France is a nation of liberty, equality, fraternity, and revolution. It is also a symbolic country of romance and one of the three biggest countries in Europe, following Russia and Ukraine.
French history, arts, culture have been loved by people world-wide. Although the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum are the most popular tourist attractions, there are so many other places to visit outside of Paris. The distinctive aspects of each region in France is attracting more and more people from the entire world.
LANGUAGE : French
AREA : 5,490 million 8,700㏊
RELIGION : Christianity (including various branches), Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism are the top religions practiced
CURRENCY : Euros
VOLTAGE : 220V
COUNTRY CALLING CODES : + 33
Paris is the most populated and most visited city in France. Despite the popularity, loads of tourists don't venture out and explore the rest of what France has to offer. The beautiful country side in the middle, southern and western part of France has stunning landscapes which you may recognize from movies as there are many movies filmed all around France. You yourself may even feel like you're in a movie once you spend some time visiting these locations.
The following is a list of locations in Paris, and surrounding cities that we suggest you pay a visit to, and what to do in each destination in order to enrich your experience in France:
1) PARIS : Museums: Invalides, Louvre, Orsay, and Rodin, the Eiffel Tower, Marais district, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees Avenue, Seine River, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Montmartre, Conciergerie, Grand Palais, Alexandre III Bridge, Concorde Square, Garnier Opera, Luxembourg Park, Sorbonne University, and the Pantheon.
2) CITIES NEAR PARIS : Versailles, Fontainebleu, Auvers-sur-Oise, Metz, Giverny, Provins, Chantilly, Vaux le Vicomte, and Chambord.
3) MONT SAINT MICHEL : Saint Pierre church, la Mere Poulard restaurant (try the souffle omelet), and stroll on the narrow and ancient roads and between the stone walls.
4) SAINT MALO : Saint Vincent Gate, islands (Grand Bé and Petit Bé), Chateaubriand's tomb, the Quebec house, various crepe restaurants to choose from, Cidrerie, and ice cream at Sanchez.
5) AVIGNON : Papal Palace, Saint-Benezet Bridge (Avignon Bridge), private art museum of Yvon Lambert, and the Avignon festival in July.
6) NICE : Pebble beach, Castle Park, Castle Hill, old town of Nice, Cours Saleya Market, MAMAC Nice (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art), Massena Square, Chagall Museum, Nice Carnival, and the Eze Village.
7) AIX EN PROVENCE : Cezanne atelier studio, Statues of Cezanne, Saint Sauveur Cathedral, Le Rotonde Fountain, Vasarely Foundation Museum, and the Caumont Art Center.
8) STRASBOURG & COLMAR : Cathedral of Notre-dame, BATORAMA cruise ship, Petite-France (Little France), European Parliament, Couverts Bridge & Maison Pfister, Petit Venice (Little Venice), Unterlinden Museum, and the Colmar indoor market.
Despite there being four seasons, the weather in France is usually capricious each day. Since France is a large country, the weather vaires in each region. If you are travelling, it is best to check the weather of your new destination as it may be drastically different than the weather you are currently experiencing.
A warm sunny spring in March-May, and a clear sky in autumn during September-November
From mid-February, as the sun begins to stay out longer, you can enjoy your trip in the warm weather. It is warm during the day but sometimes it could get very chilly at night. It may still rain unexpectedly so carrying around an umbrella or rain jacket with you is a good idea. During autumn the weather dips a bit low sometimes so make sure to bring extra layers.
Summer vacation during July-September
The summer in France can get very hot but not humid. The sun rays are strong so don't forget your sunglasses and suncreen! Some stores close during the holiday season in France, mostly in August.
Best season for indoor sightseeing is from December-February
In the late fall and winter, it rains frequently and it is often cloudy. The temperature usually does not go below zero degrees. This season offers more night time sight seeing at an earlier in the night as the sun sets quicker. It is recommended to carry a hat or a mini-umbrella for the duration of your stay.
France is one of the most expensive countries in Europe, especially in Paris where the cost for accommodation and meals is very high. However, a lot of tourist locations have a discount if you are a student or if you are under the age of 26. You can expect to spend approximately 120-170 euros per day, per person in Paris, excluding accommodation.
