In the summer of 2021, France, along with most other European countries, reopened its borders to American visitors — with a few caveats about who can enter, who needs to quarantine, and what you’ll need to do in order to move about freely.
I spent most of August 2021 traveling in France with my family, and have collected a few tips to share with other American travelers about how to prepare for an upcoming trip to France. (Most tips are applicable to all travelers, of course, but note that rules are specific to the country of departure, so be sure to check with your own embassy in France specific advice before departure.)
1. Get fully vaccinated before arriving in France, or face a quarantine.
The rules are always changing, but as of September 12, 2021, fully vaccinated American travelers, ages 12 and up, may enter France without restrictions. As long as you’re two weeks out from your second shot (or four weeks from your Johnson & Johnson), you may enter. Bring along your CDC vaccination card for proof.
If you are not fully vaccinated, you will need to present a negative Covid test result (either a rapid Antigen test taken within 48 hours of your flight or a PCR test taken 72 hours before your flight). Note that you will be given a second test in France at the airport upon arrival.
However: Unvaccinated travelers will also need to self-isolate (quarantine) for seven days upon arrival, and will need to undergo another test following this quarantine. (Read all requirements here.)
In short: Get vaccinated.
2. Children may travel with their vaccinated parents.
Children under 12 are not subjected to these rules, as they are not yet able to be vaccinated in the US. Thus, they may enter the country with their vaccinated parents.
As for older children, according to the US Embassy in Paris, “travelers ages 11 through 17 are treated as vaccinated if they are accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent or guardian.” However, “travelers in this age group traveling independently must meet the rules applicable to adult travelers.”
3. Fill out a health declaration before departure.
Travelers will also need to bring along a signed declaration (or “attestation”) stating that they are healthy, free of COVID symptons, and haven’t recently had contact with confirmed case of COVID.
You can download this form on the French Diplomacy website.
4. Bring along extra masks for the flight.
This really is the hardest part: You’ll put on a mask as soon as you enter your departure airport in the US. And then you’ll basically keep it on, with small breaks for eating and drinking during the flight, until you step out of the airport in France. It’s a long-haul, folks.
For this reason, I recommend bringing along a few extra masks. Air France distributed “health kits” to all passengers, which included hand sanitizer, a mask, and hand wipes. But it would be a good idea to have some extra masks on hand, in order to freshen things up a bit as the voyage drags on.
And yes, you’ll keep your mask on throughout the entire flight, except when eating and drinking. This includes when sleeping — or trying to sleep. Young children are not required to wear a mask, although we made sure that our four-year old kept his on.
5. Get a “Pass Sanitaire” in order to do… anything.
The “Pass Sanitaire” (health pass) is a French-issued document that proves one of the following:
- You’re fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Covidshield, R-Pharm, Fiocruz or Johnson & Johnson/Jannsen)
- You’ve just had a negative COVID test (less than 72 hours)
- You’ve tested positive for COVID more than 11 days prior
With this certificate on hand (or on your phone), you can move freely about, take the train, take domestic flights, eat in restaurants, visit museums, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and more. In short, the health pass allows you to enjoy your trip to France.
I was in France when the health pass went into effect in early August 2021. There were grumblings and, of course, some protests, but the positive effects were noticeable immediately. Vaccinations immediately increased, and over several weeks, confirmed cases plummeted.
The pass had a positive impact on my trip, as well. Knowing that everyone had a health pass on them made me breathe more easily on the TGV. It made me more comfortable in the elevator going to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. It even made me more comfortable using the bathroom at McDonald’s!
But how do you get a Pass Sanitaire if you’re American, Canadian or other nationality?
The French government has streamlined the process for obtaining a health pass through their FranceConnect system. You simply create an account and then upload proof of vaccination. Once verified, you will then receive a digital Pass Sanitaire.
Will my CDC-issued vaccination card work as a Pass Sanitaire / Health Pass?
No. The French Pass Sanitaire contains a special QR code that will be scanned in order to take transportation, enter restaurants and museums, etc. Americans must apply to the French government (see above), providing proof of vaccination, to get a Pass Sanitaire.
How do I get a health pass if I’m already in France and need one now?
Head to a pharmacy and get tested. Your negative test result will serve as a temporary Pass Sanitaire valid for 72 hours.
