Practical Information

These practical information for your stay in France come from the website: "Rendez-vous en France", the official tourist information website.

Visa

Visa

Every foreign national wishing to come to France must be able to present documentary evidence regarding the purpose of theirstay, their financial means of support and conditions of accommodation to immigration upon arrival in the country.
Generally, unless exempted, a VISA is required. It must be acquired before departure for France at the relevant French embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country of residence. The type of VISA required to enter France depends on both the duration and reasons for the intended stay. Except in special cases:
•    For stays of less than 90 days (3 months), the VISA to be requested is a short-stay VISA called "Schengen VISA". These VISAs can be issued for multiple entries. It is usually issued for tourist trips, business travel or family visits. It also allows the holder to come to France for short courses, internships, or gainful employment (artists on tour, athletes competing for a championship, an employee seconded to provde a service, etc.).
•    For stays over 90 days (3 months), the VISA to be requested is a long-stay VISA, the length and type will depend on the duration and reasons of stay. This VISA requires registration, upon arrival in France, with the “French Office of Immigration and Integration” or, with the appropriate prefecture responsible for issuing a residence permit.

Visa Exemptions
Depending on your personal situation, specific measures of the law of the European Union are applied:
•    Nationals of EU Member States, the European Economic Area or Switzerland are not subject to entry visas and residence permits, regardless of length of stay.
•    Family members (partner, dependent children, dependent ascendants) of an EU Member State citizen, the EEA or Switzerland (who are not themselves citizens of an EU Member State, the EEA or Switzerland) are subject to the same visa and other permit rules as other foreigners of their nationality. 

Transport

Coming to France by Plane

Airlines
There are numerous airlines available to you according to your country of departure. The main airlines though are Air France KLM, British Airways, Lufthansa as well as the low cost carriers (EasyJet, Ryanair, Volare etc).

French airports
France is very well serviced with airports, both large and small. The largest are situated in the major cities and serve as international bases. That said, there are many smaller airports that are just as accessible (refer to the complete list of French airports)
The two main airports are obviously those which serve the capital:
•    Paris-Orly:  a tourist information and greeting point, situated at the exit of the International South Terminal, offers you information and advice on Paris and its region. You can also buy tickets to shows, public transport tickets, tourist products and they offer a hotel reservation service as well. This information point equally offers the business traveller up-to-date information on current corporate events in the area and access to the business services in the airport. They are open 7 days a week, from 7:15am until 9:40pm.
•    Paris-Charles de Gaulle (often called "Roissy"): offers you the same services and information as Orly, with the information desks located in Terminal 2C Door 5 (7:00am until 2:45pm), Terminal 2D Door 5 (8:00am until 10:30pm), Terminal 2E Arrivals Hall, Terminal 2F Arrivals Door 11 (7:00am until 9:3pm) and Terminal 1 Arrivals Door 4 (7:00am until 8:30pm).
•    Beauvais-Tillé Airport is located north of Paris and it takes just over an hour to get there by shuttle bus from Porte Maillot, Paris (access via the Métro line 1, or RER C). When travelling via Beauvais Airport, be sure to verify shuttle bus times as they are scheduled to the arrival and departure for each flight to and from the airport. This must also be taken into consideration if you are thinking of transiting to another airport in Paris.

To withdraw or exchange money, there are 21 ATMs and a bank available at Paris-Charles de Gaulle (the bank is open 8:45am until 5:00pm, Monday to Friday, Terminal 2D-2F), as for Paris-Orly, there are 8 ATMs and a bank (open from 8:45am until 5:00pm, Monday to Friday, West Terminal).
There are also 21 bureaux de change available at Paris-Charles de Gaulle (open from 6:00am until 10:30pm or 6:30am until 11:30pm according to the terminal, and from 7:00am until 5:00pm after customs), and 2 at Paris-Orly (6:30am until 9:30pm in the South Terminal).


Coming to France by Train

Prices
Ticket prices vary according to the level of comfort (there are 2 classes) and departure time (rush hour or not). There are many attractive price options reserved for foreign travellers (Inter-Rail.), which can be obtained from your country of origin before you leave.

Information, reservations
RailEurope is your European Expert. 
All trains beyond French destinations and the respective passes and tickets can be purchased online or via their shop.

Rail Europe Travel Centre
Tel: 0844 848 5 848 (calls charged at 5p per minute) 
www.raileurope.co.uk .

