France Travel Tips
Banks: 09:30 to 16:30, Monday to Friday
Department Stores and Shops: 09:00 to 18:30, Monday to Saturday
Business Offices: 09:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday
Visitors should be aware that while most of the country experiences a low-to-moderate crime rate, the possibility of petty crime always exists. Pickpocketing and wallet and handbag theft are reported at tourist attractions, at transportation centers and on public transport systems. Theft from cars is reportedly on the rise; drivers should keep windows rolled up, doors locked and all valuables well out of sight.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Two-round pin plugs are in use.
The only proof of inoculations required for visitors entering France is for those who have recently visited an area where yellow fever is prevalent. Anyone whose plans involve spending time in one of France’s forested areas is advised to consider being vaccinated for tick-borne encephalitis. Rabies is also present here and those planning on spending part of their holiday in wilderness areas should be aware of the risk. Any animal bite should be taken seriously and medical help should be sought as quickly as possible.
Tourists who are nationals of EU member nations are eligible for free or significantly reduced cost treatment for an urgent accident, or an illness occurring while visiting France. The treatment facility staff will ask to see a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Full travel insurance is advised for all travellers, however, for costs not normally covered by the EU scheme– and for all visitors who are not EU nationals.
French is the country’s official language and many regional dialects are spoken. Basque is the first language of a large percentage of the population in the south-western border area with Spain and Breton of part of the population of Brittany. Quite a number of people, especially those involved in business, and anyone connected with the tourist industry, understand and speak English.
The national currency is the Euro, as France is a member of the EU: abbreviation EUR; symbol€. Each Euro is equivalent to 100 cents. Bank notes are circulated in denominations of€500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are found in denominations of€2 and 1; and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.
Currency can be exchanged at most banks, bureau de change and post offices. Exchange service counters are easily recognized by a sign reading ‘Change.’ Some hotels are also authorized to exchange foreign currency. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers’ checks. You find ATMs conveniently located throughout the cities and smaller towns in France.
Visitors to France arriving from non-EU countries are permitted to bring in the following goods without incurring customs duty: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars; one litre of spirits; two litres of fortified wine; two liters of still wine; 250ml of eau de toilette; 50g of perfume; 500g of coffee; and 100g of tea. It is also permissible to bring in personal medications. The total value of other goods that may be brought into the country is€175.
The typical forms of greeting in France are shaking hands and kissing both cheeks– with the latter a more familiar form of greeting. People are generally referred to simply as Monsieur or Madame without a surname, until the relationship has developed to a level familiar enough for first names to be used.
Casual wear has become more common, even at some social functions. There still are social functions, casinos, clubs and more upscale restaurants where more formal attire is expected. Topless sunbathing is an accepted practice for women at the majority of French beaches; but totally nudity is restricted to ‘naturist’ areas. Smoking in public places is no longer permitted in France.
If you’re invited by someone to dinner when you’re visiting France, it is proper etiquette to arrive on time, or certainly no more than 10 minutes later than the time indicated. The standards relax a bit the farther south you go, however. If your invitation is to a large dinner party, it is customary to send flowers to the host or hostess on the morning of the event– for display during the event. At formal dinners, the host will signal when guests should begin eating by saying‘bon appetit’. Be prepared for a lengthy, leisurely meal.
Table manners in France follow the continental style, with the fork held in the left hand and the knife held in the right hand while eating. Elbows should not be rested on the table but hands should be kept at table height. It is considered polite to eat everything on your plate and to leave your wineglass full or nearly full if you don’t want it to be refilled.
Visa and Passports:
Visitors who are nationals of other European Union countries are only required to show their national ID card when entering France. All others
must be in possession of a valid passport. France is a signatory to the Shengen Agreement, meaning that visitors who do require visas are basically able to travel freely among the following countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.
Citizens of the US and Canada who are visiting France as tourists, for up to 90 days, do not require visas. For citizens of most other countries, a visa must be obtained in advance at a French consulate or embassy abroad. It is a good idea to allow plenty of time for processing the visa; and the time required differs by country.
Visitors are advised that carrying a form of ID at all times is required in France. Police officers are permitted by law to ask for proof of identity, and this might occur on the street or at transportation centers such as railway stations and airports.
Tourist Information Offices:
French government tourist offices are charged with promoting tourism in France, and they provide information on tourist destinations throughout the country, as well as assistance in trip planning. The major offices in Paris are: Paris Maison de la France, located at: 8, avenue de l'Opéra; and Siège de Maison de La France, located at 23, Place de Catalogne. Phone: +33 1 4296 7000