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Practical information France

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile

France : Travel Information before you go!

Area

212355  sq.mi

Languages

French is the country's official and administrative language.

Population

65,821,885 inhabitants

Flights

Required travel documents for France

- For visits of up to three months British citizens simply require a passport that is valid for the duration of your stay.
- British nationals do not require a visa to travel to France.

Religion

France is officially a secular country and upholds separation of religion and the state. Roughly half the population declares itself as Catholic, a third as agnostic or atheist and the remaining percentage is of minority religions. Islam is the largest minority religion statistically.

Currency

The national currency is the euro, which consists of 100 cents.
We strongly advise you get your euros on arrival in France as in-country exchange rates are usually better, except at airports. Avoid carrying large sums of cash with you.
ATM machines are widespread and often offer a more attractive exchange rate than banks. However, most ATMs incur a charge of about 2%.
The best exchange rates for cash tend to be at post offices. In Paris we recommend you use bureaux de change, which are efficient, have long opening hours and offer more attractive rates than banks. Banks tend to charge a steep three to five euro for foreign-currency transactions and slightly more to cash travellers cheques. Rates vary so it is worth comparing banks before exchanging your money.
If you are using travellers cheques, the most widely accepted are AmEx (in US dollars or euros) and Visa (in euros).
Credit cards are accepted in the majority of hotels, restaurants and shops. Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard and American Express are the most commonly accepted cards.

Transport

-Trains are the fastest way to get from one city to another, with the French rail network consisting of over 18,152 miles of lines. The TGV Sud-Est (South-East), Atlantique, Nord Est (North-East) and Est Européen (East-European) lines criss-cross France, providing exceptionally fast connections between the country's cities (Paris-Marseille in 3 hrs 20 mins, Paris-Lille in an hour, etc.). Each region has its own regional express trains (TER) which enable voyagers to move quickly and easily between the various towns in the region.
-The best ways of getting around Paris are the metro (which has 16 lines), the RER (slow speed trains that extend to the suburbs), the tramway and the Vélib bike rental system. Buses are frequent although the bus network requires more deciphering than the metro map. The metro stops just after midnight and recommences around 5:00am. Between these hours the noctilien night bus service will get you home, although be especially wary of pickpockets at this time.
-Just like Paris, most French cities (Lille, Nantes, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, etc.) have their own metro networks and/or tramway lines as well as self-service cycle points.
-Car travel offers more freedom and flexibility but can be expensive. When you take into account petrol and toll costs, it is often cheaper and faster to catch the train. Partnered with Belguim, France has the densest road network in Europe; its roads are divided into autoroutes (main highways often with tolls), routes nationales (national motorways), routes départmentales (local roads) and routes communales (minor roads). Moreover parking in towns and cities isn't easy and there is frequently congestion on the roads during holiday periods. Road safety law enforcement has become notably more strict in recent years, so make sure you stick to speed limits or you will receive a hefty fine. The alcohol limit much is lower in France than England at 0.5g of alcohol per litre of blood. To be safe we suggest you do not drink at all if you are going to drive.
-It is straightforward to bring your own car to France by ferry or channel tunnel. However, there are a few points to bear in mind to avoid being caught out by the French police. Firstly, ensure you carry a national ID or passport, your valid driver's licence, car ownership papers and proof of third-party insurance. As of July 2012 it is also a legal requirement to carry two breathalysers in your car at all times. It is crucial to remember that a right-hand drive vehicle brought to France must have deflectors affixed to the headlights to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic. Likewise, a motor vehicle entering a foreign country must always display a sticker identifying its country of registration. If you intend to drive through snow you should fit your vehicle with winter or all-season tyres.
-To hire a car you must have a valid driver's licence and usually have to be at least 21 years old. You can get good deals by booking a car rental package before your holiday, either via the specific car-rental company's website or via the Holiday Autos website. Most rental companies provide third-party liability insurance, but it is worth checking the excess ('franchise') payable in the collision-damage waver ('assurance tout risqué'), which is usually roughly 350 euro for a small car.

Health

- UK nationals should obtain a European Health Insurance Card before going to France. Please remember this is not a substitute for health insurance, and you must take out a comprehensive health insurance policy as well. The EHIC warrants you state provided medical treatment on the same terms as French nationals. For more information see the NHS EHIC website.
- Ensure you have sufficient medication for any pre-existing illnesses in their original, clearly labelled containers from the UK. It is not worth the hassle trying to acquire this abroad.
- No vaccinations are required. Conversely, the World Health Organisation advises all travellers ensure they are covered against diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio before venturing abroad.

Electricity

Voltage is 220 V. Electrical outlets correspond to the European norms.

Attendance

France came first in the United Nations World Tourism Organisation's most visited destinations in the world, with nearly 79 million visitors in 2010.

Taxes

Service will be added to your bill in most establishments but feel free to leave a tip of a euro or two in hotels, restaurants, bars and taxis.