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France holidays: Passport validity, Channel crossing, driving requirements and Covid and face mask rules explained

After two years of travel restrictions, many of us can't way to jet off abroad for a week or two in the sunshine. Among the countries most popular with Brits looking for a summer holiday in the sun is, of course, France and the country is ready to welcome millions of holidaymakers and tourists this summer.

But going on holiday to France isn't as easy as it was pre-pandemic. There is a long list of passport validity, Covid vaccination and "pass sanitaire" rules in place that all tourists and visitors have to follow.

Not only does the French Government require visitors to have a vaccination certificate that shows at least seven days have passed since a visitor's third (booster) dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna or Novovax vaccinations (or 28 days have passed since a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccination) in order to enter the country, holidaymakers also have to meet strict passport validity rules - and must follow all face-mask rules in France.

Read more: Fuming holidaymaker forced to fly 2,000 miles back to Manchester after 'vital' luggage left off plane

The official EuroTunnel website details the vaccination requirement for holidaymakers travelling from the UK to France via the EuroTunnel (also known as Le Shuttle or the Channel Crossing). The information, last updated on May 18 2022, explains that fully-vaccinated passengers "must provide proof of vaccine status". Suitable evidence includes a Vaccine Certificate from the NHS App, NHS Website or TousAntiCovid App, EuroTunnel says, and travellers should upload this to their account/booking for the EuroTunnel online, before they travel. Failure to do so will result in manual checks being required, which could delay people's departure.

Unvaccinated passengers over the age of 12 are required to show a negative result from a non-NHS PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before travel, or a non-NHS Antigen (lateral flow) test taken no more than 48 hours before travel via a private test provider. At French border control, unvaccinated passengers will be asked to present digital or paper evidence of the negative result from the private test provider.

Here is the latest advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office at the time of publication. It’s always worth checking the latest updates before you travel.

Passport validity rules for France

All British passports have an expiry date. Usually, an under-18's passport lasts for five years and an over-18's passport lasts for 10 years. But, depending on how many months were left on your passport when you renewed it, some people's passports have an expiry date slightly later than 10 years after the issue date. But unfortunately, these "extra months" aren't always valid, as reported by MyLondon.

According to the Foreign Office, people travelling to France must have a passport that has been:

  • issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the "date of issue")
  • valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave (check the "expiry date")

"You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date," the Foreign Office website explains.

Proof of vaccination required for entry to France

The UK Foreign Office explains that the French Government requires holidaymakers over the age of 12 to have a "Vaccination Certificate." The easiest way to obtain a valid "Vaccination Certificate" is by downloading the Covid Pass from the NHS App or NHS Website. The Certificate should show that either seven days have passed since the holidaymaker received their third (booster) dose of Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Novavax, or at least 28 days have passed since the holidaymaker received their second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccination.

The Foreign Office states: "France will accept the UK’s proof of Covid-19 recovery and vaccination record at the border. The French Government recognises any vaccination certificates that conform to EU norms. This means your final dose must have been administered at least seven days prior to travel for Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, or 28 days after a second dose of Johnson & Johnson. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

"For travellers aged 18 and over, France will recognise you as "vaccinated" for entry purposes if you completed your initial vaccine course within the last nine months. If more than nine months have elapsed since your initial course, and you have not since received a booster, you will be considered unvaccinated and must follow the rules [for unvaccinated passengers]."

The Foreign Office continues: "From March 31, 2022, travellers from the UK aged 12 years and over who are not fully vaccinated need to provide a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours or an antigen test result taken within 48 hours pre-departure. You may also be asked to complete the EU-PLF form [Digital Passenger Locator Form] before boarding.

"You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test from a private coronavirus testing provider. Test results must be certified by an approved private test provider to be accepted."

Proof of vaccination required for the Channel Crossing

The official EuroTunnel website explains that people travelling from the UK to France via the EuroTunnel (also known as Le Shuttle or the Channel Crossing) must provide evidence that they're vaccinated. Suitable evidence includes a Vaccine Certificate from the NHS App, NHS Website or TousAntiCovid App. People travelling via the EuroTunnel should add their Vaccine Certitficate to their account/online booking prior to departure.

Unvaccinated passengers over the age of 12 are required to show a negative result from a non-NHS PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before travel, or a non-NHS Antigen (lateral flow) test taken no more than 48 hours before travel via a private test provider. At French border control, unvaccinated passengers will be asked to present digital or paper evidence of the negative result from the private test provider, the EuroTunnel website says.

Driving requirements in France

According to the RAC, people wanting to drive in France must be aged 18 or over and hold a full, valid driving license to legally drive in France. Driving licenses issued in EU and EEA countries are accepted and international driving permits are recognised but not required.

When driving in France, you should always have the following things on you: your full, valid UK driving license, proof of ID e.g. your passport, your motor insurance certificate, your V5 registration document. Your car should also have a UK sticker on it, unless it already has "UK" on the registration plate.

You are also required by law to carry the following items when driving in France: one reflective jacket per occupant of the car, a warning triangle, headlamp beam deflectors (if your car doesn't adjust manually), and a breathalyser/alcohol test.

Further, the latest road regulations for drivers in France specify that all drivers and motorbike riders are prohibited from wearing headsets or headphones whilst driving. Changes to road regulations in France have also seen the speed limit on many A and B roads reduced to 80 km/h (50mph).

It should also be noted that the alcohol limit for driving in France is lower than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For drivers and motorbike riders with less than three years of experience, the alcohol limit is 0.2 grams per litre. For drivers and motorbike riders with more than three years' experience, the limit is 0.5 grams per litre. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the limit is 0.8 grams per litre, and in Scotland it's 0.5 grams per litre.

Brits driving in France should also be aware that the need a "Crit'Air" sticker displayed on their car when travelling to certain cities. The sticker costs £3.60 but drivers can face an on-the-spot fine of around £120 if they don't have one, the RAC says.

Face-mask and Covid rules in France

The UK Foreign Office states that face masks are compulsory in all health establishments in France, this includes hospitals, clinics, retirement homes, nursing homes and assisted living, as well as in establishments for people with disabilities.

People wanting to visit these places must access the "pass sanitaire" (health pass) from the French Government. You can apply for a pass by showing your vaccination certificate, a negative PCR or antigen result from a test taken within the last 24 hours, or a document (dated more than 11 days ago and less than six months ago) proving you have recently recovered from Covid.

From Monday, May 16, wearing masks on public transport is no longer compulsory in France - but it is recommended, especially for vulnerable people.

The Foreign Office adds: "Some travel operators such as airlines may specify types of masks to be worn on board e.g. surgical masks, and may encourage you to take spares for long journeys. Please check with your travel operator before travelling."