As tentative signs start to emerge of a revival for the travel industry, our minds are turning to potential holiday destinations for this summer.
France, as our closest neighbour barring Ireland, makes sense for a first international sojourn.
But can British holidaymakers get there? And will we be welcome if we do?
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Here’s everything you need to know.
Am I allowed to travel to France from the UK?
At the moment, the Foreign Office is advising against all non-essential international travel – including to France.
The ban was initially put in place to avoid Britons getting stuck abroad as flight routes shut down; now that airlines are looking to restart summer flying programmes, this could change.
The FCO says its advice is under “constant review”.
Its advice doesn’t make travel abroad “illegal” as such – but it does invalidate your travel insurance and means you may find it tricky to get help from the embassy or consulate if things go wrong.
How could I get there?
If and when the ban is lifted, there are several ways of hopping the Channel. The most obvious one is the Eurostar, which continues to run one service a day departing London St Pancras at 10.24am and arriving in Paris Gare du Nord at 1.49pm.
The Eurotunnel is still open for you to drive from Folkestone to Calais, subject to the completion of an online form and health declaration.
P&O Ferries is still operating five daily sailings between Dover and Calais.
Flying is also a possibility – Ryanair is offering flights to Marseille from 21 June, for example, although the first departure is currently priced at a whopping £144.99 one-way.
Will they let me in when I arrive?
Yes – border restrictions which limited travel between the UK and France to “essential reasons only” have now been lifted.
It’s no longer necessary to complete the International Travel Certificate to enter mainland France. As long as you don’t have any coronavirus symptoms, there should be nothing stopping you from being permitted entry.
Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?
At the moment, yes. France was prepared to let Brits come and go freely, as it is doing with citizens of all EU countries, plus Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican, but made it clear that it expected reciprocity in this arrangement.
Since the UK imposed a blanket 14-day quarantine on all incoming arrivals from 8 June, France has responded in kind.
“For travellers arriving from European countries whose authorities have decided, in an uncoordinated fashion, to apply 14-day quarantine measures to travellers entering their territory from European countries, a voluntary 14-day quarantine period will be reciprocally requested,” says the Consulate General of France in London.
However, where the UK’s quarantine is “compulsory”, France’s is “voluntary”. It’s not completely clear what that means, but it could be that travellers will not be as rigorously checked up on or fined if caught breaking the rules.
Can I travel within France?
Yes, once your two-week quarantine is up. On 2 June, the ban on people travelling more than 100km from their homes in France was lifted.
People no longer need to present an official declaration for exceptional travel to move around the country.
Are hotels open?
Campsites and hotels were given the green light to reopen earlier in June, meaning there will hopefully be places to stay once travel restrictions lift.
Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?
Since 11 May, lockdown measures have been gradually relaxed in France, but vary from region to region depending on the infection rate. Stricter rules apply in departments where the virus is more active (orange zones) than in departments where there is less cause for concern (green zones).
Most shops and open-air markets are now open in France, with health measures in place. You must wear a mask if the shopkeeper requires it.
Theatres, entertainment venues, leisure parks, gyms, swimming pools and sports centres have been able to reopen from 2 June in green zones and will able to open from 22 June in orange zones.
Bars and restaurants reopened from 2 June, with “adapted health measures” (although, in orange zones, only outdoors areas are currently accessible).
Public spaces such as parks, gardens, beaches and lakes are open across France, unless it’s not possible to apply social distancing measures.
Cinemas will reopen across France on 22 June.
Major attractions have also been permitted to reopen – the Palace of Versailles reopened on 6 June, while the Centre Pompidou and the Louvre are opening on 1 and 6 July respectively.
What rules are in place?
It’s currently compulsory to wear a mask while on public transport and in taxis in France, and when at the station or airport.
Strict social distancing has been implemented in many places, and no more than 10 people may gather in any one place at present.
Will I have to quarantine when I come home?
Yes. When you arrive back on UK soil, you’ll currently have two weeks of mandatory quarantine to look forward to.
The policy was implemented on 8 June and is in place indefinitely, but subject to regular review (the first one is on 29 June).
The UK quarantine is “compulsory”, which means you could be contacted at random to ensure you understand the requirements and are self-isolating.
Officials can telephone or call at the nominated address at any time during the 14 days and fine you £1,000 (in England and Wales) if you’re out without a valid excuse.
Quarantinees cannot go to work, school or to any public areas, or use public transport or taxis. They can’t have visitors, should not go out to buy food or other essentials “where you can rely on others,” and should also avoid contact with the people they’re staying with.
It’s a high price to pay for a French getaway.
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