French cuisine is known for its classic and rich culture. Each region in France has its own cuisine specialty. The Michelin Guide was fist published in France, in 1990 and it lists the highest quality restaurants in France and all over the world.
1) CONFIT DE CANARD : A flavourful and delicious duck meat dish from the southwestern region of France.
2) GALETTE : This dish is a a similar shape of a crepe that the French usually eat as a dessert or as street food and originates from the Brittany region. You can choose the ingredients you'd like to to stuff the galette with, such as egg, bacon, beef, cheese, onion, fish, etc.
3) CHOUCROUTE : A traditional dish of naturally fermented cabbage that is mainly eaten with Alsace meat, fish, and drunk alongside beer and white wine.
4) FOIE GRAS : A popular dish to eat during the French holidays. It is made from either goose or duck liver. It is commonly eaten as an appetizer with baked bread or you can eat it as a side to a main dish like steak.
5) ESCARGOTS : The most symbolic dish of France, the snail dish. It can usually be ordered in six or twelve units. When it is served, special tweezers are given to separate snail meat from its shell. Contrary to what you'd think, before consumption, the meat is removed from the shell, cooked, spiced and then put back into the shell before being served.
6) SOUPE A L'OIGNON : Onion soup is cooked with onions, bread slices, and cheese that originates from the Roman times. It is a great option for an appetizer during the cloudy and windy day to warm you up.
7) RACLETTE : Raclette is a traditional dish from France and Switzerland. Delicious cheese is melted over boiled potatotes and cucumbers to create a savoury meal.
8) BOEUF BOURGUIGNON : One of the typical homemade dishes in the Burgundy region. It is a beef stew dish, cooked with red wine and meat broth. Carrots, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and herbs are added to enrich the taste. These days, you may find easily the Boeuf bourguignon in almost every region of France and of course, in Burgundy.
9) MAGRET DE CANARD : A duck breast dish which is a famous specialty in France that pairs well with a red wine from Bordeaux.
10) BOUILLABAISSE : This is a traditional fish stew dish from Marseille. Usually soup, bread, and sauce is served first, and the fish is served on a large plate separately.
11) VIN FRANCAIS : French wines are recognized as exceptional not only by Europeans, but also by people all around the world. If you visit France, and go to Bordeaux, you can enjoy a wine tasting and try a variety of wines. At a restaurant, you can ask the waiter for a recommendation for which wine goes well with the dish that you ordered.
12) DESSERT : The luxury dessert is a macaron, and the puff pastry selecion includes eclairs, mille feuilles, croissants, and crepes.
French public transportation generally costs about 2 euros per trip in but it varies by region (public transport in Dunkirk is free!). Metros and buses run regularly on weekdays, but on weekends and public holidays, they run less frequently, or don't run at all. It's best to check the bus website prior to your trip just to be sure. After the daytime bus service ends, which is approximately at around 12 am, the night bus called NOCTILIEN begins to operate.
1) TRANSPORTATION IN FRANCE BETWEEN CITIES
TRAIN : The French national railway company SNCF offers two types of transportation services; a slow-speed train TER that runs a short distance and a high-speed train TGV that runs long distances between cities. Tickets can be purchased on site or online. If you have booked your ticket on the Internet, it is more convenient for you to print out a ticket or download the SNCF application on your smartphone. Official booking site is https://en.oui.sncf/en/
BUS : There are several intercity bus companies in France (FLIXBUS, OUIBUS, ISILINES, etc.), Using GOEURO platform is the easiest and the most convenient way to search and find the best and most affordable route. https://www.goeuro.com/
2) TRANSPORTATION IN PARIS
The main public transportation modes in Paris are the metro, the bus, and the tram. The bus is recommended because it gives you the option to enjoy the scenery of Paris while traveling from one destination to the next. If you are in a time crunch you can use the subway to arive at your destination quicker.
TICKET t+ : You can use one TICKET t+ (1.90 euros) for one ride in the metro, bus, or tram. It is easy to buy a ticket at the metro station as the ticket machines which offer the services in several languages. If you don't have a ticket and you need to get on the bus, don't worry! You can buy a ticket from the bus driver on the spot. If you are planning to use public transportation often, getting CARNET (10 t+ tickets at once, 14.9 euros) or MOBILIS (unlimited 1-day pass, price difference depending on accessible zones - for 1,2 zones 7.5 euros) is a good way to save money.
