Tourists race to beat French travel ban with last-minute flights and ferries

After the deadline, UK citizens will need a 'compelling reason' to enter France

Vehicles queue at the entrance of Port of Dover on Friday. Reuters
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Thousands of people have been travelling to France from the UK, trying to beat an imminent ban on British tourists which begins on Saturday.

Long queues formed at the Port of Dover, in southern England, after many people brought forward Christmas travel plans to avoid new restrictions.

The rush to reach France came as the UK recorded 93,045 new daily Covid infections — a third day of record-breaking figures — and France announced new efforts, including a ban on New Year parties, to stop a feared wave of Omicron infections.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the “extremely rapid spread” of the Omicron variant in the UK had prompted the travel restrictions.

After the deadline, UK citizens will need a “compelling reason” to enter France, with trips for tourism or business banned.

Travel bookings for Friday soared after the new restrictions were announced. The ban begins at 12am CET on Saturday (11pm GMT on Friday).

P&O Ferries warned customers of “large queues” at border control in Dover, with an estimated waiting time of two and a half hours.

Eurostar urged people to avoid London St Pancras station unless they had a pre-booked ticket as many trains were sold out.

Several flights from the UK to France were also fully booked.

Those allowed to enter France will need to provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken less than 24 hours in advance and must isolate for at least two days.

Travel firms described the tourism ban as a “hammer blow” as it will mean many winter sports holidays cannot go ahead.

People who have booked a package holiday — combining transport and accommodation — which they cannot now use because of the rules will be entitled to a refund.

Trade association Abta has requested an “urgent meeting” with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to discuss the sector's “current financial situation and its pressing need for financial support".

Lines of lorries were also seen in Dover although the ban does not apply to hauliers. Transport workers and French nationals are also exempt from the new rules.

Updated: December 17, 2021, 8:25 PM