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GMT +1 (GMT +2, Apr - Oct)
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard.
French is the official language.
No particular vaccinations or medications are required for travel to France. The prevalence of certain tick-borne infections, like lyme disease, tularemia, tick-borne encephalitis, and rickettsial diseases, mean that travellers should take precautions against ticks if they are travelling in rural or forested areas in warm weather. Rabies also occurs occasionally and those who will be spending time with wild animals or who are at any risk of animal bites should consider a rabies vaccination.
French hospitals and health facilities are first class. British citizens, and visitors from other EU countries, are entitled to heavily discounted medical treatment and medicines on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Otherwise doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Medical insurance is advised. Pharmacies will provide some first aid, but charge for it.
Most restaurants and hotels automatically add a 15 percent service charge so a tip is not necessary, although another two to three percent is customary if the service has been good. If service is not included then 15 percent is customary. Taxi drivers expect 10 to 15 percent of the fare, and hairdressers about 10 percent. Hotel staff generally receive about €1.50 a day and tips of about €1 are given to washroom and cloakroom attendants and museum tour guides. Tour bus drivers and guides are also tipped.
Following the London and Madrid bombings, security has been heightened in France, particularly in the transport sector. Unattended luggage left in public places will be removed or destroyed by security staff. While generally safe, visitors to France are advised to take precautions against petty theft and to ensure their personal safety. Thieves and pickpockets operate on the metro and around airports. Theft from cars is prevalent, particularly in the south, around Marseilles, and in Corsica. Several recent cases of burglary have been reported while visitors were asleep in their caravans and motorists are asked to avoid parking in isolated or darkened areas of camping sites or parking lots. Tourists are advised to conceal bags and purses even when driving, and to never leave valuables unattended in the car. Bag snatching is also common, particularly on public transport and in shopping centres, and visitors should also be vigilant of luggage while loading bags into and out of hire cars at airports. Violent crime against tourists is rare and holidays in France are generally trouble-free.
French culture is of paramount importance to the French and in an increasingly Americanised world they feel duty-bound to protect it. It is appreciated if visitors can speak a few words of French; locals do not respond well to being shouted at in English. While the food is second to none, foreigners may find the service in many restaurants sloppy; waiters can appear rude (particularly in Paris) and take their time. This is just the way they are. Traditional games such as pétanque (similar to lawn bowling but played on gravel) are popular in village squares, but the national sports are soccer, rugby and cycling. Smoking in public places is not allowed and will incur heavy fines.
Business etiquette is important in France. A smart, fashionable, sense of dress is common as the nation prides itself on haut couture. Punctuality is not always observed though and the 'fashionably late' tactic may be applied. A handshake is the common form of greeting for men and women upon first introductions. Titles are important and the person is to be referred to as 'monsieur' (Mr.), 'madame' (Mrs.), or 'mademoiselle' (Ms.). Meetings usually occur over lunches, and the French are known to enjoy food. Business hours are generally 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
The international access code for France is +33. Most public telephones accept phone cards, which are available in newsagents. Most hotels add a surcharge to calls, which can be very expensive; the cheapest way to call abroad is often with a phone card from a public telephone or at a post office. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international mobile phone companies. Internet cafes are available in towns throughout France.
Travellers from non-EU countries over 17 years entering France can bring in the following items duty-free: 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g tobacco; 1 litre of spirits with alcohol content 22% and over, or 2 litres of dessert wine or sparkling wine not exceeding 22% alcohol volume, and 2 litres of table wine; 50g perfume or 250ml eau de toilette and other goods to the value of €175 per adult or €90 for children under 15 years.
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