CULTURE FRANCIA

🔴⚪ = France without Paris
⚪🔵 = only Paris
🔴🔵 = France & Paris

Practical Info

Up-to-Date 2024  –  By Culture Francia Team

🔴⚪ = France without Paris
⚪🔵 = only Paris
🔴🔵 = France & Paris

⚪🔵 Airports

Location

To see the locations of the airports, check the 9th layer of the Paris Travel Map (access from home page).

Charles-de-Gaulle Airport (CDG) also called Roissy Airport

CDG Map connections 

CDG Official Taxi info and fares

Orly Airport (ORY)

ORY Map connections 

ORY Official Taxi info and fares

―――
You can also use a Ride Hailing service (Uber, Bolt) for a ride between Paris and either airport.

⚪🔵 Arrondissements, Quarters

To see the 20 Arrondissements and the Famous Quarters of Paris, check the last layer of the Paris Travel Map (access from home page).

🔴⚪ Bike Itineraries

Best website for biking itineraries in France:
France Vélo Tourisme

🔴⚪ Campervan / Motorhome

Best website to find spots to park for campvervan and motorhome in France:
Park4night

There is also an app which has a free and a paid version.
Apple
Android

🔴⚪ Carpool

Official carpool website in France:
Blablacar

There is also a free app
Apple
Android

🔴🔵 Concerts

Websites to find concerts in France:
In English:
Bandsintown
Shotgun

In French (how to translate)
Offi

 

🔴⚪ Driving

Road Signs

Tolls Signs

by cash (with change), by bank card or electronic toll with a stop

by bank card or electronic toll with a stop

only electronic toll with a stop for automated transponder

only electronic toll without a stop for automated transponder

 

Licence

It is accepted if it is written in the Latin alphabet.

If not, it must be accompanied by an international driving licence or an official translation.

In all cases, the licence must be valid.

Sometimes a minimum age for the driver may be required in order to rent a vehicle.

Phone holder

For the driver’s phone, we recommend bringing a magnetic phone mount as you will need to place and remove it frequently.
For instance, this kind of model.

🔴🔵 Electric Sockets

Electric sockets are of type E and F or rarely C.
Their voltage is 220-240V.

🔴🔵 Emergency N°

112   (clicable from your phone)

For Police, Ambulance, Fire and Rescue services.

Normally, dialing works even with a locked phone or without a SIM card.

This number is the same in other European Union countries.

🔴🔵 Hike Itineraries

Best website for hiking itineraries in France:
Visorando

There is also an app which has a free and a paid version.
Apple
Android

🔴🔵 Holidays 2024

January 1 (Monday) : New Year’s Day

April 1 : Easter Monday (the date varies each year : it’s the day after Easter Sunday)

May 1 (Wednesday) : Labor Day (International Workers’ Day)

May 8 (Wednesday) : Victory Day (WWII)

May 9 : Ascension Thursday (the date varies each year : it’s 40 days after Easter Sunday) 

May 20 : Whit Monday (the date varies each year : it’s 50 days after Easter Sunday)

July 14 (Saturday) : National Day (also called Bastille Day)

August 15 (Thursday) : Assumption of Mary

November 1 (Friday) : All Saints’ Day

November 11 (Monday) : Armistice Day (WWI)

December 25 (Wednesday) : Christmas Day

🔴🔵 Internet Data and Call

Union European Country SIM Card

You can use it in France without additional roaming charges. Check your operator’s website if unsure.

Other SIM Card (choose one of the following option)

  • Purchase a data and call plan from your home service provider.
  • Buy a plan for a digital e-SIM, available on most modern smartphones.
    Examples : Simoptions or Airalo.
    Ensure that your phone is not “locked” by your service provider.
  • Order a physical French SIM card online to be delivered to your home address.
    Example : Amazon.
    This physical SIM card can either replace your existing one or be used alongside it if your phone can accommodate 2 SIM cards simultaneously.
    Ensure that your phone is not “locked” by your service provider.
  • Buy a physical French SIM card upon arrival in France :
    – at airports or train stations in “Relay” stores or some Tourist Info Desks (both during working hours only)
    – in the city at tobacco shops or some supermarkets.
    Don’t expect the same amount of choice as on the internet, and don’t count on the seller being knowledgeable about this topic or fluent in English. A passport may be required for purchase.
    This physical SIM card can either replace your existing one or be used alongside it if your phone can accommodate 2 SIM cards simultaneously.
    Ensure that your phone is not “locked” by your service provider.
  • Rent a pocket wifi hotspot in France, with delivery to your accommodation.
    Example : Hippocketwifi

🔴🔵 Language

If you don’t speak any French, try learning at least these 3 words :
Bonjour : good morning/afternoon
Bonsoir : good evening
Merci : thank you
This small effort to use these words will be greatly appreciated by local speakers.

