It’s Complicated

Gone are the days of buying a ticket, getting to your flight on time, and then setting out to see the sights on a trip to Europe. While I’m grateful we are able to travel to France once again (as there are still many countries we cannot enter), these days a visit to a European country requires several more steps and hoops to jump through than it did in the past, and things will be different once we’re there.

France has sorted countries using a traffic light color scheme based on the how well COVID is being handled in each country. Although the United States is currently a “red” country, Brett and I are still welcome to come to France for tourism or any other purpose because we are fully vaccinated and have received our boosters (and may hopefully get another before departing), and are willing to be tested in the 48 hours preceding our flight’s departure. If a traveler is unvaccinated, even if they have had COVID and might have immunity, they have to show a compelling reason why they need to come to France from the U.S. Those reasons are extremely limited. A traveler must be a French national or 1) previously enrolled in a French program in France; 2) already have a long-stay visa; 3) work in a necessary job in the transportation sector; 4) transiting through France for less than 24 hours; or 5) work in a diplomatic or consular position. Without one of those reasons, if you’re not vaccinated you cannot enter France.

One of our very first tasks up arrival in Strasbourg will be to take our vaccination cards and test results to a pharmacy that will provide us with the Pass Sanitaire, a QR code that proves our vaccination status (not every pharmacy does this either). The code is loaded our phones and will allow us to enter markets, museums, restaurants, trams, trains, and so forth. The cost for the Pass is 36 Euros each (approximately US$41). I’m hoping the most difficult part of this will be finding the closest approved pharmacy to where we’ll be staying in Strasbourg.

Another possible hurdle for us after arriving in Paris will be making our connecting flight to Strasbourg without the Pass Sanitaire. From what we can find now, it appears we can get on the next plane with our passports, negative test results, and vaccination cards, but we haven’t found a definitive answer to this, especially since the connecting flight will be a different airline which might require the Pass Sanitaire. There are three pharmacies in DeGaulle airport, and we may be able to the passes done there if necessary. Otherwise we’re going to have to spend a day or two in Paris taking care of this before heading to Strasbourg.

Mask wearing is de rigueur and enforced in France, and only surgical quality masks are considered adequate; cloth masks are not (we have a stockpile of KN95 masks that will be going with us). If you’re not masked and don’t have a Pass Sanitaire with you, getting into in pretty much anywhere is not going to happen.

We will follow the lead of the French government as to what’s required as things still continue to change. It all seems so very complicated, but we know we can and will manage. We’ll be out and about more there than we’ve been here – there is much to see and do and we don’t plan on stayed holed up in our apartment. We’ll figure it all out.

19 thoughts on “It’s Complicated

  1. I would suggest contacting the American Embassy closer to your departure date. They should be able to provide answers to your questions.

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    1. The American Embassy in France’s website give up-to-date information on what’s required. The airline transfer is problematic though because rules can change quickly, and/or be at the discretion of the airline.

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    1. From what I understand, you can show your CDC card everywhere you go and that should allow your entrance, but it’s a royal pain for everyone and the card would wear out quickly.

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  2. I think the French have handled this SO much better than we have. It’s complex, but in the end, I would feel much better going out and about knowing everyone around me is vaxxed too. Around here, I’m pretty much sure a lot of people are not.

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    1. The EU as a whole has handled COVID well – their Omicron surge numbers have already taken a steep downward dive. France is at 86% vaccinated and boosted, while the US is only at 66% currently. I’m with you – every time we go out I know there are many others who are not vaccinated (our upstairs neighbor, for one!). We got word the fourth vaccine/booster for Omicron will be available in Hawaii in March so plan to get that done, if possible, before we leave. Kaua’i always lags behind though. Happy to be getting the free home tests and masks though!

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  3. We are entering Germany on June 4, and COVID has absolutely affected every aspect of our travel plans, such as you are experiencing. The three biggest are that 1) we are taking an USA based flight (United, code sharing with Lufthansa) in the event the flight gets cancelled. Been there, done that already with a non-US company, Norwegian, and it was a headache I don’t care to repeat. Then, 2) we are only entertaining non stop flights to avoid some of the ambiguities you described in your post. One set of rules and tests is about all I can handle at this time, lest the stress of uncertainties do me in (!), plus my daughter and son-in-law are being kind enough to drive two hours to Munich to pick us up, and 3) we are not making any hard plans about day tripping or overnighting during our five week stay, until we land and check out the current COVID protocols actually in place.

