxis?

It’s compulsory - for now - to wear a mask while on public transport and in taxis in France, and when at the station or airport. 

If you plan to travel by train, you must book in advance even for travel on regional trains (TER). 

Coaches such as Blablabus and Flexibus have also resumed, with a limited number of routes set to progressively increase during summer.

Are there restrictions in place in open public spaces, like parks and beaches?

Beaches and parks have reopened, and you can now stay and sunbathe or have a picnic, and play non-contact sports. River cruises will be allowed from July 11. Strict social distancing is still in force, and groups of no more than 10 people may gather in any one place at present - so no large picnics in the park for the moment. 

Read more: Masks: What are the rules for beaches and campsites in France?

What about tourist attractions and entertainment venues?

There is a limit of 5,000 people for large venues and strict health rules apply for shows and cinemas. Nightclubs remain closed.

Casinos partially reopened on June 2 - and rules have also been further relaxed, permitting table games to be played.

Museums, monuments, zoos and theme parks are gradually opening their doors again, but a mask is required to visit and there may be restrictions on visitor numbers. It is advisable to book your visit before you go, as some venues are restricting visitor numbers.

The Eiffel Tower started allowing visitors on 25 June. Disneyland Paris begins a phased reopening on 15 July. The Palace of Versailles reopened on June 6, while the Centre Pompidou and the Louvre were due to open in early July.

How long will the current restrictions last in France?

That depends on the number of coronavirus cases in the country - but, as it stands, the current state of health emergency in France is set to end on July 11.

From that date, stadiums and hippodromes may be allowed to reopen to the public, with a “maximum capacity” of 5,000 people. Activities involving more than 1,500 people must be declared beforehand.

Rules may be relaxed further in September, in time for the new football and rugby seasons, depending on “a new evaluation of the epidemiological situation”.

It could also include the reopening of nightclubs and discotheques.

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*This article was updated at 18h on 06/07/2020 to clarify the rules around quarantine on arrival to France. 

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