France is opening up again, but not all at once. American travelers were welcomed back in early June, while many others face stronger restrictions to visit. As a result, those who go to France at this time will see it much emptier than before the pandemic, particularly in the country’s capital.
“It’s a very special time to come to Paris because I don’t think any of us has ever had the chance to experience the most touristed city in the world like this,” Zimbeck says.
If you are planning a trip to France this summer, here’s some advice from travel experts on what you need to know before you go.
How to show your vaccination status
The United States remains on France’s “green” country list, and Americans are allowed to visit France by showing their vaccination card.
If they have not been vaccinated, travelers will need to show a negative PCR or antigen test result no more than 72 hours old. Children under 11 are exempt from the testing requirement.
Agnes Angrand, deputy director of the French tourism authority, Atout France, recommends that visitors bring their original vaccinated card with them, but it doesn’t hurt to carry extra copies of it in your luggage, or have a photo of it on your phone. You will have to show proof of vaccination before you board the flight, when you arrive in France and in certain events with large crowds.
As far as “vaccine passports” go, at this time travelers from the United States are excluded from the European Union’s digital green certificate system that went into effect July 1. The system’s goal is to streamline travel across the continent, so the certificate is only available to people who live in Europe. Americans will be asked to show their vaccination card or negative coronavirus test results in lieu of the digital green certificate.
How to dine and explore
As we have reported on in the United States, it’s the summer of reservations; the same holds true for France. That goes for restaurants, museums, transportation and live events.
While it has always been helpful to make restaurant reservations at popular places ahead of time, Zimbeck says, it is particularly necessary now.
“The restaurants are very small, and the ones that are in demand are booked up weeks in advance,” she says.
Zimbeck says many restaurants launched online reservation systems during the pandemic, making it easier than ever for foreigners to make reservations ahead of their trip.
She also encourages travelers to take advantage of seeing cultural landmarks while crowds are still limited. You will be able to get into attractions without the usual soul-sucking wait. You can see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre without the massive crowd. No giant groups getting bused into the same few places.
“Even if you think you’re a person who wouldn’t do more than one museum or monument in a day, it’s actually a time that you can fit in a lot more because there are no lines,” Zimbeck says.
For transportation within France, Victoire Spoerry, travel adviser of the Virtuoso agency Wellness by LMSV, urges travelers to make reservations for their rental car or high-speed train tickets as soon as they secure their flight. The earlier you book, the cheaper the ticket or rate, plus you will have more options to choose from.
The same goes with hotels. Because more people are traveling close to home in France, Spoerry says, locals are competing for hotels in desirable destinations. “I had difficulties to book for some of my clients about a month ago,” she says.
Travelers may not always have trouble finding reservations or buying tickets, even last minute in some cases. Angrand says although Parisians have been keen to return to the city’s world-famous museums and concert halls, she was still able to buy tickets for the Paris Philharmonic 48 hours in advance.
“I think it’s because all of these big venues are usually filled with international tourists,” Angrand says.
What to know about restrictions
While France’s coronavirus mandates are loosening, there are still some in place. There may be confusion, as a tourist particularly, since “the rules change all the time,” Spoerry says.
Much like the United States, people will find many restaurants have shifted to menus accessed by QR code.
Zimbeck says travelers should pause before entering businesses and look for signs about masks or limits to the number of patrons inside.
“I’ve seen people walk into shops and kind of be shooed away and not know why,” she says.“[Shopkeepers] just mean wait your turn.
Where to get a coronavirus test before returning home
Once your trip comes to a close in France, you will not be able to get back to the United States without a negative coronavirus test result — no matter your vaccination status.
When you get tested matters. Travelers must get tested within three calendar days of traveling back to the United States. Spoerry says finding a place to get tested within France is not difficult, and travelers can find options that cost around 50 to 60 euros ($59 to $71). If you would rather get tested at the airport before your flight, you may need to make an appointment before you arrive, and the fee may be more expensive.
Those who follow the restrictions will be glad they did; it will allow them to see France in a unique way.
“The view of Paris that you’re privy to if you come this summer is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Zimbeck says. “The streets are less crowded, the locals are overjoyed; you’re one of a very small group of travelers in a normally very heavily tourist city.”