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Factfile
:

Area: 547,030 sq km (211,209 sq miles)

Population: 60,180,529 (July 2003 est)

Population Density: 108.3 per sq km

Lowest point: Rhone River delta -2 m

Highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m

Coastline: 3247kms

 

Language: Official language is French; however there are many regional dialects. (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish). English is widely spoken in tourist destinations and in certain business sectors.

Religion: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 8%, unaffiliated 4%

Time: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
France uses the 24hour clock: Midnight is 0h00 / 6.00am is 06h00 / 12.00pm is 12h00 / 6.00pm is 18h00 / 11.00pm is 23h00, etc.

Practical Information


Accommodation:
France has over 22,000 registered Hotels, 55,000 Gites (rural home rentals) and countless other types of accommodation, including Chambres d’hotes (similar to B&B’s), campsites, refuges (high mountain refuge) and self-catering rentals.

When it comes to holiday accommodation for sheer ‘value for money’ - France is hard to beat! In many towns you will be able to find a simple room for under €40.00 and many of these establishments charge ‘Per Room’ and not ‘Per Person’, therefore rates for twins/doubles or even triples can prove to be incredibly cost-effective.

Always consider booking your accommodation in advance, especially during the busy holiday periods when any place to stay, can be incredibly hard to find. Another thing to reflect on is that the best accommodation will nearly always be booked up in advance – no matter where you intend to visit.

All Things French offer listings of ‘places to stay’ throughout France. We endeavor to feature as varied a selection of accommodation as possible – It is chosen to match all sizes of budget and all types of taste. To find out where to stay, just locate the town of your choice and click on the – Accommodation - link and you can access a superb selection of places. You can book directly with all the establishments featured in our listings and when you do, don’t forget to tell them that you found their details on “All Things French!”

Hotels - Hotels are usually graded from one to five stars, with five stars being the most luxurious. However many of the ‘one to three’ star establishments are very comfortable and offer real value for money. Like hotels all over the world, the standards of service and types of room and amenities can vary greatly, place to place.

Big cities have a good variety of cheap establishments; in small towns or villages where the choice is limited, you may not be so lucky. Swanky resorts, particularly those on the Côte d'Azur, often charge higher tariffs in July and August, but are still less expensive than Paris, which really can be pricy. If you're staying more than three days in a hotel it's often possible to negotiate a lower price, particularly ‘out of season’.

Family Hotels – can be found all over France and often are small to medium sized ‘Family Run’ establishments that are quite informal. They are a good choice if you are on a budget or touring and just need ‘a bed for the night’. They are also a great way to meet the French who often stay in smaller hotels when holidaying.

Chateaux Hotels – are literally grandiose chateaux that have been converted into luxury hotels. They offer some incredibly sumptuous accommodation in some of the most atmospheric and romantic buildings in France. Standards tend to be on the high side, as do prices, but you can get some great deals particularly if you visit ‘off-season’

Chain Hotels – there has been a huge rise in the numbers of chain hotels in France over the last decade. They tend to be rather un-atmospheric, clinical places to stay, but are great value for money (some double rooms are under €25.00 per night!). Often they are situated on the outskirts of larger towns near motorways (autoroutes) or main roads.

Bed & Breakfast (Chambres d’hotes): French B & B’s come in all shapes and sizes, from small cottages to elaborate chateaux. Whatever the type of accommodation, they are private houses not hotels, so you don’t expect the full range of services that a hotel might offer. What you can expect is an interesting look into French life and more often than not, a place of character and charm. (Continental) breakfast will be included and often you can eat your evening meal (tables d'hôtes) where you stay, for an extra charge. This can be an interesting gastronomic adventure and you may well be eating with the family.

Gites: are typically traditional homes that are available for holiday rentals, sometimes throughout the year. They vary greatly in size, style, location and price. They can be a relatively cost-effective way to spend time in France and are ideal for families. Many Gites are set in quieter areas out of the busier town centres and are a rarity in some of the glitzier coastal resorts. Book well in advance as they are very popular with French families and the best of them are reserved well in advance.

