Coronavirus and cycling in France

Published by Lyn on 13 August 2020

The coronavirus pandemic and cycling in France - the latest guidance and local advice.

Coronavirus and cycling in France

France's StopCOVID track and trace app can be downloaded here

We have been updating this page throughout COVID-19. Here is the latest guidance in relation to cycling in France - last updated August 13.

** Note I am not making any moral judgements on what should or should not be undertaken in terms of cycling or travel – I am simply outlining the current situation. I do, however, ask everyone to exercise caution and to make sensible decisions to help safeguard the health of us all. **

Can I visit France for a cycling holiday?

The French border has reopened to nationals from other European countries and the Schengen Zone. 

It is open to nationals of *some* non-EU countries, depending on infection rates in other countries. You should check guidance relating to your individual country.

Travel to and from the US at the moment, for example, is very difficult if you are not resident in France or qualify for an exemption. Travel from Australia and New Zealand is all but impossible due to border closures and quarantines in those countries.

There are certain self-quarantine recommendations in place depending on your country of residence. The UK, Norway and other countries have now re-imposed 14-day self-quarantines on residents returning from France. You should check consular advice in your country.

Consular travel advice

See here for the updated UK quarantine travel advice for France.
Watch here
 for the official French government guidance for travel from the UK (had not been updated as of August 13 for the new UK quarantine).
See here for France-Ireland travel advice.
See here for France-US.
See here for France-Canada.

(Similar information is available for travellers from elsewhere via your local French embassy website).

If you are visiting France from another country, please take all care to minimise any risk of bringing the infection with you or circulating it while here.

Note that masks are now compulsory in all indoor public spaces (see below for graphic with more information) such as shops, banks, post offices, undercover markets, museums, etc. Masks are also compulsory on all forms of public transport, including on Eurostar and on ferries in French waters. You will also need a mask in communal areas of hotels and campsites (e.g. at reception desks and when using shared toilets or washrooms).  

Note some regions and cities have additional requirements for masks to be worn in outdoor public spaces - there is a map here with rules for various towns and cities. You should also ask ahead at your accommodation and also watch out for signage advertising face mask rules on the entrances to all buildings. Again, this is a useful map link.

Social distancing and hand washing guidance also remains in place (see the 'facilities' question below for more).

Hand sanitiser gels and masks are widely available at pharmacies and supermarkets.

How can I get to France with my bike?

For all travel I recommend documenting all correspondence and confirming phone calls in writing (email, social media messages, etc) and taking these messages with you when you travel in case you have problems at the port/station. This is because information is constantly changing and can be inconsistent via different customer service outlets (call centres and social media accounts, etc).

Note there may be quarantine requirements depending on your country of residence. You should check guidelines with your embassy (see weblinks above). There may be additional paperwork to complete at ports and airports based on these requirements.

Ferries

Brittany Ferries have resumed ferry services, however there will be no cyclist or foot passenger tickets available for July or August. Tickets are, however, now being sold for foot passengers with bicycles for sailings from September 1 (spaces will be limited until November 1 so book early). Foot passengers (without bikes) won't be able to sail until November 1 (though tickets for after November 1 are on sale now). In the meantime, you can only take bikes on a car/van – these can also be booked online. Their media manager has confirmed that, owing to coronavirus safety protocols, they have had to revise all services. "Like so many other businesses, we’ve had to take some tough decisions in order to assure our services," he writes. "These include drastically reducing the number of people on board our ships, and fundamental changes to our boarding and disembarkation procedures. EU passenger rights are also an issue when sailings are disrupted, necessitating transfer buses for foot passengers and cyclists – again, this poses problems. When we are sure we can offer transit to more foot passengers and cyclists in a safe and viable manner, we will do so quickly. Customers are still, of course, able to carry their bicycles on their cars."

DFDS are now taking cyclists as foot passengers on all services, including Newhaven-Dieppe, Dover-Calais and Dover-Dunkirk. You can book via their websiteYou can take a bike on the back of a car/van. Face masks are recommended on board to comply with French public transport guidance.

P&O Ferries are accepting cyclists and that tickets can be booked online for their Dover-Calais service. Customer services assures me that cyclists are accepted as foot passengers. Face masks are needed on board to comply with French public transport guidance.

Condor Ferries are taking cyclists as foot passengers on their Channel Islands ferries (Poole/Portsmouth to St Malo via the islands). Numbers are limited so book ahead. Face masks are recommended on board to comply with French public transport guidance.

Irish Ferries have recommenced services, including Dublin to Cherbourg. Cyclist and foot passenger tickets are available online. Face masks are recommended on board to comply with French public transport guidance.

Trains

Eurostar are running trains but they have stopped their 'bike on board' tickets. Eurodispatch has also halted Eurostar baggage services for bikes. According to their coronavirus information page, only folding bikes and children's bikes no longer than 85cm in length and packed in a protective bag that covers the whole bike are allowed as regular hand luggage. See my page here if you need to ship your bike ahead. Or this page for bike hire help.

Eurotunnel usually accepts cyclists as foot passengers. However cuctomer services told me that their cycling service is currently suspended until further notice. Details are usually here. I was told the website would be updated soon. You can still take bikes on the backs of cars/vans.

Planes

Airlines, including easyJet and Ryanair, are selling tickets again. You should check individual booking and cancellation guidance.

Passengers on flights from France must wear single-use surgical-type mask upon boarding. 

There are now compulsory COVID tests for arrivals from certain destinations at French airports. You should your embassy or airline about requirements. Face masks are required on all flights in and out of France – again, ask your airline for the relevant information.