🔴🔵 Mass

If your visit to a church coincides with a mass, certain areas will be restricted for visiting.

Here is the site that provides the mass schedule:
Messes.info – in French (how to translate)

Some large cathedrals may have this information on their own website.

🔴🔵 Money

Card

All stores in France are equipped with a card payment terminal.
You might find rare exceptions on some food markets.

They are compatible with Visa and Mastercard (the card must have a chip ; if it only has the magnetic strip, it might not work).
American Express cards are usually accepted but not everywhere.

If your card does not have a PIN code, and you are prompted to enter one, normally, after waiting for a few seconds, the system will recognize this and proceed to validate the payment without requiring a PIN.

Cash

For a payment of just a few € you may be asked to pay in change.

If you use cash, avoid the 200€ and 500€ notes as they are rarely accepted.

It is not possible to pay with any currency other than €.

Currency rate

🔴⚪ Parking

You must not park if there is a

  • yellow line on the ground
  • large yellow cross marked on the ground
  • no parking sign.
  • taxi sign

If there is no prohibition, parking can be free or there can be 2 restrictions :

  • Free with limited time marked by blue dotted lines on the ground or the disc sign.
    In this case, you must use the plastic disc in the glove compartment of the vehicle and put your arrival time on it and leave it visible on the dashboard. The time limit is 1.5 hours, otherwise, it should be indicated on a sign.
  • Paying with a time limit if there is a parking meter.
    On newer machines, you must press the button power and type in the number plate of the vehicle before paying.
    On some older machines, payment by credit card may not exist and is therefore only possible by coins (with change).
    If you get a receipt, you must leave it on the dashboard. Sometimes there is no ticket, in the case of new equipment.
    The price/hour and the maximum possible time vary according to the street, the district and the city.

🔴⚪ Picnic

Best app to find picnic spots in France: PicNick
Apple
Android

It’s for small places and countryside, this app hardly has any information about picnic spots in Paris or other major French cities.

🔴🔵 Restaurant

Coffee Type

When ordering coffee in a bar or restaurant, specify the type (espresso, american, etc.) to make it clear for the waiter.

Hours

To find out if a restaurant is open on a particular day of the week and whether for lunch and/or dinner, check its hours in its Google Maps Profile (to be 100% sure about a restaurant’s opening hours, the only way is to call).

If you check a restaurant’s Google Maps Profile in advance of your trip and it states “Temporarily closed,” it might not necessarily be the case on the day you plan to visit. And vice versa.

Hours listed on Tripadvisor are less reliable.

Names

You can find various types of words preceding the name of a restaurant, such as “Auberge,” “Bistro,” “Bistrot,” “Bouillon,” “Brasserie,” “Café,” “Restaurant.” These terms once represented distinct categories of restaurants, but today they are so intermixed that they no longer hold concrete meaning for categorization.

Prices Include

The prices quoted include VAT and service.

In any restaurant, you have the right to ask for tap water, which will be served in a carafe or a glass bottle. It is drinkable and free. Specifically ask for tap water and not just water.
In French food restaurants, the same ap­plies to simple bread which will be served in a small basket.

Price Range

To get an idea of the price range of a restaurant, you can look at the restaurant’s Google Maps or Tripadvisor Profile and look for the number of € or $ symbols indicated. Most share this info.
The number of symbols ranges from 1 to 4 (sometimes, in addition to the symbols, there is a price range indicated)

This represents an average from the restaurant’s menu, so prices can vary between types of dishes.
Keep in mind that the number of symbols is primarily determined by the restaurant’s manager. The platform might adjust it occasionally based on feedback from consumers.

When visiting restaurant terraces in tourist areas, it’s advisable to check the menu prices before ordering, as you might encounter inflated prices aimed at trapping foreign tourists.

Reservation

The need to make a reservation at a restaurant really depends on several factors :

– the time of year.
– the day of the week.
– the number of people.
– the restaurant’s occupancy rate (the number of customers wanting to eat there versus its capacity) – this factor is difficult to know, so focus mainly on the first 3.
> When in doubt, opt to make a reservation.

Some few restaurants may operate without reservations and on a first-come, first-served basis.

You can make a reservation via a restaurant’s Google Maps Profile if you see a “RESERVE A TABLE” and/or “Find a table” button, or possibly on the restaurant’s website. Otherwise, the only option is by phone.

If you make the reservation by calling, unless you speak French, it will be made in English. It is very unlikely that you will be understood in any other language.
And the level of English of the person you are speaking to may be average or even basic.
You don’t necessarily have to give your surname, the first name may enough if it is easier for you, un­less you are specifically asked.

Table

When you enter a restaurant, the waiter will direct you to a table. If you’re not entirely pleased with its location, you can ask for another table.
Just because some tables are empty doesn’t mean they’re reserved (if they are, the waiter will inform you), so they might be available.
This is particularly possible when you’re a party of two, as restaurants might try to save certain tables for potential larger groups.

