To Get There
French Public Holidays
To Get There
You can fly to France from most major cities in the USA. The major International airport is Paris Charles de Gaulle but you can also fly to and from Nice, Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg or Toulouse often with a connection through Paris.
Air France flies direct to Paris from 13 US cities including JFK New York, Newark, Washington, DC, Chicago O'Hare, Cincinnati, Houston, Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Air Tahiti Nui offers service non stop to Paris from Los Angeles. There are regular flights from Los Angeles to Tahiti and soon from New York too.
You can also fly to France from many points in Europe. Low cost carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet make it inexpensive to fly to Paris and other cities in France.
By Rail -France can be traveled to by rail from most European countries. If you plan on visiting more than one European country by rail it is a good idea to purchase a Eurailpass.
There are six main SNCF rail stations in Paris serving different geographical areas. At Gare de L'Est trains departs to the East of France: Reims, Strasbourg as well as to Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg etc..; From Gare du Nord trains travel to the north of France: Lille, Calais and it is where you take the Eurostar to England; Gare Montparnasse is the departing station for trains going to Brittany and the Atlantic Coast; from Gare de Lyon, trains travel south to Avignon, Cote d'Azur and Italy; trains from Gare d'Austerlitz go to the Southwest on to Spain and Portugal and finally Gare Saint Lazarre is the departing point for train going to Normandy. TOP
A valid passport is required of all U.S. citizens and foreign nationals entering France. No visa is needed for American visitors staying less than 90 days. Other nationals consult your nearest French Consulate office. TOP
France has a temperate climate though it is very variable within its borders. Paris and the North tend to be cold and wet in winter and often hot and humid in summer. The south including Provence, Riviera and Languedoc/Rousillon have a Mediterranean climate with the mildest temperature. This region boasts the most sunny days with mild temperature in winter but watch out for the strong Mistral wind that sometimes occur in the Provence/Cote d'Azur region. Along the Atlantic coast the weather is temperate with mild temperature and rainfall distributed throughout the year. Summers can be hot and sunny. Normandy has a rather temperate climate with frequent showers throughout the year. The Alps region and Pyrenees have more rigorous winters but hot and sunny summers. TOP
France is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and nine hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time. It follows the daytime saving time.TOP
It is best to buy a phone card sold at tabacs, newsstands and post offices (PTT) . Ask for an international phone card. Calls can be made with it from widely available public phone booths and private phones too using a special access code on the card. To reach the US dial first 001 followed by area code and number. To reach France from the US dial prefix: 01133 + phone number. TOP
France electric outlets are on 220 volts. Bring a converter/adapter (available at Radio Shack type of stores) if you plan on using your own personal electrical appliance.
Currency and Exchange
The national currency in France (and in the European Union) is the Euro. Bills come in the following bank notes denominations: 500€ / 200€ / 100€ / 50€ / 20€/ 10€/ 5€. Coins: 2€ / 1€ / 50 cents / 20c / 10c / 5c / 2c / 1c. One hundred cents make one euro.
Currency exchange can be made in most banks (look for a sign indicating "Change") and post offices (PTT) as well as in some large stores, train stations, airports and exchange offices near major tourist sites. Automatic teller machines (ATMs known in France as distributeurs de billets) are widely available and tend to offer the best exchange rates. All ATM's in France take MasterCard and VISA. Traveler's checks are safe, but many banks charge a service fee to cash them, and not all hotels, restaurants, and shops accept them for payment, even if they are in euros. (Source: franceguide.com)
MONEY EXCHANGE/BANK HOURS Banks are generally open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., or sometimes until 5:00 p.m. In smaller towns and cities banks may close from 12 noon to 2:00 p.m. Usually banks are closed Saturday/Sunday and others Sunday /Monday and on the eve of public holidays, banks often close early.
Tax and Detaxe
In France, every purchased item has a sales tax of 19.6% (the Value Added Tax or VAT) already included in the price. As tourist outside the EU you can benefit from a tax refund only if you spend more than 175 euros at any one participating store. Be sure to ask for the detaxe papers in the store when making the purchase and request that your refund be applied to one of your credit cards (this can be done even if you made the purchase in cash). Fill out the forms before you arrive at the airport for departure and give yourself plenty of time for this administrative procedure. Be sure to have the forms stamped at the clearly indicated airport customs desks. The customs official may ask to see your purchases so it's best to have them in your carry-on bag. Mail the stamped forms at the airport (the store provides an envelope) and the refund process has begun (note - this is only if France is your final point of departure back to the U.S.). VAT can be refunded for goods, but not services. (Souce: franceguide.com)
Almost all restaurants include tax and a 15% service charge (service compris) in their prices. If you are particularly pleased with the service it is customary to leave a little extra change for the waiter. If service is not included (service non compris) a 15% tip is appropriate.
Driving in France
A valid US driver's license is sufficient though it is best to bring also an International driver's license obtained from your local AAA motor club office. The legal driving age in France is 18 years. Speed limits in France are: in the city, 31mph/50 km/h; open roads, up to 110km/h or 68 mph. It is customary for drivers to yield to the right. Toll highways are called "Autoroute a Peage" and are marked by blue signs with the letter "A".
To get around Paris by Metro it is cheaper to buy a "Carnet" (pronounce: Car-nay) - or 10 tickets than individual tickets. Also consider a Paris Visit Pass (Unlimited use of the Paris metro and Bus network) available for one, three or five days.
Museums and Monuments Pass offer unlimited access to major monuments and museums in Paris. Passes are available for one, two or five days. City passes are also available in Lyon, Marseille, Nice and other cities. TOP
When traveling be on the alert!! Here are some common sense safety tips.
Never keep your bag/purse/luggage unattended
Never carry large amounts of cash
Split up your money and checks (in different bags and pockets)
Keep low denominations
Keep your credit card codes strictly confidential
Keep a photocopy of your passport and other identity papers
Never write your name or address on your keys
Always keep your temporary address with you TOP
Major Festival/Events in France
You can plan your trip to France around an event/festival that interests you. Here is a selection of the major ones. Many more take place throughout the year.
January: Cannes Fashion Show; major sales "Soldes" throughout France
February: Nice Carnival; Lemon Festival in Menton
April: Paris Marathon
May: Cannes International Film Festival; Monaco Grand Prix; Bourget Air show (every two years)
June: Roland Garros Tennis Tournament in Paris; Gay Parade in Paris; 24 Hours Car Race in Le Mans; Vinexpo, Bordeaux.
July: Tour de France; Bastille Day; Avignon Music and Theatre Festival; Aix en Provence Music Festival; International Jazz Festival in Antibes; Piano Festival in La Roque D'Antheron, Provence; more "soldes".
August: Interceltic Music Festival in Lorient
September: Paris Fashion Shows; American Film Festival in Deauville; Lille Grande Barderie (gigantic Flea Market)
October: Trade shows in Paris
November: Burgundy 3 Gloriouses : Beaujolais Nouveau is launched throughout France
December: Christmas Markets in Strasbourg and Provence; Lyon's Light Festival TOP
French Public Holidays
January 1 - New Year's Day
Easter and Easter Monday
May 1 - Labor Day
May 8 - VE Day
May 29 - Ascension Day
Pentecoste and Pentecoste Monday
July 14 - Bastille Day
August 15 - Assumption Day
November 1 - All Saints' Day (La Toussaint)
November 11 - Armistice Day
December 25 - Christmas Day