Rentals and Self Catering: With more and more people investing in property in France, there has been an increase in the number of rental properties available for self-catering holidays. They vary greatly from huge villas with ‘all amenities’ to small studios that cater to a ‘nominal budget’. Generally you need to book for a minimum stay of one week and you will need to book in advance. To avoid having to pay over the odds (agency commission) it can be an idea to book directly with an owner. A deposit will be required before you obtain the keys for your stay. Alternatively there are now a number of specialist companies that will arrange a full self-catering package holiday for you.

Camping and Caravan Sites: There are over 11,000 sites registered in France and virtually every town will have at least one campsite in its vicinity. Similar to hotels, camping/caravanning sites are graded from one to four stars. The one to two star sites are fairly basic, offering limited amenities (toilets/showers) and standards of ‘pitch’. The three and four star sites have a variety of extra facilities, ranging from more spacious pitches and electrical hook-ups to large swimming pools, supermarkets, restaurants, bars and entertainment.

Charges vary greatly, according to the grading, region and season. Usually you pay ‘per-pitch’ and then ‘per-person’, some sites will also charge extra for a car. Always book ahead if you are holidaying during the ‘high-season’ periods except if you have a very small tent, or you don’t mind having to ‘look around’ for a site!

A popular way to enjoy camping or caravanning in France is to book with a company that organise ‘ready-made’ holidays either ‘under canvas’ (often on wooden decks, with proper beds!) or in a (static) caravan (some are very comfortable indeed!).

Eating Out:
Eating well is an essential part of French life and nearly everybody will have at least one ‘proper sit-down’ meal a day where-ever they are and no matter what they are doing! Recently there has been a sharp rise in the number of ‘fast-food’ establishments opening in France, however, even most of these will offer a choice of salads, fresh coffee and sometimes wine or beer to accompany your meal.

To locate a list of ‘places to eat’ on the website - just click on the - Eating Out - link in the town of your choice and you will be presented with a list of establishments – when you reserve or visit one, don’t forget to tell them you found their details on“All Things French!”

One of the most important elements in any meal in France is the use of fresh ingredients. If you eat in a restaurant, it is highly unlikely that you will be served any frozen food, except possibly chips (frites). Even in small cafés and bistros nearly all meals will be prepared daily, on the premises and using locally sourced ingredients. Basically, eating out in France can be a delight, not only for the (on the whole) good food, but for the atmosphere and the opportunity to see the French enjoying one of their favourite pastimes!

When you eat out in France there will often be a number of different types of cooking on offer. Haute Cuisine – Is high quality, traditional French cooking, using only the purest, freshest ingredients, often combined with rich sauces. Nouvelle Cuisine – Tends to employ lighter sauces and lavish presentation methods to bring out the colour and texture of ingredients. Cuisine des Provinces – Is the term used to label traditional regional cooking. The types of dish on offer will vary greatly according to what part of France you are in, however in good restaurants and bistros the quality should be excellent.

In larger towns you will also find a good selection of Foreign Cuisine: Caribbean, North African, Mexican, Vietnamese and Chinese are the most popular choices for many residents.

If you are Vegetarian be prepared for some reactions of astonishment from waiters and chefs, especially in rural locations! There is a small choice of vegetarian dishes available in most restaurants (often the entrées) but do be prepared to eat pizza, pasta and salads more often than not. In larger towns and cities there are some vegetarian places opening up and in Paris you will be fine. If you are a Vegan it might be a good idea to go ‘self-catering’!

There are also a number of different types of establishment serving food in France:

Restaurants – Encompass all varieties of cooking on offer and range from small family run local ‘eateries’ to hugely lavish, ornate chateau dining rooms, employing the best Chefs in the country. Prices tend to differ greatly according to the location, décor and type of food on offer. Most establishments will propose both ‘á la carte’ (full selection from menu) and ‘Plat du Jour’ or ‘Menu du Marché’ (set meals or dishes), the latter being the lower cost option.

Bistro – Designates the broadest class of restaurant you will find in France and contrary to perception it is in Bistros, not ‘high-class’ restaurants that a majority of the French will go out to eat. Bistros vary greatly from modern, trendy places to traditional ‘no-frills’ eateries. They offer both set menus and ‘á la carte’ dining and often have a smaller selection of dishes than a fully fledged ‘Restaurant’.