International Rail
Tel: 08700 841 410 
www.internationalrail.com
Eurostar's ultra modern, high-speed service travels from London St Pancras International or Ebbsfleet International in Kent direct to Paris or Lille. Eurostar also offers direct services to Disneyland Paris and to the French Alps. Certain services also serve Ashford International in Kent and Calais-Fréthun.

Eurostar Plus
Take Eurostar to Paris or Lille and simply connect onto the TGV, France's high-speed rail network. In most cases, you only need to make one simple change of train. You will arrive in the heart of your chosen destination, feeling fresh, relaxed and ready to enjoy your stay. It's simple, it's speedy - it's the smart way to travel!

Eurotunnel
The Eurotunnel is the fastest cross Channel operator, taking only 35mins to cross the Channel. This option allows you to arrive in France by train with your car, giving you the freedom to explore France at your own pace and in the comfort of your own car. The Eurotunnel train operates between Folkestone (UK) and Calais (FR).

High-speed train (TGV)
With an average speed of 300km per hour, the TGV is one of France's technological pride and joy. Safe, punctual and comfortable, it allows travel to city centres in record times: Paris-Lille in 1 hour, Paris-Marseilles or Paris-Bordeaux in 3 hours, Paris-Rennes in 2 hours. Please note that booking is obligatory, even if it is just before departure time.
To find out everything about the high-speed train network: 
TGV or RailEurope.

InterRail
The InterRail Pass has always been the perfect companion to anyone exploring Europe as it provides a fun and economical way to see all that Europe has to offer. Visitors to France can purchase an InterRail France Pass priced from £90. The key benefits of the pass are: the ability to choose dates of travel within 1 month, staying in one countryfor the Country Pass, or, for the Global Pass Unlimited 1st or 2nd-class travel within a month between 30 European countries. Special discounted fares are available on Eurostar services from London or Ashford to Paris or Lille, refer to the availability of fares in advance of expected travel.  
Bonus discounts on local museums and other attractions are also available, refer to information from InterRail for current deals on offer.

After arrival
Once you have arrived in France, there is an extensive network of trains to help you get to your next destination, run by SNCF. If arriving into Paris, your connecting train may depart from a different station. There are 5 main train stations in Paris (Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare d'Austerlitz and Gare Montparnasse) each of which can be easily found on the Paris Métro or RER network.

Please note 
You must always validate your ticket before getting onto your train (yellow or orange ticket punching machines situated at the end of the platforms). If it has not been done, advise the ticket inspector straight away, so that you may be able to avoid fine!
Access to trains: 
Eurostar check-in is at least 30 minutes prior to departure. Beyond that time, passengers are not allowed to board the train.


Transport – Getting Around in France

Aircraft
Many large cities across have an international airport: Paris of course, but also Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Strasbourg, Toulouse .
These cities are are also well served by domestic flights. Air France, the national airline, offers several flights per day between Paris and most large cities, the average flight time being one hour. Flights between provincial cities are also possible.

Trains
Dense and highly centralised, the railway network is managed by the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer). Coming from London, Eurostar is the most convenient means of transport.
When transferring through Paris, it is important to know that your connecting train may depart from a different station. There are 5 main train stations in Paris (Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare d'Austerlitz and Gare Montparnasse) each of which can be easily found on the Paris Métro or RER network.

Coaches, Buses
Eurolines has a strong, developed network and cover all major European capitals from Paris by coach. This company also has an extensive national network within France, covering 224 French destinations, offering another alternative for getting around in France.

Cars
To drive in France, you must be in possession of:

A) your national driving license (if you're not an EU citizen, you must have your international driving license);
B) a certificate of registration, which is called "la carte grise" in France;
C) a certificate of insurance .
If your stay in France is for less than 6 months, you can travel freely with your car around the country. You can also rent a car in France. You will be able to find rental companies at each airport and in most train stations in the country. If your stay in France is greater than 6 months you must change your license and have you car inspected.