Tipping

It is not customary to leave a tip. 99% of French people don’t tip when eating at a restaurant in their country.

If you really want to leave a tip due to an incredible experience with the waiter, 5% of the total amount is fine.

In some restaurants with a significant foreign clientele, servers may have become accustomed to receiving tips, as their foreign customers replicate the custom from their home countries of leaving one. However, this in no way justifies that you must leave a tip, nor should the waiter feel aggrieved if you do not.

If in these restaurants, the bill states in English “tips not included,” or if the waiter tells you this, it is an attempt to manipulate the tourist.

Time

Allow 1h30 in a restaurant to eat a full meal (starter, main course and desert).
Allow 1 extra hour for a gastronomic restaurant.

Lunch times are usually from 12pm to 2pm : it’s recommended arriving between 12pm and 1pm and no later than 1:30pm.
Dinner times are usually from 7:30pm to 10 or 11pm : it’s recommended arriving between 7:30pm and 9pm and no later than 9.30pm.

In France, it may happen that you come across a day when the service is longer than usual and this can happen in any restaurant on any day.

Most restaurants close in the afternoon or only serve drinks, not meals. The exceptions are the all-day dining establishments, known as “Service Continu” in French.

Translate

To be able to translate restaurant menus, you can use a Translate app, which allows to translate words from a menu.
It might not work as well for handwritten words, as is the case in some restaurants that write the menu on a chalkboard.
Refer to the Paris Travel Map page for complete list of useful apps.

Tripadvisor

For a restaurant, if you see the “MICHELIN” label, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a starred restaurant.
If this is the case, you will see the number of stars appear next to it : 1*, 2*, or 3*.

Wine

For wines, you can ask the server’s opinion (or sommelier in certain restaurants) to make your choice.
You can also be more specific by mentioning certain characteristics you’d like, and they will advise accordingly.
The majority of French people ask servers for advice unless they are well-versed in wine.

Wine bars

Wine bars are also an option for a small dinner.
They typically offer food boards : charcuterie, cheeses and some can offer seafood.
They often open earlier than restaurants in the evening, starting in the late afternoon.

🔴🔵 Retaurant Glossary

allergie : allergy

apéritif : pre-meal drink

buffet : buffet

carte : menu

déjeuner : lunch

dessert : dessert

digestif : after-meal liquor

dîner : dinner

entrée : starter

formule : 2-3 course combination meal at a fixed-price

fromage : cheese

menu : 2-3 course combination meal at a fixed-price

menu dégustation : tasting menu (small servings of multiple dishes)

menu du jour : 2-3 course combination meal of the day, usually only for lunch (often cheaper and with faster service than the dishes on the “carte”)

menu enfant : kids’ menu

midi : lunch

petit-déjeuner : breakfast

plat : main course

plat du jour : main course of the day

soir : dinner

végétalien : vegan

végétarien : vegetarian

⚪🔵 Safety, Pickpockets

Safety

Paris is a generally safe city, but like other major cities, there are certain areas to avoid, especially in the evening towards the north of the city. Check the last layer of the Paris Travel Map (access from home page).

Pickpockets

There are many pickpockets in Paris, especially in public transportation, around major tourist attractions and on bar/restaurant terraces.
Be cautious and wary of people (both adults and children) who distract or approach you without reason, it’s likely a scam.
Being on vacation, you may be unconsciously less vigilant, but try to keep your common sense.

🔴🔵 Strikes

Strikes can occur at any time of the year with varying intensities. Just be aware of this, but statistically, it’s unlikely to affect your travel dates.

Sectors that may impact tourists include :
– A specific attraction.
– Public transportation (usually, a minimum service is maintained).
– Air travel : airport staff or your specific airline.
– Trains.
– Taxis (which does not justify any fare increase by the driver).

🔴🔵 Tap Water

Tap water is drinkable in France and the majority of French people drink it daily.

You might find some rare exceptions, in which case it will be indicated by a sign or written in French as “non potable”.

⚪🔵 Taxi and Ride-Hailing

Regular Taxi

You can take a taxi from the street or through the G7 app (official taxi app). 

Taxis are required to allow card payments if requested. If a driver refuses card payment or claims a malfunctioning terminal (whether true or false) insist on paying by card or threaten to call the police (number 112). This is unlikely, but be informed.

Ride-Hailing 

Examples : Uber or Bolt apps

From Airport

See the Airport section above.

🔴🔵 Time Change

Summertime (1 hour less sun in the morning and 1 hour more in the evening) :
the last weekend of March, during the night from Saturday to Sunday.
Sun 31 Mar 2024, at 2am it will be 3am.

Wintertime (1 hour more sun in the morning and 1 hour less sun in the evening) :
the last weekend of October, during the night from Saturday to Sunday.
Sun 27 Oct 2024, at 3am it will be 2am.

