Famous the world over for fine wines, great cheeses and fascinating culture, France is one of the most visited countries in the world and for good reason. With stunning architecture to admire, delicious cuisine to sample and magnificent landscape to marvel, a trip to France is guaranteed to be memorable.
The weather in France varies depending on the region. Generally the summers are mild and the winters are cool to cold. On the Mediterranean Coast the winters are very mild and and the summers are very hot. The Jura and Savoie regions are prone to snow and very cold winters. The North-West area tends to see more rain than the rest of France.
The French observe 11 public holidays a year including 1st January, Easter Monday and Christmas Day. Government departments, banks and shops are mostly closed on these days.
There are five sets of school holidays in France per year with one week in October, two weeks at Christmas, two weeks in Spring and all of July and August. Tourist sites and roads will be particularly busier during these periods.
There are international airports in all of the main cities in France. Charles De Gaulle Paris International Airport is the largest. Bordeaux International Airport is popular for flights to Southern Europe and Lyon Saint Exupery International Airport located in the centre of France is ideal for those travelling to the Alps.
France boasts an extensive rail network which is efficient and economical making it one of the best ways to get around. The high speed TGV and TER regional express trains are safe, punctual and comfortable - ideal for travelling from city to city or to nearby European countries.
The Eurostar provides high speed links from London to Paris, Lille and Disneyland.
MotoRail allows you to take your car on holiday with the ease of travelling by train with the use of special transporter carriages. Links to Brives, Toulouse and Nice.
Major cities, in particular Paris, in France are home to one of the fastest and most efficient subway systems in the world. Inexpensive and easy to use they are a great way to get around the city.
Rail passes and discount tickets are available but must be obtained from your country of origin before arriving in France.
France is home to one of the most extensive and impressive motorway networks in Europe. However, it is one of the most expensive with most motorways holding toll fees. This means motorways can often be quiet and trunk roads congested. Many of the cities, particularly Paris, are often congested with some cities employing traffic restriction measures to combat this.
Traffic rules are generally the same as in the UK , however it is advisable to display an international distinguishing sign as near as possible to the registration plate on the rear of the vehicle.
Drink driving isn't advisable as the limit is 0.05%. Random breath tests are frequent and can come with severe penalties.
Seat belts must be worn by the driver and any passengers in the front or back at all times.
Children under 10 years of age are
French is the official language of France. English is widely spoken, however here are a few useful phrases:
Goodbye: Au revoir
Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous Anglais?
Please: Si'l vous plait
Thank you: Merci
The currency of France is the Euro which divides into 100 cents.
The domestic electricity voltage is 230V, 50Hz with a standard European round two pin plugs used. Adaptors are readily available.
The dialling code for France is +33.
The emergency numbers for France are:
Ambulance (Samu) - 15
Police (Gendarmerie) - 17
Fire (Pompier) - 18
The European emergency call number is 112 and can be dialled from mobiles.
ATM's often offer a good exchange rate and are easily accessible. Most take Visa and MasterCard and many are linked to the Cirrus and Plus systems. American Express ATM's are available mainly in city centres.
Tourist information offices (Office de Tourisme) can be found in city centres and are identified by a blue i sign.
Rail passes such as Europass, Eurodomino and Interrail can offer great discounts on rail travel. They must be obtained from your country of origin before you leave.
Nearly all restaurants include tax and a 15% service charge in their prices. Leaving a cash tip is often customary if the meal or service has been particularly good. It is common practice to tip taxi drivers 10-15% of the fare.