Today, I received a very urgent call from a friend who is traveling to Paris in 24 hours. His Schengen visa was issued by the Consulate of France in the Philippines so he was scared they would not let him enter France. There was an article circulating online about France withdrawing the Schengen agreement which means you need to apply for a French visa to be able to travel to France — but this is not true. They are still a member of the Schengen agreement. As of today, they only released a statement that ‘some’ flights have been cancelled due to precautionary measures.
But most of all, more than the entry/exit issues, my friend was concerned about his safety. I mean, who wouldn’t be? If you know me, you know I am one of those travellers who are less sensitive about safety issues. In the age of terrorism, anything can happen anywhere but I wouldn’t shatter my travel dreams/plans because of it.
France is a really beautiful country and if you are already set, you shouldn’t let fear get ahead of you. Below are some useful answers to your questions.
Is it safe to travel to France right now?
Considering there has been an extreme measure of security in the borders and immigration gates, I think it is safe to travel in France. Systematic control checks have been implemented in all entry/exit point of France. Expect to be hassled but this is for your own safety. You will be checked thoroughly but be patient. Once in France (or Paris), exercise caution in public places and strictly follow the advice of local authorities.
I already have a Schengen visa. Do I need another type of visa to enter France?
No. France is still a part of the Schengen agreement and you can use this visa in 23 different countries in Europe. The rumours about the need to apply for a French visa is not true.
Is Eurostar open/operating?
Yes. They did not stop their operations and those who wish to cancel their trip today, November 14 (if pre-booked) can get a free rebooking. Normal charges after the weekend apply. You can check Eurostar’s website for more information.
I already have a ticket to Paris. Can I still travel?
Yes. Airports in France and Paris are open. Budget airlines like Easyjet also offered free re-booking should you want to cancel/change destination until November 20.
I am already in Paris. Can I go around?
Yes. But please be cautious in wandering around the city. Don’t panic if you see a lot of police officers driving around. This is just a protocol to ensure the safety of the city.
How about local transportation in Paris?
What about the tourist destinations? Are they open?
Unfortunately, Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and Disneyland is closed over the weekend. This is the first time Disneyland closed since 1992.
Can I cancel my trip?
Yes. But normal charges may apply. You can contact your airline and ask if they are offering a free change/cancellation. However, I would encourage you not to! Just go for it!
Additional tip for travellers
When I was traveling in Africa, I had this habit of contacting all Philippine consulates in every country I enter giving them the following:
- My itinerary (including dates, places, hotels, contact persons, etc)
- A copy of my passport
- My emergency contact persons (number of my parents and sister)
It doesn’t matter if they don’t reply. The important thing is they get the message. With this, they can easily trace me in case of emergency. In the body of my message, I write this:
There is no shame in sending this type of e-mails. If you love your friends and family, you should do this because even if you care less about your safety, they are the ones who worry the most.
Let us stop for a minute and think about those innocent people who died in the Paris terror attacks. #JesuisParis