France is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. It has a lot to offer, from excellent food to iconic landmarks. However, before you pack your bags, you should brush up on these France travel tips.
Like most countries, France has its own particular customs and behaviour. So, to avoid any faux pas or trouble, and to make the most of your vacation, these France travel tips are sure to help you along.
1. Learn a bit of French before you go
Though you don’t need to memorize a dictionary, a few words and phrases in the local language can go a long way, even if they speak English.
- Bonjour – Hello
- Merci – Thank You
- Oui – Yes
- Pardon – Excuse Me
- S’il vous plait – Please
- Au Revoir – Goodbye
- Je ne parle pas francais – I don’t speak French
- En anglais, s’il vous plait – In English, please?
2. Know how to greet people
While strangers may greet each other with a simple “bonjour” in small towns and villages, it is almost unheard of in Paris and other big cities. However, when they do greet strangers, it’s with a handshake, and friends are met with a kiss on both cheeks.
3. If you’re dining out, dress well
France, and especially Paris, is said to be the fashion capital of the world. While you may be comfortable during the day in shorts or sneakers and flip-flops, be sure to dress up while dining out. (Though you should also try to refrain from going overboard in this regard as most people here dress simply but stylishly).
4. Tipping is appreciated, but not absolutely necessary
When dining out at restaurants and cafes, tips are already included in the check as a 15% service charge (“service comprising”). However, it will be appreciated if you give a little extra tip to your waiter – nothing extravagant, just a few euros to show your appreciation. Also remember that people in France are rarely in a rush, so service tends to be quite slow.
5. Eat local foods, the way the chef recommends it
Be sure to enjoy the local food and wine wherever you go in France. Also, remember that most chefs are experts at their jobs, so if you ask food to be prepared differently than they recommend (barring allergies and other requirements), expect the restaurant staff to tell you why the chef’s way is better to best enjoy the flavour of the dish.
6. Fresh food markets have days off
If you want fresh food at the markets, be sure to get them no later than Sunday, as Monday is one of the two official days for market sellers to rest.
7. Walk as much as you can
When exploring towns and cities, try to walk as much as you can, as it is the best way to enjoy these places. If you need a ride, take the metro or the bus, both of which are much more reasonably priced than the expensive cabs. Just be sure to hold on to your ticket to prevent a €35 fine.
Also Read: The 15 Best Things To Do In Lille, France
8. Remember to keep safety vests if you plan to drive yourself
If you’re planning to drive yourself in France, know that all vehicles are required to have a visibility vest and a warning triangle and that any use of mobile phones (even with a headset) is illegal. If you’re driving in Paris, you’ll also require a Crit’Air Vignette (or a clean air sticker).
9. Be aware of changing speed limits in cities and the countryside
Speed limits for rural and urban areas are not always clearly mentioned in signs, so you may not know when they’ve changed. Generally, the limit in urban areas is 50 kph (30 kph near schools and pedestrian centres), while the limits on other roads are between 80-90 kph. Always remember that cars drive on the right and that roundabouts go anti-clockwise.
10. Always carry valid ID
Due to the tightening of security (and the Plan Vigipirate program) all bags are checked at entrances to public venues and shops. Visitors must also have a valid picture ID with them at all times, so be sure to keep one handy.
11. Finding a pharmacy gets difficult after dark
Local pharmacies close along with other shops at about 7 pm throughout France. However, they take turns to stay open late in case of emergencies after hours. You can look for the closest open pharmacy in your area here.
12. Keep off the grass in public parks
While grassy spots in public parks may look perfect for a picnic, you’re expected to keep off the grass in public parks in towns and cities. This doesn’t apply in the countryside, though there it’s best to keep an eye out for wild boars.
Are there any France travel tips that we’ve missed? If so, be sure to share them in the comments below.