Reader experience: What is it like travelling to and from France on holiday post-Brexit and under new Covid rules?

PUBLISHED: 11:15 27 August 2021 | UPDATED: 11:15 27 August 2021

Colourful houses in the Languedoc. Pic: Pascale Gueret/Getty

Colourful houses in the Languedoc. Pic: Pascale Gueret/Getty

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One FRANCE Magazine reader shares his own experience of going on holiday in the ‘new ‘normal’ to Amber-listed France including coronavirus tests and using the new health passport

Going to France for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began and, of course, following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, can seem a daunting prospect. We thought it would be interesting to share the experiences of one traveller, Michael Meadowcroft from Leeds, who this month (August 2021) made his annual trip to the Languedoc with his wife. Here, Michael recounts their experience.

Before you travel, please do check the latest British and French regulations concerning travel to and from France during the coronavirus pandemic. You can find details from France here and the UK here.

TRAVELLING FROM THE UK TO FRANCE

Overall we were well prepared and had no particular difficulties.

We crossed, as usual, Dover-Dunkerque on DFDS ferries. There were only fifteen cars on the outward ferry and only around twenty on the return journey. There were, of course, many lorries.

One needs to have in advance:

1) Passports, of course;

2) Your sworn statement (“attestation”) that you have not been in contact with anyone with Covid in the past fourteen days, this is retained by the French border official; and the ferry company or eurotunnel will require a passenger locater form filling in in advance of travel.

3) Your certificates showing that you have had your two vaccinations, with a valid date, and a QR code that can be scanned by border police and just about every door person at concerts, restaurants etc in France. We brought paper print outs (several each), as well as the UK phone NHS app. As the UK certificates have an expiry date on them (for security reasons) make sure you have very up to date ones. We had downloaded the French TousAntiCovid phone app and scanned the certificate QR codes into it, and thus were like any other French person now; the “Pass Sanitaire” is rigorously enforced and even small restaurants and event venues have the app on their ‘phones to check your QR code. It all worked efficiently each time.

4) On the French side there were two customs officers stopping every car to ask questions as to what you are bringing in to France; I spoke to the main man in French and he visibly softened; his main question was, did I have more than 10,000 euros in cash? When I laughed and replied, “J’espère!” they both laughed and waved us through.

TRAVELLING FROM FRANCE TO THE UK

Then you have to prepare for your return. You need to have a PCR or an antigen test (aka Lateral Flow test) within three days of your scheduled return date and another on or before Day 2 after return. This latter has to booked before you set out on your return journey to the UK. The first test can be taken at most French pharmacies and one regularly sees individuals outside pharmacies awaiting their results. One can also buy the necessary test package in the UK to take with you. We did this as the required three day window was over a weekend and we were concerned about the availability of a convenient pharmacy in that narrow window. The kit includes the proforma on which one places the test result plus the relevant passport page. This is photographed and uploaded to the UK address. The formal acknowledgement of our negative tests were sent back to us within minutes.

The results have to be shown to the ferry company’s check-in official at the port together with evidence of another passenger locater form including details of the five day, booked test in the UK. We had a minor bureaucratic hold up at the ferry check-in as the official insisted that the test had to be within 72 hours of the ferry time and ours was timed 73 hours before the check in! She gave us a paper with details of where we had to go for a test. My wife knew that the UK government website said “within three days”, plus examples backing the validity of our tests, and an argument ensued. We held up the queue while my wife searched for the evidence on her ‘phone. Even before she found it the official got fed up and handed us our passports and a boarding pass!

We then passed French and UK passport checks without problems and the French customs made the usual cursory visual check of the car’s contents and that was that. On the UK side customs were picking out cars to be checked. We were not amongst the chosen so that our carefully prepared list of the wine in the car was not needed!

All in all, as long as one is prepared with all the forms and uploads, it is straightforward, but costly!

Thank you, Michael, for sharing your experience.

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