NAVIGO : The NAVIGO pass is very useful if you are planning to stay in Paris for more than a week. There are two types of passes: one-week pass (22.8 euros) and one-month pass (75.20 euros). You should take into consideration that the one week pass starts service on Monday's and the monthly pass starts on the 1st of each month. Your weekly and monthly pass does not go into effect on the day of purchase, if you purchase the passes on a Wednesday or the 15th of the month. The NAVIGO card requires your photo on the card; if there is no photo, you could be fined for illegal use of a NAVIGO card. Most stations have a photo booth or an attendant who can help you if you run into any issues.
HOW TO GET TO THE CITY CENTER FROM PARIS CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT
AIRPORT BUS : ROISSY BUS runs from the airport to OPERA GARNIER from airport terminals 1, 2, and 3. It takes about 1 hour and costs 11 euros. If you have a NAVIGO or Paris Visits card, you can use it to ride the bus for free.
TRAIN RER : You can easily get into the city center by the metro line, RER, which is connected to the airport terminal. You can buy the ticket easily with your credit card at a kiosk in the airport. If you want to buy your ticket with cash, you have to go to the ticket office. For adults, it costs 10.30 euros and for children aged 4-9, it costs 7 euros. When taking the RER, your train ride will be approximately 40 minutes to Chatelet-Les Halles station.
TAXI OR UBER : A Taxi or Uber can take you from the airport directly to the city center and runs on a flat rate depending on the final location. There is little chance of fraud on behalf of the driver because the French government implemented a new system of a flat rate. For ease, it's better to prepare the exact amount of change in advance. For destinations located in the north part of the Seine river, it costs 50 euros and south of the river, it's 55 euros.
HOW TO GET TO THE CITY CENTER FROM PARIS ORLY AIRPORT
AIRPORT BUS : ORLYBUS runs from the airport to DENFERT-ROCHEREAU station. You can take the bus from the exit C of South terminal or the exit D of West terminal. It takes approximately 30-35 minutes and it costs 8.30 euros. But if you have a NAVIGO pass, you can ride the bus for free.
TRAIN : By using an unmanned metro ORLYVAL, you can go to ANTONY station and then take RER B line to go to the city center for the cost of 12.50 euros. Alternatively, you can take the shuttle bus to PONT DE RUNGIS, from the exit C of South terminal or the exit G of West terminal. From PONT DE RUNGIS you can take metro RER C line which will cost you 6.25 euros.
TAXI OR UBER : Taxi or Uber from Orly Airport is also operated on a flat rate. The ride costs between 30 and 35 euros depending on your destination.
3) Near Paris - Places that you can go with your NAVIGO pass
Versailles Palace : Take the metro RER C line to GARE DE VERSAILLES CHATEAU RIVE GAUCHE station, from there you can walk Versailles Palace in 10 minutes, or you can take the bus 171 from PONT DE SEVRES station.
Auvers-sur-Oise : From GARE DE NORD, you can take line H to GARE DE PERSAN BEAUMONT and from there change to line H-TSOL which brings you to GARE D'AUVERS SUR OISE (1 hour travel time).
Chantilly Castle : From GARE DE LYON, CHATELET-LES HALLES, or GARE DU NORD, you can take RER D towards CHANTILLY-GOUVIEUX station (45 mins travel time).
Vaux le Vicomte Castle : From GARE DE L'EST, take the line P of Transilien and get off at VERNEUIL-L'ETANG station (35 mins travel time). At the station, you can take the shuttle bus Châteaubus which will take 20 minutes. The tickets for the shuttle bus are for a round trip only and can only be purchased in cash.
Provins : From GARE DE L'EST, take the line P of Transilien and get off at GARE DE PROVINS (1.5 hours travel time).
Fontainebleau : From GARE DE LYON, take the line R toward GARE DE MONTARGIS and get off at FONTAINEBLEAU AVON station (40 mins).
4) Day trip or Overnight trip from Paris
Mont Saint Michel : You can take a train TGV from MONTPARNASSE station which takes 3 hours. You could also take OUIBUS, FLIX BUS for a cheaper option (5 - 6 hours). Alternatively, there are some tour operators such as PARIS CITY VISION from which you can choose various types of services such as transportation only, or transportation & accommodation, or transportation & accommodation & personal guide. When you get into the region, you have three ways to get into Mont Saint Michel: walking for 30 minutes, free shuttle bus which runs every 5-10 minutes, or by bike, which you can rent from a hotel.
