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How To Travel To France During A Pandemic: Know The Rules

How does one travel to France during a pandemic? With all the (changing) rules for leaving your country and entering France, it’s become a logistical nightmare. While it’s complicated, I have read the fine print and figured out how I’ll do it and will show you how you can manage to do it too!

My post will help you understand the travel restrictions and advisories, medical insurance policies, trip cancellation and interruption policies, and government requirements to enter France and return back home. What I have found for Canadians applies to many other nationalities—-with variations. Here are 9 questions to ask to ensure you do not lose money….…or your mind.

[Attention: I have gathered information from government websites that continually change and update. This post is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It is in the reader’s best interests to conduct due diligence by checking the rules and regulations for travelling to/from their home country and for entering France. Links to those government websites are at the end of this post]

[Updated March 16, 2022, due to updates by the Canadian and French governments]

1. Travel To France During A Pandemic? What About Travel Advisories?

A travel advisory is a notice governments give when they feel travelling isn’t safe. Most countries have a page on their government website that indicates how safe it is to travel for its residents.

(a) Canada has 4 travel advisory levels

  • Level 1 – Practise usual precautions: “Take similar precautions to those you would take in Canada.”
  • Level 2 – Practise special precautions: “There are certain safety and security concerns or the situation could change quickly.…”
  • Level 3 – Avoid non-essential travel: “Your safety and security could be at risk…..”
  • Level 4 – Avoid all travel: “You should not travel to this country, territory or region. Your personal safety and security are at great risk.”

(b) What Does “Non-essential” Really Mean?

On December 15, 2021, the Canadian Government (Global Affairs Canada) issued a Level 3 travel advisory and stated, “Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada due to the risk of the Omicron variant that causes COVID-19.”  

The important word is “non-essential”. It does not say, “Avoid all travel”. Canada’s definition of “non-essential travel outside of Canada” is vague and it’s up to individual Canadians to decide what is truly essential. The Canadian government website,  “Risk Levels And Travel Advisories” [link below] states:

“It is up to you to decide what “non-essential travel” means, based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with a country, territory or region, and other factors.”

Update: On February 28, 2022, the Canadian Government changed the travel advisory from Level 3 (non-essential travel) to Level 2. 

2. Will Your Travel Insurance Cover You If There Is A Travel Advisory?

So why should you know your country’s travel advisory status? Because in the unlikely event that you get sick and have to quarantine, you need to know if your travel insurance will cover you. Coverage for COVID is not always provided depending on the travel advisory level and when you purchased your insurance (ie. medical and/or cancellation and interruption insurance).

Back in March 2020, I returned home early from France because I was concerned about getting home. ( Post: Getting Home From France During Coronavirus). At the same time, insurance companies began changing their cancellation and interruption travel insurance policies and coverage because coronavirus became a “known” issue and therefore cancellation coverage would no longer be valid.

There is a possibility that you might be covered if the travel advisory is issued after you depart. You’ll need to read the fine print.

(a) Questions About Travel Insurance

  1. Did you purchase pandemic insurance when there was NO travel advisory in effect? (If so, you may be covered)
  2. Will you be able to cancel all your bookings and get your money back if you can’t travel to France because you test positive for COVID the day before you leave or even 2 months before?
  3. Will you be covered if you get sick in France and have to be hospitalized?
  4. Will you be covered if you test positive even with no symptoms, and have to self-isolate for 11 days?
  5. Will you be able to rebook your flight, free of charge, because you had to quarantine?

3. What Are The Travel Rules For Entering France?

View from Tour Montparnasse
View from Tour Montparnasse, Paris

The French government has designated departure countries on red, amber, and green lists. It is based on the degree that the virus is circulating and if there are any variants of concern in the departure country, with:

  • Red indicates “active circulation of the virus is observed with the presence of variants of concern”
  • Amber indicates “ active circulation of the virus is observed in controlled proportions, without spread of any variants of concern”
  • Green indicates “no active circulation”.

As these designations can change frequently, referring to the French government website is crucial.  The United States is currently on the “amber” list. As of March 14, 2022, both Canada and the United Stated have moved to the “green”. As a foreign national, the rules depend on the traveller’s vaccination status and “compelling reason”. There are different rules for vaccinated travellers vs. unvaccinated travellers and tourists vs. students who want to enter France.

