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France travel restrictions: What are the new rules for UK tourists?

COVID-19 infection rates have surged in France in recent days.
COVID-19 infection rates have surged in France in recent days.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Michel Euler
By Nichola Daunton  & Lottie Limb

France has lifted its blanket ban on UK travellers from today, 14 January, enabling vaccinated tourists to return.

The country’s tourism minister announced the news on Twitter yesterday, with more official details expected to follow today.

Since 18 December, only those with "compelling reasons" have been allowed to travel from Britain to France in a bid to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.

The welcome news has led to a surge of holiday bookings from those eager to hit the slopes. According to easyJet, flights to popular French ski destinations are up by 600 per cent since the rules eased, with a peak in trips to Switzerland too as double-jabbed Brits can now pass through France to resorts over the border.

But there is still plenty of COVID travel admin to contend with, as we explain below.

Francois Mori/AP
French Republican Guards stand wearing protective masks after the first weekly cabinet meeting of the year at the Elysee Palace, in Paris on 5 January.Francois Mori/AP

Do UK travellers need a COVID-19 test to enter France?

France requires all UK travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test - either antigen or PCR - taken within 24 hours before departure. Antigen tests must be certified by a laboratory and NHS lateral flow test kits are not allowed.

Privately booked lateral flow test kits can be used at home though, such as the Randox lateral flow test kit. After testing, users can submit their results via an app and the results will be certified by a laboratory. Users will then receive a travel certificate to present at the airport.

Arrivals from the Schengen zone only need to present a negative test, taken in the 24 hours prior to departing, if they are not fully vaccinated.

Details on what tests are needed for returning to the UK can be found here.

AFP
Gabriel Attal speaks at French press conferenceAFP

What are the vaccination rules for France?

UK travellers will need to show that they have been fully-vaccinated, which now has a tighter definition than two doses.

It means that all adults who had their second jab over seven months ago must get a booster vaccine to go on holiday. You can then upload the QR vaccine certificate generated by the NHS app to France’s TousAntiCovid app.

This app generates a ‘health pass’ which is key to getting into venues in France, including restaurants, galleries and long-distance trains. If you’re holidaying at a ski resort, you even need the pass to use ski lifts.

France’s COVID health pass is getting an update to reflect the changing situation. It currently requires one of three things: proof of full vaccination; a negative COVID test no more than 72 hours old, or proof of recent recovery from the virus.

But the country is poised to change the health pass to a vaccine pass, effectively getting rid of the latter two options. This is expected to change as soon as Monday 17 January, following parliamentary approval.

What are the rules for children?

The rules are expected to apply to children aged 12 and over too, which could be a problem for those who have not yet had time to get their second jab. Those aged under 12 do not need to be vaccinated, or take negative tests.