Brasseries – Originated in the Alsace region of France (on the German border) where they were attached to the local breweries. They serve a selection of dishes, (often specialising in Choucroute, an Alsatian dish of sauerkraut, sausages, pork and bacon) and a selection of cask beers and wines. They only tend to be found in larger towns and of course in the Alsace.

Cafés – Virtually every small town in France will have at least one café and larger towns will have hundreds! They are the soul of many communities and have been at the very heart of many of the great chapters in French history. Traditionally they have been the meeting places for students, workers, mothers, radicals, artists and intellectuals – basically anyone in French society. Open often from early in the morning until the middle of the evening, they serve as bars, bistros, gaming rooms and social clubs for the local population. They offer coffee, tea, alcoholic drinks and soft drinks and many will also serve breakfast, lunch and various snacks. Depending on location they can be incredible value for money and they offer any visitor to France one of the best ways in which to observe ‘La vie en France’!

Eating Out ‘Tips’ – La Carte is the menu. Les Entrées or Hors d’oeuvre are starters and Les Plats means main courses. Plat du Jour or Menu du Jour designates the set meal or set menu (often great value). Bread (pain) is brought to the table at the same time as the meal is served, as it is impolite to eat any bread before starting your meal. Cheese (fromage) is often served after the main course and before the dessert. Coffee is served after dessert and remember - that a café is basically an expresso. If you want a ‘traditional white coffee’ you will need to order a grande café au lait. Water should always be served free of charge with a meal, unless you wish to have bottled water.

Most restaurants in larger towns will accept credit cards, but be aware that this is not always the case. If you are travelling in more rural areas or using smaller bistros and cafés for eating out, please carry cash, as cards may not be accepted.
Service charges of 12.5% to 15% may be included in the price of a meal; this will be stated on the menu and on the bill (Service Compris). If a service charge is not included a tip of 5% to 10% if sufficient depending on the service received.

Travel:
France has a good network of travel options, which can be used to move around the country without too much hassle. It also has flights from the Americas, Asia, Australasia and the rest of Europe that serve Paris and some of the regional airports.

All Things French lists the transport options for all the main towns in France, simply click on the - Transportation - link - on the town of your choice to see just what is available!

Arriving by Air – France is served by a majority of the International Airlines and also a large number of ‘low-cost’ operators such as easyjet and Ryanair. Flight times vary, but generally they are as follows: UK - from 1hr to 2 hrs / New York - 8hrs / Los Angeles - 12hrs / Sydney - 23hrs.

Airport and Associated City
Distance From City Centre
Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
30 kms - north-east
Paris Orly
15 kms - south
Bale-Mulhouse
31kms - south
Bastia-Poretta
19.6 kms - south
Bordeaux-Mérignac
12 kms - west
Lille-Lesquin
14 kms - south
Lyon-St Exupéry - (Formally Lyon-Satolas)
26 kms - south-east
Marseille-Marignane – (Marseille-Provence)
26.5 kms - north
Montpellier-Méditerranée
8 kms - south-east
Nantes Atlantique
9 kms - south
Nice-Cote d’Azur
7.5 kms - south-west
Strasbourg
15 kms - west
Toulouse-Blagnac
11kms - north-west
   

Domestic Flights - Air France operates flights throughout France between regional airports and via the main hubs of Paris, Nice and Lyon. Unless you are in a hurry, or on business it can be more cost-effective and more enjoyable to travel the country via train or road.

Arrival by Sea: Most people arriving by sea are either taking an organised cruise or are coming from the United Kingdom. If you wish to travel in France with your own vehicle, taking a ‘cross-channel’ ferry is one of the only ways to bring it over (except via the Channel Tunnel). There are a number of different companies offering services between the UK and France, with the choice depending very much on where you want to travel from and which part of France to want to travel to. Generally crossings are as follows:

From (United Kingdom)
To (France/Belgium/Spain)
Dover
Calais
Folkestone
Calais
Hull
Zeebrugge (Belgium – 80km to French border)
Newhaven
Dieppe
Plymouth
Roscoff
Plymouth
Santander (Spain – 215 km to French border)
Poole
Cherbourg
Poole
St Malo
Portsmouth
Caen / Cherbourg / Le Havre / St Malo
Portsmouth
Bilbao (Spain – 115 km to French border)
   

Travel by Rail - The state run SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer) is the largest and perhaps best, national rail network in Europe – therefore traveling by train in France can be a great option. In general the SNCF utilises quick, modern, comfortable trains, except in some rural areas where for economic reasons they run buses, which will be covered by your rail ticket.

