What are the rules on travelling between France and England?

France and the UK are both now on lockdown and have strict rules restricting travel but helpfully their rules are different.

Here’s what you need to know about travel between the two.

England on Thursday joined France, Northern Ireland and Wales in imposing the second lockdown of 2020 after the number of Covid-19 patients soared and hospitals continued to report increasing strain. Scotland is operating a tiered system but is also asking most people to stay at home unless their trip is essential.

The countries have the same broad thrust to their lockdowns stay at home as much as possible and limit outings to essential trips only and also have restrictions on travel across the borders.

However, there are exceptions for certain groups who are allowed to travel.

Travel to visit friends or family, for holidays or to travel to second homes does not come under either country’s definition of essential travel.

Here’s what the rules say:

If you’re in France and you want to go to the UK you can only do so if you meet certain criteria. The criteria for international travel are the same as the criteria for any trip outside the home in France and requires the same attestation (permission form) to be filled out, signed, timed and dated before you leave the house.

You can leave the home for these reasons;

  • Working, if your work cannot be done from home, and travelling to and from work (you need an additional form signed and stamped by your employer)
  • Shopping for essential items or services at businesses which are permitted to open
  • Healthcare appointments
  • Vital family reasons such as family emergencies or the need to provide care (note, this does not cover family visits)
  • Individual exercise, allowed for one hour per day, within 1km of the home, which includes walking the dog
  • Attending an appointment or summons from an official or judicial body
  • Taking children to and from school (you need an additional form signed and stamped by your child’s school)

For full details on where to find the forms and how to fill them in, click HERE.

In addition to these, people who are permanent residents in the UK can return home. So people who live in the UK but were caught in France by the lockdown are able to go home.

If this is your reason for travel you tick the ‘vital family reasons’ box. You can also write on your form Je rentre au Royaume-Uni en voiture / par avion (aeroport de: ville) / par train, I am returning to the UK by car/ by plane (write the name of the airport you are flying from)/ by train – or just have the phrase ready to explain to a gendarme if necessary.

The same form covers both your trip to the port/airport and crossing the border out of France.

The British government has clarified that people out of the country on holiday do not need to return immediately but can stick to their original travel plans.

If you’re in the United Kingdom

Like France, the UK is telling people to stay at home and only travel for essential reasons, and just like in France the reasons are the same whether you are travelling within the UK or leaving the country.

These reasons are;

  • travelling to work where this cannot be done from home
  • travelling to education and for caring responsibilities
  • to visit those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
  • to buy goods or services from premises that are open, including essential retail
  • to spend time or exercise outdoors – this should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
  • attending the care and exercise of a pet, or veterinary services
    Again, people who are permanent residents in France can leave the UK to come home – even if they are not French citizens.

There is no form required for travelling within the UK or leaving the country.

It’s worth pointing out that the UK is currently advising against all but essential travel abroad, which can invalidate your travel insurance policy, so check with your insurance provider before you travel.

Moving house

If you’re moving from the United Kingdom to France or vice versa, then both governments have said that house moves are allowed if they cannot be postponed.

For this trip, you tick the ‘vital family reasons’ box on the attestation for France. It’s not specified in the rules, but having with you documentation such as purchase agreements might be a good idea just in case you are stopped.
Paperwork

As discussed above, if you are travelling anywhere in France, you need the attestation permission form. You do not need any extra paperwork to enter France but must have a form to cover your journey from the port/airport to the place you are staying.

If you are travelling to a port/airport in France to pick up a new arrival this is allowed, you will need an attestation with the ‘vital family reasons’ box ticked.

Failure to have the correct form can lead to a fine of €135, rising to €3,750 and six months in jail for repeat offenders.

Travel within the UK does not require paperwork, but if you are entering the UK you will need to fill out the contact locator form you can find that HERE.

Quarantine/Testing

If you are entering the UK from France you will have to observe a 14-day quarantine. This is mandatory and cannot be shortened even if you have had a negative Covid test. Failure to comply can lead to a fine of £1,000

You are permitted to enter the UK for a stay shorter than 14 days but must self-isolate for the whole of that period.

There are some exceptions to the quarantine rule

They include:

  • Lorry drivers and other delivery staff and transport staff eg Eurostar drivers
  • Foreign officials travelling for work, such as the French police officers who work in British ports and the UK officials who work on the French side
  • Government contractors travelling to the UK for essential work
  • People who travel between the UK and France for work at least once a week
  • Diplomats or representatives of international organisations
  • Airline passengers on a connecting flight through the UK
  • Anyone travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • Seasonal agricultural workers
  • Workers with specialist technical skills to ensure vital production, movement or storage of goods or vital utilities work
  • Nuclear personnel working on a licenced nuclear site
  • People arriving for pre-arranged medical treatment in the UK
  • People engaged in urgent or essential work for the BBC

For the full list of exemptions, and the supporting documents required, click HERE.

If you are transiting to the UK through France from an exempt country, for example, Germany you do not need to quarantine provided you travelled straight through France and did not stop on the way.

If you are coming into France there is no requirement to quarantine, but mandatory testing is being rolled out.

When the French government announced its second lockdown it said that testing would be mandatory for all travellers entering the country, but so far this only seems to have been rolled out at airports. It is however likely that ports, train stations and the Channel Tunnel could follow suit in the weeks to come.

If you have a certificate of a negative PCR test done within the last 72 hours you can present that, otherwise you will be tested at the airport. France is using antigen tests, which is a nasal swab that gives results within 15-30 minutes. The tests are free.

France has not laid out any measures for people who test positive other than a requirement to quarantine, but this can be done at the place where you are staying and the country is not adopting the Australia model of making people in specially requisitioned hotels.

Transport

Because of the strict limits on who can travel, most operators have slashed their normal number of services.