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Practical info when travelling in France

Practical info when travelling in France

Travelling in France

French Time
GMT +1

The switch to “Winter Time” is made on the last Sunday in October at 3 a.m., so you move your clocks back an hour to 2 a.m. The switch to “Summer Time” is made on the last Sunday in March at 2 a.m., so you move your clocks ahead an hour to 3 a.m.

Timetable change

Weather and Climate
France has four fairly distinct seasons though temperatures vary depending region:

- Spring (21 March-21 June) - Temp lows: 4 to 10°C – Temp highs: 12 to 20 °C.
- Summer (21 June-21 September) - Temp lows: 13 to 15°C – Temp highs: 23 to 35°C.
- Autumn (21 September-21 December) - Temp lows: 5 to 12°C – Temp highs: 10 to 21°C.
- Winter (21 December-21 March) - Temp lows: 0 to 10°C – Temp highs: 10 to 15 °C.

One of France's specific characteristics is that it has several climates ranging from the Mediterranean climate (warm, dry summer and mild winter) to the mountain climate (cold with snowfall in winter). As a result, you may experience major contrasts from one French region to another:

- The ocean climate: on the west coast, there are rather mild winters and relatively cool summers. Rainfall is frequent year round. Heading south, the ocean climate becomes more pleasant, and as you near the Pyrenees mountains, the climate is similar to a continental one.

- The continental or semi-continental climate: with a slight ocean influence. Winters are harsher and summers warmer.

- The Mediterranean climate: there is little or irregular rainfall, and there may be dry spells in the summer. Vegetation is dry and arid.

- The mountain climate: rain is more plentiful and temperatures vary substantially depending on the altitude.

Site to obtain the weather report in France

How to get to France
By plane to many international airports: Paris, Nice, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux.
Arrival is also possible by train, car and ferryfrom the other European countries.

Airports of Paris

How to travel in France
By train: France has the 2nd largest rail network in Europe; Paris can be reached in just a few hours by train from anywhere in France (TGV, means: High-Speed Train) or any major European city. Before boarding, don't forget to validate ("composter billet") your ticket in the orange machines located in train stations and on the platforms.
Trains stations are very well connected with the public transportation networks (bus, metro and tramways). Site of the SNCF (FRENCH NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY)

Public transportation: depending on the city or region you choose, there'll be buses, trains, tramways and a metro system. In major cities (Paris, Lyon, etc.), bicycles can be rented at pods; ask for information at the city's central tourist office.
By car: wide range of car rental companies upon arrival in airports and train stations.
Possibility of hiring a chauffeur-driven car.

Mobile phones and Internet
Mobile phones: GMS coverage is good in France. Nevertheless, we recommend you ask your service provider (as reception depends on your operator) about the rates that will be charged for calls you receive from your home country and/or the local or international calls you may make. To use your mobile phone in France, it must be compatible with GSM 900 or GSM 1800 standards. If your mobile is not compatible with those standards, or if it does not work, you can buy a mobile phone or a new SIM in many shops.

Two kinds of phone cards are available: cards with a chip that you insert directly into your phone, or cards with a code that you do not insert (simply follow the instructions on the back of the card). You can buy cards in Post Offices, main Tourist Offices, tobacco shops or newsstands.

If you want to call abroad, international phone cards with a code offer the most competitive rates. These cards can also be used for making calls within France.

To phone France from abroad: dial 00 + the country code, which is 33 for France + your party's number (without the first 0).

To call abroad from France: dial 00 + the country code + your party's number (without the first 0).

Internet Access: Internet access is very widespread and free in 4- and 5-star hotels; free Wi-Fi access is available in some cafés and restaurants; in urban areas, cybercafés are fairly common.

Exchange rate and currency
The Euro has been the national currency in France since 2002. As of 2014, Euros can be used in all 18 countries of the Euro zone: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia.

1€ is divided into 100 centimes or cents.
Bills: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500€.
Large coins: 1€ and 2 €.
Small coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents

To calculate the day's exchange rate, click on this link

Depending on your nationality, a visa may be required upon arrival. Depending on the time you plan to spend in France, you should apply for a short-term visa, valid for 3 months maximum. It should be requested before departure at the competent French consulate or embassy in the applicant's country of residence.

Moreover, in France, your country’s embassy is the link with your home country. Your embassy can provide help in the event of a problem, to reissue your ID papers or to assist you with certain procedures.

Embassies and consular offices are often open only in the morning. Always phone before going.
Coming to France: visa

Most shops are open from 9 am to 7 pm, non-stop, from Monday thru Saturday. However, some small shops may be closed at lunchtime, from 12 to 2 pm, or all day on Mondays. Sundays and holidays are the most common closing days, but there are exceptions... Saturdays are busy days, reserved for shopping.

Museums open at 9 or 10 am and close between 5 and 6 pm. The usual closing days are Mondays or Tuesday, with a few exceptions. Many museums are open late once a week, until 9 or 10 pm. Museums are generally closed on holidays, especially January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.

The French usually break for lunch between 12 and 1:30 pm and for dinner between 8 and 10 pm. Outside of those time periods, you can get something (cold) to eat in most cafés and taverns, known as "brasseries". The sign "service continu" means that it is possible to order a meal at any time.

Electrical current and plugs/outlets
The electrical current is 220V (50Hz). Plugs are the same throughout Europe, with two round prongs. It is best to bring a plug adaptor with you, if needed.

In France, prices include tax and service charges, therefore service is included (approx. 15% of the total price). If the service was especially good, you may want to leave a tip to express your satisfaction. The amount is generally 5-10% of the bill.