How to go to France in summer 2022
The summer holidays are here with us again. The Solent is crowded and we haven’t been to France since before Covid. Here’s how we popped over to Cherbourg for a weekend on my Sadler 32. I’m hoping this short explanation of the formalities can help those unfamiliar with the new changes since Brexit and Covid, if anyone is at all worried about how difficult it might be.
In short, it isn’t! Everyone was extremely welcoming – the marina staff, restaurant staff, border police (Police aux Frontieres, or PAF) and the steps are simple. Read on to find out more.
You will need to notify the British authorities that you are leaving British waters, and again when you return. From this year you can do this using a C1331 (see link below) in the form of an excel spread sheet via an email. If you click on the tabs, it will auto populate an email for you to send.
Documents you will need to take
Everyone will need a passport, less than ten years old. While you don’t need a visa for short visits, this is limited to 90 days in every 180 days. Make sure your passport was stamped out the last time you left the EU, if after Brexit. It’s also worth having a GHIC or EHIC.
Someone on board needs a radio licence and an ICC. We weren’t asked for them, but we heard from owners whose yachts were searched at sea.
We weren’t asked for boat papers, but you should have them with you. Registration document (SSR); ships radio licence, insurance documents, evidence of relief from VAT and import duty (VAT invoice), logbook (which you should complete with your voyage details).
Animals on board
You can’t transport animals on your yacht to and from the EU.
Choosing a port in France
Going to France, you will need to enter via an official port of entry. We used Cherbourg. Here is the list of ports of entry on the Channel coast.
Dunkirk, Calais, Boulogne, Dieppe, Le Havre, Honfleur, Caen/Ouistreham, Cherbourg, Carteret, Granville, St Malo, St Brieuc/Légué, and Roscoff. The Cherbourg PAF may be willing to accept entry via St Vaast; you should check if this is still the case.
Dig out the Q flag along with the French courtesy flag. You’ll need the Q flag when you come home too, and the national yacht line (HMRC) will email you when you are allowed to take it down once you have sent them your return C1331.
You will need to leave the EU from an official port too, so that you can get an exit stamp on your passport. Very important if you want to go back there! Special rules apply to Ireland which is not covered here.
We called the port on +33 (0)2 33 87 65 70. There were plenty of spaces and no need to book. Their email address is email@example.com and their website is www.portchantereyne.fr. The friendly staff were great and very helpful, we felt very welcome. To fill up with fuel, this can be found by going straight ahead to the pontoon right by the harbour office on pontoon ‘J’.
There is plenty in the news about taking food to France. You will be OK so long as the food doesn’t leave your yacht. Same for any food you bought in France and brought back to the UK.
Check duty free limits for goods you plan to take ashore. You can bring an incredible 18 litres of wine back to the UK. Happy shopping!
Stamping your passports; submitting your boat papers
The PAF came to the marina office at 9am and 6pm everyday. They will stamp you in and out.
If you miss them, you will need to go to the PAF office which is open 24/7. The address is 27 rue Dom Pedro and is only a 20-minute walk from the harbour office. It’s in the centre of the complex and is hard to find. You can also call the office on +33 (0)2 33 88 72 20.
Each person on board must have his or her passport stamped. They were happy to accept all the passports from the skipper, not everyone had to go. We also managed to get ours stamped the night before an early start back to the UK, we just returned to our yacht and stayed onboard.
You will need to complete a form for entry. This is accepted by email, or you can hand it over. The link is below. If you forget this, the PAF should be able to provide you with a form.
There are no covid requirements now in place in France for those coming from green list countries, including the UK. No forms; vaccination certificates; masks (unless you go to a hospital or similar).
Arrival back in the UK
You will need to fly the Q flag until you have cleared Customs. An email with another C1331 form and a phone call to the Border Force is enough if you have only British passport holders on board.
I hope it encourages you to revisit France. The paperwork can be overcome. I haven’t included every scenario in this article, but it should show you that it can be done!
Useful linksDeclare pleasure craft on voyages leaving or arriving in the UK Pontons visiteurs Navigation de plaisance hors espace Schengen Sailing pleasure craft to and from the UK Paperwork Boating with your pet Entry and Exit Formalities Entering & Leaving France for Cruisers Paperwork for going across the channel Bringing goods into the UK for personal use Foreign travel advice France Sailing to France: what you need to know