Can Brits transit through France to Switzerland?

France has in place strict rules that ban most types of travel from the UK - but what about people who need to pass through France in order to get to another country?

Trucks crossing into France from the UK
What are the rules for transiting through France? Photo: FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP

It was reported on Thursday that UK nationals are banned from travelling through France – even if they live in another EU country and need to get home.

However, the situation seems to be slightly more complicated than that.

Since December 18th France has had in place strict rules on travel both to and from the UK, with only those who fit the criteria for essential travel allowed.

READ MORE: Everything that changes in Switzerland in January 2022

You can find the full list of essential reasons HERE, but it bars all tourism, family visits and visits from second-home owners.

UK nationals who live in France are allowed to return home.

Also allowed are “EU nationals who have their main home in France or . . . in transit through France to their main home in an EU country”.

Since Brexit, this of course no longer includes Brits who live in EU countries and Schengen countries such as Switzerland. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

However also allowed to travel are “UK nationals who benefit from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement” (ie those who lived in an EU country prior to December 31st 2020) with no mention made of having to be permanent residents in France.

The rules also allow for “travellers in transit for less than 24 hours in an international zone”.

So it seems that Brits could transit through France.

However, there appears to be an important caveat – how you travel.

The transit clause ends with “in an international zone” – which refers to airports – passengers on transit flights do not leave the international zone of the airport and therefore in immigration terms do not enter a country.

EXPLAINED: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

The British Embassy in France states that: “UK nationals may only transit France if travelling by air”.

The rules in full state: “Whatever your nationality, you are authorised to transit through France, in the international zone of an airport (connection between 2 flights) for a maximum of 24 hours

UPDATE: What are the Covid rules for transiting through Switzerland?

“If you are a national of the European Union, you are authorised to return to your main residence in France or in another European Union country. Your spouse (married, civil partner, cohabiting partner) and children are allowed to travel with you, regardless of their nationality. You must be able to show proof of your main residence at the border.”

So it seems that Brits can travel through France – but only by air.

This must also be a transit flight – ie two flights booked together so that you stay within the international zone at the airport.

There has been no change to the rules since December 18th, but reporting on Thursday appears to be sparked by a tweet from Eurotunnel saying that Brits cannot transit by road – which would therefore apply to all Eurotunnel’s passengers.

The Local has requested urgent clarification from the French government on the rules for transit, and the situation for Brits living in the EU who had travelled to the UK by car, and now apparently face being stranded or having to abandon their car in order to get home. 

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10 francs: Everything you need to know about Flixtrain’s Basel to Berlin line

In early May, German transport provider Flixtrain announced it would begin running services from Basel to Berlin (and back) from June. Here’s what you need to know.

10 francs: Everything you need to know about Flixtrain's Basel to Berlin line

German transport provider Flixtrain has announced it will launch in Switzerland from June 23rd. The low-cost provider is offering 10 franc (10 euro) tickets from Basel to Berlin, among other cheap fares.

The low-cost company, which has been establishing itself Deutsche Bahn’s major competitor Germany over the past few years, runs long distance bus and train services. 

When will the services run?

The lines to and from Basel run from Thursday to Monday, with one connection per day in either direction. 

It will take 8 hours and 45 minutes from Basel Badischer Bahnhof to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. 

A trip with the German ICE will instead take just over 7 hours. 

The new line is part of an expansion of services which is set to include around 70 destinations in Germany. 

OK but will it really cost CHF10?

The price of the ticket grabbed headlines, with Flixtrain saying in its press conference that the almost-nine-hour trip would only cost CHF10 (10 euro). 

Flixtrain spokesperson Sebastian Meyer told Swiss news outlet Watson that tickets would start at CHF10, but more expensive tickets would be available when the CHF10 offerings were sold out. 

“If the cheapest ticket contingent is sold out, the next higher one takes effect. In this way, we can always offer our passengers cheap tickets. Affordable prices are still possible due to the corresponding utilisation of the individual trips.”

In order to get the cheapest possible fare, travellers are advised to book early. 

REVEALED: How to find cheap train tickets in Switzerland

Tickets between Basel and Berlin can cost as high as CHF150 or 160 euros from Switzerland’s SBB or Germany’s Deutsche Bahn respectively, although booking in advance can bring the price down to as low as CHF30. 

Where will the train to (and from) Berlin stop?

In either direction, the train will stop at: Karlsruhe, Baden-Baden, Offenburg, Freiburg, Wiesloch, Bad Hersfeld and Weil am Rhein. 

What else is different about Flixtrain?

Other than being bright lime green, Flixtrains allow you to take your bicycle with you, which is not allowed on most ICE long-distance trains in Germany. 

Are there any other destinations within Switzerland? 

As yet, Basel will be the only Swiss destination. The other two new routes are Stuttgart to Hamburg and Berlin to Weisbaden. 

In addition to the 10 franc (10 euro) ticket from Basel to Berlin, other journeys within Germany will start at 5 francs (5 euros). 

More information is available from Flixtrain at the following link. 

The expanded routes can be seen in the following image. 

A look at Flixtrain’s route network in 2022. Map: Flixtrain