Trains run all over France with many quiet rural areas being served by rail, however, the star of the network is the TGV (trains à grande vitesse) a high speed train (with its own network of special lines) that can clock well over 300kms per hour!

The main hub of the TGV system is Paris and from this central point 3 separate ‘branches’ of lines emanate. To the north-east is the main line that serves Lille, the UK (via Eurostar), Belgium and Holland. To the south-west is the TGV line that connects Paris with Brittany, the Atlantic Coast and the Pyrenees (via secondary lines). To the south-east lies the main line to Marseille, the Spanish border and towards Nice. Other areas served by TGV’s are: Burgundy, the Alsace, The French Alps and Switzerland. As an example of the speed of these connections - TGV will cover the 550 km (342 miles) between Grenoble and Paris in well under 3 hours!

Travelling by TGV costs little more than travelling on a normal train, however you will need to pay a compulsory reservation charge & possibly a supplement (during peak-hours/season). For all national train information, visit the SNCF website - www.sncf.fr

Travel by Rail ‘Tips’ – Before boarding your train you must ‘validate’ your train ticket by using a Composteur Machine (orange box - found on all platforms). Simply slide the ticket in ‘printed side up’ and the machine will punch your ticket & imprint a date & time. It is illegal to travel without ‘validation’. Most stations have billeterie automatique (reservation machines), which will sell you a ticket or provide travel information - however we recommend that you use a ticket office as it is often the easier option. Overnight trains will offer a bed (1st class) or couchette (2nd class-simple bunk in shared cabin) at an extra cost, if you want this accommodation be sure to book it when reserving your ticket. Timetables change twice a year in May and September and are available at most larger stations. Peak rates for travel on trains are designated via hours and season. The SNCF timetable will offer travel in ‘white’ & ‘blue’ periods. Almost all reductions are only available during ‘blue’ periods. ‘White’ periods are usually between 5.00am-10.00am on Mondays and 3.00pm-8.00pm Sundays.

Travel by Bus – There are long-distance buses operating all over France, often between major towns/cities and between popular tourist destinations. They tend to be cheaper than traveling by rail, but considering some of the distances involved, can take a long time. Local buses operate in all towns and cities in France and the bus station (Gare Routiére) can nearly always in the centre of town. For timetables consult the local tourist office.

Travel by Road – France has an extensive system of roads connecting all the different regions. The best way to organise your road travel is to take a decision as to whether you wish to enjoy a more scenic option or just the quickest route- A to B.

Motorways (autoroutes) offer the best option for quick journey times. They all operate on a toll system, however city and town ‘bypasses’ are free. Tolls can be paid in cash or with a credit card – the tariffs depend on the region and company operating the route. They have above average service areas and usually lots of picnic and rest stops. One advantage of the toll system is that many of the autoroutes are quieter than their UK counterparts.

For a more scenic view of the country, or if an auturoute is not an option, there are Route Nationale (RN) and Départmentale (D) roads. These are free and often pass through towns and rural countryside unlike the ‘pay-for’ motorways. Route Nationales tend to be the larger of the two types of road and vary from single lane rural highways to dual carriage ways. The Départmentales are usually smaller roads that connect towns and villages throughout France. Both offer superb ways to really see the countryside and communities that you are passing through – make sure you spend at least some of your time off the autoroute and on an ‘RN’ or ‘D’!

Taxis – Tend to be quite expensive in France (depending on where you are), but you can often expect a rather flash and spotlessly clean Mercedes or Audi! In larger towns you can easily hail a taxi in the street or find them at ranks outside the train station. In rural areas you will have to book via telephone or ask for a recommendation in the local café. All taxis must carry meters (compteurs) and they must use them!

Shopping:
Shopping in France can be a very enjoyable experience, whether you are interested in food, drinks, clothing or gifts, chances are that you will ‘have a ball’!

On the All Things French website you can find a listing of options for - Shopping and Markets - in every single town - simply by clicking on the appropriate link. Don’t forget to say you found them at “All Things French!”

One thing to consider when shopping in France are the opening hours – Generally shops are open from approx 9.00am to 7.00pm Mondays to Saturdays, many will close for lunch between 12.30pm to 2.00pm. Be aware that in the north of France shops close for a shorter time during lunch, than in the south, however they may close earlier in the evening than in the south. In many smaller towns shops close on a Monday and in nearly all towns many shops are closed all day Sunday.
There are exceptions to the rules – Large supermarkets (hypermarchés) tend to be open 6 days a week (Mon-Sat) and do not close for lunch and in ‘resorts’ you will always find at least one supermarket that will open on a Sunday morning (but only ‘in-season’). In the main tourist destinations many shops will be open all-day, every-day during the ‘peak-seasons’.

Larger Shops – The largest shops in France tend to be: Department stores (grand magasins), Supermarkets (hypermarchés) and DIY stores (bricolages). Apart from the department stores, they are often found in commercial centres at the edges of larger towns.

Department stores (Galleries Lafayette, Printemps, Monoprix) sell very similar product lines to those in the UK or the USA (clothing, cosmetics, kitchenware, etc). Hypermarkets can be huge (Carrefour, Geant) and sell an amazing range of foods, drinks, clothing, household goods and cosmetics, it can be quite an adventure to visit one! Smaller supermarkets (Le Clerc, Casino, Spar, Auchan) sell similar ranges to their larger cousins, but not on such a ‘grandiose’ scale.

Specialist Shops – One of the joys of shopping in France are the many specialist shops that still exist. Boulangeries and Patisseries bake fresh bread and make the most exquisite cakes. Chocolatiers as the name might imply, make chocolate – fresh on the premises including delicious chocolates! Traiteurs sell freshly prepared foods such as canapés, meat dishes and quiche. Fromageries specialise in cheeses and Laiteries offer all types of diary products. Boucheries are butchers offering wonderful selections of fresh meat and Charcuteries are both pork butchers and delicatessen rolled into one. If you want general groceries an Epicerie, or an Alimentation are the places to go. And for top quality, freshly prepared specialties, its worth visiting the Epicerie Fine (Delicatessen). Other specialist shops include – Caves du Vin (Wine sellers) and Papeteries (Stationery shops). A selection of shops similar to these can be found in nearly every town in France, as the French still like to buy a percentage of their products (especially food!) from these dedicated outlets.

Markets – Another pleasure of shopping (or just people watching!) in France are the markets…From the crack of dawn until midday all over France, thousands of markets will be plying their trade. From local producers with just one or two types of produce to sell, to large well organised stores offering hundreds of items – markets in France sell just about everything!

All Things French have listed as many markets as we can. We feel they are often one of the highlights of a visit to France. Simply click on the link – Shopping and Markets – in the town of your choice to find out where and when there will be one at your destination.

The best way to enjoy a market in France is to get there early - find a café, get yourself comfortable and enjoy the show! Many local residents will visit a market (which are often weekly or twice weekly in smaller towns) to buy fresh produce and will look for certain foodstuffs that are ‘in-season’. Look out for fresh mushrooms (autumn) or red peppers, melons and fruits (summer) or if you are lucky enough you might smell the earthy aroma of truffles, the black gold of the market place – from late autumn to end of winter.

The markets sell a vast selection of fresh meats (some still alive!), charcuterie (cold meats), pates, vegetables, flowers, breads, spices, clothes, household goods and assorted knick-knacks. The selection of items depends on the region, season and size of the market itself, but don’t be put off if you can only visit a small village market – they can be a really enjoyable experience!

Banks:
Most banks are open from Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm, however they often close for lunch between 12.30pm and 2.00pm. In larger cities these hours may be extended. All banks close for Public Holidays. Many have Bureau de Change and will change traveller’s cheques with photo ID. Cash machines (ATM’s) are widely available.