(a) Requirements For Fully Vaccinated Travelers

For Canadians, those aged 12 years of age (plus 4 months) and older need to be fully vaccinated in order to board a flight to France.

Effective February 12, for most non-EU countries including Canada, the USA, and the UK–a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours of departure will NO LONGER be required to enter France as long as you have proof of vaccination. You don’t have to have the booster to enter the country but will still need it to enter French venues such as restaurants.

To enter France, you must submit:

  1. proof of vaccination status (for those 18+) where you received one of the following:
  • the COVID vaccine booster, OR
  • the second dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca) at least a week ago, but no more than nine months ago OR
  • single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) at least 28 days ago, but no more than nine months ago

2. EU-FLF Health Declaration Form: certifying you don’t have COVID-19 symptoms nor have you had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days

3. éOS-Screening Passenger Form: it does contact tracing

4. What Are The Requirements To Enter French Venues?

COVID-19 sign

It’s one thing to get INTO France, it’s another thing to get into restaurants, museums, sports events and other public spaces, and use public transportation to travel in France (ie. travelling on high-speed trains).

Effective March 14: the French government no longer mandates the use of the vaccine pass. Masks will also not be required in most venues with the exception of public transport, medical establishments and care homes. Private businesses will still have the option of requiring a mask to enter their establishments.

The health pass (le Pass Sanitaire) has been turned into the Pass Vaccinal (Vaccine Pass) and it comes into play for those aged 16+.

Right now, a vaccine pass can be:

  • a vaccine certificate showing full vaccination [see note below]
  • a certificate of recovery from COVID (11 days to 6 months prior)
  • a medical certificate indicating reason for not being vaccinated

[NOTE: There is talk, that France may do away with the vaccination pass before July, so it’s important to keep up to date on the rules].

(a) Booster Requirement Effective February 15, 2022

Those aged 18+ must show proof that they have gotten the booster in order to get the Pass Vaccinal. Currently, you do NOT need the booster to enter the country, but it is one of the three options listed above. 

The wording for needing the booster for the vaccine pass is very confusing. Please double-check my understanding: if it has been more than 4 months since you got your second dose of the two-dose vaccine (or one dose of the single-dose vaccine), then you must have a booster. This is effective as of February 15. The booster must be received at least 7 days before your arrival in France.

Note: you will not need a booster to keep your vaccine pass if you have had 2 vaccine doses + a previous COVID infection

So as an example: Erin got her second vaccine on October 13, 2021. As of February 15, more than 4 months have passed and she needs to get a booster in order to get the Vaccine Pass.

5. Where Can You Convert Your Vaccine Certificate To A Pass Vaccinal?

Visit a pharmacy and have your vaccine certificate converted into this pass for 36€. You’ll need to bring your passport and the paper version of the original vaccine certificate you received. [You can no longer use a negative PCR or antigen test to get this pass.]

You can then store the Pass Vaccinal on the TousAntiCovid App. It will be a QR code that will get you into the French establishments.

6. What Do I Need To Re-Enter My Home Country?

Marseille airport-How to travel to France during a pandemic

(a) Documentation To Re-Enter Canada

You should check the exact details for re-entering your home country from France (see link below), as the test requirement (PCR or Antigen) differs. For Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are vaccinated and are not showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they must:

  • provide proof of a COVID-19 negative molecular test result* (PCR, not an antigen test result), taken within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of your flight to Canada) OR proof of a previous positive test taken between 11 and 180 days ago. [*Note: The Canadian government announced that as of February 28, 2022, they are dropping the pre-flight PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers returning to Canada. Instead travellers can take a rapid antigen test at least 24 hours before departing back to Canada. And effective April 1, they are ending the pre-arrival COVID testing for travellers entering Canada.]
  • Note from the government:  “if your flight is delayed by the airline, your negative COVID-19 molecular test can be used for up to an additional 24 hours (to a maximum of 96 hours) from the scheduled departure time. If the delay causes your test to be more than 96 hours old, you’ll need to be retested.”
  • upload proof of vaccination and COVID-19 molecular test in the ArriveCan app within 72 hours of departure. You will get an ArriveCan receipt.
  • complete the arrival test and quarantine if selected.

