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TRAVELLING TO FRANCE

UK changes travel rules again to impose quarantine on European arrivals who had mixed vaccine doses

The UK government has changed its travel rules to demand that fully vaccinated arrivals in England must quarantine if they had two different vaccine doses - a practice common across Europe and taken up by thousands including German chancellor Angela Merkel.

UK changes travel rules again to impose quarantine on European arrivals who had mixed vaccine doses
Angela Merkel is not fully vaccinated, according to British rules. Photo: Christian Mang/AFP

The UK government’s travel rules say that arrivals from amber list countries (which includes the whole of Europe after France was reclassified from ‘amber plus’) no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated.

However an addition to the rules on August 12th shattered dreams of quarantine free travel for many, by adding an amendment stating that to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ by UK rules, travellers must have had two vaccines of the same brand.

In several European countries mixing of vaccines has been quite widespread, particularly for those who had a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine before guidelines on its use in individual countries changed.

Many countries (including the UK) now advise not using AstraZeneca for younger people after concerns over the risk of rare blood clots.

Younger people who already had AstraZeneca for their first dose were advised by many countries’ health regulators to take Pfizer or Moderna for their second dose.

This covers tens of thousands of people including German chancellor Angela Merkel and French health minister Olivier Véran.

When we asked the British Department for Health and Social Care, we were told that people vaccinated with a mixed dose in the UK count as fully vaccinated, but those vaccinated in this way in other countries do not – however the rules as listed on the uk.gov website make no mention of an exception for people vaccinated in the UK.

A DHSC spokesman said: “People who have received two different doses of a vaccine under the UK government vaccination programme can still be certified as fully vaccinated through the COVID pass. We are working as quickly as possible to determine which other countries’ vaccines and certification solutions we would be confident to recognise.”

French Health Minister Olivier Véran was vaccinated with a first dose of AstraZeneca and a second of Moderna. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / POOL / AFP

There is no credible medical evidence that individuals who had two different brands of Covid vaccine are less protected against the virus, in fact some studies have suggested better protection from mixing and matching doses.

The ‘clarification’ of vaccine rules comes after a similar update saying that people who had received only a single dose of the vaccine after recovering from Covid – which is the standard practice in France – are also not considered fully vaccinated in the UK.

These rules at present affect only arrivals in England, the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have so far not indicated a change to their definitions.

Arrivals into the UK not considered fully vaccinated must quarantine for 10 days (which can be done at a location of your choice) and pay for travel tests on Day 2 and Day 8 after arrival.

Fully vaccinated arrivals do not need to quarantine, but must still pay for the Day 2 test.

READ ALSO How to book that Day 2 test if you are travelling to the UK

All arrivals need to fill in a passenger locator form, and the form cannot be completed without a booking reference for tests, so the tests need to be booked and paid for before departure.

Under the UK rules, arrivals are considered fully vaccinated if;

  • They have been vaccinated with vaccines approved by the UK regulator – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson (also known as Janssen)
  • They have been vaccinated with two doses of the same vaccine
  • They are 14 days after the final dose

Member comments

  1. Does this have to get any more stupid? Scientific evidence suggests that “mix and match” is the best option and now we have, once more, policies that seem to have been dreamed up by the self-serving UK Govt for the sake of some pathetic, populist, political expediency that make no common sense whatsoever. Well, even more reason to ensure the UK does not enjoy my custom – I give up.

    1. Agreed. I don’t know what “Scientists” they are taking advice from, but I put money on the AstraZeneca lot, who are miffed because most people in Europe don’t want it! ( I had no choice but AstraZeneca for my first, but grabbed the chance for Moderna for my second!)

      1. I think it’s about time the EU turned its back on “Little Trump” (he thinks he’s Churchill-esque, what a deluded Eton ass!) and his cronies. He will only be taking “Scientific” advice if it fits his warped views – the US have just voted out that kind of egotist and we should treat Boris and his crew with the same skepticism as we did that Buffoon.