Here are some road rules to respect whilst driving in France:
•    The speed limit is 50km/h (30mph) in cities, 90km/h (60mph) in regional areas and 130km/h (78mph) on motoways unless indicated otherwise.
•    The minimum driving age is 18.
•    In France, you drive on the right hand side of the road.
•    Seatbelts are a requirement by law and must be fastened by passengers in the front as well as in the back of the vehicule at all times.
•    The use of a mobile phone while driving is illegal unless in use with Bluetooth or handsfree.
•    The maximum blood alcohol limit is 0.5mg/mL
•    The use of psychoactives whilst driving is strictly prohibited.
•    It is recommended to have your headlights on low during the day.
•    It is mandatory to have a high-visibility vest and hazard triangle in your car at all times in case of emergency.
Attention! As a foreign national committing an infraction under the French Road Code, you will be subject to a fine under the discretion of the state prosecuter. Otherwise, it is possible that your vehicule will be impounded. The charges related thereto will be those of the driver of the vehicule at the time of the infraction.

Taxis
Taxis are a common mode of transport in France, especially in the bigger cities. There are, for example, nearly 16,000 taxis in Paris. Taxis can be found at marked taxi ranks, booked online, over the phone or simply hail one in the street.
In order to determine if a taxi is available or not, you must refer to the alluminated white box situated on its roof: if it is lit red, then it's occupied; if it is lit green, then it's available.
Here are some guidelines for when you can't hail a taxi:
•    If it is less than 50m from a taxi rank.
•    If it is found in a bus lane.
•    If it is already reserved (signal box is lit white)

Parking For Coaches / Recreational Vehicles
The parking for tourism coaches and for recreational vehicles, including caravans and converted buses, is regulated. Before parking in a city or at a tourist site, please check with the local tourist office for more information on the regulations for that area...

General information and conversion

What time is it in France? 

French time offset from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC London time). France (Paris time): +1.00

Electricity
Electricity in France runs on a 220-volt, 50-hertz AC current. France also uses a Type E plug (round pin and receptacle with male grounding pin). If you bring electrical appliances, you might need a plug adapter. You may also require a transformer, although today, most major appliances have one built in. When in doubt, check with the manufacturer.

Money
Along with sixteen other countries in the European Union, France has been using the euro as its official currency since 2002.

Lengths
1 pouce = 1 inch (in) = 2.54 centimetres.
1 pied = 1 foot (ft) = 30.48 centimetres.
1 verge = 1 yard (yd) = 0.9144 centimetres.

1 mille = 1 mile (mi) = 1.6093 kilometres.

1 kilomètre = 0.6214 miles.

1 mile marin = 1 nautical mile (in) = 1.852 kilometres.

Weights
1 once = 1 ounce (oz) = 28.3495 grams.
 1 livre (UK) = 1 pound (lb) = 0.4536 kilograms.

Temperatures
According to the system of measurement, you can record temperature in degrees Celsius (°C) or in degrees Fahrenheit (°F). Here is the formula for moving between the two systems and some examples.
Conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius: °C = 5/9 (°F -32)
Conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit: °F = (9/5)°C + 32

Climate

France has a temperate and pleasant climate. Continental France is divided into four distinct climatic areas:
•    Oceanic climate (western France): average rainfall is spread over many days and modest annual temperature variations.
•    Continental climate (central and eastern France): cold winters and hot summers.
•    Mediterranean climate (south eastern France): warm and dry summers, rainfall from October to April (damp but mild weather), ample sunshine all year round.
•    Mountain climate (above 600-800m altitudes): high rainfall, snows three to six months per year.


Health

The European health insurance card
In order to facilitate access to healthcare services, visitors are advised to obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This card, valid in the European Economic Area (EEA, including the European Union, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein) and Switzerland, provides access to public sector health services in all the countries in the EEA. EHIC is a personal, non-transferable card supplied free of charge, valid for one year. You can obtain one by applying to your local health-care authority at least two weeks before leaving on holiday. Should you be leaving in less than two weeks following your application, your local authority may issue a temporary certificate valid for three months. Note: Children must have their own individual cards.

Pharmacies
Pharmacies are generally open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday to Saturday. On Sundays, certain pharmacies remain open and ‘on duty’. To find the nearest ‘on-duty’ pharmacy, see the site called pharmacies de garde. Or, if you go to a local pharmacy that is closed, it should post the address of nearest pharmacie de garde on its door. Note: Some pharmacies are open on Sunday on a regular basis, others stay open late at night, and still others are open 24 hours a day.

Food
It is important to be aware that during your stay in France, you are quite likely to taste and experience new foods while enjoying all that French gastronomy has to offer. In France, particularly with some of the dairy products that are available, unpasteurised milk - au lait cru -  is used. This contributes to the flavour and texture of many products. It would be wise to be aware of any allergies you may have before trying some of the various French dairy products.