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. On June 18, the country opened to all Americans, whether they are vaccinated or not. Here’s the scoop on how to experience la belle vie once again and what to know if you plan to travel to France in the near future.
Is France open to U.S. tourists?
Yes, U.S. citizens can currently travel to France. On June 18, the same day that the European Council added the United States to its list of countries approved for entry, France moved the United States to its “green list” of countries. This means all U.S. travelers can enter, regardless of vaccination status (though the requirements are slightly different for those who are vaccinated versus for those who are not).
Travel restrictions and requirements for travel to France
If you are . . .
Traveling to France from the U.S.
Since the U.S. is on the green list, vaccinated leisure travelers from the U.S. can enter France with no additional public health requirements (such as COVID testing) or quarantine. Unvaccinated leisure travelers from the U.S. can enter France as long as they present a negative PCR or antigen COVID test from within 72 hours prior to their flight.
Unvaccinated children traveling from the U.S. are allowed to enter France, but those age 11 and older will have to show a negative test.
Additional countries on the green list as of press time are Albania, Australia, Bosnia, Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vanuatu.
Traveling to France from other international destinations
Those coming from France’s “orange list” of countries, must be vaccinated to enter for leisure travel, and they must be carrying with them a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test. Unvaccinated travelers from orange list countries may only enter for essential reasons, must have a negative PCR or antigen test from within 72 hours of boarding (48 hours for the antigen test), could be subject to a random test upon arrival, and are asked to quarantine for seven days.
The “red list” includes countries wrestling with virus surges and worrisome variants, including Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa. Even vaccinated travelers from red countries will still need to justify the trip, must submit to testing before and after their flight, and quarantine for a week.
How to travel to France in 2021
Whether you’re daydreaming of Paris or Lyon, Marseilles or Bourdeaux, there are a few extra steps to take and things to know before you travel to France from the U.S. right now.
As of July 21, visitors need a special COVID pass to ride up the Eiffel Tower or visit French museums or movie theaters, as part of a government effort to curb the rise in delta variant infections. To get the COVID pass, people must show they are either fully vaccinated, have a negative virus test or proof they recently recovered from an infection.
At the Eiffel Tower, workers are scanning QR codes on digital health passes or checking printed vaccine or COVID test certificates.
Several airlines are flying to France from the U.S., and fares are low
Airlines that are operating flights to France include 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.
Consider booking one of several new hotels that recently opened in France
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.
Requirements for returning to the United States from France
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. The test must be either a viral antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), such as a polymerase chain (PCR) test. There is currently no exception for those who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Where travelers can get a COVID test in France
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—but be sure that results are guaranteed within the required time frame.
What it’s like to travel to France right now
France is finally vibrant again. Electric, joyous, drunk even. 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.
Paris’ light has been reignited. The nightly 9 p.m. curfew recently 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
This story originally appeared on May 6, 2021, and was updated on July 21, 2021, to include current information. Associated Press contributed reporting.