France bans unvaccinated U.S. tourists: Here’s what to expect when you travel to the country
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated as of September 10, 2021, to reflect that France moved the U.S. back to its orange list of countries. Travelers from the U.S. are now subject to stricter entry restrictions. The author traveled to France while the country was on the orange list in June.
As of June 9, 2021, France has reopened its borders to international travelers. Those coming from the U.S. must possess proof of vaccination to the country without mandatory quarantine. As of Sept. 10, unvaccinated U.S. travelers are no longer allowed to enter with proof of a negative COVID-19 test. They are only allowed to enter France for essential reasons as the U.S. has been placed back on France’s orange list (more on that below).
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)
France implemented a “stoplight” system for tourists entering the country back in June. There are three different colors: green, orange and red. The U.S. is now back on the orange list of countries due to rising coronavirus cases.
Requirements for entering France from the U.S. and other orange countries
You can only enter France from an orange country if you’re vaccinated and sign a sworn declaration that you have no symptoms of COVID-19. Here’s a look at the vaccine requirements:
- Proof of your vaccination — the following vaccines are accepted:
- Johnson & Johnson
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)
- Seven days after injection for vaccines administered to people who have already had COVID-19, only one dose required
Unvaccinated travelers from orange countries are no longer allowed to visit France for non-essential travel. Those with pressing reasons for travel must provide a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 and 48 hours of boarding your flight, respectively. Additionally, self-isolation for seven days is mandatory.
Unvaccinated travelers from “green” countries are still allowed to enter France but are subject to test requirements. This includes Canada, the Schengen Area and others.
Note that a digital health pass is now required for many activities in France, including dining at restaurants and cafes. This pass proves that a traveler is fully vaccinated or possesses a recent negative COVID test. Check out TPG’s full guide to obtaining a French health pass for more information.
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.
When I traveled to France, vaccinated travelers were still required to get a pre-departure COVID-19 test. 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 under the current requirements for vaccinated travelers.
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.
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, though this may be different now that a health pass is required for many activities. 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 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 continue to rebound through the end of the year. I highly recommend you make the trip too — especially now that nightly curfew and other restrictions are lifted.
Feature photo by Nikada/Getty Images
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