    2. Yup, I give up as well. I’m just sick to the teeth of the bumbling blonde buffoon and his incompressible, incompetent crew of cronies. I never thought the day would come when I was so disgusted with the behaviour of my home country that I would not want to even visit. I’m also astounded by the acceptance of all this by the Brits and as the months go by this whole thing is starting to look more and more like the Government in V for Vendetta!

  2. “The scientific evidence unequivocally shows that boosting with a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine after a single immunisation with the AstraZeneca vaccine induces about 10 times stronger neutralising antibodies than two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and is associated with only small increases in transient mild-to-moderate side effects. The European Medicines Agency has said of this heterologous vaccination approach: “There are good scientific grounds to expect this strategy to be safe and effective when applied to vaccination against Covid-19.”
    Kingston Mills, professor of experimental immunology and academic director of the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College Dublin

    1. Thanks for the science!
      AZ followed by Moderna here with a sore arm and mild headaches after the Moderna lasting about 4 days – a small price to pay for the protection!
      It still saddens me the level of mistrust there is for vaccination in Germany: I know personally 4 elderly (70+), educated, middle-class, otherwise-healthy people who refuse to be jabbed. I wonder how many of them will be alive in 12 months time?

    2. The UK rules relate to the first 2 jabs , not the booster jab ( although AZ say no booster jab is needed if both initial jabs were AZ ).

  3. So, we are heading to Rome from San Fransisco on British Air. We have a 1 hour & 20 minute layover in Terminal 5 at Heathrow…Can someone please tell me….do we still need to pre book and pay for the ‘2 day test’?
    I am getting mixed messages …

    We will be staying in Umbria for 3 months, so we really want to know. We also understand that everything may change for us on August 30.
    We travel on Sept 1….

    Thanks so much!

  4. Carole
    What is the matter with the UK and what scientists are they listening to when they make these ridiculous decisions. A new (27 July) British study confirms that the mix of AZ/Pfizer is one of the best and gives above average protection! Introducing a 10 day quarantine is insane. Or is this yet another way of lining the pockets of the Government due to the high price of the vaccines and having to pay for additional accommodation etc. (that is if you have the time to quarantine!), plus the stress it causes!
    Wake up Britain and give the fully vaccinated a chance to travel freely and visit friends and family. Are the UK going to impose the quarantine on Angela Merkel if she travels there!

  5. Two observations. 1. If my understanding is correct, Germany is on the UK’s Green List so no proof of vaccination require, just PCR tests 2 days pre and post arrival. 2 Take a look on your EU Digitale-Zertificate der EU. It’s just got the one QR Code on opening showing you are ‘fully vaccinated’ yes border control can do a bit of scrolling to find the first one but I doubt they will

      1. You’re right of course Mark. I want to go and see a few friends and family but I don’t need to so am going to delay for the time being. Probably at least until I’m not so angry!

