France adds US to ‘green’ list: I’m in the country now — here’s what it’s like and what to expect
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated as of June 17, 2021, to reflect that France moved the U.S. to its green list of countries. Travelers from the U.S. are now subject to fewer entry restrictions. The author traveled to France while the country was still on the orange list.
As of June 9, 2021, France has reopened its borders to international travelers. Those coming from the U.S. must possess proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry to the country without mandatory quarantine.
I’m a huge fan of France and was ecstatic to hear the reopening news. Naturally, I hopped on one of the first flights to Paris (CDG) that arrived just hours after the new regulations went into effect.
Here, I’ll give you a look at my experience entering France under the new coronavirus entry restrictions.
Let’s get started!
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Overview of France’s entry requirements (and what to bring)
Today, France implemented a “stoplight” system for tourists entering the country. There are three different colors: green, orange and red. Those coming from green countries can enter without restriction if vaccinated, while those in red countries are mostly barred from entry except for essential purposes.
Requirements for entering France from the U.S. and other green countries
The U.S. is now on the green list along with all Schengen countries, Canada, Israel and others. You can enter France from a green country if you’re vaccinated or possess a negative COVID-19 test. Here’s a look at the requirements:
- Proof of your vaccination — the following vaccines are accepted:
- Johnson & Johnson
- If not vaccinated, proof a negative COVID-19 test:
- PCR or antigen within 72 hours of boarding
Regardless of where you depart, you must wait a set amount of time after your COVID-19 vaccine in order to enter France. The wait time depends on which vaccine you received:
- Two weeks after the second injection for two injection vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca)
- Four weeks after the injection for single injection vaccines (Johnson & Johnson)
If it hasn’t been long enough, simply get a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure.
Requirements for entering France from orange countries
Orange is the largest category and contains most other countries, including the U.K. I traveled to France when the U.S. was still on this list. Those traveling from an orange country must bring both their vaccine card and a negative COVID-19 test.
Orange countries are also subject to stricter rules around COVID testing too:
- PCR within 72 hours of boarding
- Antigen within 48 hours of boarding
Unvaccinated persons coming from orange countries are not allowed entry to France unless he or she has a “compelling reason” for their visit or is a French citizen, EU national or holds one of a handful of French visas.
Additionally, unvaccinated travelers from orange countries are subject to tougher restrictions:
- Proof of a negative COVID test, either:
- PCR within 72 hours of boarding
- Antigen within 48 hours of boarding
- Antigen test on arrival
- Mandatory seven-day self-quarantine
In other words: if you’re coming from an orange country, you can only visit for tourism if you’re fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 restrictions in France
Many COVID-19 restrictions in France have been eased alongside the border reopening. That said, there are still some restrictions in place that you should be aware of if you plan to visit France immediately.
- There is an 11 p.m. curfew, with a fine for breaking it
- Indoor dining at cafés and restaurants around the country have resumed indoor dining at 50% capacity, with a maximum of six people allowed per table
- Outdoor dining has resumed at full capacity
- Museums are open, albeit with capacity restrictions
Many of these restrictions are set to be lifted on June 20. So if you’re a night owl, consider pushing your trip back a few days.
My experience flying Delta to Paris
Every trip from the U.S. to France starts with a flight across the Atlantic. I chose to fly Delta Air Lines from New York-JFK to Paris (CDG). Here’s a quick look at my check-in and in-flight experience.
Since I traveled from the U.S. when it was still on the orange list, I had to get a COVID-19 test pre-departure despite being fully vaccinated. I went to a CVS Minute Clinic in Manhattan roughly 36 hours prior to departing to get a COVID-19 antigen test. This is referred to as a “rapid test” because it provides results within 20 mins of testing. My test came back negative, but I wasn’t surprised as I’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 since early March.
Now for a bit of worry. I attempted to check in to my flight 24-hours before departure, as usual. The Delta app stated that I must have a PCR test that was less than 72 hours old in order to fly to France and it didn’t mention an antigen test. While concerning, I chalked this up to outdated app copy, but I was a bit worried as there was no place to get a PCR test in time for my flight.
Again, this wouldn’t have been an issue if I traveled after the U.S. was added to France’s “green” list of countries.
The next day, I took a Lyft from my home in Queens to JFK airport. I was booked in Delta Main Cabin but used Delta SkyMiles to upgrade my ticket to Delta One, so I used the SkyPriority lane at check-in to get my boarding pass and check a bag.
The process was smooth. The woman at the check-in counter asked if I had a PCR test that was less than 72 hours old. I told her I had an antigen test less than 48 hours old. She checked something on the computer, took my passport and then asked to see my antigen test and COVID-19 vaccine card. She confirmed everything was correct and I was on my way.
After this, I went to the American Express Centurion Lounge and waited for my flight.
When it was time to board, I walked to my gate and boarded using Delta’s touchless, facial-recognition-powered boarding process. No one at the gate asked about my COVID-19 test.
The flight was remarkably packed for a mid-pandemic transatlantic flight. Delta One was almost full and there were many groups of families in the economy cabin. You could sense the excitement in the air.
The flight mostly went on as normal with food and drink service. Plus, the Delta One Suites on the airline’s A330-900neo were excellent for working and catching a few hours of sleep en route to Paris.
Shortly before arrival, we were given a sworn health declaration to sign and a contact-tracing form. The health declaration form would be collected at the border while the flight attendants picked up our contact-tracing form before we deplaned.
The sworn declaration form may not actually be necessary. It laid out old entry rules (mandatory PCR test, seven-day quarantine) and asked you to sign a note saying you have no COVID-19 symptoms and will obey the quarantine. I signed, but border control never asked for my form.
The contact-tracing form was very straightforward too. It just asked for simple information like your flight number, hotel address and other basics.
Experience at the French border
I was one of the first off the plane in Paris (CDG) after landing since I was in the first row of Delta One. I walked through a series of hallways until I reached the border control area, where three immigration desks were open. There was already a short line since a couple of other flights had come in at the same time as ours.
Thankfully, it only took 10 minutes for me to get to the front of the line. Even though I have a European passport, I opted to use my U.S. passport to enter France, so I could better report on my experience in this article.
Thankfully, it was a seamless experience.
I handed the border control agent my passport, CDC-issued COVID-19 vaccine card, sworn declaration and my phone that displayed my negative test results. She looked at the documents, handed me back my sworn declaration and stamped my passport. And that was it: I was in the country.
This was in stark contrast to Iceland, where I waited for border control agents to discuss whether or not I should be allowed in. Here, there was barely any communication. The friendly border agent just checked my documents and waved me through.
After this, I took a deep breath of relief, collected my bag and requested an Uber to my hotel in Paris. Trust me, the excitement set in quickly.
Checking into my hotel
Also, unlike Iceland, checking into my first hotel in Paris was no different than pre-pandemic times. I was not asked for proof of vaccination or other paperwork. All I had to do was give the front desk clerk my passport and credit card.
Funny enough, another American was checking in after me. I could tell the hotel staff was equally as excited about today’s reopening. The front desk clerk happily told us we picked the perfect day to visit, as all restaurants are reopening for indoor dining.
Traveling from the U.S. to France is possible under relaxed border rules, and it’s remarkably easy to do. Just wait long enough post-vaccine or properly time your COVID-19 test, and you should be good to go.
Because of this simplicity and all that France has to offer, I think we’ll see American tourism to France rebound quickly this summer. I highly recommend you make the trip too — but maybe wait until the end of the month when more restrictions are lifted.
Feature photo by Nikada/Getty Images
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