France - General Information

Currency Information

The currency in France is the Euro, which is widely available in the UK.

Sterling cash and travellers cheques can be exchanged at hotels, banks and exchange offices in France. Major credit cards are accepted in hotels, larger shops and restaurants. We also recommend that you inform your bank/card company of your trip to France, in order to avoid any problems when withdrawing cash from ATM’s; as a security method on your behalf, banks occasionally stop withdrawals in the event that they are being used fraudulently abroad.

Means of Payment

When travelling outside of the UK, you should take more than one means of payment with you (cash, debit card, credit card). Make sure you have enough money to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.

Tipping

Tipping has not been part of the British way of life but it is a common practice in most holiday destinations.  It is a way of saying thank you to someone who has given good service or for a job well done.  It is also an important source of income for people working in the tourism industry, whether it is the driver, local guide, hotel staff or in local bars and restaurants.  Your Tour Manager will be able to advise you of what an appropriate amount is and when to give it. 

For meals, a service charge of 15% has been included in all restaurants bills in France.  It is not usually shown as a separate item but you do not need to leave service on top of your bill. In the case of exceptional service one or two euros would suffice.

Tips or gratuities are not included in the holiday cost and are totally at your discretion.

Duty-Free Allowance

  • 800 cigarettes; 400 cigarillos; 200 cigars; 1kg tobacco.
  • 4L wine, 1L of spirits, 2L of alcoholic beverage’s not exceeding 22% volume.
  • 16L of beer (only for VAT and excise duty)

Please check these allowances prior to travel as they are subject to change.

Climate & Clothing

A popular year-round destination, France has an affable climate with long hot summers and cool winters, which bring snow to higher ground. We recommend checking the weather forecast a few days before you travel.

Summer (June-August) is the peak season, when it is warm and sunny across much of the country. If you’re visiting at this time, prepare to face higher-than-usual demand at major sights, attractions and coastal resorts, particularly along the French Riviera.

Southern France remains balmy throughout spring (March-May) and autumn (September-October), which are decidedly quieter times to visit. Prices are also considerably cheaper. The crowds return during the ski season (December-March), packing out resorts in the Alps and Pyrenees, which offers excellent conditions for skiing.

North-eastern areas have warm summers and colder winters with rainfall distributed throughout the year and snowfall likely in winter. The Atlantic influences the climate of the western coastal areas from the Loire to the Basque region, where the weather is temperate and relatively mild with rainfall throughout the year. Summers here can be very hot and sunny – sunburn may be a risk if you’re unprepared.

One of the prettiest natural spectacles occurs in Provence between the last week of June and first week of August, when lavender fields in The Luberon are in full bloom.

According to season; Light breathable clothing for summer in all areas and waterproof winter gear for the mountains all year round. In winter even the Mediterranean resorts often require a sweater or jacket for the evenings.

Food & Drink

From the baking aromas wafting from a village boulangerie to the Michelin-starred allure of a gourmet restaurant, food in France has that je ne sais quoi that sets it apart from, well, almost everywhere.

While the archetypal French dish is fabulously rich, the national cuisine is as varied as the country's landscape, and much of its prestige comes from the quality of its regional specialities. And did we mention the cheese? Bon appétit.

Specialities: 

  • Bouillabaisse (fish stew, usually served with bread).
  • Cassoulet (rich haricot bean casserole, often slow-cooked with various meats including duck, goose and pork sausages).
  • Quenelles de brochet (pounded pike formed into sausage shapes and usually served with a rich crayfish sauce). 
  • Soufflé au Grand Marnier (light and fluffy dessert flavoured with orange liqueur).

National drinks:

  • Wine is the most popular alcoholic drink in France, with grape and vintage varying according to region. 
  • Pastis is a popular apéritif (brand name Ricard or Pernod).
  • Beer is brewed in Nord Pas de Calais, Picardy and Alsace. The latter is said to brew the best beer in France, while cider is brewed in Upper and Lower Normandy.
  • Coffee is almost always served after meals, and will come black, in small cups, unless a café au lait (or café crème) is requested.
  • A wide variety of brandies (such as Armagnac and Cognac) and liqueurs (such as Chartreuse and Genepi) are available.

