Who will be able to travel to France this Christmas?

Who will be able to travel to France this Christmas?
Christmas lights on the Champs Elysée. Photo: AFP
As the French government reveals its strategy on health restrictions over the Christmas period, we look at what that means for people who have trips planned.

On December 15th France lifted its lockdown. This easing of restrictions is taking a slightly different form to the one initially planned, since the country's health data is not as good as the government had hoped.

From that date lockdown restrictions were eased, meaning permission forms are no longer be needed for travel between regions and visits to family and friends will once again be allowed.

So can I travel into France?

It depends on where you are coming from.

Outside Europe – The external borders of the EU remain closed to all non-essential travel, as they have since March. Only countries that are on the EU's (short) list of 'safe' countries can travel into Europe for tourism or family visits. The countries currently on the list are; Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Uruguay and China (subject to reciprocity).

That means that visitors from the USA and Canada are still barred. You can find full details on what counts as an essential reason for travel HERE.

The decision on lifting restrictions lies with the EU. Although individual member states are free to set their own entry policy, France has always said that it will abide by the EU's recommendations.

Inside Europe – from December 15th, travel from within the EU or Schengen zone into France will be allowed for any reason.

The UK – when lockdown lifts on December 15th, the UK is still (just) within the Brexit transition period, so counts as an EU member for travel purposes, meaning that people can travel from the UK to France for tourism or to visit family.

However on January 1st this situation changes and the UK is outside the EU. This means that the non-EU rules as outlined above apply.

This would mean that no non-essential travel would be allowed into France from January 1st, unless the European Commission makes a special concession for the UK. Officially the Commission's position is that nothing has been decided on this, but sources suggest that there are no immediate plans for concessions. People who are already in France can travel home, but anyone planning a trip in the early part of 2021 may find themselves barred.

If you are travelling between France the UK after January 1st, bear in mind that this is no longer an inter-EU journey, so travel rules will be different.

READ ALSO What Brits in Europe need to know about travel after December 31st

And what about leaving France?

If you want to head out of France for a visit there will be no restrictions on the French side from December 15th, but many other countries have measures in place for arrivals from France, including quarantine and compulsory testing – find out more here.

Will there still be restrictions in place in France after December 15th?

Yes. Lots. Although lockdown lifts on that date, that doesn't mean life will immediately go back to normal.

A strict nationwide curfew comes into place from 8pm to 6am, and any trip outside during those hours requires both an essential reason and a permission form. The curfew will be lifted on the night of December 24th, but not on New Year's Eve. Find full details on the curfew rules here.

For people travelling, however, there is some good news – if your train/plane/ferry arrives after 8pm you are allowed to travel onwards to your destination, just keep your tickets with you as well as your attestation in case of a police stop.

Throughout the country bars, restaurants and cafés remain closed and cinemas, theatres, museums and other tourist attractions – which were scheduled to reopen on December 15th – will now stay closed until at least January 7th. All types of shops are now open.

Ski resorts remain closed – you can travel to a ski resort and stay there, but all the mechanical lifts and other ski infrastructure will be closed (along with all the bars, cafés etc) until at least January.

Face masks are compulsory in all indoor public spaces and in the streets in most of the big cities and around 400 smaller towns.

Breaking any of France's health rules can net you a €135 fine and police officers will be performing spot checks on people outside after curfew.

Are there restrictions on meeting people?

Large gatherings in public are banned, but there is no restriction on the number of people you can meet in a private home.

French politicians are asking people to keep their social gatherings to a minimum, and are using six adults around the dinner table as a suggested maximum, plus children, but this is a recommendation and not a rule.

READ ALSO 'Six adults around the table' – PM recommends festive limits

 


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