France


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.

Consulates

Food and Drinks

In France three main meals a day are customary:
Breakfast, approximately between 7:00 to 9:00, is a small meal with a warm drink (coffee, tea or hot chocolate), croissants and/or bread, butter, jam.
Lunch, from 12:00 to 14:00, is a full meal, mad up generally of a starter, main course and / or dessert. At the end one often has an espresso.
Dinner is served from 20:00.
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.

Restaurants
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 is to leave a tip (5-10%).

Most restaurants open their Kitchen from 12:00 to 15:00 and from 19:00 to 23:00. 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 Cay  
- 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.

Climate

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
Canada/USA
East coast: - 6 hours
West coast: - 9 hours

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.

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

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

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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

Driving

(International) Driving License

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.

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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.

Parking

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:

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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

Petrol

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: https://www.bipandgo.com/en.


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: www.autoroutes.fr.

Country-specifics

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.

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

ATMs

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 and 2-4 Monday through Friday. In urban areas some banks may have extended hours.

Health

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. 

Etiquette

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.  

Shopping

Lebensmittel
In den großen Städten öffnen die Lebensmittelgeschäfte und Bäckereien sehr früh am Morgen und schließen am Abend gegen 19:00 oder 20:00 Uhr (in Paris sogar später). Große Supermärkte sind bis 21:00 oder 22:00 Uhr geöffnet. Geschlossen bleiben sie in der Regel sonntagnachmittags, nachmittags an Feiertagen und an einem individuell festgelegten Tag in der Woche. Außerhalb von Paris findet man die großen Supermärkte in der Regel in Gewerbegebieten am Rand der Städte.  

Andere Geschäfte
Die übrigen Geschäfte öffnen um 9:00 oder 10:00 Uhr und schließen zwischen 19:00 und 20:00 Uhr. Außerhalb von Paris sind sie oft zwischen 13:00 und 14:00 Uhr geschlossen. Sie sind im Allgemeinen von Dienstag bis Samstag (außer an Feiertagen) geöffnet. 

Mode
Paris ist eines der Weltzentren für Mode. Neben den großen Couturiers gibt es zahlreiche neue, junge Designer.

Die großen Warenhäuser Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marché oder das BHV sind Pariser Institutionen, die teilweise auch Filialen in anderen Regionen Frankreichs besitzen. Dort erhält man viele bekannte Marken und die gesamte Palette des Warenangebots.

In den Zentren der Provinzstädte findet man oft zahlreiche Bekleidungsgeschäfte, die den Pariser Boutiquen in nichts nachstehen. Manche Städte besitzen äußerst günstige Secondhandläden oder trendige Modeboutiquen. Jede Provinzstadt und jedes Provinzdorf hat außerdem einen eigenen Wochenmarkt; dort können Sie viele Erzeugnisse aus der Region finden und gleichzeitig eine Atmosphäre genießen, die sich sehr von der Hauptstadt unterscheidet.

Märkte
Auf den Markt zu gehen, ist ein wahres Vergnügen. Das wäre zunächst nichts Besonderes, es sei denn man bedenkt diese wunderbare Mischung aus Farben und Düften. Paris bietet sehr viele unterschiedliche Märkte: Den Blumenmarkt auf der Ile de la Cité, den Fischmarkt, den Biomarkt und die Wochenmärkte in allen Stadtteilen. Ein wahres Bad in der Menge in einer wirklich guten, landestypischen Atmosphäre! 

Für Antiquitätensammler gibt es zwei große Flohmärkte an den Toren von Paris: an der Porte de Vanves und der Porte de Saint-Ouen (der größte von allen). 

Eine andere Pariser Spezialität sind die Bouquinisten, deren Stände sich entlang dem Seineufer bis in die Gegend um das Quartier Saint-Michel ziehen. Antike Bücher, Trödel, Comicbände, Postkarten... Dort finden Sie von allem etwas, zu jedem Preis. Eine Attraktion, die einen Spaziergang wert ist! 

Tipping

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.