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Holidaying from France: What are the options?

As the EU’s borders reopen we review the rules for tourist travel for people living in France and why a holiday in Europe is looking like the easiest option

9 June 2021
By Hannah Thompson

France’s new red-amber-green travel system comes into operation today and its rules affect not only who can visit the country, but also where residents can travel for holidays.

In reality, options for holidays outside the EU remain limited by rules in place in destination countries, including the UK which continues to require a 10-day quarantine for those coming from France and a complex (and costly) testing regime.

Until now France has asked residents to show an essential reason for travel to all but a short list of countries, including Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore (also, formerly, the UK, but the UK was recently removed due to concerns over the ‘Indian’ variant).

Under its new colour-code system these destinations, along with Lebanon and the EU, are all classified green, meaning residents of France may continue to visit these countries without any specific reason or outbound medical requirements. 

From today vaccinated people may now return from these countries without a Covid test.

Another key change today is that vaccinated people may now also visit ‘amber’ countries without an essential reason, however Covid tests on return are still required in this case, taken in the destination country either 72 hours before travel for a PCR test or 48 hours before for an antigen test. Those who are not vaccinated must still have an ‘essential’ reason to visit amber countries.

A test will only be required before departure from France if needed by the destination country, which is the case, for example, in the UK.

Travel to ‘red list’ countries for holidays remains prohibited. 

The colour-coding relates to the level of Covid circulation in the country (see map below).

  • Green: Countries (as listed above) in which the virus is not actively circulating at levels considered dangerous
  • Amber: Countries in which the virus is spreading “at a controlled rate”
  • Red: Countries in which the virus is spreading at a rate considered dangerous: South Africa, Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, India, Chile, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Surinam, Uruguay, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Turkey.

The UK and US are among the amber countries, as are all those which are not classified green or red. 

Gouvernement français - Premier Ministre / capital.fr

Whether or not France permits you to visit a given country, you must also check the regulations in the destination country. You can do this on the website of the Foreign Affairs Ministry by writing the country name in French into the search box and clicking its name when it comes up highlighted in blue, then clicking on the blue magnifying glass box. 

These may, for example, mean PCR tests are required before departure or on arrival, there may be a quarantine requirement in place, and in some cases the countries are simply not accepting holiday visitors from France. 

Countries that France allows residents to visit, but which are still refusing entry to foreign tourists for the time being include: Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US. 

A few non-EU countries however are viable holiday options, such as Tunisia, where fully vaccinated people (or those who have had the virus plus one dose of vaccine) may travel without the need for a PCR test or seven-day voluntary quarantine.

French visitors may travel to neighbouring Morocco from Tuesday June 15 on presentation on boarding of a PCR test from the last 48 hours before the planned date of arrival in the country.

In the meantime, a European holiday is a good bet and is possible in most cases without undue complication. 

Italy, for example, requires a PCR test from the 48 hours before the trip (vaccination status is not yet taken into account) whereas Greece accepts either a test from the last 72 hours before travel, proof of vaccination or having had the virus and recovered from it. Croatia also accepts proof of vaccination (and equivalents) or otherwise a negative PCR or antigen test.

Several media outlets reported that as of this week vaccinated travellers may now enter Spain for visits without a Covid test, meanwhile it was reported that those who are not vaccinated will be able to present an antigen test from the last 72 hours, as opposed to, as previously, being obliged to show a PCR test.

However these changes are not confirmed by the official French government travel advice which as of today still states that all visitors must show a negative PCR test done in the 72 hours before arrival. 

Next steps

June 9 is only one step on the government’s reopening strategy timetable. 

A pan-European health pass (or pass sanitaire as it is being called in France) is set to be used across the EU from early July, which is intended to ease travel as it will show, for example, proof of vaccination or of a negative PCR test easily. 

Read more: France ready for EU digital travel pass scheme: How will it work?

Some countries are also likely to open in the coming weeks and months, even if not open yet, such as the US. 

The EU is requesting reciprocity for tourist travel rules to and from the US, especially when it comes to quarantine, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, has said.

Related stories

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Checklist: New traffic-light Covid rules for travel to or from France

Covid: US and UK on France's amber travel list from June 9

France remains on UK’s amber travel list in new update

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