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France

General

France is a member of the EU.

Time

The time in France is the same as Amsterdam, Berlin and Rome and one hour ahead of London.

Language

French. You can also get by in English in tourist areas.

Border formalities

Many formalities and agreements about matters such as necessary travel documents, car papers, requirements relating to your means of transport and accommodation, medical expenses and taking pets with you do not only depend on the country you are travelling to but also on your departure point and nationality. The length of your stay can also play a role here.

We advise you to consult the relevant authorities before your departure about:

  • which travel documents you will need for yourself and your fellow passengers
  • which documents you need for your car
  • which regulations your caravan must meet
  • which goods you may import and export
  • how medical treatment will be arranged and paid for in your holiday destination in cases of accident or illness
  • whether you can take pets. Contact your vets well in advance. They can give you information about the necessary vaccinations, proof thereof and obligations on return. It would also make sense to enquire whether any special regulations apply to your pet in public places at your holiday destination. In some countries for example dogs must always be muzzled or transported in a cage.

You will find plenty of general information on www.europa.eu but make certain you select information that is relevant to your specific situation.

For the most recent customs regulations you should get in contact with the authorities of your holiday destination in your country of residence.

Read more

Currency

The currency in France is the euro. Approximate exchange rates September 2016: £ 1 = € 1.18. In general you can pay in France using your debit card.

Credit cards

You can pay almost everywhere by credit card, including motorway tolls. You usually have to validate a purchase with a signature and you may sometimes be asked for identification.

Opening times/Public holidays

Banks

French banks are open from Tuesday to Friday between 9:00 and 18:00. Banks are open on Saturday mornings.

Shops

Shops are open from Tuesday to Saturday until 19:00/20:00. Most shops in country areas are closed between 13:00 and 14:00. Many shops are closed on Monday morning or for the whole day.

Chemists

French chemists are open on weekdays until 19:00.

Public holidays
  • New Year’s Day
  • Easter
  • 1 May (Labour Day)
  • 8 May (1945 Armistice)
  • Ascension Day
  • Pentecost
  • 14 July (Bastille Day)
  • 15 August (The Assumption)
  • 1 November (All Saints)
  • 11 November (1918 Armistice)
  • Christmas Day

Communication

(Mobile)phones

The mobile network works well throughout France, except in some areas in the Alps and the Massif Central. There is a 3G network for mobile internet.

Wifi, internet

You can make use of a WiFi network at more and more public locations, often for free.

Post

Post offices are open from Monday to Friday until 18:00 and on Saturday until 12:00.

Roads and traffic

Road network

You are advised not to drive after dark in rural areas. France does not have any roadside assistance organisations. There are orange emergency phones (les bor-nes SOS) along the motorways, which you can use in emergency situations to request breakdown or recovery services (dépanneur).

Traffic regulations

Remember, all traffic in France drives on the right and overtakes on the left! Headlight deflectors are advisable to prevent annoying oncoming drivers. France uses the metric system, so distances are measured in kilometres (km) and speeds in kilometres per hour (km/h). Traffic from the right has priority except on main roads. Uphill traffic on narrow mountain roads has priority over descending traffic. You have priority on a roundabout if this is indicated by a triangular sign showing a roundabout. If there is no such sign drivers entering the roundabout will have priority.

Maximum permitted alcohol level is 0.5‰. You must use dipped headlights in poor visibility. You must phone hands-free.

You are required to wear a high visibility jacket in the event of a breakdown. Children under 10 must always sit in the back. Take note: never cross continuous white road markings, not even with one wheel! Winter tyres are not compulsory but if you have an accident in adverse winter conditions and your vehicle does not have winter tyres, you could be held (jointly) liable.

You are required to carry a breathalyser in your vehicle, but you won’t be fined if you don’t. You can buy breathalysers at filling stations, supermarkets and chemists.

Navigation

Notification of fixed speed cameras by navigation systems or mobile phones is not permitted. You are advised to remove speed camera locations from your navigation system.

Caravans, motorhomes

If your caravan weighs more than 3.5 tonnes lower speed limits apply. Overnight stays in your caravan or motorhome in built up areas and beside the motorway are prohibited, except in specially designated areas and for a maximum of 24 hours.

Caravans with a twin axle are generally not permitted on municipal campsites.

Maximum allowed measurements of combined length

Height unlimited, width 2.55 metres and maximum length 18.75 metres (of which the trailer maximum 12 metres).

Fuel

Euro 95 has been replaced almost totally by E10. Check before your holiday whether E10 is suitable for your vehicle. Superplus 98 is a suitable alternative for euro 95. Diesel and LPG are easily available at the pumps.

Filling stations

Most filling stations on motorways are open 24 hours. Some service stations on ‘routes nationales’ are also open day and night, but many close at 21:00. Take note that an increasing number of service stations away from motorways are closed on Sunday.

Credit cards and most bank cards showing the Maestro logo are accepted at filling stations.

Tolls

Tolls apply to most French motorways. Blue signs indicate a road leading to a motorway. The indication ‘péage’ shows that it is a toll road. If you don’t wish to pay a toll, follow the green signs which show alternative routes. You can pay the toll by credit card. Some of them can only be paid in cash. Take note that your toll ticket is only valid for 24 hours. More information about toll roads in France: www.autoroutes.fr (also in English).

Black Saturday

The busiest Saturdays in the summer season are known as ‘black Saturdays’. Black Saturdays occur in the last week of July and the first week of August every year.

Emergency numbers
  • 112: the national emergency number for fire, police and ambulance
  • 17: police
  • 18: fire
  • 15: ambulance

Camping

With more than 11,000 campsites, France is Europe’s biggest camping country. Be sure to reserve early if you want to go to the Ardèche or Dordogne in the interior, or to large seaside resorts. Pitches inland are often more spacious, better equipped and better value than on the coast.

It is worth noting that certain amenities such as the swimming pool, restaurant, snack bar, pizzeria and such like may only open in July and August. In all swimming pools, proper swimming trunks/costumes are obligatory and women are often required to wear a bathing cap. For hygienic reasons, boxer shorts, Bermuda shorts and other similar clothing is not allowed. On campsites in France you may come across signs ‘Inondation par temps de grosse pluie’, meaning that the area is prone to flooding during heavy rainfall.

Practical
  • Prices for electrical hook-ups are high and can vary from € 1.50 to € 4.50 per day.
  • Make sure you have a world adaptor for electrical appliances.
  • Drink bottled (mineral) water in preference to mains water.
Corsica

Most campsites on Corsica are on the coast and are usually well indicated. The roads, especially in the west, are narrow and sinuous. French is the official language but an accent similar to Italian is also spoken. There are few service stations inland! Corsica can be reached by various routes.