"Has Paris reopened 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 restored.
However, as of January 1, 2021, a spike in COVID-19 cases has led to an
that essentially shuts down bars, restaurants, and cultural events until later
in the month.
Even before the latest lockdown, many restrictions remained,
with strict hygiene
measures applying to most tourist aattractions. Masks have been required in
places like museums, Méro trains, and buses, and there's no reason to believe
such measures will be relaxed soon.
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 early in 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 summer or fall of 2021 could be a great
time to visit Paris if you want to enjoy the city with less crowding than
usual. Our prediction assumes that the coronavirus pandemic has faded,
tourism has fully resumed, and you aren't in a high-risk group. (The situation
could change at any time, so build as much flexibility as possible into your