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France suspends transit ban for Brits living in EU

The French government announced on Thursday that is has temporarily lifted its ban on UK nationals travelling through France to return to their homes in the EU, to avoid large numbers of Brits being stranded in the UK after the Christmas holidays.

France suspends transit ban for Brits living in EU
Photo: Nicolas Tucat/AFP

France currently has strict controls in place on travel to and from the UK, banning almost all journeys. 

However the rules for Brits who live in another EU or Schengen zone country and need to transit through France in order to get home have been causing confusion, and some Brits resident in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy reporting being barred from entering France on their way home from festive breaks in the UK.

Following urgent enquiries from The Local, the French government confirmed that the rule remains in place banning transit travel by road, rail and sea – only air travel is allowed.

However it added that there would be a “period of tolerance” to allow people to return to their homes in the EU.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry told The Local: “A large number of British nationals residing in an EU country have travelled in good faith to the UK for the festive season and are experiencing difficulties in reaching their country of residence.

“Faced with this situation, instructions of tolerance have been sent to police officers at the borders with the United Kingdom, in order to allow these nationals to transit through France to reach their residence in a country of the European Union, after this Christmas and New Year period.”

It was not clear how long the period of tolerance will last for, but people who have their home in the EU are advised to have with them travel tickets showing that their date of entry to the UK is prior to December 31st 2021.

Eurotunnel, which operates the Channel Tunnel suggested that Brits would only be allowed home to transit France to other EU countries if they first travelled to the UK on or before December 28th. This cut off date hasn’t been confirmed by the French government however.

The strict rules for travel between France and the UK, however, remain in place.

People can only enter France from the UK if they meet one of the criteria for essential travel – find the full list HERE. There are also restrictions on who can leave France to go to the UK – full list HERE.

Among the groups allowed entry to France from the UK are;

  • French citizens, their partners and children
  • EU citizens who have their permanent residence in France or another EU country (including Brits who have dual nationality with an EU country)
  • Non-EU citizens who have their permanent residence in France
  • Non-EU citizens who are transiting through France by air, and are spending less than 24 hours in France

The rules amount to a de-facto ban on travel by Eurotunnel, Eurostar or ferry for any Brits who live in an EU or Schengen zone country other than France.

However the rule stipulating that transfers could only be made by air had not been well understood or publicised, leading to many British residents of countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy travelling to see family in the UK over Christmas, believing that their residency status would allow them to return through France. 

Outside of the period of tolerance, the rules remain in place for all travel between France and the UK until further notice.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel between France and the UK

Member comments

  1. Since all categories of travellers were coming from the UK and all had been vaccinated and tested , there was clearly no public health rationale for the original discrimination or for it now only being suspended. Just politicians messing with people’s lives again for no good reason.

  2. I was hoping that Macron might have been struck by an intelligent thought and re-opened the France / UK border but sadly no ! Lives on both sides of La Manche are being interfered with purely for political reasons !

  3. It is complete and utter rubbish. Politician’s playing games with peoples lives and well being. Does Macron not realise that the stupid rule is so easy to avoid for those that really have a desire to get here for whatever reason. Fly to Barcelona, Munich, Geneva etc etc – hire a car and drive here. Who on earth is going to stop you?? Total madness.

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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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