FRANCE TRAVEL GUIDE

FRANCE TRAVEL GUIDE

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BIENVENUE EN FRANCE!

France – home to 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Strasbourg, the historic centers of Lyon and Avignon, the Palace and Park of Versailles, and the Fortified City of Carcassonne – France is also home to the national motto, “liberty, equality and fraternity”, the Tour de France, the Cannes Film Festival, champagne, the French Alps, the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, over 1000 types of cheeses, the metric system, the inventors of braille and the stethoscope, and the Etch-a-Sketch, and, of course, the world-class “City of Lights”, Paris, known for being the center of fashion, food, art and architecture.  Formerly named République Française (French Republic), France ended its monarchy rule with the French Revolution in the 18th century and is now the largest country in the European Union (EU). France’s wine making history dates from the Roman times and today the country produces 7 to 8 billion bottles of wine per year. It’s no wonder France is considered the world’s most popular destination in the world.

LANGUAGES IN FRANCE

The official language is French; however, regional languages include Corsican, Breton, Gallo, Basque, Franco-Provencal, Occitan and Catalan also exist and may have official language status in their respective regions of France. Those citizens bordering Italy will speak Italian, and those near the Spanish border will speak Basque, as a second language.

How's Your French?

Need any easy way to brush up on your French for your trip to France?

FRENCH CULTURE

Originally considered Western Germany, France’s culture derives from the Franks, a Germanic tribe, as well as from the Celtic and Gallo-Roman cultures.  Three percent of the country speaks a German dialect. 

The majority of French people practice Catholicism and the country recognizes traditional Christian holidays, but other religions practiced include Islam, Buddhism and Judaism.

From their national motto, the French place great importance on equality (égalité) and take great pride in their country and government. 

Food and wine are central in the French culture across all socioeconomic classes and it is not uncommon to have lengthy dinners.  Eating quickly may be frowned upon.  With centuries of history, the French also take well-deserved pride in its architecture and art.

POPULAR FRENCH ACTIVITIES

With a diversity of landscapes, the French enjoy skiing, going to the beach, shopping and flea markets, dining out, or just walking through their beautiful, historic cities and villages.  The French enjoy socializing over coffee and pastries in cafés or enjoying local wines named after their famous regions, such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Côtes du Rhone, and Champagne regions, just to name a few.

FRENCH CURRENCY

France uses the Euro (€).  Exchange rates are usually favorable for Europeans but could fluctuate in the other direction.

FRANCE TRANSPORTATION

France has Bolt, Uber, Carpoolworld, and other possible regional ridesharing services and apps (research in advance if they are in your destination area). There are also taxis, of course.

France also part of Europe’s incredible regional and inter-country bus and train services, including Thalys, so getting around and booking transportation is easy.

TIPPING IN FRANCE

Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules.  That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated. 

What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc.  For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.

Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.

FRANCE'S HOLIDAYS

A key activity to do in your early planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays.  It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday.  It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday.  So, take just a few moments to look at France’s holidays.

FRANCE ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS

Besides money, required ID and your ticket, France voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz so bring Type C and Type E adapters (I recommend bringing 2) for French sockets and research if your electronics require a voltage converter, if not already included in the adapter; or, you can bring electronics already adapted for French outlets or wait to purchase them there (I recommend just bringing the adapter with converter).  

Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home.  If you are going to another country other than France, you can check the global adapters list to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided suggested adapters below for your convenience.

Schuko, Germany France Travel Power Adapter by Ceptics, Grounded European Plug - Type E/F Outlet, Adaptor for USA to Europe EU Socket - 3 Pack - Use In Norway, Korea, Spain, Greece, Russa, Iceland
14,100 Reviews
Schuko, Germany France Travel Power Adapter by Ceptics, Grounded European Plug - Type E/F Outlet, Adaptor for USA to Europe EU Socket - 3 Pack - Use In Norway, Korea, Spain, Greece, Russa, Iceland*
  • Compact heavy duty - 3 prong grounded safe Type E/F Plug adapter - Compatible in most of European countries such as
  • Perfect for travelling and using with your iPhone charger, laptop charger, camera charger and other dual voltage chargers.
  • Accepts plugs from all countries including USA, does not accept plugs from S. Africa
European Travel Plug Adapter by Ceptics Europe Power Adaptor Charger Dual Input - Ultra Compact - Light Weight - USA to any Type C Countries such as Italy, Iceland, Austria and More (CT-9C), white
6,002 Reviews
European Travel Plug Adapter by Ceptics Europe Power Adaptor Charger Dual Input - Ultra Compact - Light Weight - USA to any Type C Countries such as Italy, Iceland, Austria and More (CT-9C), white*
  • Perfect for your travel needs: This is all you need to charge your cell phones, laptops, camera chargers, CPAP machine or anything else that is dual voltage Compatible.
  • 2 in 1 Input: Accepts the standard N American 2 and/or 3 prong flat pin Plug (including polarized) - No Messy Universal Outlet
  • Ultra Compact Size & Safe: only measures 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.75" & max load rating: 10-15A/250V, round pin thickness - 4.0 mm
Ceptics Travel Adapter with Types A-M Plugs, Travel Plug Adapter Set Compatible with Power Sockets in All Continents, Compact World Travel Adapter, International Plug Adaptor Kit, Set of 12,GP-12PK
471 Reviews
Ceptics Travel Adapter with Types A-M Plugs, Travel Plug Adapter Set Compatible with Power Sockets in All Continents, Compact World Travel Adapter, International Plug Adaptor Kit, Set of 12,GP-12PK*
  • A Powerful Set of 12 Adapters - Our all-in-one international travel adapter set features 1 universal input socket that allows you to connect a plug from almost any country worldwide, including the 2-prong and 3-prong North American plugs.