7. Where Can You Get The PCR Or Antigen Test In France To Fly Home?

You can get a PCR or Antigen test at a pharmacy as many will have tents outside their stores. Sometimes reservations are not needed. Or you can use the Doctolib website and book a pharmacy test. It runs about 25 €.

(a) If You Test Positive 72 Hours Before Your Departure Back To Canada

  1. If you test positive 72 hours before departure [changed to 24 hours as of February 28], you must quarantine and cancel your flight. There is an isolation period of 5 days if vaccinated after which you can get another test. If you decide not to get another test, you have to isolate  the full 7 days. [See website rules below]
  2. You must wait until the 11th day after testing positive to re-enter Canada and then you can use this proof of the positive test to re-enter Canada. [Note: If you previously tested positive for COVID back home, it has been said that you can continue to test positive long after but you are no longer infectious (unless you get reinfected).]

8. What Travel Insurance Do You Want Or Need?

Now that you know all the rules for departing from your home country and entering France, you need to consider what travel insurance you might purchase…if you can. Even though you have insurance as a benefit on your credit card or health plan, very often coverage for COVID is excluded.

(a) Types Of Insurance

What if you test positive for Covid the day before you fly home? What kind of insurance should/can you purchase before you fly to France?

(a) cancellation and interruption insurance that will cover your airfare and other expenses that you prepaid?

  • I’d want to get any money back for those expenses if I had to cancel my trip to France
  • I would want to be able to get my expenses covered if I had to delay my flight home due to Covid (or another illness).

(b) pandemic insurance that will cover your quarantine expenses (hotel/food up to 11 days)?

(c) medical insurance in case you get really sick and need to see a doctor or go to the hospital due to COVID or some other reason?

(b) Manulife Canada Offers Pandemic Insurance For Canadians, But…

Very few companies offer COVID/pandemic-specific coverage. I talked to a representative from Manulife and there’s good news and bad news if Canada has a level 3 advisory and you want to buy insurance:

  • they do offer coverage if you test positive and have to quarantine: paying $200 a day for up to 14 days ($2800) to cover your accommodations/expenses
  • they will also provide up to $500 towards your (new) flight home—-which is really nothing.
  • The bad news is that you would only be able to purchase cancellation and interruption insurance IF there is not a level 3 or 4 advisory. So having flexible cancellation policies for my bookings (ie, air, hotel, etc) is important. It may turn out that I don’t even need cancellation insurance.

So it is worth investigating if a similar policy does exist in your country.

(c) My Plan:

  • I’ll wait until the travel advisory is lifted and then purchase pandemic insurance as well as cancellation and interruption insurance.
  • I already have medical insurance coverage through my retirement plan in case I get sick in France

9. Aren’t All Cancellation Policies The Same?

One thing that I examine very carefully when I book a hotel, flight, car, or experience are the cancellation terms and conditions. I do want to be able to cancel my reservations 2 days prior to leaving in the event I get sick. For my upcoming trip, I certainly discovered that not all cancellation policies are the same:

  1. Flights to/from France: When you are booking a flight either paying cash or using frequent flyer points, choose an airfare where that includes free cancellation. It may be more expensive, but it will be worth it if you are in France and have to delay your flight because you are in quarantine.
  2. Accommodation Bookings: even thought property may state “free cancellation”, it doesn’t necessarily mean I can cancel the day before. So check the fine print. Sometimes it means a week before. When I’m booking a hotel, I want to be able to cancel a few days before I arrive.
  3. Car Rental/Lease: I’ve looked into the cancellation policies for car rentals and car leases. For the rental, you can cancel free of charge 2 days or more before the pickup date. For the lease, it can be longer if there isn’t a promotion.

My plan is to pick up the car well after I’ve arrived in France, so if I have to cancel the booking, I will be able to so in time and won’t be charged. I’m thinking about arriving in Paris, staying at 7 nights and then I’ll pick up my leased car.