Saint Malo : Take the train TGV from MONTPARNASSE station which takes 3 hours. It takes 20-30 minutes on foot from the station to the old town. Or you can take a 7 minute bus ride. Since Saint Malo is located an hour away from Mont Saint Michel, it is recommended to visit both attractions on the same day in order to see more on your trip.
Rouen : Take the train from SAINT LAZARE station to ROUEN station (1 hour and 10 mins of travel time).
Deauville : Take the train from SAINT LAZARE station to TROUVILLE-DEAUVILLE station (1 hour and 30 mins of travel time).
Strasbourg - Colmar : To get to Strasbourg, you can take a the TGV train from GARE DE L'EST (2 hours) or OUIGO from PARIS CHARLES DE GAUELLE AIRPORT Terminal 2 (2 hours). Or you can take a bus which will take at least 7 hours. For Colmar, you can take TGV from GARE DE L'EST (2.5 hours) or a FLIXBUS at BERCY station (9 hours). If you are planning to go to Colmar from Strasbourg, take the train from GARE DE STRASBOURG to GARE DE COLMAR which will take 30 minutes. There is also OUIBUS which you can get at the PLACE DE L'ETOILE bus station in Strasbourg.
5) Transportation in the South France
To travel from Paris to the southern part of France, you can use the TGV train or bus. When using the train, you can can take the train from GARE DE LYON (4-5 hours). The bus could be a relatively cheap option as well which will take at least 7-8 hours. In Marseille, Avignon, Nice and Aix en Provence, there aren't as many buses as in Paris. Therefore, many travelers usually rent a car to get around the centrum and to see places further out from the city. If you can't drive, you will have to plan your travels ahead of time in order to travel by bus. The buses usually operates at 30 minutes to 1 hour intervals.
HOW TO GET TO THE CITY CENTER FROM MARSEILLE PROVENCE AIRPORT
AIRPORT SHUTTLE BUS : The bus runs every 20 minutes from the airport to SAINT CHARLES. You can take it from platform 2. The ticket price is 8.30 euros for an adult, 5.80 euros for 12-25 aged youth, and 4.15 euros for children. The journey will take approximately 40 minutes.
* There is also an airport shuttle bus that takes you from directly to Aix en Provence.
If you are a student, prepare and arrange to have an international student ID card as there are many discounted benefits for students in France. Before paying for any ticket, check to see if there is any discount for students and present your ID card if there is. Also, if you have a student card of a university located in EU and you are less than 26 years old, you can get free entrance to many attractions.
Since France is a tourist attraction that is loved by everyone all over the world, there are many visitors during the high season, especially summer. Therefore, once you have decided on your itinerary, you can start pre-booking and printing out your own tickets which will enable you to avoid the long queues and assure you get the cheapes price possible.
Paris Museum Pass is a free pass that allows you to enter 60 attractive sites of Paris, including Louvre Museum, Orsay Museum, Versailles Palace, Arc de Triomphe, etc. Because there is no use limit, it's possible to revisit a place and enter the sites quickly without waiting in a long line to buy a ticket. When you use this pass, make sure to write down your name and the date.
The currency in France is the Euro, therefore, if you are traveling in most European countries, you don't have to exchange the currency multiple times. Often in some restaurants, they only accept payment by credit cards, so be sure to have your credit card with you at all times.
1) LAULHERE Beret: A symbolic, stereotypical, yet not overused item from France, a beret. LAULHERE's beret is a "one size fits all" type, so you can adjust it to suit your head size. Taking a picture while wearing your new beret in front of the Eiffel Tower will create an unforgettable memory.
2) Horizontal striped shirts from SAINT JAMES : Striped shirts are another symbolic item of France. This shirt will suit well whoever wears it regardless of age or gender.
3) GIEN Monument Mini-plates : A famous French traditional tableware brand is GIEN. Almost 200 years ago, in 1821, GIEN opened first as a French manufacturer of luxury pottery. Regardless of the small plate size, using these at your next event will drastically enhance the atmosphere.