  6. I was in the UK for two days (10-12 august) and just returned to France. Before my flight, I had to pay for a 2-day test before getting the Amber Passenger Locator Form from the UK government’s website. The test I paid for will not be available until October for two reasons. First, it is one of the cheapest as it cost me about £21. The others I saw on the list were at exorbitant prices (£50, £129, £240, £700, et cetera), and I think France had made the right decision to start charging for the PCR test. It will be unfair to let any British (or other travellers) take these tests for free when they are charging foreigners for them. We are not Muttons! UK’s 2 or 8 days tests are now in the form of extortion of the highest order. It takes looking at the government accepted providers to see the scale of what seems like fraudulent charges, which translates to what pro-EU like me are predicting that the UK is a mess since Brexit. There are no regulations whatsoever when it comes to the limited prices to charge for these tests. Second, I was only in the Uk for two days, but I still need to book the test to obtain the passenger locator form to get into the UK. In resume, it means I paid for nothing and wasted my 21-pound sterlings. Another issue is that travelling to the UK at these moments is complete chaos!
    I wonder whether UK nationals coming into France had to go through similar worst experiences I encountered. It took us less than 50 minutes from CDG to London Heathrow Terminal 2, but it took us about 2 hours to get out of the airport. The queues (because there were two) consecutively) at the passport checking area where I should say in French, INTERMINABLE!!!. I took photos and videos. There was no social distancing, no gaps, and some people did not properly fit their masks on their faces because they proudly exposed their noses. It was a perfect terrain to catch COVID-19! Getting through the first queue took us 50 minutes through endless circles.
    When we finally got out, I thought it was over. Unfortunately, that little compared to what lay ahead of us. A lady directed us to join the second queue, this time heading towards the e-passport gates. It is sad to say this, but Brexit or no Brexit or Covid or no Covid, I firmly believe the current UK govt is incompetent to lead. I love London so much, but they have turned the city (and country) into a despicable playground. Out of the long list of e-passport gates, only THREE are in service! And these three gates are to serve hundreds of passengers on this queue.
    Anyone who travels a lot like me to the UK can relate to what happens when some folks’ passports will not go through the e-gates, and they will not budge until someone forces them out of this place. Well, we had lots of these people, and they made our waiting for a living hell. When I got out of the airport, I met complainers like me and those who feel that we are lucky not to have stayed longer than those who flow in yesterday or the day before because it was worst then. Some said the airport is short of staff because many refused to come back to worst and some had gone back to studying. I do not blame those who prefer to pursue their education rather than stay put at this kind of job in a country heading down the hill as it seems right now. My return flight on the 12 experienced significant delay because, as the pilot told us later, the relationship between France and the UK has not been a good one since Brexit. They had to go through lots of screening before being allowed to take off. Overall, what is clear is that the UK is utilising this COVID-19 situation as a political weapon to frustrate those from the EU, particularly France. It is sad!

    1. UK may be charging more for tests but they did give a vaccine to the World at cost. Sounds like you should give up on international travel for a bit

      1. You either “give” or you “sell at cost”, you don’t “give at cost”; this lapsus per se reflects the very selfish British attitude towards their vaccine “generosity”. By May 2021, the EU had exported 227 million doses to 46 countries (not counting Covax); the UK… is supposed to have begun delivering nine million doses of coronavirus vaccine to “the most vulnerable countries” early August. These are mostly doses of the sub-par Astra Zeneca vaccine that nobody wants anymore and that have to be dumped on developing countries.

        1. The British taxpayer set up 20 AZ supply lines around the World – which have supplied 97% of all vaccine doses globally. The EU is a customer and litigant and not a supplier.

          1. If AZ has a taxpayer to thank, it’s the American one: the Trump administration funded AZ-Oxford to the tune of US$1.2 bn. As per the EU being “litigant”, well, when a provider does not deliver 70% of its contract, there is ground to go to court, isn’t it? Especially since we are not talking reports or cement, but billions of dollars worth of life-saving pharmaceutical products. Pfizer and Moderna didn’t face the EU in court, because they delivered, and the EU has ordered billions of extra doses with these providers alone, AZ having pushed itself on the blacklist. And, if the AZ vaccine is so marvellous, how come hasn’t the UK ordered more of this second rate product for its own population, instead of dumping the UK AZ left-overs on developing countries?

          2. Sad to read that the UK GOV appear not to be confident of their AZ jab. My wife had one |AZ and then a Pfizer. Now despite paying into the UK Tax system for year as a resident of Germany she is not allowed to go to the UK.
            I on the other hand am allowed to travel because I had two x Pfizer. Therefore there must be something iffy about the AZ – what a shambles – starting to become a very small little island.

  7. Hello,

    Concerning the covid vaccination requirements in France, is it the case that only one jab is required when one recovered from covid?
    I would like to verify this detail ( which I read) as a non-european who would like to travel to France in a few months. Thank you for your comments!

  8. The UK government has obviously introduced this change by the back door as there has been absolutely no publicity about in the UK. The whole thing is underhand but that’s no surprise from Boris & cohorts. I live in Scotland but have small property in Italy which I have been unable to visit for nearly two years. The bottom line is none of the UK governments want anyone here to travel anywhere & are masters at antagonizing Europe & us.
    Shocking!

