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Trains, planes, ferries: Nine France travel updates on November 26

Air France offers extra Christmas flights, Brittany Ferries prepares to resume its faster Channel crossing and France tightens Covid border checks with some countries

We take a look at the travel news affecting journeys to, from and around France this week, from Covid updates to snow trains to Christmas holiday flights Pic: Steve Mann / Alexandros Michailidis / Viacheslav Lopatin / Joe Ravi / Shutterstock

[Update December 3 at 17:00 - Unvaccinated travellers entering France from Andorra will now need to carry out a Covid test in the 24 hours before their journey. This rule comes into effect at 00:01 on December 4.]

We take a look at the travel news affecting journeys to, from and around France this week.

1. Air France puts on extra flights for the Christmas holidays

Air France is offering a series of additional flights linking up different parts of France and Italy for people travelling over the Christmas period. 

From Paris-Charles de Gaulle, there will be extra services to Ajaccio and Bastia in Corsica on December 18, 23 and 26 and January 2. 

From Rennes, there will be special flights available on the same days to Marseille and Nice. 

Finally, from Lyon, there will be additional flights to Rome on those four days.

2. Brittany Ferries to bring back faster UK-France route

Brittany Ferries has announced that it will resume its faster Channel crossings from summer 2022.

The two-hour-30-minute service was suspended in 2020 because of Covid, but will from May 27 be returning on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

The service – which links up Portsmouth and Poole with Cherbourg – will run until September 4, with a break between June 5 and July 15.

It leaves Portsmouth at 07:00 and arrives in Cherbourg at 11:00, returning to Poole at 11:45.

This faster service complements Brittany Ferries standard car-ferry sailings between Poole and Cherbourg, which will resume on March 28 following a Covid-related hiatus.

3. France suspends flights from southern Africa

France has suspended all flights coming from southern Africa after the discovery of a new Covid variant of concern. 

This will affect flights coming from Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini.

The B.1.1.529 variant was first detected in South Africa and is feared to be very highly transmissible.

The suspension took effect “immediately” today (November 26) and will least for “at least 48 hours” according to the Health Ministry.

4. SNCF will not put up prices on its long-distance lines in 2022

SNCF has announced that it will not be increasing ticket prices on long-distance routes next year. 

“In 2020 and 2021, we did not put prices up, I would even say that we reduced them,” SNCF Voyageurs CEO Christophe Fanichet told Franceinfo. 

TER ticket prices are decided by the regions they serve, and so could rise next year. 

Mr Fanichet added that he was pleased that 2.3 million people in France had already reserved train tickets for the Christmas holidays. “That’s 15% more than in 2019,” he said.

He also spoke of the “enormous success” of SNCF’s carte Avantage, saying that: “We sell 8,000 of them each day, two times more than this time last year.”

Costing €49, this card allows passengers to access tickets for discounted prices, as long as there are still seats available on the train.

5. France tightens Covid border checks with some countries

Unvaccinated adults – and unaccompanied children over 12 – travelling to France from Switzerland, Luxembourg or Poland must now present a negative PCR or antigen test result from the last 24 hours. 

Previously, the test could be taken up to 72 hours before.

These countries remain on France’s green list for travel, but are now being monitored more closely due to the rise in Covid cases they are experiencing. 

The 24-hour time frame already applies for unvaccinated travellers from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Latvia, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the UK. 

Vaccinated travellers can continue to present their vaccination certificates as before. 

6. Snow train will take passengers from Tende to Limone for free

Passengers wishing to get from Tende (Alpes-Maritimes) to Italian ski resort Limone can do so free of charge from December 12. 

This is because of a promise made by the president of Italy’s Piedmont region, Alberto Cirio, who has said that the free Trenitalia trains will run until spring 2022.

There will be 12 trains accommodating 290 passengers each day, beginning at 07:00, for a journey which takes half an hour. 

The timetable will be as follows: 

Limone 07:00 - Tende 07:30 

Tende 08:00 - Limone 08:30 

Limone 08:50 - Tende 09:20

Tende 09:40 - Limone 10:10 

Limone 10:38 - Tende 11:08

Tende 11:20 - Limone 11:50 

Limone 14:20 - Tende 14:50 

Tende 15:10 - Limone 15:46

Limone 16:00 - Tende 16:30 

Tende 16:50 - Limone 17:20

Limone 17:40 - Tende 18:10

Tende 18:30 - Limone 19:00

In Limone, free shuttles will transport skiers to the slopes. 

7. Andorra extends its Covid pass for visitors 

Visitors to Andorra from France must now present their European health pass in certain venues. 

This is accessible in the TousAntiCovid app but can also be presented in paper form.

Andorra has not been spared from the rise in cases seen across Europe in recent weeks, and so the principality has decided to extend its ‘Passeport Covid’ regime.

People over 16 travelling from France can still enter the country without presenting any Covid status documentation, but if they wish to visit a bar or restaurant, they must have their health pass to hand. In restaurants, a maximum of 10 people can sit on one table. 

From November 29, it will be necessary to show your pass in Andorran hotels, gites, hairdressers, thermal spas, cinemas, museums and gyms as well. 

Finally, you will need a health pass in order to attend outdoor events with more than 1,000 people or indoor events with more than 100 people. 

Masks are also obligatory in all enclosed spaces for people aged eight and over, but not in the street.

The measures will be in place for at least two weeks. People who cross the border every day for work are not affected.

To return to France, travellers must either present: 

  • Their health pass
  • A negative PCR or antigen test result from the last 24 hours
  • A certificate of recovery from the last six months.

Read more: UK-administered booster doses to be added to NHS app for travel

8. Morocco suspends flights to and from France 

The Moroccan Foreign Ministry has decided to suspend flights to and from France in reaction to the “worsening of the health situation in certain European countries”.

“This decision will take effect on November 26, 2021 at 23:59, and continue until further notice,” the ministry said in a statement.

The decision comes “in order to preserve the gains made by Morocco in terms of the management of the Covid pandemic.”

Morocco has already tightened its border controls in response to rising cases in Europe, installing electronic thermometers and running antigen tests in airports. 

Now any passenger – apart from permanent Moroccan residents – who tests positive will immediately be sent back to their country of origin.

The cancellation of French air routes follows last month’s suspension of flights to and from countries including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia. 

Read more: Masks, tests, boosters: new Covid rules to fight fifth wave in France

9. Public transport passenger numbers still below pre-pandemic levels

The number of people travelling on public transport in France is still yet to return to pre-Covid levels, according to the Union des transports publics et ferroviaires (UTP)

More and more people have been using trains and buses since the beginning of the year, but Ile-de-France transport company RATP reports that numbers are still down 23% on 2019 levels this quarter.

Passenger numbers on Transilien trains have reached 71% of ‘normal’ levels, while on TER services in the rest of France they have crept back to 78-80%.

Thierry Mallet, UTP vice president, puts the continued reduction in passengers down to a fear of catching Covid, and an increase in remote working practices.

A September study carried out by the Institut français de l’opinion publique (Ifop) for the UTP found that 64% of people in France believe that using public transport increases one’s risk of contracting Covid, while only 43% said the same for bars and 38% for family meals.

The study involved 1,500 people living in towns of more than 50,000 inhabitants. 

The UTP estimates that French public transport services have lost a total of €2.28billion since the beginning of 2020.

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