Country guides Europe
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard.
French is the official language.
The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in France. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some large hotels, though visitors will get a better exchange rate at the ATMs. Major credit cards are widely accepted, particularly in major tourist destinations. Foreign currency is not accepted.
Most restaurants and hotels automatically add a 15 percent service charge so a tip is not necessary, although another two to three percent is customary if the service has been good. If service is not included then 15 percent is customary. Taxi drivers expect 10 to 15 percent of the fare, and hairdressers about 10 percent. Hotel staff generally receive about €1.50 a day and tips of about €1 are given to washroom and cloakroom attendants and museum tour guides. Tour bus drivers and guides are also tipped.
No particular vaccinations or medications are required for travel to France. The prevalence of certain tick-borne infections, such as lyme disease, tularemia, tick-borne encephalitis, and rickettsial diseases, mean that travellers should take precautions against ticks if they are travelling in rural or forested areas in warm weather. French hospitals and health facilities are first class. Visitors from other EU countries are entitled to discounted medical treatment and medicines on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). After Brexit, the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for UK citizens. The GHIC allows UK citizens access to state healthcare during visits to the EU. The GHIC is not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, nor is it an alternative to travel insurance. Otherwise, doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, so medical insurance is advised.
While violent crime against tourists is rare and holidays in France are generally trouble-free, visitors should be mindful that security has been heightened following a series of terrorist attacks in recent years, particularly in the transport sector. Unattended luggage left in public places will be removed or destroyed by security staff. While generally safe, visitors to France are advised to take precautions against petty theft and to ensure their personal safety. Thieves and pickpockets operate on the metro and around airports. Theft from cars is prevalent, particularly in the south, around Marseilles, and in Corsica. Tourists are advised to conceal bags and purses even when driving, and to never leave valuables unattended in the car. Bag snatching is also common, particularly on public transport and in shopping centres, and visitors should also be vigilant of luggage while loading bags into and out of hire cars at airports.
French culture is of paramount importance to the French people. In an increasingly Americanised world they feel duty-bound to protect it, and it is appreciated if visitors can speak a few words of French. Locals do not respond well to being shouted at in English. While the food is second to none, foreigners may find the service in many restaurants sloppy. Waiters can appear rude (particularly in Paris) and take their time. This is just the way they are. Traditional games such as pétanque (similar to lawn bowling but played on gravel) are popular in village squares, but the national sports are football, rugby and cycling. Smoking in public places is not allowed and will incur heavy fines.
Business etiquette is important in France. A smart, fashionable sense of dress is common as the nation prides itself on haut couture. Punctuality is not always observed though and the 'fashionably late' tactic may be applied. A handshake is the common form of greeting for men and women upon first introductions. Titles are important and the person is to be referred to as 'monsieur' (Mr.), 'madame' (Mrs.), or 'mademoiselle' (Ms.). Meetings usually occur over lunches, and the French are known to enjoy food. Business hours are generally 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
Travellers from non-EU countries over 17 years of age entering France can bring in the following items duty-free: 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g tobacco. Four litres of wine and 16 litres of beer and one litre of spirits over 22 percent or two litres of alcoholic beverages less than 22 percent. Other goods up to the value of €430 for air and sea travellers, and €300 for other travellers (reduced to €175 for children under 15 years of age).
The international access code for France is +33. It is often cheaper to get a local sim card than to pay international roaming costs. Free WiFi is available in most hotels, cafes, restaurants and similar establishments.
Passport & Visa
The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries.
Additionally, travellers must hold sufficient funds to cover their stay in France, and proof of repatriation (a return or onward ticket, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination). Note that Schengen visas, if required, are also valid for French Guiana and French West Indies and Reunion, provided that the Schengen visa is endorsed "Also valid for French territories being in observation of the respective French territories". We recommend that passports always be valid for six months after intended period of travel.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months after their intended stay in France. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
UK citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months after their intended stay in France. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months after their intended stay in France. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days in a 180 day period.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months after their intended stay in France. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days in a 180 day period.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months after their intended stay, and a valid Schengen visa, to enter France. Note that entry and transit will be refused to holders of Temporary passports.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid on arrival. No visa is required.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months after their intended stay in France. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days in a 180 day period.
Maison de la France (Tourist Information Agency), Paris: www.france.fr/fr112 (General)
Embassies / consulates in other countries
French Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 944 6195.
French Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7073 1000.
French Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 1795.
French Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6216 0100.
French Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 425 1600.
French Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 277 5000.
French Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 384 2555.
Embassies / consulates in France
US Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4312 2222.
British Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4451 3100.
Canadian Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4443 2900.
Australian Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4059 3300.
South African Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 5359 2323.
Irish Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4417 6700.
New Zealand Embassy, Paris: +33 (0)1 4501 4343.