  9. I called the “Home Office Self Isolation Hotline” 0800 678 1767 on the UK.GOV website to clarify this rule about the “One vaccination for Covid recovered” travellers. On my pass, it says Dose(s) 1 – Vaccine completed and the person on the line responded by saying I don’t need to quarantine.

    Still haven’t book flights and still waiting for CLEAR Verification for this.

    The whole thing is a complete mess.

    1. Let’s face it, all these rules are setup to stop people travelling.
      The sheer complexity (and cost ) of the UK scheme discourages most people to travel. That’s the goal from the government’s point of view.
      Ministers rather be hated (they are anyway) than sitting in the dock for allowing a disease to spread and having done nothing to contain it.
      And most importantly, from the government’s point of view, this pandemonium will be long forgotten when the next election is called up.

  10. How do they know what vaccines you have had? My pass sanitaire says 2 doses and Moderna but my first does was AZ. Is there something in the QR code that says I hvae had one AZ and one Moderna? I was just starting to plan my trip home to see my parents and now i Have no idea when I can go and see them.

  11. This whole scheme is so costly and so unfair. We have just spent over €1000 on Covid tests for three of us travelling to the UK for a family visit and wedding (third time it had been postponed). The costs are outrageous and clearly aimed at filling the coffers of the private healthcare system (this lining the pockets of many politicians and their chums….).
    Our daughter was made to do 2 tests within the first 6 days and we also had a person call round the house to check she was there on the 4th day of her quarantine. All this because the full 14 days had not passed after her second vaccine. Worth noting that at no point during our trip to and from the UK, did anyone ask to see our vaccine certificates/Green Pass.
    As for the mixed vaccines rule (which would have applied to her) I have only just read about this – thankfully we are now back home in Italy. However I have also noticed that the tampone costs have increased from €39 to €50 per person! I can imagine there are families who have not been able to reunite this summer because of this prohibitively costly set of hurdles. It’s a poor reflection on the UK government but really not that surprising unfortunately.

  12. Months ago I mentioned that this vaccine malarky was just a money making scam. And reading all your messages above, confirms it.
    Most people on this site jumped down my throat calling me terrible names – well, I hope you’re feeling sorry.

  13. does anyone actually know if when visiting the UK from Denmark for 3 nights, Friday to Monday, if we actually need a fit to fly test or will the day 2 results suffice, i was leaving Stanstead airport yesterday morning and their customer service team there,4 of them, could not answer the question.

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

Hoping to do his bit for the planet, perhaps save some money and avoid spending any time in airports, The Local's Ben McPartland decided to travel 2,000km with his family across Europe by train - not plane. Here's how he got on on and would he recommend it?

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying - even with kids

Summer 2022 has seen the return of people travelling across Europe en masse whether for holidays or to see family, or both.

But it’s also seen chaos in airports, airline strikes and more questions than ever about whether we should be flying at all as Europe bakes under consecutive heatwaves caused by the climate crisis.

But are there really viable alternatives to travelling 2,000 km across Europe in a short space of time – with young kids?

The predicament

We needed to get from Paris to Portugal, or to be more precise the western edge of the Algarve in southern Portugal, for a week-long family holiday.

We didn’t have that much time to spend travelling there and back so the dilemma was how could we get there, fairly quickly?

“We” in this case being a family of four including two children aged 5 and 7, one fairly easygoing mum and a dad (me) who increasingly comes out in a rash when he goes near an airport.

Normally we’d have flown – as we did when we went to the same region of Portugal in October – but the stories of airport chaos, delays, cancellations, strikes and never-ending queues around Europe at the start of the summer made the prospect of taking the plane far less appealing.

Then throw in the climate crisis and the growing feeling that we, as a family, need to make an effort for the cause.

So the thought of flying, during what forecasters say was one of the hottest Julys on record in Europe and as rivers dried up and wildfires burn, just didn’t feel like an acceptable option – to me anyway – when there are alternatives.

There was the option of driving from France to Portugal, as many French and Portuguese nationals living in France do every summer. But driving nearly 2,000 km there and back for just a week’s holiday with two kids strapped in the back for hours on end would have been asking for trouble – either a breakdown or lots of meltdowns.

