A personal journey across borders during covid times.
If you are reading this then I can presume you are familiar with Mountain Mavericks, but you may not know us personally. For those that don’t and by way of an introduction to the tales that follow, here is a quick update on our family situation, the very brief version.
Whilst practicing our GnT drinking skills through lockdown 1, Emma and I decided to push forward our long term plans of moving the kids back to school in the UK and we would work out how to manage what was left of the business at a future date. So over a year ago now we relocated the family to the Midlands and I have found myself heading back and forth between the UK and France a whole lot more than I had ever planned to, but with a great wife at one end and a great team at the other, it seems to be working.
Through it all I have become quiet experienced at jumping through the necessary hoops and the frustrations of rule changes that happen at the last minute. Three times the rules have changed whilst I was in transit, that required a complete change to onward plans and once 2 days before a flight that resulted in an over night wait in Garde de Nord station for the first train in the morning. Not something I would recommend, especially on a cold winters night when the temperature got down to minus four.
I do have to declare that I have a UK passport and address as well as my French right to remain, so have made my journeys in the confidence that they will not stop me from entering the country, assuming I have all the right paper work and the ever crucial negative test.
I’m not sure I have a purpose for this particular ramble or if indeed there is a point to be made, but I am not going to list out my every journey and what was different. I will tell the tales of the last few times I have come and gone. Maybe as a way of venting my frustrations towards a set of rules that have had such a huge negative impact on not just our business, but whole communities and industries.
I am referring to the period of time December 2021 and January 2022, when travelers are banned from entering France from the UK, unless they had residency or right to remain. At the same time however you can enter Switzerland and transiting to France is a valid enough reason to do so.
I drove back the UK for Christmas, filled out the PLF, but as I still had a day 2 test in my cupboard from my last trip as I was back for less than 48 hours, I used the same code on the form. I am presuming that when passport control scan your passport that the associated PLF comes up, but can’t say I actually know what the process is. However I showed my passport and that was it. No further questions, my negative test had been checked by the ferry company, but otherwise good to go.
I am generally one to stick to the rules and as my ability to cross the border is important to me, I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. So I make sure I have all the forms I need and print them all off. So when you get to breeze through the checks, I find a strange conflict between being happy that I got a quick passage through, but at the same time frustration. Excuse me sir, but do you realize how long it took me to get all this together, you could at least do me the curtesy of looking at it and maybe even making comment on what a good job I’ve done.
A week later I am on my way back to France. This time flying via Geneva and with Luc and Lola with me. Again for those that don’t know our eldest two at 10 and 14 years. This time I had to contend with both requirements for France and Switzerland as well as working out what was necessary for the kids. Entry in to Switzerland one PLF form and a test for me. France required three forms each and a test for both Luc and myself. So with a folder full of paper off we went and yet again I had to show my vaccine status at Swiss passport control, but that was it. No interest in the French requirements and subsequently there was no interest at all the French border.
Now whilst in France we were subject to the rules of the pass sanitaire. For me not a problem as I am jabbed as I can be, Lola is too young and exempt, but Luc fell into that awkward category of being too young to have had both jabs in the UK but required to have had them in France to enter bars and ski lifts. Technically speaking he had had his second jab the day before we flew out, but it would not be valid for 7 days and I didn’t realize until too late that to get his QR code required a trip to the GP. I had two worries concerning Lucs situation, he would need to have a test to enter restaurants including the Aubergade where we were staying and to not only just get a liftpass but use the lifts.
Obviously we are responsible for checking the pass at the Aubergade, so I was a little relaxed about that one as although there had been tales of the Gendarmes checking, they were few and far between. Given that he was meant to be on a ski holiday I was worried about the situation regarding accessing the lifts.
Coincidentally the first day we were back I had a meeting with the head of the liftpass office in Morzine, so I was able to get the full scoop. So yes as decreed by the government you need a pass sanitaire (soon to be pass vaccinee) to buy a liftpass and access the lifts. However the lift pass company and their staff do not have the right to deny you the sale or access to the lifts. They can only tell you what you should do, but otherwise must let you carry on. It’s only the Gendarmes that have the authority to do so and they have not been seen on the hill. As it was we carried on as usual and had a great time skiing, not once being asked to show a pass.
In a rarer state of affairs, by the time we were due to return the UK had drastically reduced the testing requirements for entry, which made it a breeze coming back. I used the same code for my PLF as technically the test was still in my cupboard and 48 hours later I am now back in France having strolled through Swiss passport control not having to have showed anything but my passport. I have to admit this time I didn’t even bother with the French paperwork.
As said, I don’t think there was much purpose to this post, but I felt the need to write it. I guess it stems from the fact that there is so much trepidation created around the ever changing regulations and folder full of paperwork you need to cross borders. Let alone what goes on once you’ve arrived. If you took all the hype at full value you would not be mistaken for thinking that you are constantly showing forms and giving your life history in order to go for drink or some dinner. It’s no wonder and I myself have had much stress at checking the various regulations in the past. However what I want to say is that in reality it’s nowhere nearly that bad and once you have an idea of what you need and you can be confident of that it just comes down to bit more hassle, but you can enjoy your holiday as much as ever.
On which note if you have any questions about what you do need and how it might apply to your own situation, please just ask.