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Fares soar in race to reach France by 11pm to beat travel ban

Air fares are soaring and train tickets are dwindling as travellers race to beat the French travel ban that begins at 11pm GMT on Friday.

British Airways flights this afternoon from London Heathrow to Nice are selling at £740 one-way, while Air France is charging £683 from Newcastle to Paris.

During the course of the morning, Eurostar has sold all its afternoon and evening departures to Paris after the 12.31pm train – for which one-way tickets are on sale for £195. Passengers will need to meet current French rules, including being fully vaccinated and having a negative Covid test.

The cross-Channel train operator is telling passengers: “Please only come to London St Pancras station on Friday 17 December if you have a confirmed booking for that day and a negative test result.”

Eurostar told The Independent that forward bookings for 18 December onwards have more than halved since the ban was announced.

The travel deadline was set by France to try to stem the spread of the omicron variant of coronavirus, which Boris Johnson has described as a “tidal wave” engulfing the UK.

For British travellers, holidays and business trips to France cannot go ahead until further notice. Family visits are allowed only in extreme circumstances: the death or terminal prognosis of a close relative.

With very few exceptions, only French citizens and residents will be able to enter after 11pm (midnight French time) – regardless of vaccination status.

At the time of writing, from Edinburgh to Paris, easyJet still has three seats left at £95 for its afternoon departure. There are also two seats on the final easyJet flight from Manchester to the French capital at 6.55pm for £112.

Space is selling out rapidly on cross-Channel ferries. While sailings from Dover to Calais can normally accommodate “drive-up” vehicles, P&O Ferries is urging travellers to book in advance for travel on Friday.

It emerged overnight that the new rules on transit through France are extremely tight. While international-to-international connections at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport are allowed for British travellers, UK motorists may not drive through France to Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy or Spain.

Only EU citizens and residents travelling to their main place of residence may cross France. They will be required to show proof, and to meet the new, tight French travel regulations – including a test within 24 hours of departure.

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