Can Brits transit through France to Switzerland?

France has in place strict rules that ban most types of travel from the UK - but what about people who need to pass through France in order to get to another country?

Trucks crossing into France from the UK
What are the rules for transiting through France? Photo: FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP

It was reported on Thursday that UK nationals are banned from travelling through France – even if they live in another EU country and need to get home.

However, the situation seems to be slightly more complicated than that.

Since December 18th France has had in place strict rules on travel both to and from the UK, with only those who fit the criteria for essential travel allowed.

READ MORE: Everything that changes in Switzerland in January 2022

You can find the full list of essential reasons HERE, but it bars all tourism, family visits and visits from second-home owners.

UK nationals who live in France are allowed to return home.

Also allowed are “EU nationals who have their main home in France or . . . in transit through France to their main home in an EU country”.

Since Brexit, this of course no longer includes Brits who live in EU countries and Schengen countries such as Switzerland. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

However also allowed to travel are “UK nationals who benefit from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement” (ie those who lived in an EU country prior to December 31st 2020) with no mention made of having to be permanent residents in France.

The rules also allow for “travellers in transit for less than 24 hours in an international zone”.

So it seems that Brits could transit through France.

However, there appears to be an important caveat – how you travel.

The transit clause ends with “in an international zone” – which refers to airports – passengers on transit flights do not leave the international zone of the airport and therefore in immigration terms do not enter a country.

EXPLAINED: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

The British Embassy in France states that: “UK nationals may only transit France if travelling by air”.

The rules in full state: “Whatever your nationality, you are authorised to transit through France, in the international zone of an airport (connection between 2 flights) for a maximum of 24 hours

UPDATE: What are the Covid rules for transiting through Switzerland?

“If you are a national of the European Union, you are authorised to return to your main residence in France or in another European Union country. Your spouse (married, civil partner, cohabiting partner) and children are allowed to travel with you, regardless of their nationality. You must be able to show proof of your main residence at the border.”

So it seems that Brits can travel through France – but only by air.

This must also be a transit flight – ie two flights booked together so that you stay within the international zone at the airport.

There has been no change to the rules since December 18th, but reporting on Thursday appears to be sparked by a tweet from Eurotunnel saying that Brits cannot transit by road – which would therefore apply to all Eurotunnel’s passengers.

The Local has requested urgent clarification from the French government on the rules for transit, and the situation for Brits living in the EU who had travelled to the UK by car, and now apparently face being stranded or having to abandon their car in order to get home. 

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Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it also has a great location right in the centre of Europe, making it an ideal starting point for train travel. Here are five destinations you can reach in less than five hours from Zurich.

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

As summer is still in full swing and there are many vacation days (or free weekends) to enjoy the sunny weather, it’s not the wrong time to do some travelling. Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it’s also centrally located in Europe. This means that many major European cities are reachable in just a few hours.

If you are located in Zurich, for example, then you are very near Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein and Austria. In less than five hours, visiting beautiful cities in these five countries is possible by taking a comfortable train ride.

So, select your final destination, get your ticket, and enjoy the ride.

READ ALSO: Switzerland’s ten most beautiful villages you have to visit

From Zurich to Strasbourg

It will take you just about 2 hours and 30 minutes (including time to stop and change trains in Basel) to get from Zurich’s mains station to the beautiful and historical city of Strasbourg, in northeast France.

Prices vary depending on several factors, but we found one-way tickets for just around CHF 23 on a Friday.

From Zurich to Munich

The capital of Bavaria can be reached from Zurich’s central station on a direct train in just 3 hours 30 minutes, allowing for short stays.

Munich may seem quite far away on a map, but the fast trains without stopovers actually make the journey quick and pleasant. We found one-way tickets for around CHF 70 on a Friday trip.

From Zurich to Vaduz

The capital of Liechtenstein is easy to reach in less than 2 hours from the Zurich central station. In fact, some journeys will take just about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The lovely town bordering Switzerland has many tourist attractions, from its pedestrian historical centre to castles and parks. Train ticket prices always vary, but we found tickets for a one-way journey on a Friday costing CHF 20.

READ ALSO: Travel: What are the best night train routes to and from Switzerland?

From Zurich to Milan

Depending on the train you take, you can get from Zurich to Italy’s fashion capital in three to four hours with a direct train.

Before 2016, when the Gotthard Base Tunnel was opened to rail traffic, a trip from Zurich to Milan took an hour longer. It’s possible to find tickets for about CHF 70 for a one-way trip on a Friday.

From Zurich to Innsbruck

From Zurich, it is possible to hop on a direct train and, in just over 3 hours and 30 minutes, arrive in the beautiful town of Innsbruck, in the mountains of Tyrol.

Ticket costs vary, but we found tickets for a relatively short-notice one-way trip on a Friday (without discounts) for CHF 84.

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Fares depend on several factors, such as time of the day and day of the week when you travel.

While a rock-bottom cheap fare may be available one day in the morning, it won’t necessarily be offered the next day (or week) in the afternoon, or vice-versa.

Prices also depend on whether you are entitled to any discounts and which wagon you choose.

If you are interested in travelling farther afield, including with night trains, or if you are in other Swiss cities, these articles provide more information: