Should I book a holiday to France this summer?
We look at different factors that could help shape a decision on whether to visit France
France’s French Riviera in the southeast has long been a popular summer holiday destination Pic: RossHelen / Shutterstock
International travel has been heavily disrupted since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in early spring last year, but the arrival of multiple efficient vaccines has brought about a reopening of some borders.
France introduced a green-amber-red system on June 9 to simplify Covid-related travel restrictions by colour-coding countries.
Travellers coming from countries classified as green, which currently includes all EU countries, the US, Australia, etc., have the fewest restrictions, while travellers from red countries are subject to much stricter rules.
Most countries, including the UK, are classified as amber. This means people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can enter France without an essential reason and without the need to quarantine on arrival. They still have to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure.
We look at factors that could help shape a decision on whether to travel to France this summer.
France’s looming fourth wave?
France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran warned last week that the threat of the Delta variant of Covid-19 is real and could come along and “ruin our summer holidays”.
He said France could be facing a fourth wave of Covid-19 as early as the end of July.
President Emmanuel Macron is set to meet with top ministers on Monday (July 12) to discuss the Covid-19 situation and plan any new restrictions.
This could involve tighter border restrictions, an extended use of France’s health pass or making Covid vaccines mandatory for certain professionals in France.
The incidence rate of Covid-19 - the number of cases per 100,000 people - has increased in 11 out of the 13 metropolitan departments in the past week.
However, this has yet to translate into an increase in hospital numbers, admittances to intensive care units or deaths due to Covid-19, all of which have decreased in the past week.
The region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in the southeast, a tourist hotspot, has seen its incidence rate increase sharply in the past week. Local health authorities have called on people living there to get vaccinated.
France has partially vaccinated just over 52% of its entire population, and fully vaccinated 37.9%.
What is open in France?
Nightclubs in France are allowed to open from today (July 9) with people entering having to show a ‘health pass’ - proof of a negative Covid-19 test, immunity to Covid or a vaccination certificate.
The health measures in place, which includes limiting capacity to 75%, are strict, so much so that around 70% of nightclubs in France are not expected to open today, BFMTV reported.
Restaurants, cafés, bars, cinemas, theatres, museums, beaches, etc. are all open in France.
A health pass is required to enter events, such as concerts, with over 1,000 people.
Similarly, people entering indoor public spaces such as cafés, bars and restaurants are asked to leave their contact details or scan a QR code using France’s track and trace application TousAntiCovid.
Travel from the UK to France
The UK will allow from July 19 people fully vaccinated there to skip a 10-day quarantine period when returning from an amber list country - which currently includes France.
On their return from France they will need a pre-departure Covid test and then another Covid-19 test on day two after arriving back in the UK.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government was planning to extend this rule to those vaccinated in the EU and US too.
“We want to welcome international visitors back to the UK and are working to extend our approach to vaccinated passengers from important markets and holiday destinations later this summer, such as the US and the EU,” he said on Thursday (July 8).
Mr Shapps said that the government will remove the advice not to travel to amber-listed countries from July 19.
Read more about Grant Shapps’ announcement and the rules in our article here: UK is planning for vaccinated people in EU and US to skip quarantine
Will France be added to the UK’s green list?
The UK is set to review its traffic light travel rules around mid-July. The reviews take place approximately every three weeks, with the last one held on June 24.
France should be added to the UK’s green travel list, Robert Boyle, former BA commercial director and former strategy director for International Airlines Group said.
He states: “Explaining why some countries are on the green list isn’t too hard. They have low case rates, low test positives and decent levels of testing…
“But the big thing that I cannot explain is why a whole raft of other countries are on the amber list, rather than the green one. There seems to be nothing in the data the government says it is using that explains why they are languishing on the amber list at this point.
“I’m sure the answer is politics somehow, but there doesn’t even seem to be any obvious political logic for why two apparently similar countries get classified differently.”
The Delta variant is set to become the dominant strain in France by this weekend, Health Minister Olivier Véran said today (July 9). This could cause the Covid-19 situation in France to get worse before the UK’s next travel review.
Will the UK be placed on France’s red list?
The number of Covid-19 cases in the UK has increased rapidly in the past weeks and yesterday (July 8), the country reported over 32,000 new cases. The rate of hospital admittances and deaths due to Covid-19 has also increased in the past week in the UK, although it remains very low.
France’s tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne was asked in an interview with Franceinfo this week if travelling to London would be risky due to the UK government’s plans to drop most Covid-related restrictions on July 19.
Mr Lemoyne said, “for the moment, the UK is on the amber list. What I mean by that is it is necessary to take care and for amber countries, the vaccination is the key for travel.”
Travel from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand
France placed the US and Canada on its green travel list on June 17. They joined Australia and New Zealand, which were already green.
This means that there are no restrictions for people who are fully vaccinated with an EU-recognised vaccine. For those who are not fully vaccinated, they will just need to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure.
The US has yet to return the favour, and people in the EU are still banned from entering the US without an essential reason.
Covid tests no longer free in France for tourists
For foreign tourists to France it is worth remembering that Covid-19 tests taken in France for travel reasons are no longer free.
Tourists will be charged €49 for a PCR test and €29 for rapid antigen tests.
Covid-19 tests will remain free for foreign tourists in France if they have a medical prescription or if they are identified as a contact case and can present a European Health Insurance Card.
French citizens and residents will still have access to free Covid-19 tests.