In September, Donnie Callaway–a collectible car restorer and Ferrari expert from Malibu–breezed into Paris and booked into the Ritz. Callaway arrived smoothly via an Istanbul connection. “There were zero problems coming into Paris. They didn’t even ask for my Covid test.”
That’s despite the French government claiming the only arrivals welcome for restriction-free travel are those on the EU’s safe country list of 10.
High-risk travelers however can enter says the French interior ministry, with “a sworn declaration that you do not have COVID-19 symptoms.” Plus a form showing you are exempt from non-essential travel restrictions.
“You must present this certificate to travel companies,” it states, “as well as to border control authorities (for travel by air, sea and land, including by rail).” In practice, the picture is often quite different.
“They only seem to be interested in the self declaration form on how you feel and if you have any symptoms,” Callaway says. Many other travelers are reporting similar experiences. French authorities are “barely looking at their passports”, let alone asking for test results.
Another American, Kylie Richards, arrived in France from Washington D.C. via Slovenia in September. “I checked with the French Consulate in both the U.S. and Slovenia and was told after a 14-day quarantine and with a negative Covid 19 test, I could come into France,” she says.
Arriving back in Paris from Sweden last week, I asked immigration officials if they were allowing American passport holders in on direct flights. “No we don’t like Americans,” one said wryly.
“But what about if they were flying like me now, direct from the Schengen zone?” I ask
“Yes that’s fine arriving from Schengen … there are plenty of small channels if you really want to get here.”
Those prepared to take the risk can get in. Some countries are easier than others for sidestepping bans. Beware the pitfalls. Americans hoping to fly to France from non-Schengen Croatia for example have been stopped in their path.
Many Americans Arrive From UK, Ireland By Train
In July, American Rosiana Chitra flew from the U.S. to London, then quarantined a fortnight before taking the Eurostar to France.
“My partner is French and it was months since I last saw him. A lot of people are in this predicament, and there are a bunch of these stories about travel to other parts of the EU via the UK and Ireland, from the rest of the world.”
So were there any hitches, or dangers of being turned back?
“Passport control did take a longer look at my passport… but they let me right through.”
The same situation has happened hundreds if not thousands of times.
UK self-isolation rules do not apply to passengers in transit. As the government explains: “If transiting … you may travel directly between ports (such as Eurostar to Heathrow) without self-isolating.”
You can also cut short the quarantine if you are leaving the UK. As long as you go directly to the departure port “and avoid public transportation.”
All transiting passengers must still fill out the Public Health Passenger Locator Form.
French Rules Seem Elastic: Blind Eye To Tests
French enforcement of the EU travel ban is full of contradictions. Even rules on mandatory Covid tests for high-risk passengers are apparently made to be bent. Few travelers are being asked to show results, or take a test on landing.
“Never was I asked for my Covid test after I checked in at Air France in D.C!” exclaims a startled traveler, Bill Bailey. “It was like an open border.”
France’s 14-day quarantine rule on arrival for high-risk passengers is not enforced, and is only required for people with symptoms. Or travelers not carrying a negative test, which so often go unchecked.
Confusion and ambiguity arise from the French rules.
“You are entering the Schengen zone under which of the exemptions?” one social media user asked Callaway. “My smile,” he replied.
Through his French partner, Callaway may have counted on a couples’ exemption. But France’s failure to officialize those waivers has also seen others go to extraordinary efforts to reunite. Including taking the far from foolproof UK avenue.
After meeting with motor sport officials in Paris and attending a vintage car beach race in Normandy, Callaway’s now galavanting around Belgium.
Much of France is classed by Brussels as a red zone, meaning both a test and quarantine on arrival–at least by air. Current rules ban entry by American passport holders–but only those arriving from outside EU+ countries.
Given most border checks in Schengen have been removed, Callaway’s Ferrari would have got him in control-free.
Belgium’s “passenger locator form” is mandatory for all travelers arriving by plane or sea. If you plan to stay longer than 48 hours, it applies to car travelers too. Even those driving Ferrari’s.