Travel ban to France - vouchers etc
There’s a ban on non-essential travel to France, so skiing holidays are having to be postponed. Skiing should of course count as essential! But it doesn't yet. Crazy world.
The sudden ban is a nightmare for people who had holidays booked over Xmas and New Year, and worrying for those with holidays booked further ahead. Let's hope the ban doesn't last long.
So far, thousands of skiers have had to cancel, postpone or move ski holidays. Thousands more might have to, if the travel ban continues.
For the ski-travel industry, this is devastating. I was interviewed by Connexion about this:
To try to be useful regarding ski holidays by train, I’ve done some research, and this is what I know so far.
A statement from Eurostar:
'Our immediate focus is looking after our customers, who are once again facing disruption during the Christmas travel period. For those who need to change their plans, we are offering a fee-free exchange or e-voucher. Alternatively, you can claim a refund if you have a refundable ticket.
'Please note that you can request an eVoucher up to 11:00pm the day before your journey by visiting Manage Your Booking section of the Eurostar website. Your eVoucher will be valid until 30 June 2022 to rebook a new journey.
'We understand and fully support the need for governments to tighten travel restrictions in the interests of public health, to help contain the virus as new variants emerge, and we are advising our passengers accordingly.
'However, once the variant is established and being spread within communities, it is difficult to see what further purpose such restrictions serve. It is important that they are not in place any longer than is absolutely evidenced and necessary.
'Looking forward, we urge governments to commit now to a clear, consistent and sustainable approach to the response to these future challenges, which is more than the sudden switching on and off of travel at significant cost to people, businesses and the economy.'
I asked Eurostar to clarify what is meant by ‘Your eVoucher will be valid until 30 June 2022 to rebook a new journey.’
A spokesperson responded: “The e-voucher is valid to the 30th June but passengers can book up to the full booking horizon. Just to confirm that indeed the booking horizon is now 330 days, so by 30th June 2022 skiers will be able to book the 2022/23 ski season.”
I imagine that this applies to Eurostar + TGV journeys booked through the Eurostar website, too, but Eurostar hasn’t specifically confirmed this to me, although I did ask. One problem would be that although the booking horizon for Eurostar trains is 330 days, for TGV journeys it’s less. Therefore, Eurostar would still need to extend the validity of vouchers in order to enable people to book equivalent journeys for winter 2022-23.
More details about how to exchange your Eurostar ticket for a voucher:
What Trainline told me:
Like Rail Europe, and OUI.sncf, Trainline is a rail-ticketing website – very popular in the UK, so I’m sure you know it. You might have booked a train journey to a ski resort through the Trainline website. I contacted Trainline’s press office to find out more.
Trainline’s page about covid travel restrictions is here: https://www.thetrainline.com/trains/latest-coronavirus-travel-information
If you scroll down all the way to the 'Travel restrictions in Europe' section, and then click on the 'France (Eurostar, SNCF, Renfe-SNCF, Thalys)' section, you'll find the following info:
‘From midnight on Saturday 18th December 2021 (2300 GMT Friday), there will be a requirement to have an essential reason to travel between France and the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated. This is irrespective of nationality (e.g. the same rule applies for non-EU passport holders and EU passport holders).
‘To support passengers, Eurostar has decided to extend fee-free exchange until 10th January 2022. This means that if your journey is affected by the new restrictions, exchange fees will automatically be waived and only the fare difference will apply. Where tickets are exchanged for a higher-priced ticket, customers will need to pay the difference. Where tickets are exchanged for a lower-priced ticket, the difference in price will not be refunded.’
Because this mentions Eurostar, but not TGV, and most skiers will be booking journeys that involve a Eurostar combined with a TGV, I asked Trainline’s press office for clarification.
Trainline said: ‘Yes it includes TGV in line with SNCF’s rules.’
I believe (but am not 100% sure) that the spokesperson was referring to these SNCF rules:
‘Tickets are exchangeable and refundable free of charge up to three days before departure, for TGV INOUI in France and international trains (excluding Lyria, Renfe SNCF in cooperation, Eurostar, Thalys), as well as for INTERCITES.’
These rules can be found further up in the ‘Travel in Europe’ section.
Tickets booked via rail-booking agent
If you’ve booked a journey through a rail-booking agent like The Travel Bureau, Trainseurope, Ffestiniog Travel or International Rail, then contact them. They will know what to do and will help you accordingly.
As a general rule
To change a journey or request vouchers, contact the point of sale you bought it from, whether that’s the Eurostar website, Trainline website, Rail Europe website, a travel agent such as The Travel Bureau or Trainseurope, or a tour operator. Remember that monetary refunds are normally only possible if your train is cancelled, or if you've booked it as part of a bonded package.
Three useful stories about the French travel ban:
Simon Calder in The Independent:
Miles Brignall in The Guardian:
Lucy Aspen in The Telegraph:
Once I have more useful info, I will let you know. Feel free to email me back with any questions. I will collate these and try to provide answers, where I can.
A thought, for what it's worth
Situations like this, where things we love to do (like ski holidays) are suddently, temporarily not possible, serve to remind us that it is so important to appreciate what we have in life. So much of the joy, beauty and meaning in life comes from just appreciating the little things around us. Our neolithic brains are wired to quickly feel less happy about the big stuff we have and make more plans, get more. But the joy and meaning to be found in small stuff, in the now not the future, is everywhere. That's where the magic lives. That's the only place. As John Lennon said 'Life's what happens when you are making plans.'