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France / Practical guidelines

General Information

The Capital

Paris - the capital of France is known for its romantic flair and is referred to as the city of love throughout the world. It is characterized among other things by the Eiffel Tower (la tour Eiffel) and by the river "Seine", which divides the city into north and south.



British Embassy Paris
35, rue du Faubourg St Honoré 
Paris Cedex 08
75383 Paris
Phone +33 (0) 1 44 51 31 00

British Consulate Bordeaux
2nd Floor 
353, Boulevard du President Wilson
33073 Bordeaux 
Phone +33 (0) 5 57 22 21 10
Fax +33 (0) 5 56 08 33 12

British Consulate Marseille
Les Docks de Marseille-La Joliette 
10 Place de la Joliette 
Atrium 10.3 
1st Floor
13002 Marseille
Phone +33 (0) 4 91 15 72 10
Fax +33 (0) 4 91 37 47 06

British Consulate Paris
16 rue d’Anjou
75008 Paris
General enquiries +33 (0) 1 44 51 31 00


U.S. Embassy Paris
2 avenue Gabriel
15008 Paris 
Phone: + 33 (0) 1 431 22 222 
Alt. Phone: +33 (0) 1 42 66 97 83

U.S. Consulate Bordeaux
89 Quai des Chartrons
33300 Bordeaux
Phone: +33 (0) 1 43 12 48 65
Fax: +33 (0)

U.S. Consulate Lyon
1, quai Jules Courmont
69002 Lyon
Phone: +33 (0) 1 43 12 48 60

U.S. Consulate General Marseille
Place Varian Fry
13286 Marseille Cedex 6
Phone : +33 (0) 1-43-12-48-85

Fax : +33 (0) 4 91 55 09 47

U.S. Consulate Rennes
30, Quai Duguay-Trouin
35000 Rennes
Phone: (0)1 43 12 48 70
Fax: (0) 2 99 35 00 92

U.S. Consulate General Strasbourg
15, Avenue d'Alsace
67082 Strasbourg Cedex
Phone.: +33 1 43 124 880
Fax: +33 3 88 240 695


Police, fire and rescue services: 112

Food and Drinks

In France three main meals a day are customary:
Breakfast, approximately between 7:00 to 9:00am, is a small meal with a warm drink (coffee, tea or hot chocolate), croissants and/or bread, butter, jam.
Lunch, from 12:00 to 2:00pm, is a full meal, made up generally of a starter, main course and / or dessert. At the end one often has an espresso.
Dinner is served from 8:00pm.
A small snack is traditionally served mainly to children in the afternoon. Adults often take tea and biscuits.
Cafes that do not offer meals often allow to bring a little something (croissant or similar) to have with the coffee.

You will find all kinds of restaurants. From nice little ones, brasseries, inns and tea shops to the renowned restaurants. The Service, a carafe of water and bread are generally included in the price, however it is still common practice to leave a tip (5-10%).

Most restaurants open their kitchen from 12:00 to 3:00pm and from 7:00 to 11:00pm. In exceptional cases, you can get hot meals even later (for example, in the great brasseries or brasseries in the immediate vicinity of the train stations). In the big cities there are small grocery stores that are open until midnight.

Festivals and Public Holidays

- 1. Januar (New Year's) 
- Good Friday (movable, only in Alsace) 
- Easter Monday
- May Day  
- 8 May (Day of the Armistice 1945)
- Ascension Day (movable)
- 14 July  (national holiday)
- 15 August (Ascension Day)
- November (All Saints)
- 11 November (day of the Armistice 1918)
- 25 December (Christmas Day)
- 26 December (Boxing Day, only in Alsace)

On these days almost all banks, offices, shops, etc. are closed.


The country is divided into four climate zones. The area west of the line Bayonne-Lille has a humid coastal climate, often with cool summers. A semi-continental climate with harsh winters and hot summers prevails in Alsace, Lorraine, along the Rhône valley and in the mountains (Alps, Pyrenees and Massif Central).
In the Paris region and in the center of the country, it is a transitional climate with cold winters and hot summers in the north, while the climate in the south of France is Mediterranean, with mild winters and very hot summers.

Time Zone

France is located in the Central European Time Zone. European Summer Time is used between the end of March and the end of October, meaning clocks are moved forward an hour during that period.

Time differences:
UK: - 1 hour
East coast: - 6 hours
West coast: - 9 hours

Tourist Tax

The "Taxe de séjour" or "Taxe de séjour forfaitaire" is based on the standard of the accommodation. The price per night lies between EUR 0.20 and  EUR 1.50 per person. Some regions may charge additional fees which are not yet included in the above tax.

Electricity and Water

Outlets in France are 220 volt. Most appliances will require adapters, which can be purchased at airports and locally.