6. Download the #TousAntiCovid app to store your Pass Sanitaire
Your Pass Sanitaire contains a QR code that will be scanned when needed for boarding transportation, or entering a restaurant, museum, etc. Although you can print it out and carry it around, we strongly recommend downloading the #TousAntiCovid app, which will store the certificate for you and make presenting it easier.
I think you’ll quickly find that taking out your phone, opening up your #TousAntiCovid app and showing off your Pass Sanitaire is not a hassle at all. In fact, it offers quite a bit of peace of mind. It might make lines a little slower to snake into the Louvre, as you’ll need to have your QR code scanned, but it allows you to relax a bit once inside. Look around — everyone has a health pass.
7. Embrace outdoor cafe culture.
Fortunately, France’s outdoor cafe culture makes it easy to enjoy coffee, drinks and meals outside in the fresh air. Note that presenting your Pass Sanitaire is still required by law for anyone being served at an outdoor cafe or restaurant.
However, whether or not your waiter asks to scan your Pass Sanitaire is another question. During my trip, I’d say that adherence to the law ran about 50% early on, although the local authorities started undercover crackdowns on cafes that were not abiding by the law and I definitely witnessed an uptick.
In short: Be ready to show your health pass for all dining, indoor and outdoor.
8. Carry a mask with you.
Of course, even with your Pass Sanitaire, you’ll still need to wear a mask when riding on public transit, and when inside most public buildings and shops.
I noticed that while some Parisians still wore masks outside walking around on the streets, most were not masking. However, everyone had one ready to put on once they stepped inside a store or descended into the Metro.
8. Get tested before your return flight to the United States.
So far we’ve discussed French laws and regulations. However, those flying from France back to the United States must also get tested for Covid and prepare some paperwork before returning.
According to the American Embassy in Paris:
All airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older must provide a negative COVID-19 viral or antigen test taken within three calendar days of travel. Alternatively, travelers to the U.S. may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel.
Where can Americans get Covid tests in France?
Fortunately, getting a Covid test in France is simple, fast, and cheap. Many pharmacies perform the tests, which costs 25€ for a rapid Antigen test and 43,89€ for a PCR test.
The process is simple: You walk into the pharmacy, fill out some information (including your email) and pay, then step aside to get tested. Most pharmacies in Paris offer testing in tents outside on the sidewalk. (In some neighborhoods, it feels like there’s a testing tent on every other block!)
In my case, I received my results by email less than 15 minutes after getting my nose swabbed on the sidewalk.
Can I get tested at the airport?
Yes — there’s a pharmacy at CDG Terminal 2E that offers rapid antigen tests in the boarding area. However, note that you’ll need to complete the test before boarding. I noticed a line of very anxious passengers waiting to get tested before passing through border patrol (which was also moving very slowly). Save yourself the stress — get tested a day or two before departure!
What do you do with your test results?
The email that you receive with your test results will include instructions for uploading the results to your #TousAntiCovid app, although you could also show the email or print it out. That’s it. You may then show your results at the airport before flying home.
In my case, nobody asked to see these results until we arrived at the gate. There, a flight attendant was checking test results for each passenger before boarding.
9. Fill out the US health declaration for each passenger
Every passenger over the age of 2 years old must hold a completed Passenger Disclosure and Attestation to the United States of America in order to board a flight to the US.
In my case, I had forgotten to fill this out, but was able to fill it out at the gate before boarding. I’d recommend filling this out in advance to avoid a little last-minute stress!
I know. This all sounds like a lot of planning and stress. And yes, it certainly requires more planning than, say, staying home and not traveling. But once you check these items off your list, you’ll be free to travel again!
And if you ask me, it’s worth it. Once you’re on your way, and you realize that everyone around you has cleared the same hurdles, you’ll relax. And then suddenly, once the realization hits that you’re actually traveling to France again, you’ll be ready to reclaim some of the joys of traveling that have been missing for so long.
11. Check these resources for up-to-date information
This situation is fluid and requirements and rules are subject to change. Be sure to stay up to date by visiting the following resources:
Air France: TravelDoc Search (helpful document search even if you’re not taking Air France)
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Source: Euro Cheapo