While You're There
Practical Information on France while you're there
During their stay in France, visitors are usually asked to pay a tourism tax or a flat-rate tourism tax which is fixed by the local authority and varies from € 0.15 to € 1.07 per person per day, according to the quality and standard of the accommodation.
Where the tourism tax is not flat rate, children under 4 years of age are exempt and children under 10 are charged half the rate.
This tax is collected by the owner of the accommodation and will be included in your hotel bill, rent, etc...
Are you a national of an E.U. country? Before leaving ask your local social security office for a "European Form E.111". This will enable you to be reimbursed for any medical costs and prescription charges when you return.
For nationals of other countries, you should apply to an insurance company which will cover you in case of illness or accident in France.
The national currency in France (and in the European Union ) is the Euro. U.S. dollars are not accepted in most establishments; however, some hotels, shops and restaurants may accept your U.S. dollars at an agreed upon exchange rate. As of April 2002, the exchange rate is US $1 to 1.12 €
Euro (€): The new French currency
Bills: 500€ / 200€ / 100€ / 50€ / 20€/ 10€/ 5€
Coins: 2€ / 1€ / 50 cents / 20c / 10c / 5c / 2c / 1c. The Euro is divided into 100 cents. Take a look at bills and coins.
Prices in France
As a rule, prices for hotels and restaurants in the French regions, and for other goods and services -- major cities included -- are significantly less expensive than in Paris.
There are also significant discounts for senior citizens, students and children under 18 for domestic transportation, museums and monuments for some leisure activities like the movies.
RESTAURANTS : Restaurants usually charge for meals in two ways: a prix-fixe menu (also called a "menu"). This includes 2 or 3 courses, with cheese and/or dessert, and sometimes a half-bottle of wine — all for a stated price — or ordering "a la carte" – The more expensive way, with each course ordered separately.
CAFES : Prices at cafes can vary considerably depending on the location of a particular cafe as well as where one is seated in the establishment. Prices in areas that attract a high volume of tourists (for example, the vicinity of the Champs-Elysees, around Notre Dame) tend to be more expensive. Every cafe has different prices depending on whether one stands at the counter or sits at a table.
TIPPING IN FRANCE : Almost all restaurant include tax and a 15% service charge (service compris) in their prices. If a meal or service has been particularly good, leaving another 1.50€ (or 2-3%) is customary, as is leaving the waiter the small change from your bill if you pay in cash. If service is not included (service non compris) a 15% tip is appropriate. In hotels, tip porters 1.50€ for each bag and chambermaids 1.50€ a day. Taxi drivers should be given 10-15% of the metered fare. Tip hairdressers 10%, assistant 5%. Small tips of around 1.00€ are reasonable for cloakroom and washroom attendants, ushers and museum tour guide. It is standard practice to tip tour guides and bus drivers after an excursion, generally 1.50-3.00€, depending on the level of the satisfaction.
Bank Opening Hours
Banking hours in Paris are usually from 10.00am to 5.00pm, Monday through Friday. Throughout the rest of France, banks are usually open from 10am to 1pm, and 3pm to 5pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Banks often close earlier the day before a public holiday.
Currency exchange can be made in most banks (look for a sign indicating Change) and post offices as well as in some large stores, train stations, airports and exchange offices near major tourist sites. Remember that even though exchange rates are fixed, agent commissions vary: they must be clearly displayed. Exchange rates vary from bank to bank in the U.S. and France. Large cities in the U.S. generally have banks specialized in foreign exchange with lower exchange rates. The same applies in France. In general, it is best to find a larger bank or exchange office in the center of town or in a financial area. If only a small amount of money is being exchanged, the hotel's money exchange rate may be adequate. Traveler's checks in U.S. dollars should be exchanged in banks or exchange offices because very few businesses will accept them. Traveler's checks in French francs can be purchased in the U.S. from specialized banks or in any major banks in France. They offer a safe means of traveling with ready cash.
For a currency converter, click here.
They are accepted in a large number of shops, hotels and restaurants. Shopkeepers often state a minimum amount required to be spent.
If you lose your credit card, immediately contact your credit card emergency hot-line to cancel the card, or call your credit card company's local office - see choise of numbers below:
Visa: Toll free: 1-800-VISA-911
Diner's Club: Toll free: 0810 314 159
American Express: Toll free: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877- 382-4357)
Health / Emergencies
In case of emergencies
SAMU (medical emergencies): 15
Police emergencies: 17
Fire Service emergencies: 18
European emergency line: 112
SOS Médecins (Paris – emergency doctors): +33 (0) 1 47 07 77 77 or +33 (0) 820 332 424
SOS Dentistes (Paris – emergency dentists): +33 (0) 1 43 37 51 00
Check with British Social Security before travelling to see if you are eligible for emergency cover under form E111 (can be obtained from Post Offices). First Aid, medical advice and night service rota are all available from pharmacies, recognisable by their green cross.
