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Everything you need to know about traveling to France

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

This story has been updated.

Every 30 minutes, Le Petit Train de Montmartre departs for a guided tour of Paris’s 18th arrondissement. Cars full of passengers taking photos of the passing sights — the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, the Moulin Rouge, the neighborhood’s other famous windmill, Moulin de la Galette — are a sign of tourism’s return to France.

Ever since American visitors were allowed entry to France again in early June 2021, demand has increased accordingly, bringing back customers the travel industry sorely missed.

“We’re so grateful, it’s a huge relief,” says Meg Zimbeck, the founder and editor in chief of the restaurant-review website and food tour company Paris by Mouth. After resuming tours in summer 2021, Zimbeck had to hire more tour guides to keep up with record-breaking bookings.

With the influx of travelers come busy museums and long lines, so “be prepared for high season,” Zimbeck says.

If you are planning a trip to France, here’s more advice from travel experts on what you need to know before you go.

9 questions about traveling to Europe, answered

What restrictions remain for travelers

On Aug. 1, France ended its pandemic-era entry requirements. Visitors no longer need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test, according to the U.S. Embassy in France.

France ended its vaccine pass requirement in March and no longer requires proof of testing or vaccination in establishments such as bars, restaurants, museums and event spaces.

Mask mandates have also ended, including for trains, planes, airports and subways. Masks are still recommended in small enclosed spaces, for vulnerable groups at large gatherings and in hospitals.

If you feel more comfortable with a face covering, “nobody bats an eye if you choose to wear a mask,” Zimbeck says. “There’s no anti-mask sentiment.”

The country does recommend that travelers download the TousAntiCovid, a contact-tracing app, for their visit.

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How to dine and explore

If you have your heart set on visiting particular restaurants, museums, transportation and live events, or staying in certain hotels, “start making those reservations as soon as possible,” says Kate Schwab, a spokesperson for the French tourism authority, Atout France.

Catherine Hodoul-Baudry, head of sales and marketing for the hotel Le Bristol Paris, says the property is seeing a “big, big comeback” of American guests, with even more booking interest than in 2019. The hotel’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Épicure, is booked solid for the next two months.

Zimbeck says that while it has always been helpful to make restaurant reservations at popular places ahead of time, that is particularly true now.

“The restaurants are very small, and the ones that are in demand are booked up weeks in advance,” she says.

A local’s guide to Paris

Zimbeck says many restaurants launched online reservation systems during the pandemic, making it easier than ever for foreigners to snag reservations ahead of their trip.

For transportation within France, Victoire Spoerry, travel adviser at 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.

Where to get a coronavirus test before returning home

While the testing requirement to return to the United States has been dropped, you may still want to test as your trip to France comes to a close.

Schwab says you can expect to pay between 25 and 44 euros depending on the kind of test you get. If you would rather get tested at the airport before your flight, you may need to make an appointment, and the fee may be more expensive.

“You can go to the pharmacy and get them there,” Schwab says. “It’s pretty easy. … With the antigen [test], I got the results in 15 minutes.”

The U.S. Embassy in France also offers advice on finding a coronavirus test abroad.

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