The COVID pandemic has halted worldwide travel for over a year, since March 2020. Travelers have been on pins and needles, anxiously and patiently waiting to see when they could travel. Travel plans and reservations have been booked, canceled, and rebooked. Early signs of travel returning to Europe came about in May when Greece was the first country to open its borders. France first opened its borders to international travelers at the beginning of June. Ironically, Americans can travel to France but visitors from France are prohibited from entering the U.S. Travelers must show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test (taken within 72 hours before arriving).
At the end of June, I started to hear English being spoken again on the streets of Paris, a welcome and promising sound. By the end of July, I was spotting large groups of English-speaking tourists with guides following them. As a tour guide myself, I started to see a small influx of tours in July and for August, I have booked almost as many tours as I did in 2019 for the same month.
The wearing of masks has hardly hindered my tours, and people treat it like a minor inconvenience — on the same level as having to wear a seat belt. I lead private tours with small groups of usually under six people, so the only change I’ve seen so far is that sometimes there are only four people allowed in a shop at one time. In cases like this, if my group is over four people, I usually tell them about the shop from the outside, and then they go in by themselves. In fact, in one instance, I was doing a chocolate and macaron tour with a family of three, and the sign on the shop said only two people at a time. I kindly asked the shopkeeper if all four of us could enter together at one time, explaining that we were all together, and she made an exception. Part of my chocolate and macaron tours included tasting samples at each shop, but several of the chocolate shops were no longer selling individual chocolates, now only selling pre-packages boxes.
Almost everything has reopened in Paris, save for some hotels and restaurants which will reopen in September. Another telltale sign that businesses were nearly back to normal was the flagship Louis Vuitton store on the Champs Élysées, which had a line waiting to get in. At certain popular cafes, you had to wait for an outdoor table, and a legendary falafel shop in my neighborhood had a line snaking around a corner with an estimated wait time of 40 minutes on a busy Sunday afternoon.
The Eiffel Tower has reopened but has limited ticket sales, to avoid overcrowding, especially in the elevators, which have limited capacity. As of July 21, visitors over 18 are required to have proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID test.
All the big chain and luxury stores on the Champs Élysées including Sephora, Nike, H&M, Galeries Lafayette, Gap, Petit Bateau, Lancel, and L’Occitane are open regular hours and require mask wearing when shopping.
All museums now require that tickets be bought online ahead of time, instead of queuing to get your tickets, and many have timed entrances. Museums also require proof of vaccination or a copy of a recent COVID test. Major museums such as the Louvre and the d’Orsay have fewer people than usual, so there are fewer crowds.
Pro Tip: Allow extra time at the entrances of the museums for COVID checks and for security. Mask wearing inside the museums is mandatory.
Restaurants And Cafes
It’s required by French law that diners must have proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID test results, since mid-August. Paris, like other major cities, has added extended terraces and outdoor seating on sidewalks and streets, giving much more outdoor seating. You are allowed to dine indoors but you must wear a mask, so most people opt for dining outdoors.
Department Stores, Shops, And Boutiques
All shops require customers to wear masks and have checkpoints at the entrances along with sanitary lotion dispensers. Department stores now require a QR covid code at the entrance. Smaller shops, depending on their size, limit how many people can enter at one time.
Food Shops And Markets
Paris is known for its thousands of individual food shops such as butchers, bakeries, cheesemongers, wine and spirits shops, fruit and vegetable stands, and many other types of specialty food shops. Most of these shops are small and will only allow a few customers in at a time, so have patience if you see a line forming outside. The outdoor food markets of Paris don’t require masks and don’t have social distancing laws, so to be extra cautious, and wear a mask.
Theaters, Cinemas, Concerts
Live theater has reopened, and movie theaters are fully opened with regularly scheduled screenings. Masks are required, but theaters are not limiting how many people they let in. Music concerts and live performances are also in full swing.
Metros And Buses
Metros and buses require passengers to always wear masks and there’s a fine if you are caught not wearing a mask.
Trains leaving from the major rail stations of Gare de Lyon, Gare de Montparnasse, Gare Austerlitz, and Gare Saint Lazare all require wearing of masks.
Pro Tip: Make sure you know how many days prior to leaving France that you need a COVID test.
If you need a COVID test before you return home, all Paris pharmacies do antigen tests with results in 15-minutes at a cost of around $40.
PCR tests are also available at medical labs and centers, and government-specific sites and have a wait time for results between 24 and 48 hours. The cost is $58. If you can’t find where to get a test, ask the concierge at your hotel.
You can get a PCR test at Charles DeGaulle airport at Terminal 2, and at Orly, Terminal 3, at Gate 34A (arrivals level), and 4, at Gate 42d (departures level).
Both airports offer rapid PCR tests that can be performed in less than two hours by appointment only and are reserved for passengers with departures on the same day
Pro Tip: All information in this article is subject to change daily, so do your homework before you leave so you are not disappointed or turned away.
If you are planning a trip to Paris, here are some suggestions: