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France Travel Information
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.
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.
Security has been heightened in France following a series of terrorist attacks in recent years, 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. 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 people. 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 football, 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. Mobile phones can be used in France, but be sure to check roaming costs before travelling. It is often cheaper to get a local sim card from providers such as Orange or Bouygues. Free wifi is available in most hotels, cafes, restaurants and similar establishments.
Travellers from non-EU countries over 17 years of age entering France can bring in the following items duty-free: 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g tobacco (if you enter by air or sea). 40 cigarettes, or 20 cigarillos, or 10 cigars, or 50g of tobacco (if you enter by land). Four litres of wine and 16 litres of beer and one litre of spirits over 22 percent or two litres of alcoholic beverages less than 22 percent. Other goods up to the value of €430 for air and sea travellers, and €300 for other travellers (reduced to €150 for children under 15 years of age).
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