LATEST: What are the rules on travelling between France and the UK?

LATEST: What are the rules on travelling between France and the UK?
Travel between France and the UK remains restricted. Photo: AFP
Both the UK and France have announced upcoming changes to their lockdown and travel rules. Here's what you need to know about travel between the two.

Both France and the UK are currently on lockdown but French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have both laid out how the rules will change over the coming weeks.

France is going for a phased easing of lockdown rules, if certain health conditions are met, while the UK is opting for a Christmas 'truce' and changes to travel rules.

In a rare – and probably accidental – bit of coordination, December 15th is a key date in both countries.

READ ALSO What are the rules for second home owners in France's second lockdown

Here's what the rules say:

Rules in France

France is currently on lockdown, and remains on lockdown until December 15th.

If you're in France and you want to go to the UK before December 15th you can only do so if you meet certain criteria. The criteria for international travel are the same as the criteria for any trip outside the home in France and requires the same attestation (permission form) to be filled out, signed, timed and dated before you leave the house.

You can leave the home for these reasons;

  • Working, if your work cannot be done from home, and travelling to and from work (you need an additional form signed and stamped by your employer)
  • Shopping for items or services at businesses which are permitted to open
  • Healthcare appointments
  • Vital family reasons such as family emergencies or the need to provide care (note, this does not cover family visits)
  • Individual exercise, which includes walking the dog
  • Attending an appointment or summons from an official or judicial body
  • Taking children to and from school (you need an additional form signed and stamped by your child's school)

For full details on where to find the forms and how to fill them in, click HERE.

In addition to these, people who are permanent residents in the UK can return home. So people who live in the UK but were caught in France by the lockdown are able to go home.

If this is your reason for travel you tick the 'vital family reasons' box. You can also write on your form Je rentre au Royaume-Uni en voiture / par avion (aeroport de: ville) / par train – I am returning to the UK by car/ by plane (write the name of the airport you are flying from)/ by train – or just have the phrase ready to explain to a gendarme if necessary.

The same form covers both your trip to the port/airport and crossing the border out of France.

After December 15th

On this date France's lockdown will lift – if case numbers remain under 5,000 a day.

Travel, both within France and going in or out of the country, will then be allowed for any reason, including tourism, family visits or trips to second homes. Permission forms will no longer be required.

However, bars, restaurants, gyms and ski resorts will remain closed and the country will be under a 9pm to 7am curfew. 

Rules in the UK

Like France, the UK is telling people to stay at home and only travel for essential reasons, and just like in France the reasons are the same whether you are travelling within the UK or leaving the country.

These reasons are;

  • travelling to work where this cannot be done from home
  • travelling to education and for caring responsibilities
  • to visit those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
  • to buy goods or services from premises that are open, including essential retail
  • to spend time or exercise outdoors – this should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
  • attending the care and exercise of a pet, or veterinary services

Again, people who are permanent residents in France can leave the UK to come home – even if they are not French citizens.

There is no form required for travelling within the UK or leaving the country.

The UK government has briefed that it intends to operate a 'Christmas truce' between December 23rd and 27th in which travel to visit family and friends will be allowed and three households will be allowed to mix. 

It's worth pointing out that the UK is currently advising against all but essential travel abroad, which can invalidate your travel insurance policy, so check with your insurance provider before you travel.

Moving house

If you're moving from the UK to France or vice versa, then both governments have said that house moves are allowed if they cannot be postponed.

For this trip you tick the 'vital family reasons' box on the attestation for France. It's not specified in the rules, but having with you documentation such as purchase agreements might be a good idea just in case you are stopped.

READ ALSO Can I move house during lockdown?

Paperwork

As discussed above, if you are travelling anywhere in France before December 15th, you need the attestation permission form. You do not need any extra paperwork to enter France, but must have a form to cover your journey from the port/airport to the place you are staying.

If you are travelling to a port/airport in France to pick up a new arrival this is allowed, you will need an attestation with the 'vital family reasons' box ticked.

Failure to have the correct form can lead to a fine of €135, rising to €3,750 and six months in jail for repeat offenders.

Travel within the UK does not require paperwork, but if you are entering the UK you will need to fill out the contact locator form – you can find that HERE.

Quarantine/testing

If you are entering the UK from France you will have to observe a 14-day quarantine. This is mandatory and cannot be shortened even if you have had a negative Covid test. Failure to comply can lead to a fine of £1,000.

You are permitted to enter the UK for a stay shorter than 14 days, but must self-isolate for the whole of that period.

There are some exceptions to the quarantine rule

They include:

  • Lorry drivers and other delivery staff and transport staff eg Eurostar drivers
  • Foreign officials travelling for work, such as the French police officers who work in British ports and the UK officials who work on the French side
  • Government contractors travelling to the UK for essential work
  • People who travel between the UK and France for work at least once a week
  • Diplomats or representatives of international organisations
  • Airline passengers on a connecting flight through the UK
  • Anyone travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • Seasonal agricultural workers
  • Workers with specialist technical skills to ensure vital production, movement or storage of goods or vital utilities work
  • Nuclear personnel working on a licenced nuclear site
  • People arriving for pre-arranged medical treatment in the UK
  • People engaged in urgent or essential work for the BBC

For the full list of exemptions, and the supporting documents required, click HERE.  

If you are transiting to the UK through France from an exempt country – for example Germany – you do not need to quarantine provided you travelled straight through France and did not stop on the way.

After December 15th

December 15th is also a key date in travel into the UK, this is the date by which the government says it will have its 'test to release' regime in place.

This is a method by which quarantine can be shortened – if people are willing to pay for a private Covid-19 test. 

All new arrivals into the UK will still have to self-isolate for five days, but after that they can pay between £65 and £120 for a private Covid-19 test from a list of UK-government approved suppliers. If the test is negative, they can exit quarantine.

Results from the (free) tests taken in France will not be accepted by the UK government.

Full details on the scheme here.

Into France 

If you are coming into France there is no requirement to quarantine, but mandatory testing is being rolled out.

When the French government announced its second lockdown it said that testing would be mandatory for all travellers entering the country, but so far this only seems to have been rolled out at airports. It is however likely that ports, train stations and the Channel Tunnel could follow suit in the weeks to come.

If you have a certificate of a negative PCR test done within the last 72 hours you can present that, otherwise you will be tested at the airport. France is using antigen tests, which is a nasal swab that gives results within 15-30 minutes. The tests are free.

France has not laid out any measures for people who test positive other than a requirement to quarantine, but this can be done at the place where you are staying and the country is not adopting the Australia model of making people in specially requisitioned hotels.

Transport

Because of the strict limits on who can travel, most operators have slashed their normal number of services – find out more HERE on what is running.


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