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR FRANCE

From the U.S., you will need a valid passport. No visa is required.  Make sure your passport expiration date is greater than 6 months from your return to the U.S. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to France, including any advisories to local unrest or possible terrorist threats. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave.  If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.

VACCINATIONS FOR FRANCE

There are normally no vaccinations required for France. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to France.  It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave.  If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.

FRANCE TRAVEL BOOKING

FRANCE ECOTOURISM TIPS

There are ways to reduce your eco and carbon footprint through air travel, accommodations, tours, and activities in France. To help avoid greenwashing businesses, here are some eco-friendly or sustainable travel (also called responsible travel) tips and resources, you can use to book your travel.

ECO-FRIENDLY AIR TRAVEL

Skyscanner provides a ‘Greener flights’ filter highlighting flights that emit less CO2.

Purchase carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

ECO-FRIENDLY GROUND TRANSPORTATION

Try to avoid renting a car in France by using Europe’s regional and inter-country bus and train services, including Thalys.

When booking a rideshare in France, select the Bolt Green or Uber Green options instead of a traditional rideshare, or use Carpoolworld, to support the use of electric cars and carpooling for cleaner transportation in France.

Bolt and Lime also have electric scooters to rent in France for faster and cleaner commuting. Search Bolt and Lime for select city availability.

ECO-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATIONS

Look for accommodations with the following self and third-party assessed certifications when you book:

Green Globe certifies hotels, resorts, conference centers, transportation, attractions, tour operators, and other tourism businesses globally on sustainable operations and management. Look for France and other European Green Global members.

Green Key Global is an internationally recognized environmental certification for the lodging and meetings industries, including hotels and hostels, campsites and holiday parks, restaurants and attractions in 65 countries. Search for Green Key awarded sites.

Living Building Challenge – if you want to stay in a true, sustainable building, find one certified by the Living Building Challenge. LBC’s certification directory shows all project types globally. Hopefully they will put in a filter soon to allow searching by hotels or hospitality type.

LEED Certified – the USGBC’s LEED Certified label on buildings, like many of the Marriott’s hotels, are those that have verifiably employed multiple and varying green building strategies to improve human and environmental health. Search the LEED directory for France certifications.

Green Lodging Program – Audubon International has an environmental stewardship certification through third-party verification. Search its certified members directory.

GSTC Certified – the Global Sustainable Tourism Council provides global standards for sustainable travel and tourism, as well as international accreditation for sustainable tourism Certification Bodies. Booking sites that offer GSTC certified sustainable are bookdifferent, EcoHotels, and Transat.

Another way to find an establishments implementing eco-friendly or sustainable practices, certified or not, is through Booking.com in which you’ll need to find and review each establishment’s ‘Sustainable Initiatives’ within the booking process. Starting 2022, however, you’ll be able to filter searches for accommodations with the Travel Sustainable badge. Finally!

ECO-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES

France has ecotourism ideas available to explore for your next vacation.

Search Green Global and Green Key awarded members for eco-friendly activity providers in France. Some may also have the GSTC Certified logo.

MORE ECO-TRAVEL TIPS

Did you know that ever since 2016 it is illegal for supermarkets in France to throw away unsold food?  Food shops must donate all unused food to charities or food banks. Go France!

There are more ways to do your part for the planet in your responsible travel.  Read my 10 Easy Eco-Travel Tips and view my suggested Eco Travel Resources to learn more.

FRANCE SAFETY TIPS

HOW TO TRAVEL FRANCE SAFELY

France, mostly Paris, has been known to have acts of terrorism and civil unrest.  Please consult your government’s travel advisory site in your planning phase.

If there is no advisory, there is nothing I can recall from France making it more of a “safety concern” than traveling in my own home country, so my standard tips for female and solo travelers are:

  • always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
  • always be “street wise”.
  • always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
  • never leave your food or drink unattended.
  • keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
  • be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
  • research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
  • if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.

FRANCE BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS

BEST TIME TO VISIT FRANCE

France can be pricey, especially Paris, and especially if you want to do it right. However, that’s not to say you can’t find budget accommodations, try local foods, or hit some great site seeing and entertainment on a budget.  This is a country I would a little planning on if you are on a budget.  Like other countries in Europe, France’s high, tourist season, and most expensive time, is the summer (June to August) – expect crowds to be heavy and prices to go up! 

Crowds are not as heavy in the spring (April and May) and Fall (September to October), where prices are better than the summer season.  The least expensive time to go to France would be November to March.  Keep in mind, however, if you are going to a ski or winter sport area – prices could be high and you may want to book in advance.

PERSONAL STORY

Since I speak practically no French, and having heard the French can be, well, a bit snobbish to those who don’t, I used to be intimated to travel in France.  I didn’t want to offend them with butchering their language.  Thankfully since my first visit to France, English has gained more ground, making me feel a little more comfortable.  However, that does not let me off the hook on giving them the courtesy to first extend my (awful) French.

I was fortunate to see more of the country during my last visit in 2017.  I must say, I just want to keep going back.  I am big into art and wine, and genuinely love the social atmosphere of outdoor cafes.  I can’t help but feel France is a country I could fall in love with, even if they don’t love my French.

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