Weights and Measures

Long distances are measured in kilometers in France. A kilometer equals about 2/3 mile.


Shorter distances are measured in meters. A meter is 3.28 feet (1.09 yards).


Weights are measured in kilos. One kilo equals 2.20 pounds.


Postal Service

Stamps can be purchased in all post offices and many tabacs.

Phone Calls

Telephone cards (télécartes) of any kind (sim or prepaid) can be purchased at a tabac, post office or souvenir shop. 

Country codes for calls placed from France:
UK: 00 44 + phone number
USA/Canada: 00 1 + phone number

Country codes for placing calls to France:
UK: 00 33 + phone number
USA/Canada: 011 33 + phone number (not including the leading zero).

To be paid locally

Fuel costs, costs for fuel service (if applicable), costs for rental cars (see rental car conditions, e.g. one-way rental, permits, child seats, snow chains etc.), tolls, food, costs for excursions booked locally by yourself, private expenses (e.g. costs for souvenirs, medication, etc.), tips, entrance fees (if applicable), transport costs (e.g. taxi, bus, train, ferry), tourism levy (if applicable), parking fees (if applicable).

Arrival and Departure

Travel Documents and Formalities

As a U.S. citizenship holder, you do not need to apply for a France Schengen Visa! You are allowed to travel to France and to all other members of the Schengen Area for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa, as long as your U.S. passport is valid for at least 3 months after your planned return to the United States! We recommend that your passport have at least six months’ validity remaining.
Immigration officers may also request you show sufficient funds for your intended stay and a return airline ticket.

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.

If the UK leaves the EU with no deal, the rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change! Please check what applies for you at the time. 

If the UK leaves with a deal, travel to the EU will remain the same as now until at least 31 December 2020. You will not need to apply for a visa to travel or work in the EU during this time.


(International) Driving License

You may drive with a valid U.S. driver’s license if it is accompanied by a notarized translation in French. It is strongly recommended that you carry an International Driving Permit. You must be 18 years of age or older to drive in France.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you might need an IDP to drive in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).

Road Code

Front and rear seat belts are obligatory in France. Although it is not illegal to talk on a hand-held mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle in France, you will be fined if you are involved in an accident while using a cell phone and may forfeit insurance coverage. Umfulana recommends that drivers refrain from talking on mobile phones while driving.

Be careful about drinking and driving: A driver whose blood alcohol level exceeds 0.5 will be considered legally intoxicated.

Cars have to be equipped with breathalyzers. Please refer to your rental car policy/T&Cs to see how many are in the car. Generally it is the client's responsibility to replace the ones used. Failing to do so will result in a fine. 

Children under 10 are not allowed to sit in the front seat. Children who weigh between 9 and 15 kg (20-33 lbs.) must sit in a properly restrained child seat.

At intersections cars approaching from the right generally have the right-of-way unless you are travelling on a “priority road” marked by a yellow diamond, so always be prepared to yield to motorists approaching from the right. At roundabouts (traffic circles) cars already in the circle normally have priority.


Speed Limits

In towns: 50 km/h (30 mph)
On motorways: 130 km/h (80 mph) 
On highways: 90 km/h (56 mph)

Speed limits are rigorously enforced in France and speed traps are frequent. Fines must be paid on the spot (ask for a receipt). Drivers caught exceeding the speed limit by over 25 km/h may have their licenses confiscated.


In France it is allowed to park on the left side of the road (white markings). Yellow lines mean that parking is not allowed. Cars parked in no-parking zones will often be towed. In the city centers also a "zone bleue" (blue zone) exists, in which you need to use the blue disc which should be provided in your car.

Very little free parking is available in downtown areas. Parking along the street often requires feeding a parking meter, which may be located some distance from the car. After you’ve deposited the required fee, the meter will produce a ticket that must be placed in the front windshield. 

Watch for no-parking signs, as violations may result in your car being towed away. The two main parking signs are:


Breakdown and Accident

An emergency telephone number will be included in the documents you receive from your rental car agency. Emergency phone calls can be made free of charge from any public telephone. Emergency phone numbers are: 

- Police: 17
- Ambulance: 25
- Fire: 18 
- Operator: 13
- Directory assistance: 12


Various grades of unleaded fuel are available at filling stations. Be sure to find out what grade of fuel is required for your car during pickup. The cheapest petrol is available at the big supermarkets which will generally be paid for by credit card at the pump. 

On public holidays, weekends and during the night petrol station in the country are likely to be closed. 

