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What you need to know about February holidays in France

February is a popular time to visit France, especially for those who love to ski, but with the vaccine pass in place there are some things that tourists need to be aware of before they travel.

What you need to know about February holidays in France
France is a popular destination for ski breaks n February. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

From spending Valentine’s Day in Paris to hitting the ski slopes with the family or attending sports events, February has always been a popular time for French holidays.

This year the UK government has announced the lifting of testing requirements in time for the February school holidays, meaning that many British families are planning their first French holiday since the pandemic.

But while French tourist businesses are keen to welcome back holidaymakers, there are some aspects of the French Covid rules that are creating problems for visitors.

Vaccine pass

Since January 24th France’s health pass has become a vaccine pass, requiring proof of full vaccination in order to access a wide range of venues including bars, cafés, restaurants, ski lifts, cinemas, theatres, tourist sites, gyms, leisure centres, large events, sports grounds and to travel on long-distance trains.

READ ALSO How the French vaccine pass works

In short, it’s hard to do anything fun in France without a vaccine pass, which is required for everyone aged 16 and over.

The pass requires either proof of full vaccination, proof of recent recovery from Covid or proof of a medical exemption. However, all of these need to be in the required French format, which can pose problems for visitors.

Fully vaccinated – in order to be ‘fully vaccinated’ you are likely to need two vaccine doses, plus a booster shot. And it’s the booster shot that may cause problems for visitors, since from February 15th it is required four months after the second dose.

If you have already had your booster then you’re fine, but if you have not had a booster and more than four months have passed since your second dose, you are no longer considered fully vaccinated in France and cannot get a vaccine pass.

France is offering boosters from three months after the second dose, but in many countries this gap is much longer, meaning that tourists cannot fulfil the requirements for the French pass.

Children 

For children the rules are slightly different.

Children under the age of 12 do not require any type of pass.

Children aged between 12 and 15 can use the health pass – this means that a negative Covid test, performed within the previous 24 hours, can be accepted for entry to vaccine pass venues if the child is not fully vaccinated. For a family holiday, however, this would mean performing a test every 24 hours in order to keep the pass. Antigen or PCR tests are accepted for this, but not home test kits. Antigen tests are available at almost all French pharmacies without the need for an appointment, but for non-residents they cost up to €22.

Children aged between 16 and 18 need a vaccine pass, but do not require a booster in order to be considered fully vaccinated.

Those aged 18 and over require the vaccine pass with boosters as described above.

Fully vaccinated – as mentioned, under 18s do not require a booster, but children over the age of 12 are required to be fully vaccinated with two doses of either Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson and be at least 7 days after their second dose. A single dose of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca is not accepted as fully vaccinated.

Positive tests

For those who are not fully vaccinated, there is the option to prove recent recovery from Covid, however there are some conditions on this.

In order to prove recent recovery from Covid you need a positive test result that is more than 11 days old but less than 6 months old – this can be either an antigen or PCR test, but home test kits and certain types of Lateral Flow Test are not accepted.

You need a results certificate (so just taking along the little bit of plastic from a home test kit is not accepted) but not all countries produce results certificates in formats accepted by France.

If you tested positive in any EU or Schengen zone country your certificate will be recognised, along with certificates issued in Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Cape Verde, El Salvador, the Faroe Islands, Georgia, Israel, Iceland, Lebanon, Lichtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tunisia, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, the UAE, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Vatican City. 

The USA is not on this list and American test results are generally not accepted in France, although you may be able to persuade staff at a pharmacy to convert your US test result into a French one as a favour.

Medical exemption

There exists a third option, presenting a Certificat de contre-indication for people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. We explain this in full HERE – but the process is so complicated as to be virtually inaccessible to tourists or visitors.

Ski resorts

Ski resorts are of course covered by all the usual national rules for bars, cafés etc but the vaccine pass (or health pass for under 16s) is also required to access ski lifts.

Some resorts check the pass when you purchase a ski pass, others perform spot checks at lifts. The pass might not be checked every time, but anecdotal evidence from ski resorts suggests that in most places, staff perform at least semi-regular checks.

Sports matches 

Large gatherings are currently banned in France, but from February these rules will be lifted, allowing again full crowds at sport matches – including the Six Nations rugby tournament.

The vaccine pass is required to access all sports grounds and stadiums, and tickets will not be refunded if you are refused entry for not having a vaccine pass.

Once in the ground you are required to wear a mask.

Whether you can have a beer and a snack while watching the match depends on whether the game is before or after February 16th – full details HERE.

Masks

From February, masks will no longer be required in most outdoor venues, but be aware that local authorities can impose their own rules for crowded areas, for example queues for ski lifts.

Masks remain compulsory in all indoor public areas and on public transport. French mask rules have no medical exemptions and if you’re caught not wearing a mask that fully covers your nose and mouth you risk a €135 fine.

The Local has raised these issued, particularly the four-month booster shot requirement, with French authorities. You can keep an eye on our Travel section for any updates or changes to the rules.

Member comments

  1. The NHS app will generate a “travel” QR code showing vaccination status including boosters. I understand this should be valid in the EU but will this QR code be acceptable in France? If not what’s the procedure for getting a valid pass?

    Thanks

    1. QR [travel] Code from NHS app works fine in France – either printed out yourself or on a device with the NHS app. You need the QR code for your booster vaccination, not the first or second jab. If you want you can load the NHS QR code into the french TAC app, but this is not required.

      1. Thanks Nick, that’s very useful. The app does include the booster now so we should be OK.
        Thanks again.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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