Confused by the rules about travel to and from the UK, and what you need to do and organise when travelling between the UK & France in terms of paperwork requirements and quarantine rules in order to cross the border? Here's our experience.
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Travelling to France from the UK
I've been undecided about whether to write this post or not because, as soon as I write it, there's a high chance the rules will change and it will become out of date.
So, let me start with this caveat: this is my experience of crossing from the UK to France in October 2021. If you would like to read about my experience of travelling from France back into the UK, I've left it at the bottom of this update, but please bear in mind this was a while ago and the rules have almost definitely changed since then!
Please check the most up-to-date travel guidelines from the UK government here.
Lastly- nothing here is meant to encourage anyone to break, bend or twist the rules for travel as set by the current Government guidelines. Please stay safe and help others to do so too.
Right, with that out of the way, let's begin with the specifics.
Travel from the UK to France- gone wrong!
Things did NOT go smoothly on our trip from the UK to France in October 2021. Here's what happened (click the image to watch).
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What paperwork you need to travel from UK to France:
- Passport (check expiry date)
- NHS app showing valid vaccinations. If you are not vaccinated, check the UK Gov website for rules and you will need an essential reason for travel.
- Declaration of Honour (for French side)
- Tous Anti Covid app (found here)
Don't forget everything else you need to bring to France/ Europe- grab your FREE checklist here
Mr WB travelled with our dog, Mac. We didn't need an Animal Health certificate as Mac has a French passport. If you'd like to know about how the rules have changed for travelling with animals after BREXIT, click here.
Once the NHS app worked, it was surprisingly simple. The hardest part was getting the QR code from my phone to my laptop (thank goodness for airdrop) so I could scan it on the Tous AntiCovid app.
We haven't bothered organising any tests for getting back into the UK as I believe the rules are changing at the end of October. If you're unsure, check the UK GOV website.
PREVIOUS TRAVEL (from May 2021)
This is the experience of travelling from France to the UK in May 2021. I believe it's now almost entirely out of date.
Understanding the tiers
There are currently 3 different tiers of countries- Red, Amber and Green. There are different rules in place for when you travel into the UK depending on which tier the country you have been visiting is in. Here are the current lists.
Also, they are only interested in the country(ies) you have visited 10 days before entering the UK. My experience was from France, which at the time was an Amber country.
If you have visited a country on the red list 10 days or less before entering the UK, at the time of writing you can only enter if you are a UK national/ resident AND you pay to quarantine in a COVID hotel.
Planning a trip to France? You might find these posts useful:
Travelling from France to the UK- things to do
Before I travelled from France to the UK, it felt a bit like a military operation- trying to organise everything which needed to be done and get it done in the right timeframe.
Here's the order I recommend to do everything:
- Book your exact travel time from France to the UK
- Book your PCR-COVID-19 test in France or the country you are in (to be done within 72 hours of reaching the UK border)
- Book your dog vet tapeworm appointment (to be 1-5 days before travel)
- Order your UK COVID tests to be delivered to your place of quarantine
- Get the registration numbers of these UK covid tests (needed for your Passenger Locator Form)
- Complete your passenger locator form (can only be done 48 hours before reaching the UK border)
- Print out EVERYTHING
- Have a large glass of wine or a cool beer- you've earned it. (Unless you're driving of course!)
PCR COVID-19 test
One of the most important things you need before being able to cross the border is proof of a negative COVID test. You must go for this test within 72 hours of reaching the UK border… which is not as easy as it sounds.
In France, they have a type of place called a Laboratoire. This is where you get blood tests and other fun tests your doctor requests to be done. Each major town has at least one Laboratoire and cities can have multiple. It's unlikely you'll find them in smaller towns and very rarely in villages- you're looking for big settlements. You can also get them done at some pharamacies. There is some information here to help you find and book places.
(On a side note, this will DEFINITELY count as an ‘urban area', so if you're travelling in a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes, don't forget to display your blind spot warning stickers!)
In order to book, you'll need to contact the laboratoire or pharmacy (I recommend at least a week before you need the test) and book to have your test within the time window. Make sure they know it is a test for travel (‘pour voyage') so that they put it on the fast track.
Despite their faults with many, many other parts of the pandemic, the French testing system worked incredibly well. My test was booked for 10.20am and I had the results on my email by 5pm that same day!
To get the test, I needed:
- proof of id (passport or Carte de Sejour)
- payment/ French healthcare card
- email address and phone number
Planning to take your motorhome to Europe?
Tests needed for a dog
While we're talking about tests, you'll be pleased to know that travelling with a dog from France to the UK hasn't changed- they still need to visit a vet 1-5 days before travel in order to get a tapeworm tablet and your passport or Animal Health Certificate stamped. (It's going from the UK to France where the rules have changed- read our guide on travelling with your dog to Europe here.)
Print things out
Once you've completed the form, you need to start printing. Both the French and the UK borders wanted documents printed out, not stored on a phone or laptop. You will need a printed copy of:
- Your negative PCR COVID-19 test (I recommend printing at least 2 copies of this in case the border wants to keep one)
- Your completed Passenger locator form (again, worth printing at least 2 of this)
- A visa (if you need one to enter the UK- UK residents or citizens do not normally need a visa)
Other things to remember- now that the UK is not in the EU, there is a duty-free limit. See how much alcohol/ tobacco/ cash etc you can carry here.
Returning to the UK from France- Crossing the border
To be honest, after all that paperwork, the actual experience of travelling wasn't as bad as I expected. I was asked lots of questions, both at the French and UK borders, about my reason for travel, where I was going and who I would be interacting with. But nothing unexpected.
On the ferry from Caen to Portsmouth (which sadly had closed its pet friendly cabins at the time) masks were strictly enforced and you could only travel if you booked a cabin. Also, they brought people down to their vehicles by either a colour system or by floor number of your cabin, so there weren't too many people milling around. I believe the restaurant was open, but the bar and shops were closed, although I didn't use any of the facilities at all and stayed in the cabin for the duration. Poor Mac had to stay in the vehicle for the first time ever, which wasn't our first choice, but he was ok.
Once back in the UK, most people will need to quarantine, usually at home. Here are the current guidelines on how to do that.
The Day 2 and Day 8 testing kit was easy to use and understand and I got the results by email within 24 hours of posting the test, which was really impressive. Be sure to use a PRIORITY post box to make sure your kit gets to the centre in a timely manner- you can find your closest one here.
And that was that. Was it a faff? Yes. Is it necessary to take precautions? Definitely.
In my opinion, the UK has done such a fantastic job vaccinating people (especially compared to the rest of Europe), that it's important to be extra careful when travelling from any other country.
Again, this was my experience in May 2021. How long the above will be valid for is unclear, but I hope you found it useful.