Travel Guide: Paris During COVID
Its no surprise here that I've been feeling pretty blah the past few months. The after effects of the pandemic and all its brought- less structure in my daily life, concern, static feelings, and more, have taken a toll on me mentally and I've been itching to break up the cycle. Paris is a place I love visiting and when I saw it recently opened for travel again, I had the urge to go. The urge to get uncomfortable- getting lost on unknown streets, navigating a new language I'm attempting to learn, immersing myself in the Parisian culture, and just an overall change of scenery was something I so badly needed.
Last week I flew to Paris for the first time since the pandemic (I was there in Feb 2020 right before everything shut down), and holy crap was it the best decision I've made in a long time. I was excited, but also nervous for the trip since it was international and with the pandemic, traveling there is not as easy as it was before. While I was there, I documented my travels and experience on Instagram and I had an astounding response of questions revolving around the regulations and how it was to travel abroad during this time. I decided to recap everything in one blog post. Hopefully my experience will help guide/prep you for travels to Paris, or urge you to go if you've be questioning it! I'll be following up with more blog posts about things to do, places to go, shopping, and more, in the next week!
Getting to France
Getting to France is the easy part. To go to France right now from the states, you must be vaccinated (no COVID test is required for vaccinated travelers). Unvaccinated travelers are only permitted with work orders, I believe, but I heard it is still hard to even get approved to enter if you aren’t vaccinated. At the airport (I flew from IAD) you must show your hard copy CDC vaccination card or proof of vaccination. If you no longer have your card and you live in VA, you can pull it from this website and print it for travel.
(Note: I had a question on traveling abroad with children under 12 who are not vaccinated. I didn't see many children traveling and don’t have a solid answer, so I'd consult with the airline on their regulations).
I flew Air France for this trip and in terms of health and safety measures, the main requirement (other than being vaccinated) is you must wear a surgical mask on the flight- cloth masks are not allowed. They can provide you with a surgical mask at the airport before boarding, or you can plan accordingly to bring your own. I will say, on the flights, I felt safe both ways knowing everyone on board was vaccinated and for the way back, everyone had a negative COVID test- more on that later.
Upon arrival to CDG Paris Airport, you immediately go through customs. I have been through customs at CDG many times and this was the worst I’ve seen it. It took about an hour and 15 minutes to go through customs- so be sure to plan accordingly and give yourself some extra time if you are arranging transportation pick up from the airport.
In general, I have had my fair share of hiccups with transportation from CDG airport. The airport is confusing AF and is not easy for Ubers or Taxis. Every Uber I have ever tried to call from CDG has *always* canceled because we could not find each other. With Taxis, depending on the time you arrive, you may or may not be able to get one on-site. Plus, if you are not familiar with the airport they can be hard to find.
After I had a breakdown between failed Uber and taxi attempts a few years ago trying to leave CDG (I literally was in tears lol), I decided that I would book a car service for my next trip. I found Elegant Transfers on TripAdvisor 2 years ago and I have used them ever since. I’ve used them on all of my recent travels to Paris in 2019, 2020, and now 2021 and they are always professional, on time, and so friendly. They provide a luxury experience with affordable prices and trust me when I say they are worth it for your own sanity and comfort. They also communicate with you via What’s App, so as soon as you land you’ll have information and instructions on meeting your driver. They also know of potential travel issues like strikes, and can provide recommendations for your time in Paris. I can’t recommend Elegant Transfers enough!
COVID Regulations in Paris
While in Paris, you will need the pass sanitaire certificate and QR code. A few weeks back the only way to get one was to email your proof of vax and some additional paperwork to the government, but I tried this option and had no reply so I would not waste your time. Now you can obtain the pass sanitaire from most pharmacies in the city (if you aren't familiar with Paris pharmacies, you can find them by looking for the green lighted "+" sign on most city blocks). I was able to obtain the pass by showing passport and CDC vax card and I had the QR code immediately. It cost 36€ and you will receive a paper with the QR code that you can carry with you or you can upload it to the ‘AntiCovid’ app on your phone. You *will* need the pass to enter museums, restaurants, attractions, and some shops. 95% of the places we went checked - even if you were just sitting outside. It should be the first thing you do when you get to Paris after checking into your accommodations. I heard you could get it at the airport, but given the crazy airport lines I'd recommend just going to the pharmacy.
I did receive some questions if showing your CDC card instead of the pass sanitaire will work. While I didn’t try since I opted for the QR code, I did learn that showing your CDC card can work for museums (thank you Susan Z for the info!)- but it must be the paper card, not mobile. Since the process to obtain the pass sanitaire is easy and quick, I’d still recommend getting the QR code from the pharmacy to make things easier for you and prevent any issues not having one may cause.
To re-enter the US, you must show a negative COVID test within 72 hours of your departure. You can obtain a COVID test at most pharmacies and the process is very, very simple. The cost is 25€ and you receive results within 20 minutes and are provided with both a paper and email copy. Air France checked both my CDC vax card and COVID test results at check in- so this is absolutely a must and enforced. You are also able to upload your test results to the airline in advance, but I had issues due to the attachment size and they checked in person regardless, so I would just plan to give yourself extra time at check in and not fret if you are unable to upload the documents in advance. You also will need to fill out a sworn statement that you are not feeling sick, but that can be done at the airport and is given to the airline when you board the plane.
Now for the lines. EVERYTHING in the airport had lines. And long ones at that. The lines were so bad in fact, we missed our initial flight home because of check-in, customs, and security. We had to stay an extra day and to avoid issues again, we arrived at the airport 5 hours in advance. Luckily the airline still had our baggage from the day before, so we were able to skip the bag check line at the airline counter (which took an hour 1+ the day before), and went right to the customs line. The customs and security lines took 3 hours to get through, and then it was another hour line to board the flight. So, long story short- GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME.
The customs line at CDG
We learned that the issue is the CDG airport is still operating in a limited capacity. They are understaffed and instead of having every terminal open, they have half (if that) open, so there is an influx in the amount of people in each terminal and not enough staff to support. The lines really, really sucked, but it was worth it in my opinion to be able to have time in Paris.
The best thing you can do is give yourself time, stay patient, and accept the lines and headaches as a risk to traveling abroad during a pandemic. Also be sure to have comfortable shoes, as you can potentially be on your feet for hours in lines. My feet were aching by the time we boarded- and I even had sneakers on!
While I know this is A LOT of info, I hope it helps in your travel planning!
Blonde in the District