Gendarmeries will give you their addresses. Vaccinations are not normally required from mainland Britain.
There are a variety of medical services available to you in France. Consultations and examinations by GPs, specialists, dentists etc, as well as emergency room facilities, will be provided at any hospital or health center. You can also make an appointment for sugery, or have a doctor visit you at your hotel. Doctors are either registered with the Department of Health (their fees are fixed), or are in a private practice (their fees will be more expensive).
There is always a doctor on call, but please be aware that home visits and consultations on Sundays and public holidays are always more expensive.
To find out the addresses and telephone numbers of local doctors, ask at the police station or dial 15 (SAMU – medical emergencies).
There is a wide network of pharmacies in most towns. Although their hours of business are usually the same as for stores (9am to 7pm or 8pm), there is always a pharmacie open nights, Sundays and on public holidays.
All pharmacies display the address of the nearest one.
Certain medications may require a prescription, while others may be bought over the counter. The pharmacist will provide you with the necessary information, and will be able to advise you accordingly.
Refund of medical costs
If you are a citizen of a country belonging to the European Union, you can be refunded for your medical costs on your return. Ensure that you take an International Social Security form E111 with you. However, the simplest way is to take out an all-risks insurance before you leave. In case of a problem, your insurer will take charge of everything.
In France, there are three meals a day.
First, breakfast from around 7.00am to 9.00am, a meal composed of a hot drink (coffee, tea or chocolate), croissants and/or bread, butter and jam.
Then lunch, between 12.00pm and 2.00pm: the main meal usually consisting of a starter, main course and/or a dessert. It is usually finished off with an espresso coffee.
Finally dinner, which starts around 8.00pm.
A snack (around 4.00pm) is traditionally reserved for children, although some adults change it into tea and cakes.
At the restaurant
In France you will find all sorts of restaurants, from simple, small, cozy ones to famous, gourmet restaurants, along with brasseries, inns, tearooms...
In restaurants, bread and carafes of water are included in the price shown, as well as all service charges, even if it is usual to leave a tip.
Pasteurised milk is available everywhere (ask for lait frais pasteurisé). Water served in restaurants and hotels is perfectly safe; so is tap water unless labelled EAU NON POTABLE (water not for drinking).
Eat at any time
The majority of restaurants serve food from 12.00pm to 3.00pm and from 7.00pm to 11.00pm. Some will welcome you even later – larger brasseries and those near to railway stations. In large towns, small grocery shops stay open until midnight. During the day, you can eat at any time in sandwich shops, fast-food restaurants, or again in some brasseries.
For all tastes...
Should you be an adventurer, you still want to keep your habits in terms of food!
A huge breakfast and a simple sandwich at midday, or lunch as the only meal of the day... dinner at 6 o'clock or start the meal much later...
You can also find some vegetarian restaurants. And face to the rise of a vegetarian demand, most of French restaurants have added some vegetarian meals on their menu.
Asian food is very appreciated by the French. So you can find Asian restaurants anywhere in Paris and in each French city with a large choice of prices and ambiance, from Chinese to Indian restaurants!
Whatever is usual, French professionals are trying hard to adapt to the different pace of their guests: more flexible mealtimes, menus adapted for everyone's requirements...
So everyone can find a meal at his or her convenience!
Service and Tips
Service is included in restaurants. This has nothing to do with tips that you leave as a mark of appreciation. It is usual to give porters and doormen, theatre and cinema usherettes, guides, taxi drivers and hairdressers a tip of 10 francs (1.52€)
If you live outside the European Union, you are entitled to a 12% reduction in duty on certain articles, provided that the amount of your purchases should be higher than or equal to €175including tax, and that these purchases are made on the same day in the same shop.
Check the terms and conditions before making your purchases.
In large towns, bakers and food shops open very early in the morning and close around 7.00pm or 8.00pm (or even later in Paris). They are usually closed on Sunday afternoons, the afternoons of Public Holidays and one day in the week.
Other shops open at 9.00am or 10.00am and close between 7.00pm and 8.00pm.
In the regions, they often close between 1.00pm and 2.00pm. They are usually open from Tuesday to Saturday (except public holidays). Large supermarkets are usually open until 9.00pm or 10.00pm.