Communications:
Post – The postal system in France is relatively quick, so letters and postcards sent home don’t take long. Stamps (timbres) for postcards and Standard Letters (20gms or less) can be bought from tabacs and newsagents as well as post offices (La Poste). The price for sending a Standard Letter or postcard is €0.50 to anywhere in the European Union, €0.75 to other European destinations & Africa and €0.90 to the USA, Australasia & rest of the world. For any further information on sending parcels, express deliveries, etc, you will have to ask in a post office or visit www.laposte.fr

You can receive mail at central post offices in most towns. There is a small charge levied for each item of post (approx: €0.50) you collect and you will need a photo ID in order to collect it. All mail sent C/O a Post Office should be addressed clearly with your family & first names and ‘Poste Restante - Poste Centrale’, followed by the town name and the correct postcode.

Post Offices are marked by a yellow and blue ‘La Poste’ sign. Depending on the size of the town, they should be open from 8.30am to 6.30pm (may close for lunch) weekdays and 8.30am to 11.30am Saturdays.

Phones – Calls within France and International telephone calls can be made from any public phone box (cabine), however we recommend that you buy a Phone Card (télécartes) as coin operated phone boxes are hard to find. Phone Cards come in 50 and 120 units (approx: €7.50 and €14.80) and they can be bought in tabacs, newsagents and post offices.

When dialing numbers in France you just have dial all 10 digits - For making calls abroad make sure you dial the international code and then enter the full number of your destination, making sure that you drop the first ‘0’ (except for Italy). To save money, plan to make International Calls over weekends or 7.00pm and 8.00am weekdays, when cheaper rates apply. Be warned that all telephone numbers starting ‘06’ in France are mobile phone numbers – charges can be high.

Internet & Email – Although France has not had the fast take-up rate of either the USA or the UK when it comes to connecting the internet, it is fairly easy to find a connection when needed. Most towns now have at least one Internet café and larger cities and tourist destinations have heaps! Higher class hotels will offer internet connectivity, as will backpacker type hostels.

If you have a laptop and need a wireless connection try www.hotspot-locations.com a website which provides a comprehensive global directory of Wireless LAN access points.

Credit & Debit Cards:
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, however American Express and Diners Club may not be accepted in smaller establishments. Check with your credit or debit Card Company for details of acceptability. In general the French themselves do not use Credit Cards, only Direct Debit Cards (Carte Bleue), which operate with a ‘Chip PIN’

Currency Exchange:
Some hotels are authorised to exchange foreign currency, however shops and hotels are prohibited from accepting foreign currency by law. Bureaux de Change can be hard to find, except in major tourist destinations and some larger towns and cities.

Disabled Visitors:
France does not have the best reputation in Europe for providing facilities for people with disabilities, however in many larger towns and resorts, steps are being taken to improve both amenities and access.

For further information on France for Disabled Visitors we recommend that you contact the following organisations or consult the publications listed:

Association des Paralysés de France - 17 bd Auguste-Blanqui - 75013 Paris Tel: 01 40 78 69 00 www.apf.asso.fr National organisation who offer plenty of information for disabled people in France. They provide a list of accommodation that caters for disabled visitors. Try to get a copy of their guide: Où Ferons-Nous Étape

Comité National Français de Liaison pour la Réadaptation des Handicapés - 236bis rue de Tolbiac - 75013 Paris Tel 01 53 80 66 66 They provide information and a series of useful guides for handicapped people in France. The publication to look out for is: Guide Touristique pour les Personnes à Mobilitée Réduite (English version available)

Electricity:
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Two-pin or Three-pin plugs are widely used.

Health:
Like much of Western Europe, France is a fairly ‘risk-free’ zone when it comes to your health (except for overeating!). You do not require any special inoculations, (tap) water is safe to drink and life threatening diseases are very rare.

Citizens of all EU countries can use the French (national) health service under a reciprocal agreement system, but, you must have the correct documents.

All British citizens need form E111 which should be sent or presented to a ‘Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie’ (Sickness Insurance Dept) if any of the French health services have been used. This form entitles UK citizens to a refund of at least 75% of charges incurred for any emergency dental work and medical treatments (including hospitalisation), it also covers approx: 35-60% of charges levied for any prescribed medicines. The E111 form is available at Post Offices throughout the UK.

