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Reader question: What are the rules if I travel to France via Switzerland?

As the ski season continues many travellers will be coming to the French Alps and often the most convenient route is to fly into Geneva and then cross the border into France - but what does this mean for travel rules?

Reader question: What are the rules if I travel to France via Switzerland?
The France-Switzerland border is fully open. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Question: I will be flying into Geneva with my family and then travelling to a ski resort in France, but I’m confused about whether I have to follow the French travel rules or the Swiss one, or both?

Both France and Switzerland have relaxed their travel rules in recent days, but they do not have the same requirements.

Technically, anyone entering France from an orange list country (including the UK, USA and Canada) via Switzerland must follow the French entry rules for their country of origin, unless they have been in Switzerland for the previous 14 days. In reality the Franco-Swiss border, being a Schengen border, is very lightly policed and travellers are rarely asked for paperwork – that doesn’t mean that it never happens though. 

Into Switzerland – Switzerland has just announced the end of all its travel rules, so you no longer need to show proof of vaccination at the border or fill in an entry form.

Into France – France has relaxed some of its travel rules, but others remain in place.

Fully vaccinated – France still requires proof of vaccination at the border, and you also need to complete a declaration stating that you do not have Covid symptoms, find that HERE.

Not vaccinated – If you’re not vaccinated there are different rules depending on whether you are travelling from an EU or Schengen zone country (including Switzerland) or from outside the EU. Technically, if you’re just passing through Switzerland you should follow the rules for the country of origin.

If you’re not vaccinated and coming from the EU/Schengen zone you need to show a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours (if a PCR test) or 48 hours if you’re using an antigen test.

READ ALSO Can I use a lateral flow test to travel to France?

If you’re not vaccinated and coming from an orange list country, you cannot travel to France unless your trip is essential. You can find the full list of accepted reasons HERE, but it does not include skiing holidays. 

Children

The French testing and vaccine rules apply to all children aged 12 and over, however unvaccinated children over 12 can travel if they are accompanied by fully vaccinated adults.

Vaccine pass

If you decide to stop off in Switzerland you won’t need to show a vaccine pass since the rules were scrapped on February 17th. Masks are also no longer required in the majority of indoor spaces.

Once you get to France, however, the rules are a lot stricter.

The vaccine pass is required for entry to a wide range of venues including bars and cafés, for ski lifts and to access long-distance transport such as TGV trains.

EXPLAINED How France’s vaccine pass works

Children aged 12-15 need a health pass, while those aged 15 and over need a vaccine pass – full details HERE.

For adults, a booster may be required in order to get a valid vaccine pass – full details HERE.

Masks are required in all indoor public spaces, including public transport. The mask rule relaxes on February 28th, but they will still be required after this date in shops and on public transport – full details HERE.

The France-Switzerland border is once again fully open after crossings were limited during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. 

Member comments

  1. I want to visit my son in Berlin, driving from UK passing through France, and then back to France for a longer stay. Do I need a lateral flow test for both passing through France to Germany and then back to stay in France?

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TOURISM

Can tourism in France surpass pre-pandemic levels this year?

A report from the World Travel & Tourism Council predicts that the French tourism sector will bounce back strongly in 2022, potentially even surpassing pre-pandemic levels. We spoke to people in the tourist industry to see how they feel about the future.

Can tourism in France surpass pre-pandemic levels this year?

Covid-19 has battered the French tourism sector. 

In 2019, before the pandemic, tourism accounted for about 8 percent of French GDP and 9.5 percent of all jobs. The 90 million tourists who visited the country that year brought in an estimated €170 billion. 

While France is thought to remain the most visited country in the world, the last couple of years have been a disaster. Only 40 million people visited the country from overseas in 2020 (54 percent less than in 2019). Official figures for 2021 have not been released but the total number of foreign tourists was thought to be 50 million, according to government projections before the end of the year. Many have felt a real-life impact of this. 

Simon Burke left his job as an HR director for a Paris-based tour company called Fat Tire Bike Tours last year. Withering tourist numbers meant the company was running on a skeleton staff, making his role redundant.

