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Back to France after COVID-19 Lockdown: What to Know Before You Go

Posted on August 14, 2020 by Gillian Thornton
Senior couple waiting at airport wearing face masks

Thousands of frustrated British Francophiles are heading back to their favourite country this summer as travel restrictions ease.

But as we have seen recently with the changing rules around Spain, governments can impose new rules overnight when the risk of infection increases.

So, if you are planning on heading to France in the next few weeks, what do you need to know?

Keep in the Know

The latest advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) on travel for UK Citizens can be found on the FCDO’s website. If you live in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, you’ll also need to check your local government website for travel advice as this may differ.

The government’s Twitter feed is also a good way to keep up-to-date. For the latest official information from the French government, log on to the website for the French Embassy in the UK, who compile all the latest information and updates on quarantine and safety measures.

At the time of writing, passengers will not encounter any additional border checks on arriving in France. But on return to the UK, each adult will need to complete an online Passenger Locator Form no more than 48 hours before travel, as part of the test and trace effort. This can be printed out or displayed on a smart phone.

Health Measures

Make sure you are aware of all the health and safety measures that are now compulsory in enclosed spaces.

At the moment, French regulations are pretty similar to the UK, but you still need to be aware of local rules. From 20 July, wearing masks became compulsory for all indoor spaces in France including restaurants, museums, stations, shops, covered markets, banks, and public transport. So, while you obviously take your mask off to eat in a restaurant, you will have to wear it to leave your socially-distanced table.

Anyone caught without a mask faces a fine of €135 (around £120), so make sure you have masks in every handbag and beach bag. Spares are useful too, as someone is bound to have forgotten theirs! And remember bags for safe disposal. If you carry fabric masks, make sure you wash them in hot water after every wearing.

Travel beneath the Channel

The big advantage of travelling to France is that you can go in your own car, either through the Channel Tunnel or by ferry, but there are new rules here too of course.

Eurotunnel passengers remain in their own car for the 35-minute undersea journey, to keep contact with other people to an absolute minimum. Terminal buildings are now open with limited shops and services available including toilets, but you will need to wear a face mask in both the Folkestone and Calais terminals. Toilets are available in the terminals and the boarding lanes, but are closed on board the Shuttle.

Feeling peckish? Cafes within the terminals are currently operating takeaway service only but Starbucks in Folkestone also offers a new car park delivery service. Simply order online before you travel or at the terminal. You can also order online from World Duty Free and collect in the terminal building.

Pets can still travel so long as they have a valid pet passport. The pet reception area in Calais is now open again too, so you can exercise your dog before boarding the Shuttle. If you’re concerned about last-minute health issues or border closures, the new Standard Refundable Ticket option means you will receive a full refund, should you need to cancel for any reason.

Sail Across the Sea

Brittany Ferries operate ferries from Portsmouth, Plymouth, Cork and Rosslare to ports in both Normandy and Brittany, including a number of overnight sailings.

Passengers need to wear masks when exiting their cars on board and are instructed when to leave their car to ensure social distancing on stairwells. A la carte restaurants are currently closed, but self-service restaurants, bars and boutiques are operating with the appropriate measures in place.

Also operating to France on the short Channel route from Dover to Calais is P&O Ferries, although the foot passenger service has been temporarily suspended. Safety measures against coronavirus include no unwrapped food items, plenty of hand sanitiser stations, and social distancing measures. Club Lounges are open and the popular Mini Cruise programme will start again from August 1.

Visitor Attractions in France

Facemasks are compulsory of course in indoor spaces, but you’ve got that message by now! Most major attractions are now open with strict hygiene and social distancing measures in place. If you have set your heart on visiting a particular museum or theme park, be sure to do your research before you travel. Expect limited capacity and allow more time to take your turn.

Above all, book ahead on line to avoid disappointment and remember that masks are compulsory for all guests over 11, except when eating. This is the current situation at a few popular choices:

Disneyland Paris – open
Park Asterix – open, but two indoor shows remain closed
Puy du Fou – open, but audience sizes greatly reduced for shows and restaurants running at 50% capacity
The Louvre – open but essential to book a time slot
Château de Chenonceau – open, but allow extra time for the essential queue system through the castle rooms
Château de Chambord – open
Zooparc de Beauval – open and offering longer hours with gates open at 8am in August, plus increased outdoor shows

Gillian Thornton

by Gillian Thornton

A member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, she is an award-winning freelancer and specialist in France. She also writes widely on the UK and Europe, plus a mix of far-flung destinations from Cape Town to Cambodia. Gillian is a regular contributor to France Today, Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, The People’s Friend and, as well as writing for This England and Platinum magazines.  Look out for her articles on subjects ranging from holidays for the over-50s to ocean and river cruising, walking breaks to heritage days out.  And her favourite place?  ‘Usually where I’ve just been!’