Please be aware that under the French national health system virtually all treatments and even consultations incur immediate charges. The standard of healthcare is very high, but it can be costly. All Things French strongly recommends that you obtain medical/health insurance before visiting France.

For any minor illnesses and accidents, a typical high street pharmacie, (look for ‘green cross’) should be able to help. Pharmacists are trained to a high standard and are often very helpful with any minor complaints.
For more serious health issues we advise you contact a Doctor (Docteur) or even go to the nearest general hospital (Hôpital). The (free) telephone number for an ambulance (Samu) is 15.

Holidays:
The French take their holidays very seriously and they tend to stay in France meaning that at certain times of the year depending on where you are, it might be incredibly busy, (seaside resorts in summer) or very quite (they have all gone on holiday to the seaside resorts!). July and August are traditionally when Summer Holidays are taken (up to 3 weeks) and Christmas, February and Easter are when the Winter Resorts can get very crowded.

Public Holidays
 
2004
14th Jul - Bastille Day
15th Aug – Assumption
1st Nov - All Saint’s Day
 
11th Nov - Remembrance Day
 
25th Dec - Christmas Day
 
2005
1st Jan New Year’s Day
28th Mar - Easter Monday
1st May - Labour Day
5th May – Ascension
8th May - 1945 Victory Day
16th May - Whitsuntide
14th Jul - Bastille Day
 
15th Aug - Assumption
 
1st Nov - All Saints’ Day
 
11th Nov - Remembrance Day
 
25th Dec - Christmas Day
     

 

Newspapers and The Press:
French media differs from both that of the UK and USA. Tabloids are almost none existent and in much of France a majority of the population read a ‘Regional’ Daily Newspaper such as the Nice Matin, (serving area around Nice) and Le Dauphiné (serving various regions in the Rhone Alps). These publications report on news from their specific region and also provide National and (very brief) International reportage.

In the larger towns and cities you will see more people reading ‘National’ Daily Newspapers such as Le Monde and Le Figaro (both fairly conservative) and Libération, (more left-wing). Due to strict laws protecting personal privacy and the recourse for libel action, they do not report widely on the private lives of individuals or take to speculating. A good example is President Chirac, who has endured a fairly stress-free run in the press, despite being involved in at least one major case of (local) government corruption. In The States and The UK chances are that he might already have been ‘hounded’ out of office by the media.

The French do not have America’s or Britain’s insatiable desire for the ‘cult of celebrity’ (although this is fast changing!) and amongst the huge choice of magazines and weeklies that you will see in every newsagent, there are few real ‘tabloid’ or ‘celebrity driven’ publications. Paris Match is perhaps the best known of the ‘celebrity weeklies’ and L’Equipe is a hugely popular daily sports paper that it seems all French men read! Le Canard Enchainé is a weekly satirical paper that lambastes (as much as possible) the political elite and L'Express is perhaps the best of the Time style ‘serious’ publications. There is a wide choice of stylish women’s monthlies, including the original Vogue, Elle and Mairie-Claire.

English-language newspapers are widely available and recently some of them (Times / Sunday Times) are actually being printed in France, meaning that you can get the paper on the correct day of publication – not the day after.

Money:
Since January 2002 the Euro has been the official currency of France (& a further 11 EU member states). French Francs are no longer a legal currency. 1 Euro (€) = 100 euro cents – There are notes (billets) in denominations of €500.00 - €200.00 - €100.00 - €50.00 - €20.00 - €10.00 and €5.00. (Be careful if using large denominations [over €50.00] as many places may not accept them or even have adequate change). Coins come in denominations of €2.00 - €1.00 - €0.50 - €0.20 - €0.10 - €0.05 - €.0.02 and €0.01 euro cents.

Visas:
Currently there are no requirements for Citizens of the European Union (EU) to obtain a visa for traveling if France. Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, United States citizens do not require a visa either, unless staying in France for more than ninety days*. Visitors from most other countries will require a visa.

Nationality
Visa Required
Return Ticket Required
British
No
No
Australian
*No
Yes
Canadian
*No
Yes
USA
*No
Yes
Other EU
No
Yes
     

 

All Things French recommend that you check with your nearest French Embassy or Consulate before traveling to France, as documentation regulations can be subject to change - It’s better to be safe than sorry!

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