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FRANCE TRAVEL GUIDE
Hello, my name is Gwen, and here is my France travel guide for over 40 solo travel, including budget, safety/female and eco-travel tips, photographs and interesting posts for your France travel planning.
BIENVENUE EN FRANCE!
France – home to a national motto “liberty, equality and fraternity”, the Tour de France, champagne,the French Alps,the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, over 1000 types of cheeses, the metric system, the inventors of braille and the stethoscope, 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.
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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?
Brush up on your French before your trip to France.
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.
France uses the Euro (€). Exchange rates are usually favorable for Europeans but could fluctuate in the other direction.
France has all modern forms of transportation, including Uber (research in advance if they are in your destination area), so getting around, and booking transportation in advance, is no problem.
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.
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!
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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 to Australia. 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.
SAFETY / FEMALE TRAVEL TIPS
FRANCE TRAVEL SAFETY
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.
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.
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SUSTAINABILITY / 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!
It is very easy to do your part for the planet and implement environmental sustainability into your travel. If you would like to learn more about how you can implement environmentally sustainable, or eco-friendly, travel measures into your travel, please see my 10 Easy Eco Travel Tips and suggested Eco Travel Resources.
Additionally, if you are flying to, or within, France consider purchasing 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. There are several ways to go about this to help reduce your impact to climate change through your travel. Check it out!
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.
PICTURES OF FRANCE
FRANCE BLOG POSTS
You’re dying to go to Europe but are solo on a budget? It’s OK – you’re not alone. Budgets are important to a lot of us, but if planned wisely they don’t have to be something that holds