Toll Roads

French motorways are toll roads. To avoid queues at the toll stations, the electronic toll collection system 'liber-t' was introduced. With the use of an electronic toll tag, the payable amount is drawn directly from your bank account. The badge is automatically detected at the entrance and the exit of the highway and stores the transactions. On separate tracks one can pass through the toll station quickly and without stopping. Registration:

Alternatively you can pay primarily with cash, sometimes with credit card at partly manned and partly automated stations. There may be a wait. On the following website you can calculate the prices for specific routes:


Highways (Péages) and expressways, the so-called "autoroutes" are marked by blue and white signs and are predominantly toll roads.
National roads (routes nationales) are very well developed and are often used by long-distance transport. They are marked by red and white milestones, labelled with N + number.
Country roads (routes départementales) are major routes and are of equal quality to the national roads. However, one should take notes on road damage (chaussée déformée) seriously! They are marked by yellow and white milestones, labeled with D + number.

Low Emission Zones 
In various cities there are low emission zones for which vehicles require a valid Crit'Air Vigniette. Which vignette is required exactly depends on the vehicle type, the Euro pollutant standard and the date of first admission to road traffic. 
The status of the environmental zones can change within 24 hours, in which case driving bans apply to vehicles without vignettes and/or otherwise valid Crit'Air vignettes. 
Therefore, travellers to France should inform themselves about the current situation in the region concerned before starting their journey. The Green Zones app provides a good overview:
The Vigniette can be purchased under the following link from the French Ministry of the Environment. 

Directions and Maps

Although brief directions are included in your travel documents, we recommend buying a good road atlas.

Navigation System

The best solution is always a GPS. While rented units are often available, downloading an offline software for your smartphone is a good alternative. Free service is available from "HERE Maps". Although you won't be able to search by coordinates when offline, you can do so while connected to WIFI in your hotel and save places to favorites. The directions from HERE are not very detailed. If you prefer a more detailed navigation, other products are available from TomTom or Navigon at an annual fee. Should you already own a GPS unit you can download the relevant maps prior to departure.

Money Matters


The currency in France is the Euro. ATMs are widely available. All common international credit cards are accepted and English instructions are usually available. Banks are open from 9-12 am and 2-4 pm Monday through Friday. In urban areas some banks may have extended hours.


Medical Insurance

Check to make sure your health insurance covers travel abroad. If not, you would be wise to take out travel insurance.

Local Health Care

In France you have to pay for medical treatment. We recommend taking out travel insurance. 


Alcohol and Cigarettes

A ban on smoking in public places was implemented in France in 2008. Some Restaurants have a smoking section. 

Alcohol may not be sold to anyone under the age of 16. Anyone who seduces an underage person to drunkenness commits an offense.  


In the big cities, grocery stores and bakeries open very early in the morning and close in the evening around 7:00 or 8:00 pm (in Paris even later). Large supermarkets are open until 9:00 or 10:00 pm. They are usually closed on Sunday afternoons, in the afternoon on public holidays and on one specified day of the week. Outside Paris, the large supermarkets are usually located in commercial areas on the outskirts of the cities.
Other shops
The other shops open at 9:00 or 10:00 am and close between  7:00 and 8:00 pm. Outside Paris they are often closed between 1:00 and 2:00 pm. They are generally open from Tuesday to Saturday (except on public holidays).
Paris is one of the world's fashion centres. In addition to the great couturiers, there are numerous new, young designers.
The large department stores Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marché or the BHV are Parisian institutions, some of which also have branches in other regions of France. There you can find many well-known brands and the entire range of goods on offer.
In the centres of the provincial cities, one often finds numerous clothing shops that are in no way inferior to the Parisian boutiques. Some cities have very cheap second-hand shops or trendy fashion boutiques. Each provincial town and village also has its own weekly market, where you can find many regional products and enjoy an atmosphere that is very different from that of the capital.

Going to the market is a real pleasure. That wouldn't be anything special at first, unless you consider this wonderful mixture of colours and fragrances. Paris offers many different markets: the flower market on the Ile de la Cité, the fish market, the organic market and the weekly markets in all districts. A real bath in the crowd in a very good, typical atmosphere! 
For antique collectors, there are two large flea markets at the gates of Paris: Porte de Vanves and Porte de Saint-Ouen (the largest of them all). 
Another Parisian speciality are the bouquinists, whose stands stretch along the banks of the Seine to the Saint-Michel district. Antique books, junk, comic books, postcards... There you will find a little of everything, at any price. An attraction worth a walk! 


Service is normally included in the restaurant check. Nevertheless, a small tip is often given in recognition of good service. A tip of around 10% is customary in bars and small cafés where no service charge is applied.

Although hotels also include a service charge, a small tip is frequently offered to the doorman or porter and the chambermaid. Taxi drivers and hairdressers expect a tip of approx. 10% of the fare/price. A tip for public lavatory attendants is often left on a saucer near the door.