BREAKING NEWS: Just hours after this post was published, we learned that France reportedly will lift rules requiring its vaccine pass on March 14, 2022. Thanks to our friend Patty Moss for alerting us to this new development reported on a French news site.
Last week, we asked our readers for advice in obtaining the EU Covid Certificate or France’s Pass Sanitaire before leaving the United States. One or the other is needed to obtain QR codes that allow access to most venues in France, as well as for long-distance train transport. For U.S. citizens, our CDC Vaccination Card once sufficed, but no longer.
Your CDC Vaccination Card can be converted, however, to a European QR code at a pharmacy, but that could be challenging for someone arriving in Paris, for example, and hoping to hop on a train to Strasbourg or Bordeaux. We’re told that the CDC card likely will not work in these situations, because railway personnel are equipped to scan QR codes and not to decipher CDC cards. And even if you’re lucky enough to get on the train but you’re later asked to present your QR code and you don’t have one, you could be fined €135.
We’ve heard rumor that a universal program is in the works, so that QR codes could be generated without having to pay for conversions at pharmacies or elsewhere, but for now, and probably for quite some time, you’re going to have to show up at a pharmacy and pay €36 to convert your CDC card to a European QR code.
Note that getting CDC cards converted to QR codes isn’t a problem for those who plan to arrive at a French airport and stay in the arrival city for a few days. They can have their cards converted during their stay. If, like me, you plan on flying into Paris and boarding a train to Strasbourg or Bordeaux, however, you face a challenge. How to get around it?
- Fly directly to your destination. In April, more than a dozen of us are barge cruising from Strasbourg. Many of us are flying into Paris, and some of us are hoping to hop on the TGV for Strasbourg. The train station is conveniently located inside of CDG airport, so this is normally an easy transition. With the new QR-code requirements, however, we’ll need to find a pharmacy inside the airport to have our CDC cards converted (I’ll cover that in a moment). Others, however, are flying to Strasbourg via Amsterdam or other cities in Europe. Smart. They won’t have a problem. They can convert their CDC cards during their stays in Strasbourg.
- Convert your CDC card at CDG (the main airport in Paris). There are a few pharmacies at CDG that offer the CDC card conversions. But have you been to France? If so, you know that the card conversion could be an easy process or it could be a difficult one, depending on the pharmacies’ operating hours, how many people are ahead of you, etc. You can find a list of pharmacies that offer the conversion services as well as other useful information at Paris by Mouth.
- Use your cruise company for transfers. You won’t need to hop on a train, so you’re all set to transfer on motorcoaches chartered by the cruise companies.
- Plan to stay a day or two in the arrival city. If you’re in Paris a couple of days before heading off to Bordeaux, Strasbourg or elsewhere, you’ll have time to get your CDC card converted while in Paris.
- Fly into another country. I decided to do this, not wholly because of the hassles of getting the Pass Sanitaire at CDG but in part because I found better flights into Frankfurt, Germany, where I will board a German train for Strasbourg. As of now, I cannot determine if my CDC card will suffice or if I will need to have my card converted at a pharmacy inside FRA. I’ve read anecdotal stories that the CDC cards suffice in Germany. In France, the directive seems pretty clear. You must have a vaccine pass (meaning the QR code) to board any TGV INOUI, INTERCITÉS or OUIGO train, or any long-distance international train departing from France. These requirements do not apply to RER or Transilien commuter trains, or TER regional trains operating in France.
- Rent a car. If you don’t have to board a train right away, you’re good to go.
- Have someone convert your CDC card for you. One of our readers had her daughter convert her card for her so that when she arrived in France, she was ready to travel.
That’s about all of the ways I can think of the work around the QR-code requirements. Oh, and if you do get your QR code, just make sure your phone is charged so that you can show it to authorities. It would be a bummer to go to all that trouble only to discover that when you went to present your hard-earned QR code, your phone battery was dead. Welcome to the world of post-pandemic travel.