4) Soap : Soaps made locally, and naturally without chemicals are always a great gift. A famous French naturally made soap is SAVON de Marseille.
5) The Little Prince items : There is a collection of various souvenir items depicting the character of the novel <The Little Prince> which includes pencil cases, pouches, mugs, pencils, bags, baby t-shirt's, and much more.
6) Cosmetics : The cosmetic products from Avene, Bioderma, Uriage, Nuxe, Eucerin, Darphin are well-known and of high quality. You can find all of these products at fairly affordable prices at Monge Pharmacy in Paris, Aix en Provence and Cannes. (OBONPARIS coupon)
7) MARIA FRERES : You can buy various types of tea products and beautiful tea containers.
8) KUSUMI Tea : This is a world famous tea brand. There are specially packaged products with which you can buy to remember your trip in France. You can also can buy tea cups, tea-spoons and other items used for optimal tea enjoyment.
9) FAUCHON : A shop with several types of artistic and delicious snacks and drinks like: madeleines, cookies, galettes, tea, and wine.
10) REPETTO : Women's shoe store specializing in flat shoes and famous for its shopping convenience. At first, the brand was launched to manufacture ballerina shoes but later transitioned to day type shoes, but the flexibility and lavishness of their products still remains.
11) Lavender products from South France : Skin care or body care products, especially lavender oil sticks which are good for migraines, lavender soaps, lavender spices, lavender candles, and many more products to leave you smelling like lavender forever are always a good purchase.
12) French wine : France is know mostly for its wine and is at par with Italy for its high quality. With most of France being perfect for viticulture, you can't ever go wrong with buying wine as a souvenir.
13) Articles of food from Aix en Provence : Various types of olive oil (truffle and olive oil), jam (raspberry, chocolate, and chestnut), hors d'oeuvres, and salt from the Camargue region with black truffle.
In France, in order to get a tax refund, the minimum amount that must be spent is over 175 euros. Since it's a refund from the French goverment, the process is very strict.
To get a tax refund, you have to be older than 16 years old and you can't have been in Europe for more than 6 months. You will also need to be available to present the purchased products to customs.
Firstly, you must ask for tax refund documents when you purchase the product at the store. There are two main ways to get refunds: immediate cash refunds at the airport or card cash transfer which will take an average of one month.
If France is your last destination in the European Union, you should proceed with the tax refund procedure before checking your baggage. If you send your baggage first, you won't be able to show the products to customs. To get a tax refund approval, you need to go to the customs office in the airport where you will get a stamp on each receipt. With stamped documents, go to the reimbursement tax office and get a refund directly.
In case of card cash transfer or a prepaid tax refund, you can use a blue machine called PABLO at the Charles de Gaulle airport to get an approval. By using the barcode on the tax return documents, you can get the approval immediately and direcly mail them. There is no need to get a customs official stamp from the office.
It would be wise to arrive at the airport 3-4 hourse before dparture time in case the line for receiving a tax refund is long, especially during the busy season.
There isn't a special tipping culture in France. Instead, the service fee is already included in the receipt. Sometimes the locals leave some small change if they had an exceptional dining experience. At most restaurants you can ask for the bill (L'ADDITION) at the table and make a payment directly without having to go to the cash register.
As more and more tourists are visiting France, it seems that the number of pickpocket incidents is increasing. You have to be extra careful with your belongings especially with smartphones and expensive cameras. You need to pay close attention at metro gates, inside of the metro, crowded waiting lines, and terrace restaurants. It is better to avoid Montmartre, East station and North station in Paris at night.
If you have large luggage, check the metro stations you will use before you leave to ensure the station has an elevator or an escalator to help transport your luggage as many metro stations only have stairs.
You have to pay to use the public toilets in France, like in the United Kingdom. Many of them are not maintained properly and not very clean. Therefore, it is recommended you to use the toilet at restaurants or museums after your visits. If you use a bathroom in McDonald's or Starbucks, make sure you ask for the receipt as the password is printed on it.
Useful French Expression
Hello : Bonjour
Thank you : Merci
Sorry : Pardon, Je suis désolé.
Yes / No : Oui / Non
Good / Very good : Bien / Très bien
What is the most popular dish? : Quel est le plat le plus commandé dans ce restaurant?
Bill, please : L'addition, s'il vous plaît.