In the regions, hypermarkets are usually situated outside of towns, in retail parks.
Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Go window-shopping at the great couturiers, along the Avenue Montaigne (Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior...), the Faubourg Saint-Honoré (Hermès, Gucci), the Place de la Madeleine, the Saint-Sulpice quarter or Sèvres-Babylone, between the Rues de Grenelle, du Cherche-Midi and des Saints-Pères (Versace, Sonia Ryckiel...).
Alongside these famous names, a number of designers have appeared: Agnès B. and Claudie Pierlot (at Les Halles or Saint-Sulpice), Kenzo (Place des Victoires), Ventilo, Et Vous... in the Marais...
The department stores: Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marché, Samaritaine or BHV, are Parisian institutions... some of which have branches in the regions. They provide numerous brand names and offer every sort of merchandise.
For bargain hunters, two large flea markets are held outside central Paris: Porte de Vanves and Porte de Saint-Ouen (the largest of all).
Another Parisian specialty – the booksellers with their stalls along the banks of the Seine around the Saint-Michel quarter. Antique books, all sorts of second-hand books, comic strips, post cards... You can find everything there at all prices. It is well worth strolling along!
Markets: going to the market is a pleasure. Nothing surprising in that, there is always a happy mix of colors and smells. Paris has many and various markets: the flower market on the Ile de la Cité, bird markets, organic markets, and food markets in every quarter. A real walkabout in a good natured and typical Parisian atmosphere!
In the regions, the town centre often has a number of clothes shops which are just as good as those in Paris. Some towns have second-hand clothes shops with keen prices or very trendy shops.
Every town or village in the regions also have their weekly market; here you will find lots of regional products, whilst making the most of a completely different atmosphere to that of the capital.
Sightseeing, Shows, Nightlife
Shows (cinema, concerts, theatre...) or other activities (festivals, flea markets, exhibitions...) are listed in specialist guides on sale at newspaper kiosks or in the local press, especially in the weekend editions.
Tourist Offices also have available lists of events in the town and surrounding area.
In Paris you can find guides for events in Paris at newspaper kiosks - Pariscope, L'Officiel des Spectacles, Zurban... They list all cinema programmes, museums, exhibitions, all types of shows.
For the theatre, there are two kiosks, on the forecourt of the Montparnasse railway station and at the Place de la Madeleine, which offer tickets for that day at reduced rates.
You can buy your tickets (theatre, concert, show...) in FNAC and Virgin sales outlets amongst others, or directly from the theatre or concert hall itself.
Museums and Monuments
The towns and regions of France have all sorts of museums and monuments for the visitor.
Museum opening times vary, but please note that municipal museums are closed on Mondays, and national museums are closed on Tuesdays (except the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, which is closed on Mondays).
Usually they are open from 10.00am to 7.00pm. Some large museums have late-night opening on Wednesdays or Thursdays.
Find out everything about places to visit from the Regional Tourism Council or Tourist Office. You will find everything you need to know there.
In Paris the Musées Monuments card will help you gain entry to a number of sites: valid for 1, 3 or 5 days, it gives you free access, direct and unlimited to 70 museums in Paris and Ile-de-France.
They are available from the Paris Tourist Office, metro stations and from the sites themselves.
1 day: €15
3 days: €30
5 days: €45
In large towns (and in the majority of others), you will find film centers showing big international films dubbed into French, or the original version with subtitles.
Art et Essai cinemas show rarer and/or older films.
You can often buy your tickets in advance so as to avoid the queue before the start of the film.
All large towns have one or more concert halls where French and international artists play. Classical music concerts often take place in churches and specialised halls.
In Paris and in the regions, theatres are numerous and offer a wide variety of shows (from great classics to light comedy, from one-man shows to cabaret...).
Even the smallest village has its church bell tower. In the same way, each town has its bar (and often more than one); they are one of the French institutions!
Bars often open very early (you can have your breakfast there) and some can close at 2 o'clock in the morning. In the regions, they are very popular relaxed places where the locals meet friends, at the weekend and during the week.
In the smallest towns, they also occasionally sell bread or newspapers, or can be the local filling station...
In Paris as everywhere, lively areas are developing: if Bastille still buzzes, the Oberkampf or Marais quarters are more trendy today. If you prefer "quieter" quarters, a stroll around the hill at Montmartre or a rest at one of the famous cafés in Saint-Germain-des-Prés (le Flore, les Deux-Magots...) are still worth a detour!
They are everywhere and in even the remotest corners of France. Their style and music vary a lot from one place to another... find out before you go! Some things are the same: closing time is fixed at 5 o'clock in the morning