Hiring a bike or shipping your bike

Hiring a bike or shipping your bike ahead may be options for you to faciliate easier travel to/from France. You can email me at lyn@freewheelingfrance.com if you need help with these.

Where can I ride my bike in France?

'Individual' leisure, commuting and cycle touring is permitted everywhere.

The French government is in fact encouraging cycling as an alternative to public transport use to minimise infection risk. You can read more information here.

Cyclists must still observe social distancing guidelines. The Sports Ministry and French Cycling Federation guidance says a distance of 1.5 metres should be kept if riding two-abreast, with 10 metres between cyclists riding wheel to wheel (to reduce the risk of the virus spreading by sweat/spit in slipstreams). Obviously common sense needs to be used when riding with small children in terms of ensuring they are adequately protected (riding 10 metres apart is clearly not practical with small kids).

Note that masks are now compulsory in all indoor public spaces, so keep one in your pocket or pannier for boulangeries, lunch stops and for use in communal areas at hotels and campsites. We also never leave home without hand sanitiser.

What facilities are open to cyclists?

Hotels, B&Bs and campsites can now open across the country. Some areas have opened faster than others. Hospitality businesses are subject to strict hygiene controls, so some smaller B&B and hotels may have decided not to open this season. I'm happy to advise by email if you need recommendations for places to stay (lyn@freewheelingfrance.com).

Bike hire and cycling holiday businesses are allowed to open (see below for organised holidays). Again, some smaller shops and tour operators have decided not to open this season, deciding instead to focus on 2021. Plan ahead if you need these services. 

Cafes, bars and restaurants are allowed to open. Face masks are required when not eating/drinking (i.e when walking around the restaurant, going to the toilet, etc).

Especially when cycling in more remote areas and villages, plan ahead and take lunch snacks with you in case the local restaurant has not opened (or is opening reduced hours due to reduced demand). Boulangeries have remained open as an "essential serivice" throughout the pandemic.

Museums, monuments and other public and cultural spaces, including beaches, lakes, parks and gardens, are generally open, but many are managed locally so their individual situations may vary.

Public transport is running but some services may be still on limited timetables. Face masks are required on public transport (including on ferries and Eurostar once in French territory).

Most of these facilities are managed/monitored locally, so they may be subject to local guidance and opening hours may still be subject to demand in some cases.

Are organised cycling holidays allowed in France?

Yes, organised self-guided and guided cycling holidays are permitted as long as you follow social distancing advice.

Tour operators are working closely with hotels and B&Bs, as well as cafes and restaurants on routes to ensure cycling can be enjoyed safely.

If you are thinking about a trip to France and need support, you can use my bespoke service. I can help you to find a tour company, accommodation provider and/or bike hire that can provide the necessary support for your dates.

Most are providing flexible booking terms to make it easier to delay or postpone a trip if necessary.

Where do I need to wear a face mask?

It is now obligatory to wear a face mask in indoors public spaces in France. There is a €135 fine for failing to comply.

Face masks are required in shops, banks, post offices, undercover markets, museums, etc. Masks are also compulsory on all forms of public transport, including on Eurostar and on ferries in French waters. You will also need a mask in communal areas of hotels and campsites (e.g. at reception desks and when using shared toilets or washrooms).  

This graphic shows where masks are required across the entire country. See the map here for additional city/town rules.

 Face masks in France are compulsory to stop the spread of coronavirus


Note some regions and cities
 have additional face mask requirements - you should ask ahead at your accommodation and also watch out for signage advertising face mask rules on the entrances to all buildings and local noticeboards and social media pages. For example, in Orleans in the Loire, face masks are required at outdoors markets as well as indoors markets. They are also required in the evenings (after 9pm) for people walking/cycling along the riverfront. Biarritz, Bayonne, parts of Paris and many other cities and towns have additional measures that require face masks to be worn in the city centres. Again, see the map here for additional city/town rules.

Will the 2020 Tour de France be on? Can I watch it in person?

The Tour de France will now run from August 29 to September 20. You can see the revised stages here

The women's La Course by Tour de France will run on August 29 in Nice.

There are changes this year in terms of crowd control with some cols closing much earlier to motorised traffic (and bikes) than in other years. Please watch this page for road closures and crowd control measures that may result from COVID.

Official Tour de France tour operators are still offering packages to watch the 2020 event, and are offering 100% cancellation guarantees just in case. If you need bike hire or an accommodation/transport package for the TDF, I can point you to reputable local companies via my bespoke service.

I will add further information to the website on 2020 Tour de France logistics as it comes to hand. The Official 2020 Tour de France Race Guide is now available to order in some countries.  

When will other professional cycling races like Paris-Roubaix start again?

The sport's governing body, the UCI, has revised the entire cycling calendar, largely to accommodate the Tour de France.

You can view the full calendar here. Smaller, local races are also recommencing from August.

Key dates:

  • Criterium de Dauphine: August 12-16
  • Tour du Limousin: August 18-21
  • French national road championships: July 29-August 22
  • Tour de Poitou-Charentes: August 25-28
  • La Course by Tour de France: August 29
  • Giro d'Italia: October 3-25
  • La Vuelta: October 20-November 8
  • Paris-Roubaix: October 25

I welcome feedback from cyclists looking to visit France, as well as from local cycling businesses who are providing services for cyclists.

I will post amended information above as it comes to hand.

You can also join my Facebook group to discuss issues relating to COVID-19 with other cyclists, including many riders based in France.

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