So that left taking the train. But would it be viable?  Would something go wrong as my colleague Richard Orange had warned on his own rail trip across Europe with kids this summer?

READ ALSO: What I learned taking the train through Europe with two kids

Planning the route

With the help of some really knowledgeable European rail experts like Jon Worth and information from the excellent The Man in Seat Sixty-One website we looked at the various rail routes through France and Spain to southern Portugal.

One problem was the line from southern Spain to the Algarve no longer runs which meant the best we could do was get to Seville and then hire a car.

At one point the best option looked like a night train (fairly cheap with a whole cabin reserved for the family) down to the Pyrenees (Latour-de-Carol) and then a local train to Barcelona before onwards travel to Portugal.

But in the end we settled on the direct train from Paris to Barcelona, spend the night in the Catalan city before taking the train the next day to Seville and picking up the car.

READ ALSO 6 European cities less than 7 hours from Paris by train

It would be mean Paris to Portugal in two days – or to be precise 7 hours to Barcelona, one night in a hotel, before a five-and-half-hour train journey to Seville and a three-hour car journey. It was the quickest way without flying, as far as we could see.

We were about to book the tickets when friend who was travelling by rail through Europe mentioned the Interrail option.

I did Interrailing as an 18-year- old and it was a great way to spend a month travelling around Europe (and Morocco) but had never thought it could be an option for a quickish trip to Portugal and back.

But Interrail has changed a bit since 1996 and indeed since 1972 when it was first launched for under 21s.

Now it offers passes that can be used for 4, 5 or 7 days a month – perfect for travel to a few destinations in a short space of time.

And, this was the clincher – Interrail passes for under 11s are free if they are with an adult.

Well almost free, because in certain countries like France and Spain you still need to pay for seat reservations for anyone travelling.

But the cost of the passes for two adults, plus seat reservations were cheaper than just booking direct trains and much cheaper than flying (more on costs below).

The high-speed train from Barcelona to Seville. Photo: The Local

The Upsides

Let’s start with not having to wake up at 4am and arrive at the train station three hours before the train leaves just to check in a bag and then spend the next three hours queuing in various lines – bags, passport, security, boarding etc..

We arrived at Gare de Lyon around 30 minutes before the train left and boarded without queuing and the train departed on time.

Compare this with having to get a taxi or the RER train to Charles de Gaulle airport and then still find yourself in Paris three hours later as you queue to board. (I know this is not always the case but this summer the advice was to arrive three hours before your flight to check in bags.)

Plus there was no luggage limits on the train and no having to empty your bags at security because you left an old roll-on deodorant at the bottom of your bag.

Although rail stations in Spain do have airport style x-ray machines to check all luggage, they were very rapid and didn’t result in any long queues.

Add to this comfortable seats with leg room, a bar you can walk to and spend hours watching the beautiful French and Spanish landscape whizz by.

You arrive in the centre of town – in our case Barcelona – so there’s no need to get public transport or taxis to and from out of town airports. 

Spending a night in Barcelona was a great way to break the journey – albeit a bit expensive (see below).

And it all ran pretty much on time. Over five train journeys in four days we had 15 minutes of delay. Spain’s high-speed trains were fantastic.

To sum it up: when flying your holiday only really begins when you arrive at your final destination because these days the day spent travelling is one big headache, but with the train the holiday begins as soon as you leave the station.

It’s just far, far more relaxing.

heading back to Barcelona Sants station after a night in the Catalan capital. Photo: The Local.

The Downsides

But what about the kids, you say?

Yep this can be an issue. Travelling for 7 hours on a train is not easy with two young kids but if you come prepared and can think of 75 different ways to occupy them from drawing and playing cards to I-spy and “count my freckles slowly” then it’s possible the journey will be tantrum free. (Playing hide and seek on a train with 12 carriages isn’t advisable.)

And kids adapt, so the following day’s five and half hour journey from Barcelona to Seville was a breeze because they settled into the pace of life and by that point had worked out the code to get into my mobile phone.