But in September, he incorporated a new business – Txango Tours – offering tourists guided visits of Paris, Versailles and other parts of the country in motorcycle sidecar. 

“It is really a childhood dream. I’m feeling optimistic about this season,” he said. 

Simon Burke tests out a Txango Tour sidecar in Paris.

Simon Burke tests out a Txango Tour sidecar in Paris. (Source: Txango Tours)

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, Simon’s confidence is not misplaced.

The organisation predicts strong growth in the French tourism sector this year if restrictions continue to be gradually lifted. It said that tourism industry could bring €182 million into France in 2022 and that the number of people working in it could even surpass pre-pandemic levels. 

Data from France’s national statistical authority for the last quarter of 2021 showed that tourist accommodation bookings were 8.6 percent lower than the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.

It indicated a bounce-back in domestic tourism with residents spending just 3 percent fewer nights in hotels, campsites, gites and other tourist sites than before the pandemic, but international tourists were still hesitant, with 33 percent fewer hotel stays than in 2019. 

Even before the pandemic, domestic tourism (French people holidaying within their own country) accounted for 70 percent of all tourism revenue, and over the last two years the government has promoted staycations as a ‘patriotic’ option to support the tourism industry.

But for some, the outlook remains bleak.  

Clare Dawson, who is based in the Alpine resort of Tignes, runs a website called tignes.co.uk through which she and her small team rent out dozens of self-catered chalets, organise airport transfers and hire out ski equipment. 

In the past, Clare has relied largely on seasonal workers from Britain, mostly employed on part-time contracts. But because of Brexit, this option is now much harder – given the visa requirements. 

“We just can’t get the staff,” she said. 

“Of course, we are all hoping that Covid is a short term thing, but Brexit is permanent”. 

Local labour market conditions in France mean that the local population prefer to avoid temporary, part-time contracts. The hospitality sector had been struggling to recruit enough staff even before Brexit and Covid. 

Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBIT) which is a collective of more than 200 British tourism businesses operating in the EU placed 7,000 adverts on for chalet worker jobs in pôle emploi centres during the 2018-19 ski season, guaranteeing that they would employ anyone who applied. In total, there were three responses to the ad, two of which were spam emails. 

The mountains though, haven’t escaped the pandemic altogether. Clare has had foreign guests cancel reservations at the last minute over concerns about the vaccine pass and ski lifts have been closed at various points during the pandemic. 

Her partner runs a ski rental company called Tignes Spirit which has cut staffing from 35 last year, to just 10. 

“For ski businesses, it has been a really tough couple of years,” said Clare. 

The French government has invested billions of euros in supporting the French tourism over the course of the pandemic and unveiled a further €1.9 billion in financing in November to help develop the sector further over a ten-year period – much of this funding has been earmarked for training people to work in hospitality roles.  

READ MORE What you need to know about the French ‘Tourism Plan’

Perhaps even more significant than all this spending is the easing of Covid restrictions, according to SBIT managing director, Charles Owen. 

“In terms of a bounce back, everything is relative,” he said.

“With the end of the UK-France travel ban and with restrictions being wound back, we are starting to recover. But the pandemic has caused a lasting amount of damage and many firms have not survived.” 

The US government issued a level-4 travel warning for France in December, placing it in the red do-not-travel category. This is particularly damaging to some in the industry. 

More recently the four-month booster shot requirement for the vaccine pass has created difficulties for some Americans, leading to the US Embassy issuing a warning for people to check carefully the vaccine pass rules before booking a trip. 

The candy-loaded piñata is the American market – we need them to come here,” said Simon.

The French government is talking about lifting restrictions such as mask-wearing and vaccine pass rules in the spring, when the health situation permits.

But there is no guarantee that rules would not be reimposed if a new variant emerges – epidemiologists have warned that this cannot be ruled out. 

For Simon though, the sooner that such restrictions are lifted, the better. 

“If France continues to require the vaccine to do anything in France, tourism will not return to the pre-pandemic levels we are all hoping for,” he said. 

“I think, really, restrictions need to go away. But that is just wishful thinking.” 

You can find all the latest on travel rules and testing requirements in our Travelling to France section.

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