This information is based on a trip to Pau on the weekend of 12th December 2021. The rules and regulations are constantly changing. The information here will almost certainly be out of date by the time you travel, and we cannot guarantee that it is 100% accurate, so check the British and French government websites for the latest rules and regulations.
We found the government websites difficult to follow in places, and generally the information on travel operators’ sites (such as Eurostar) was much easier to digest. None of them really told the full story, which is why we’ve provided these notes, based on what we found out and our experiences over that weekend.
You will almost certainly need to take a phone or tablet with you that is capable of connecting to the Internet (wifi or mobile data) and has a camera (used to submit pictures of your test results). If you don’t have a device and/or no Internet access while in France then you might find it difficult to jump through all the hoops needed to travel in these difficult times.
Before you go
If you haven’t been vaccinated then you may find it difficult to be allowed into France. You may also have problems getting into restaurants, bars, stadiums. Otherwise if you are exempt or have been infected with Covid then you may have other options, but that is beyond our experience.
Travellers need to have had the two initial vaccinations at least 14 days before travelling. If you are over 65 then you will also need to have had a booster.
There are three tests needed per person, all of which need to be purchased before leaving the UK. The free NHS tests are not accepted for travel, so you have to pay. For us the cost was around £85 per person for the tests.
- Fit to travel (lateral flow) – required to enter France
- Fit to return (lateral flow) – required to enter the UK
- Day 2 (PCR) – if negative this releases you from quarantine
There are numerous suppliers of these tests, all eager to separate you from your money in return for certifying your test results. Prices vary dramatically, as do the means of collecting / delivering your test kits, and returning your PCR samples, so check several suppliers and shop around before purchasing your tests.
For our trip we used Project Screen for both of the lateral flow tests (£19 each) and Randox Health for the Day 2 PCR test (£43). We have no affiliation with either company – these just seemed to be the best options for us.
You need to take the fit to return test kit with you. You will also need to take the reference number of your Day 2 test – this is needed to complete the documentation before you return.
The test kits need to be ordered in plenty of time. Each supplier should be able to give you an estimate of their delivery times. You may be able to collect your kits in person, which will save time and money.
The fit to travel test
The Project Screen test we used was a self test kit, which they called a “Lateral Flow Antigen Fit to Fly Test Kit”. If you’ve done an NHS supplied lateral flow test then the procedure will be very familiar to you. The kits were delivered by DPD within 48 hours of ordering.
The test has to be taken within 48 hours of departure. Do not try to register your test kit before this time as it will render it useless for your journey.
The instructions are simple. When you register the kit they tell you what to do, step by step.
- Use the swab in both nostrils to take a sample
- Put the swab in the test fluid and mix it in
- Put drops on the test cassette
- Wait for the required time
- Take a picture of the result and upload it
- Within a few hours or minutes they email you the confirmation
You need to have proof of a negative test result in order to travel.
Travelling to France
You won’t be allowed out of the UK or into France unless you have the necessary documentation with you. Most of it can be on your phone, but if you are paranoid like me then you will also take printed copies in case the phone dies at the wrong moment.
- Proof of your negative lateral flow test result
- Your NHS covid pass
- A sworn statement that you have no symptoms and haven’t been in contact with an infected person within the last 14 days. Download the form (you can find it on the French Government website) and sign & date it withing 48 hours before you depart. Make sure you select the correct version of the form – at the moment France has us on their Amber List.
Proof of vaccination status. You will need this almost everywhere. Trains, bars, restaurants, stadiums – they will all ask you to prove you have been jabbed.
Your 2D barcode (also called a certificate) will be scanned to check its validity. The French have accepted the NHS covid pass since August 2021, however you may find that your pass is rejected by some venues. This is most likely because they haven’t updated their scanner app since the summer. We encountered this a few times, and rather than saying “Oi! You need to update your software, matey” we explained that it is a British covid pass and is valid. They then take a long hard stare at it, and say “ok”. We were never refused entry based on this.