    Strasbourg continues to be high on our list for an overnight/overnights trip once we’ve gotten over our jet lagged and immersed ourselves in a first dose of our much-missed granddaughters, so likely mid-June. My daughter and son-in-law said it’s just 90 minutes from their town, and have offered to loan us one of their cars for the trip. Fingers crossed all around!

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    1. You’re fortunate to have family in Germany so that you’re able to do things like fly directly, use an American carrier, etc. I envy you! As there are no direct flights from the U.S. to Strasbourg, and U.S. carrier prices to Paris were/are outrageous, we are flying an international airline to Paris and then have to switch to Air France when we get there for our flight to Strasbourg. I know it will all turn out OK in the end, but for now it all makes me a bit nervous.

      I hope we can meet up in Strasbourg – we’ll be there in June! I will stay in touch and we can hopefully set things up. Are you planning to come for just a day or ??? Lots to see and do, and the food is wonderful. If you have a rental car you could also drive south of Strasbourg on the wine route!

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  4. Hi Laura – My husband and I used this website to find a pharmacy that processes the Passe Sanitaire. https://www.sante.fr/recherche/trouver/health%20pass

    You can search by city and then zoom into the map. We got ours in Paris back in November and the process was very easy and only took about 10 minutes total! We simply showed our ID and CDC cards and the attendant filled in the information in their online portal and printed out our passes. Then we downloaded an app (I can’t think of the name of the app right now) and scanned the QR code – very easy!

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    1. Thank you! I’ve checked out the website, but haven’t done a deep dive yet to see which pharmacy is closest to us. So happy to know it’s such a simple procedure.

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  5. Yep, these days it is complicated. But because you are willing to wear masks, respect the local regulations, you are vaccinated and boosted, I think you’ll do just fine. Of course, there is always a chance that Covid will do a new number on us, but let’s hope that won’t be the case until you get to France. I was wondering if you have any sort of travel insurance just as an extra precaution.

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    1. France and the rest of Europe are doing so much better with COVID than the U.S. is currently – we are looking forward to being there. We are holding our breath that a new variant doesn’t show up before we go. We do have travel insurance, but unfortunately our Airbnb rentals are not covered.

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  6. And it could all change again before you go. I am surprised you need to pay for the vaccine passport though – or is that because you are not French? Our vaccine passports are free here in New Zealand, but then our borders are still closed so no tourists are coming to the country. We have pretty much resigned ourselves to not getting to Europe this year to see family.

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    1. You guessed right – we have to pay because we are not French! I believe everyone who has been vaxxed and boosted in the EU get a pass for free. Our CDC vaccine card still gets you into places, but the pass on the phone is much easier and preferred.

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  7. Sounds complicated. Here in Florida, DeSantis just suspended a public health official for sending an email to his employees because less than half were vaccinated. On the other hand Disney World requires reservations to enter the parks. I think (not sure) that they require proof of vaccination. Only in Florida. Mixed messages galore. Desantis also says he will ignore the federal requirement that health workers be vaccinated. I believe we (my father and I) caught Covid in the hospital and since he was in a private room, it had to come from one of the employees. I look forward to the day when everything returns to normal.

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    1. Florida is nuts these days – I read about what’s going on there and can’t stop shaking my head. None of it makes sense to me – I honestly don’t know what these people think the end game will be for all of this anti-vaccine, anti-mask messaging and actions. It’s so clear that the VAST majority of people being hospitalized and dying from COVID are the unvaccinated. I am still so sorry for the loss of your dad, especially that it might have resulted because of an unvaccinated health worker that cared for him.

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  8. I flew Delta to Paris and changed planes and terminals to fly Air France to Marseilles. I showed my US passport and my CDC vaccination card to get onto the plane and there was zero problem.

    I have paperclipped my CDC card to the photo page of my passport in order to protect my vaccination card and have it handy to show both at the same time.

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    1. Thanks for this information – I feel lots less nervous about changing flights in Paris to get out to Strasbourg.

      Someone (from a Rick Steves tour or video, I think) recommended printing off your CDC card, front and back, and then laminating it to show. That way the original doesn’t get handled so much but can still be shown at airports, etc. We’re going to try it.

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