"Is Paris open for travel?"
If you're considering a trip to Paris or France in
the wake of COVID-19, read this before making plans.
ABOVE: To minimize your exposure to coronavirus,
try visiting places that don't attract crowds--such as the
Cathedral Basilica of
St-Denis, the burial place of French kings and queens. It's an easy
Métro ride from central Paris.
By Durant Imboden
In the wake of Europe's
"first wave" coronavirus pandemic, France relaxed the lockdown that was imposed
on March 16, 2020. In Paris, most shops and parks reopened, the Seine
embankments could again be visited freely, and public transportation was being
However, a recent spike in COVID-19 cases has led to a new round of
restrictions. For example, museums--including the Louvre--were closed when this
article was last updated, and a 7 p.m. curfew was
in effect. To make matters worse, the EU's vaccination efforts have been
slow and inadequate--especially
in France, where many citizens are skeptical of vaccines and "herd immunity" may
be a long way off.
Even before the latest closings and curfew, strict hygiene rules have
governed most tourist attractions. Masks have been required in places like
museums, Métro trains, and buses, and there's no reason to believe such measures
will be relaxed in the foreseeable future.
Until further notice, tourists from outside the EU, the
Schengen Zone, and the UK are
forbidden to enter France. However, transit passengers from outside the EU are
allowed to change planes at Paris CDG.
(Although the restrictions on travel from within the European area
is ending, it could be months before tourists from outside Europe and the UK are
allowed in without quarantines or other restrictions. For
country-by-country information, see the European Union's
Re-open EU Web site.)
Our advice for planning a visit to Paris:
If you've been thinking of a Paris trip in the first
half of 2021, we suggest changing your plans--not just to mitigate
the risk of infection, but also to avoid restrictions that could spoil your
visit. (Plus, you'll be frustrated if the places you'd like to visit are in
If you're in a high-risk group
(e.g., over 60, especially with underlying health problems),
use common sense in deciding whether,
when, and where to travel. The coronavirus won't disappear overnight, and
while France has one of the world's best health-care systems, a COVID-19
infection could be life-threatening.
When you book
hotels, B&Bs, or apartments, make sure that your reservation can be
canceled without penalty. (This year is a good time to avoid low
prepaid, non-cancellable rates.) For maximum savings, keep an eye on rate
changes and be prepared to cancel and rebook if you can get a
better deal closer to your visit.
Hotel rooms are usually easier to cancel without penalty than
Be aware of cancellation policies or change fees when you
book your airline, train, or cruise tickets. Airline fares and other
transportation tickets vary in their cancellation and change policies. If
you can't afford a fully-refundable ticket, budget some money for ticket
changes just in case. (Good news: Many airlines offer waivers on change fees
during periods of severe weather, epidemics, etc.)
Dont expect travel insurance to protect you if you need to
cancel your trip because of coronavirus fears. Most insurers are treating
the current outbreak as a "known event" and are turning down
coronavirus-related claims unless travelers have bought high-priced "cancel
for any reason" plans.
Avoid prepaid sightseeing tours unless they're fully
cancellable. Instead, book excursions when you come or immediately before.
As of this writing, we think that the fourth quarter of 2021 could be a good
time to visit Paris if you want to enjoy the city with less crowding than
usual. Our prediction assumes--perhaps too optimistically--that the coronavirus pandemic has faded
tourism has fully resumed. (The situation
could change at any time, so build as much flexibility as possible into your
travel plans, and stay home if you're in a high-risk group.)