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France lifts ban on travel to and from UK

France has announced the end of the strict rules that banned most types of travel to and from the UK.

France lifts ban on travel to and from UK
The France/UK border is reopening. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP

France on Thursday announced the relaxation of strict travel restrictions that amounted to a ban on almost all travel between France and the UK.

Since December, people have only been able to travel to or from France to the UK if they fitted one of the very narrow criteria for motif impérieux (essential travel) – this ruled out tourism, family visits, visits from second-home owners, trips for compassionate reasons and – until last week – work travel.

However these restrictions will be lifted and fully-vaccinated travellers will no longer need to provide the essential nature of their trip. Vaccinated arrivals from the UK will no longer need to quarantine.

All travellers aged 12 and over will, however, need to show a negative Covid test taken within the previous 24 hours.

The rules will come into effect on Friday, January 14th.

Announcing the changes, prime minister Jean Castex said: “In view of the predominance of the Omicron variant in both France and the United Kingdom, the government has decided to ease the specific health border control measures that were decided in December for vaccinated travelers from the United Kingdom.

“These measures were taken at a time when the epidemic was progressing spectacularly in the United Kingdom, while France was still relatively unaffected by the Omicron wave.

“The widespread spread of the variant in both countries has led the Government to decide on the following adjustments.”

 

Following the removal of the extra restrictions, the UK will be placed on France’s ‘red list’ for travel.

This means;

Vaccinated travellers – fully vaccinated people can travel to France for any reason and do not need to provide a reason for their journey.

All passengers ager over 12 do, however, have to provide at the border a negative Covid test, taken within the previous 24 hours. This can be an antigen or PCR test, but not an NHS home test kit.

UK lateral flow tests that are self-administered at home and verified by a provider can be accepted as long as they provide a certificate for travel with all the correct information that can be verified by border police and transport companies. It’s advised that travellers check with their test provider to ensure they provide a full certificate of results.

All travellers aged 12 and over also need to fill in a declaration that they do not have Covid symptoms and have not recently been in contact with an infected person – find the form here.

Once in France, there is no need to self-isolate or take any more tests.

‘Fully vaccinated’ is defined as having two doses of AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of Janssen. A booster shot is not necessary to be considered as fully vaccinated (although you may need one in order to use the French health pass).

Unvaccinated travellers – unvaccinated travellers can only travel if they trip fits one of the ‘essential reasons’  for travel. You can find those HERE – they do not allow for tourism, family visits or visits from second-home owners.

Those who do meet the criteria for travel must provide a negative test taken within 24 hours of departure.

In addition to the declaration form mentioned above, they must also fill out an attestation detailing their reason for travel – that can be found HERE under red list countries.

Unvaccinated people must quarantine for ten days upon arrival in France. You must declare in advance the address where you will be staying via an online portal. Police officers can come and check the quarantine address and if you break the quarantine rules, you could receive a hefty fine.  

Under 12s – the rules on vaccination and testing refer to all travellers aged 12 and over. Under 12s do not need to provide proof of vaccination, provided they are travelling with a fully vaccinated adult. They are also not required to test.

Once in France, under 12s can visit venues such as cafés and cinemas without a health pass, but all children aged 12 years and two months or older will need a pass to access health pass venues, even if they are attending with family. 

 

Member comments

    1. We returned to France (Dover-Calais) on the 5th January with LFT results from the drive-through test centre at Stansted the previous day. Our test results were accepted.

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TOURISM

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Amid accusations of racism at fancy seaside resorts and legal controversies surrounding US statesmen, we take a look at the law surrounding private beaches in France.

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Question: I read that all beaches in France are public property, but down here on the Riviera there are a lot of ‘private beaches’ – how do the rules actually work?

In France, everyone has the right to a dip in the ocean, though it might not seem that way when walking through certain areas.

There are 1,500 of these “private beaches” in France – the vast majority of them located on the Côte d’Azur.

They have become a source of controversy recently, after two private beaches in Juan-les-Pins were accused of racism and discrimination following an investigation and video circulated by French media Loopsider. The video (below) shows how a white couples receive different treatment than North African or Black couples.

So what are these ‘private beaches’ and are they even legal in France?

In reality, none of these beachfront hotels, resorts or beach operators actually own that land, as the sea and the beach are considered ‘public maritime’ and are therefore the domain of the French state.

This means that technically there are no private beaches in France, as no one is supposed to be allowed to own the beach, though there are some caveats to that rule.

Since 1986, the State has been able to grant ‘concessions’ to allow for parts of the beach to be temporarily rented. Thus, hotels, resorts or beach operators can request a temporary rental of the beach for a specific period of time – the maximum duration being twelve years, which is renewable. If the local town hall agrees, then the renter will pay a fee (typically between €15,000 and €100,000 per year). 

This might seem like a de facto way of allowing beaches to be privatised, but the few who manage to ‘rent the beach’ are still subject to some constraints. For instance, they are only allowed to occupy the beach for six months of the year (sometimes this can be extended up to eight months with the permission of the town hall, or twelve months in less common circumstances).

At the end of the season, they are required to dismantle their installations, so permanent private structures on the beach are therefore not allowed.

So you might see a waterfront resort, but they do not technically have ownership over the beach.

What about private deckchairs or sun beds next to the water? 

This is another rule that is not always perfectly respected. Legally, any organisation that rents a part of the beach is required to leave a strip of “significant width” along the sea.

This is usually about three to five metres from the high tide mark, where members or the public can walk along the water or bring down their own towels or deck chairs down to the beach.

If a ‘private beach’ has deck chairs or sun-loungers right up against the water, there is a good chance the renting organisation is not following the rules.

Beachfront property

As the public has the right to be able to access the beach, homeowners are not allowed to block passage and can even incur fines for doing so. 

The public must be able to pass through land to get to the beach, and cannot be blocked from the beach in front of a property.

Public access to the beach came into the spotlight due to a controversy surrounding a property of former American presidential candidate and statesman, John Kerry.

Kerry’s family owns a villa in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in Brittany, and has fought a three-decade legal battle to be able to block the coastal trail on the property, which by French law, should be accessible to the public. 

Despite the family siting potential ‘security threats’ should the beach front path be open to the public, local authorities backed plans to continue allowing public access in 2019.

What about building a waterfront property?

First, keep in mind that building in general in France is a heavily regulated process that requires planning permission.

You will not be able to build within 100 metres of the shoreline. If you buy a pre-existing coastal property, you will need to remember the three-metre rule discussed above and, as the Kerry family discovered, you are not allowed to block public access to the beach. 

For ‘coastal zones’ specifically, there are more strict regulations and most plots of land by the sea are listed as protected natural areas, and therefore are not allowed to be built on.

Can access to the beach ever be forbidden?

Yes, as per the Coastal Law of 1986, local authorities can forbid access to the beach for “security, national defence or environmental protection.” During the Covid lockdowns several local authorities banned access to beaches to avoid illicit partying.

There are also several rules about what you are allowed to do – and not to do – while visiting French beaches, and some of them might surprise you. 

READ MORE: The little-known French beach rule that could net you a €1,500 fine

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