One complaint was how long the TGV train took to get along the southern French coast. Does it really need to stop at Nimes, Montpellier, Beziers, Agde, Sete and Perpignan? Can’t local trains serve these stations and the TGV just head straight to Spain?

Another little gripe was the train food. Whilst buffet cars on SNCF and Renfe trains are great for a coffee or a beer they don’t really offer a selection of healthy meals, so you need to come prepared. We weren’t and spent a lot of money on crap food and drink during the trips.

But if you know this in advance you can bring whatever you like onto the train, with no nonsense about 100ml limits on liquid.

Cost comparison

Working out cost comparisons are hard and anyone looking to do a similar trip will need a calculator at hand. 

It’s hard to do a direct comparison between flying and taking the train because so much depends on what the prices are when you book, the route you want to take and how quickly you want to travel and whether to go first class or standard.

But for us at the time of booking (roughly two months in advance) flights from Paris to Faro were about €1,500 for four people, train tickets booked directly with SNCF and Renfe (not interrail) for four people were around €1,200 (this probably could have been much cheaper further in advance), whilst the Interrail option – 4 day passes plus seat reservations was around €810.

So on the face of it travelling by train, especially using Interrail passes, was cheaper – but then add on the cost of two nights in hotels in central Barcelona and there was no real financial benefit of going by train.

But then it was never all about money – what price on not having to spend three hours at Charles de Gaulle airport?

How easy is it to Interrail?

Interrail proved a great option for us, even though it was only a relatively short trip. It’s more suited to those looking to do multiple journeys through various countries, perhaps at a slower pace. But the kids being free was crucial for us, so other families should definitely explore the option.

The one downside to Interrailing through France and Spain is the requirement to book seat reservations for the high-speed trains.

Whilst this sounds fairly straightforward we couldn’t do it through the Interrail app or website so had to be done with Renfe directly. For most countries you can reserve seats through the Interrail app (more on this below).

With SNCF it required a lengthy phone call because we reserved the seats to make sure there were some available before getting the Interrail passes.

For Paris to Barcelona the reservations cost €34 for standard class seats or €48 for first class.

With Renfe it was more complicated although much cheaper (Around €10 to €12 a seat). We were told on the phone that to reserve seats with Interrail you have to do it either at a Spanish train station or by phone but only if you can pick up and pay for the reservations at a Spanish train station within a certain amount of time.

Neither of these were possible when booking from Paris back in May/June. But the helpful website Man at Seat 61 recommended going via the man behind the AndyBTravels website, who charges a small fee. A few emails were exchanged and our reservations for Barcelona to Seville arrived in the post a few days later. 

Renfe and SNCF could make it easier for Interrail passengers.

The Interrail mobile pass on the the Rail Planner app was very easy to use. It was just a case of adding the days when we were travelling and then adding the specific journeys.

This brought up a QR code for each trip but the ticket controllers were always more concerned about the seat reservations we had on paper.

But all went to plan.

 

Conclusion

Those days spent sitting drinking coffee, orange and beer (in separate cups) starring out of train windows at fields, hills, mountains, villages, beach and train platforms were part of the holiday.

I’d say that if you have a day or two to spare then travelling across Europe by train instead of plane is well worth it – yes, even with two young kids.

They might even thank you for it one day if we all help avert a climate disaster. 

Advice

It’s hard to give advice because each person has different requirements that need to be taken into account – whether number of passengers, time needed for travelling, destinations, cost etc.

But plan ahead and do the research to see what’s possible.

One bit of advice if you need to travel quickly is try keep connections to a minimum or give yourself plenty of time to make them.

My colleague Richard Orange had problems on his trip from Sweden to the UK via Denmark, Germany and Belgium because of delays and missed connections.

Useful links and extra info

You can explore Interrail pass options and prices by visiting the Interrail site here. The site offers plenty of info to help you plan your trip and reserve seats on trains if necessary.

The fantastic Man in Seat 61 guide to train travel across Europe is a must-read for anyone planning a trip. It has pages and pages of useful up to date info and can be viewed here.

It also has loads of information on how to use an Interrail pass and calculations to see whether it’s the best option – if you need help with the maths. The page can be viewed here.

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