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France Has Reopened to Vaccinated Travelers—Here’s Everything You Need to Know

By Sara Lieberman

Jun 10, 2021

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Paris has emerged from lockdown, and “finally, the city’s light has been reignited,” our correspondent writes.

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Paris has emerged from lockdown, and “finally, the city’s light has been reignited,” our correspondent writes.

A reporter based in France breaks down the situation on the ground, what travelers who want to go should know, and whether France is actually ready to welcome foreigners yet.

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On June 9, after more than a year of being fermé to foreign travelers and residents being locked down in various forms (permission slips needed to leave the house and nighttime curfews have been among the many restrictions that have come and gone), France began welcoming vaccinated tourists to the land of buttery croissants and stinky cheese. Here’s the scoop on how to experience la belle vie once again. 

Is France ready to welcome visitors?

Oui! Finally, the city’s light has been reignited. This week, the nightly 9 p.m. curfew shifted to 11 p.m. (from 7 p.m. before that), allowing Parisians to enjoy the long days—when the sun doesn’t set until well after 10 p.m.—without having to put a cork in a bottle of wine they ordered at dinner to drink the rest at home. Speaking of dining, restaurants and bars are not only allowed to serve outdoors again with up to six people per table but inside as well at a limited capacity. Cultural institutions, such as the Louvre and other museums, have reopened with a capacity of up to 800 people indoors and 1,000 outdoors. Come June 30, there will be no restrictions on the number of people gathering indoors, but nightclubs will remain closed. All of this remains subject to change at any moment if “the incidence rate again exceeds 400 infections per 100,000 inhabitants; a sudden increase in this rate; or a threat of saturation of intensive care services,” Macron cautioned back in April.

In France, masks are still required in all public places, even for those who are vaccinated (except when running or cycling), and gatherings of more than six people are forbidden. Alcohol consumption in public remains banned (prior to the pandemic there was no such ban).

Nevertheless, those who work in the tourism and restaurant industries remain optimistic and ready to welcome visitors with open arms. “Are we ready?” says David Mebane, founder and CEO of the Austin-based Fat Tire Tours, a bicycle tour company with hubs in eight foreign cities, including Paris. “Desperately ready. We’ve been ready. Champing at the bit. I don’t know what other idioms I can come up with. We are so looking forward to getting back to what we do best: having fun and showing people around the European cities we love.”

Mebane feels generally lucky that his business is centered around being outside and naturally socially distant: “You can’t ride closer than three feet from someone,” he says.

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June Chin-Ramsey, CEO of private and small group tour provider Context, is equally enthusiastic about welcoming travelers to France again and at the moment is only offering private tours: “We understand that as our world emerges from a year in lockdown, there will be varying levels of comfort when it comes to getting back on a plane or setting foot in a different country,” says Chin-Ramsey. “It’s important to us that we find ways to meet each of our customers where they are at.”

What is France like these days? How has the pandemic changed things there?

Vibrant! Electric! Joyous! Drunk! Parisians have been cooped up for far too long and are spilling out onto the makeshift terraces that restaurants and bars built on the street and sidewalks to accommodate the previous outdoor-only restrictions. Few people are truly abiding by the social distancing rules (which is three feet in France, versus the six feet recommended by U.S. public health officials). While masks are still required everywhere—even outside—they’re often worn haphazardly (such as below the nose or dangling from an ear). Cops do occasionally stroll certain areas known for group congregating (like by the Seine, Canal Saint-Martin, etcetera) but don’t seem to be giving tickets, more so just some side-eye and a tsk-tsk. 

Parisians are spilling out into the streets now that lockdown measures have been lifted.

People are definitely feeling hopeful for a more “normal” summer ahead as the vaccine rollout has finally ramped up and is now being offered to younger age ranges. In fact, the wait time between doses is longer here (six weeks versus three in the U.S.) to ensure more people get at least one dose. Each day, I hear from yet another friend who has gotten their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is making things feel increasingly positive. One French friend says she’s in full-on “revenge travel” mode and has already booked trips to Portugal, Croatia, Greece, and Italy for summer. 