We found that the easiest way to present the covid pass was to use the French “TousAntiCovid” app (available for Android and iPhone). The app is in English and is really easy to use. You can scan your covid passes (make sure that you scan all of the barcodes) and then show the certificate on your phone. The app also tells you if the barcode is valid in France, which gives you confidence that it will be accepted once you are there. You can have more than one person’s certificates on a single phone.
Like the NHS Covid app, TousAntiCovid can let you know when you have spent time near someone who has covid. This may or may not be useful. We had this feature of the app deactivated and it did not affect our ability to present the certificate when we needed to.
It may be useful to have a printed copy of your NHS covid pass with you at all times, just in case.
Masks are worn everywhere by everyone, much more than in the UK. Make sure you have plenty with you because you will be wearing them a lot. About the only place you won’t need to wear one is when walking down the street.
Before you return
Passenger Locator Form
The Passenger Locator Form must be completed within the 48 hours before you return to the UK. The form is completed online for each person travelling. You will need to enter several details such as your passport number, when you are travelling, details of your flight / ferry / train, plus the reference numbers of your Day 2 test (you did remember to buy this before you left the UK, didn’t you?).
Once you have completed and submitted the form you can save a copy on your phone, including (yet another) 2D barcode.
Fit to return test
You will need to take this within the 48 hours before you return to the UK. The test we took was exactly the same process as the one we took before leaving the UK.
The Project Screen test we used was a self test kit, which they called a “Remote Lateral Flow Antigen Kit”, and also cost £19. Again it was simple to take the test and download the proof of a negative result to the phone.
Travelling to the UK
At the airport / ferry terminal / station they will want to see the proof of a negative test result and proof that the passenger locator form has been completed. They will also want to see your NHS covid pass. The travel operator won’t let you near passport control until they have seen these documents on your phone.
Once you are home
Current regulations mean that you must stay home in isolation for 10 days after returning. There is a potential £10,000 fine if you break the terms of the quarantine. A negative PCR test result will release you from quarantine. This is where your Day 2 test comes in.
Day 2 test
It is compulsory to take a PCR test within two days of returning. You don’t have to wait until day 2. You can’t escape quarantine until you have proof of a negative result, so you may want to take the test as soon as you can after getting home.
We bought our Day 2 test from Randox Health. You need to return your test sample to the lab for analysis. Each company has its own return methods, and Randox Health have a dropbox not too far away from from us, making it a reasonable choice for us based on the cost and this facility. The test costs £48 for home delivery. Ours were delivered within 48 hours of ordering. There is a £5 discount if you have a coupon code, which is probably supposed to be the name of the company you are travelling with (if they have an agreement with Randox Health). We used the code “eurocamp”.
The service we used required us to drop the test sample in a dropbox. These get emptied once a day, and the results should be available by midnight the day after collection.
The process was similar to the fit to travel tests, except the sample gets sent away for testing. The supplied instructions were quite clear, and involved:
- Use the swab to get a sample from the tonsils and nostrils
- Put the swab in the supplied test tube and
- Register the test online – this required quite a bit of information, including passport number, NHS number, address, date of birth etc.
- Put the test tube in the supplied transportation tube and seal it
- Put the transportation tube in the pathoseal bag and seal it
- Put the bag in the box
- Put the box in the envelope
- Take the envelope and drop it in their dropbox
If you are in a hurry to get out of quarantine, you can book a Day 2 test at a clinic where you will get the result confirmed in a matter of hours. This is going to cost a lot more.
All of the above is based on our experience one weekend in December 2021. By the time you read this the rules and regulations will have changed. Do your research in plenty of time. Order your tests in plenty of time. Make sure you have all the documentation needed. Allow extra time to get through the airport / ferry terminal station.
Don’t let all this put you off – thousands of people travel each day without problems.
Have a safe trip and enjoy the rugby!