10. For The Latest Updates About Travelling To France

(a) Sherpa: Travel Requirements Flying Between Canada And France

https://apply.joinsherpa.com/map

The website, Sherpa has been invaluable to me and many government websites and airlines refer to it. It documents the latest, most recent travel and health restrictions for your trip and provides links to the necessary websites.

(b) Canadian Government Websites

Canadian Government Website,  “Risk Levels And Travel Advisories”

https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories/risk-levels-and-travel-advisories

Canadian Government Travel Advisory

https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories/risk-levels-and-travel-advisories

Canadian Travel Advisory Levels and FAQ

https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories/faq

Canadian Government-COVID-19 : Frequently Asked Questions Related To France

https://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/france/FAQ_COVID-19.aspx?lang=eng

(c) French Government Websites

French Government Coming To France? Your COVID-19 Questions Answered

https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/coming-to-france-your-covid-19-questions-answered/

Certificate Of International Travel

https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/Actualites/L-actu-du-Ministere/Certificate-of-international-travel

EU-FLF Health Declaration Form

https://app.euplf.eu/#/

éOS-Passenger form (for contact tracing)

https://passager.serveureos.org/

Doctolib

https://www.doctolib.fr/

Website and mobile application (Apple/Google Play) for booking PCR Tests (only in French but you can get your browser to translate)

Isolation, testing, attending events – What are the rules in France?

https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/coming-to-france-your-covid-19-questions-answered/isolation-testing-attending-events-what-are-the-rules-in-france/

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How To Plan A Trip To France During A Pandemic

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Sue
    February 13, 2022 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this excellent information. We’re hoping for a fall trip and all this info will be very handy. Have a wonderful trip! I look forward to reading all about it.

  • Reply
    Wako
    February 19, 2022 at 10:38 am

    Wow, thank you so much for this comprehensive information. This is the kind of information I wanted, i.e. everything in one place. All will become very very useful when I plan to travel to France hopefully later this year. I am jealous of you going there soon!! I would love to hear all about your trip! Bon voyage et prenez soin de vous!

    • Reply
      Jan
      February 19, 2022 at 2:55 pm

      Glad the post helped! I still can’t believe I’m actually planning a trip to France…finally! I certainly hope it comes to fruition! As you know from my post, I did so much research into the feasibility of going and after all was said and done I felt comfortable enough to go.

  • Reply
    Dee
    March 15, 2022 at 4:36 pm

    FYI: New Requirements (2020) for leasing cars (for holidays) in France: The person leasing the car must apply for a Crit’Air sticker using the car’s serial number and have it mailed to their home. This “emissions” sticker is required to enter or drive through any town over 150,000, and other places, or large fines apply (recorded by camera). It doesn’t matter if your car meets the emissions standard for entry, it must have the sticker or fines apply.

    Like you, we are planning to fly from Canada and stay in Paris 7 days before picking up our leased car, but it doesn’t seem possible to get the Crit’Air sticker in time as that only leaves 21 days to get the Crit’Air sticker mailed to Canada before flying to France.

    The lease company said they can’t get the serial number of the car to me until 30 days, or less, before pickup. The Crit’Air website says it can take up to 30 days to receive your Crit’Air sticker by mail (longer for international mail)

    Have you figured out a way to get the Crit’Air sticker mailed to your home in Canada in time? If so, please share because otherwise I will have to cancel my leased car and rent one instead.

    • Reply
      Jan
      March 16, 2022 at 2:42 pm

      Thank you so much for your email about the Crit’Air sticker.
      On Renault’s website, they wrote, “The air quality certificate costs €3.70, plus postage costs. The latter being sent to the home of the owner of the car, so for Canadians in Canada, the invoice received by email will prevail in the event of a police check.” I called Renault and they said 90-95% of the people who lease from them do not get the sticker. I reviewed my upcoming itinerary and it looks like I will not be entering any of the designated big cities like Paris, Lyon, or Toulouse; however, I’m going to request the registration information from the leasing company 30 days before I pick up the car and then apply for the sticker. If I get the sticker on time, great. If not, well, I have the confirmation email and will be very careful to avoid any areas that might pop up as requiring the Crit’Air sticker. I’ll be using the Michelin Route Planner as it will alert me to areas where I might be entering a “Restricted Traffic Zone”.

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