Requirements for traveling to France

As of June 9, European visitors and those from seven countries classified as “green”—Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, and Singapore—are allowed entry without having to undergo testing if they’re vaccinated, according to the latest guidance from Frances foreign affairs ministry.

Vaccinated visitors from “orange” countries—including the U.S. and Britain—no longer need to quarantine on arrival or justify the reasons for their trip to France. They will, however, still be asked for a negative COVID-19 PCR test no older than 72 hours, or a negative antigenic test procured no more than 48 hours prior to arrival. Unvaccinated children will be allowed in with vaccinated adults, but those age 11 and older will have to show a negative test.

The “red list” for the moment includes 16 countries wrestling with virus surges and worrisome variants, including India, South Africa, and Brazil. Even vaccinated travelers from red countries will still need to justify the trip and quarantine for a week.

While the government has mentioned requiring a Pass Sanitaire—or digital health pass—to enter France, it is still not clear exactly how this digital health pass will work and if a paper certificate is likely to be accepted as well.

Requirements for returning to the United States

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All international arrivals to the United States—including returning U.S. citizens—must provide proof of a laboratory-generated negative COVID-19 test result procured no more than three days prior to departure to the U.S. There is currently no exception for those who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Getting a test is pretty easy all over Paris and appointments aren’t usually required, depending on the site, though you can make one using the Doctolib app. Tests are free regardless of your nationality or whether you have insurance, and results often take less than 24 hours. Though, when choosing your testing site be sure to specify it’s for a PCR test (not a rapid antigen test) and that results are guaranteed in 24 to 36 hours.

What airlines have flights to France right now?

Several airlines are operating flights from various U.S. cities—including Delta, Air France, American, Lufthansa, Finn Air, Iberia, United, Swiss, and TAP Portugal. What’s more, the rates are pretty good, starting at about $550 round-trip for both nonstop and connecting flights to Paris. 

Where to stay in France

Visit France’s renowned châteaux region while relaxing in nature at the new Loire Valley Lodges.

The pandemic didn’t prevent several new hotels from opening up in Paris and elsewhere in France. In the capital, film fans and anyone who’s missed the cinema might want to check into Hotel Paradiso. Each room is outfitted with its own projection screen with hundreds of movies to watch from the privacy of your bed—Twizzlers included. Over near the market street Rue Montorgueil and the popular food-driven block Rue du Nil in the Second arrondissement, the Hotel du Sentier is a lovely choice for a sunlit, contemporary styled stay behind an old Egyptian facade. For those seeking a wellness-focused property, Hoy Paris recently opened on the trendy Ninth arrondissement street Rue des Martyrs. TVs are swapped for ballet bars in some of the 22 rooms, and guests have access to yoga mats as well as carafes of water purified with Japanese binchotan charcoal. 

In the rest of the country, Loire Valley Lodges, which opened last July, is an excellent place to remain socially distant in a chic tree house not far from the region’s famed châteaux. The hottest address in Marseille is Tuba Club, with only five cabanas to spare for overnight stays, but the coolest rocks to sunbathe on in the south. Speaking of rocks, Hotel les Roches Rouges remains the place French Riviera dreams are made of, while the soon-to-open Souki Lodges and Spa at the foot of Pic de Vissou mountain in Provence’s wine region offers ecofriendly vibes amidst nature. Further to the west, and closer to the coast just north of Biarritz, the 33-room stunner 70 Hectares and the Ocean from the family behind luxury Provence property Domaine de Fontenille opens in June.

This story originally appeared on May 6, 2021, and was updated on June 10, 2021, to include current information. The Associated Press contributed reporting.

>> Next: 6 Overlooked but Superb French Wine Regions Worth Exploring

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