I’ve been asked a few times since we’ve hit the road two weeks ago: “what’s it like to be traveling again” or “how are things in France?” So, I thought I’d take a post to write about our experiences over the past two weeks on the state of travel here in the pandemic to endemic phase (hopefully).
We’ve been in the south: Lyon, Avignon, Gordes, Aix en Provence and Marseille so far, so can’t comment on Paris, Normandy, Bordeaux, the Alps, etc. So take this for what it’s worth.
I guess the one big difference between Portugal and France and the US that we’ve noticed is that masks don’t really seem to be controversial. Sure, we hear about or read about protests or even see an occasional encampment (small one) with signs protesting vaccination, but in our experience they are the exception, not the rule.
In Portugal, masks are still required (or were two weeks ago anyway) inside. Compliance is 100%. Last fall, we returned to Colorado to a headline on the local Fox News station that 1 in 10 people in Colorado currently had COVID we were culturally shocked to see so little mask wearing. Sure, we were coming from the polar opposite in terms of compliance but the headline didn’t seem to jive with the experience. Then the omicron wave hit and mask mandates were reimposed. Granted, we didn’t see much resistance when the edict came down, but it just feels different in Europe when a mask rule is put in place.
SNL did a funny skit about COVID a couple of weeks ago about was all of this masking and isolation necessary. Maybe it did help, maybe it didn’t who knows; but the shifting and changing rules and guidance definitely did not. And I get it, science changes and facts change, but consistent messaging sure would have helped and there’s plenty of blame to go around on the lack of that these past two years. First, they don’t help, then they do, then you need to wear them, then we can remove them, then whoops wear them again.
Over here, in our experience, the guidance has seemed more consistent and straightforward: wear them in close proximity to others and indoors, particularly when case rates or, now, hospitalization rates are high. But we are in countries with around 90% vaccination rates too.
That’s the other thing that’s different. Here in France, until now, you need to show the Pass Sanitaire on your phone to go into restaurants or museums etc. They aren’t always checked but you need to have it at the ready and the signs for that requirement are everywhere. Since everyone has to (or may have to) show the pass, masks are less used indoors and everyone seems confident and comfortable with the fact that since most people with the pass are fully vaccinated (including a booster shot within the last nine months) the likelihood of getting sick or really sick seems low. Maybe that’s a false sense of security but it’s how it feels.
That all said, things are about to change here yet again. The Pass Sanitaire will no longer be required as of tomorrow, March 14. Masks will no longer be required in restaurants either. They will still be required on public transportation. This, due to very low rates of patients in ICUs across France.
That doesn’t mean it won’t change again. So… if you’re coming to France and the pass is reinstated, how do you get it? Well, we had the Portuguese version of the EU digital pass already so we simply went to the website link our airline sent us and uploaded that QR code and voila we had it. I had read, though, that you could bring your CDC vaccine card to a local pharmacy to get it. So, for now, I guess I’d pack those trusty little fraying white cards in your carry-on if you’re coming to France or Europe anytime soon.
The French government site (https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/coming-to-france-your-covid-19-questions-answered/#sommaire_3) is a good resource, if you’re coming here and since things do change (or have to date anyway) I would check it when you book and again several times in the run up to your arrival so you aren’t caught surprised and unprepared. International Travel is stressful enough without a missing Covid requirement at customs.
Other than masking, a plethora of hand sanitizer dispensers and health pass flashing things feel totally normal. Like it’s 2019. So, in keeping with our hope and optimism theme, despite what Mr. Putin and COVID may have in store for us in 2022, we are glad to be back out there, exploring and seeing new things and not just on Netflix.