🔴🔵 Tipping

It is not customary to leave a tip for a service (driver, hotel, etc). 99% of French people don’t tip for any kind of service in their country.

In some high-end services with a significant foreign clientele, staff may have become accustomed to receiving tips, as their foreign customers replicate the custom from their home countries of leaving one. However, this in no way justifies that you must leave a tip, nor should the staff feel aggrieved if you do not.

For more info about tipping in restaurants, refer to Restaurant section above.

🔴🔵 Toilet

You can find toilets in various types of locations :

– Public toilets located in streets or parks, which are free of charge.
– In large shopping malls, where they may be available for free or for a fee (usually requiring coins)
– At railway stations, where they are often paid facilities (usually requiring coins).
– In bars/restaurants, you’ll need to purchase at least one drink/food to use them.

🔴🔵 Tourist Office

When you arrive in a city, it might be worthwhile to make a quick stop at the tourist office (if you arrive during its opening hours) to:

  • Get a physical map
  • Ask any questions you might have
  • Find out if there is a special event happening that day
  • Know if there are any places that are exceptionally closed that day
  • See if there is a city pass (in the case of a large or medium-sized city) and if it would be beneficial for you based on what you’ve planned

Click on this Google Maps search and add the name of the place to find out:

  • If there is a tourist office where you are going
  • Where it is located (in small towns, the office may not have its own building but be situated in another public building like the town hall, for example)
  • If it is open that day (in small towns, the office may close during the off-season)
  • Its opening hours

🔴🔵 Tourist Seasons

Low season : January, February, March.

Mid season : April, May and November

High season : June, July, August, September and the last 10 days of December

🔴🔵 Train

Paris Train Stations Location

To see the locations of the Paris train stations, check the 9th layer of the Paris Travel Map (access from home page).

Names

TGV (also called InOui) = High speed National train (speed depends of the track)

Ouigo = Low-cost TGV

Intercité = National train

TER = Regional Train 
(in the Ile-de-France region, the regional trains are called Transiliens, see the Transportation section)

Train routes

Websites to find train routes between two French cities (and neighboring countries as well) :

SNCF (official website of the French train service)

Rome2Rio

Omio

🔴🔵 Translate a Page

While doing your research, if you come across a link that is only in French, you have the option to translate the page using a feature in your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.). Depending on which one you are using, this is usually accessible via right-click or next to the search bar.
The translation may not be perfect, but it should be more than sufficient.

⚪🔵 Transportation

Comparative Table of Transportation Tickets

The 5 Far Zones

1 = Paris
2 + 3 + 4 = Suburbs
2 = Near suburbs
3 = Near or Further suburbs
4 = Further suburbs
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = Paris Region (named Ile-de-France)

Metro = Paris + Near suburbs
Bus = Paris + Near suburbs
Night Bus “Noctilien” = Paris + Suburbs + Ile-de-France
Tram = Suburbs
RER (Suburban Train) = Paris + Suburbs + Ile-de-France
Transilien (Regional Train) = Suburbs + Ile-de-France

For trains going outside the Ile-de-France region to other regions in France, check the Train section.

Operating Hours

Maps

Find a specific Map / Line

Google Maps : Metro + Tram + RER + Transilien (Paris + Suburbs + Ile-de-France)

Metro + RER + Tramway (Paris + Near suburbs)

Bus (Paris + Near suburbs)

Night Bus “Noctilien” (Paris + Suburbs + Ile-de-France)

RER (Paris + Suburbs + Ile-de-France)

Metro + Tram + RER + Transilien + 5 Far zones (Paris + Suburbs + Ile-de-France)

🔴🔵 Vaccine

For visa-exempt travelers, no vaccinations are mandatory to enter France.

If you require a visa, check the requirements list for any necessary vaccinations.

🔴🔵 Visa and Passport

Non-Schengen Passport holders :

Whether you are visa-exempt or have a tourist visa, the maximum duration of stay in the Schengen Area is 90 days within a period of 180 days. Your passport must be valid for at least 90 days after the date of exit from the Schengen area.

If you have heard of ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System), it will be a pre-travel authorization system for visa-exempt visitors to the Schengen Area. It will require travelers to complete an online application before their trip. It’s scheduled to be implemented in 2025.

🔴🔵 Wheather

Wheather month by month

Paris average monthly weather info
It’s in French : use your web browser’s translation function if necessary.

Umbrella

We recommend bringing 2 umbrellas per person : a small, compact one for light rain and a large one for heavy rain.
In summer, you might skip bringing the large one, although heavy rain is still possible but unlikely.

There is the possibility to rent a small, compact umbrella at most metro stations (during workings hours only).
More information on this page. It’s in French : use your web browser’s translation function.

CULTURE

FRANCIA