Other than fast-food joints, almost all restaurants offer two types of meal: à la carte (extensive choice for each course and more expensive) and le menu (a set meal at a fixed price with pre-determined dishes).

Voltage

The electricity supply is similar to the rest of Europe and 2-round pin sockets operate on 220 volts AC. 

Please note that travel electrical equipment such as kettles or irons should not be used in your hotel room as they can be a fire hazard.  

Passports / Identification / Safety

If you or any member of your party is not a British Citizen or holds a non-British passport, you must check passport and visa requirements with the Embassy or Consulate of the country to or through which you are intending to travel.

Problems of pick-pocketing of handbags and passports can be common in France especially in the major cities, as in any major tourist destination.  We would warn you always to be careful of your personal belongings and not to carry your passports/extra cash/credit cards etc unless necessary.  These should be left in a hotel safe where possible. 

You should be particularly careful of handbags and wallets - where you need to carry money and documents it is advisable to use a money belt under your clothes rather than an exposed one.

Immunisations

There are currently no compulsory vaccinations for travel to France however we strongly recommend that you consult with your General Practitioner or Practice Nurse who will assess your particular health risks before recommending vaccines.

This is also a good opportunity to discuss important travel health issues including safe food and water, accidents and insect bites. Many of the problems experienced by travellers cannot be prevented by vaccinations and other preventive measures need to be taken.

Mosquito Advice

As you are travelling to a region where mosquitoes are present, we strongly recommend you are adequately prepared before you start your holiday. 

While the risk of you becoming infected by a mosquito is extremely small, we would not want your holiday spoiled by a nasty bite or illness that is easily preventable with some simple pre-cautionary steps.

We therefore advise (subject to consultation with a qualified pharmacist or your doctor) you purchase high performance mosquito repellent before your trip and apply this regularly during your holiday, including when you go to bed.  We would also suggest that you take with you a ‘plug-in’ mosquito repellent device for your hotel room as an extra measure. These, along with DEET based repellents, are available from most pharmacies.

The National Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention recommends using DEET based repellents with a concentration of over 20% as these give a longer duration of protection than other types currently available. Repellents with a concentration of 50% DEET have the longest duration of protection and require fewer applications per day. It is extremely important to re-apply throughout the day, particularly in hot or humid conditions or after swimming.  When both sunscreen and DEET are required, DEET should be applied afterwards.

Mosquitoes are active close to any open water, but their biting habits vary between species, so it’s best to assume you are at risk of being bitten at any time throughout the day or night.

Remember to adequately cover your arms and legs – long trousers and sleeves are definitely a good idea. You can also spray your clothing with DEET products, but their effectiveness is shorter on clothing than on skin.

If you are bitten by a mosquito and develop a high fever for two consecutive days, you should seek urgent medical assistance.

Planning for your trip

We don’t recommend you rely on pharmacies in France having specific, prescribed medicines so please make sure to pack more than enough for the duration of your holiday.

Prescription medicines are normally required to be declared at check-in and your Tour Manager can help you with this if needed.

EHIC

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to get state-provided healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes free of charge.

In order for the EHIC to be accepted, you must attend a hospital or health centre that provides state healthcare. It is not accepted in a private hospital or clinic.

Policy holders are under no obligation to provide insurance details in a state hospital or health centre. You have the right to insist that your EHIC is accepted for all necessary state-provided medical treatment.

Accommodation & Bathrooms

You will find that in some hotels in France there is not always uniformity of rooms, so size and shape may vary a great deal.  We cannot therefore guarantee that all rooms for our customers will be the same in each property. 

Please also note that French hotels do not usually provide tea/coffee-making facilities in their rooms.

Tap Water

Tap water everywhere contains some bacteria and different minerals. You are used to the tap water back home but when you travel, the water is different and it may upset you. For this reason it is safer to drink the bottled water. It is safe to clean your teeth with tap water, but it is advisable to ask for drinks without ice.

Hand Sanitizers

It may be prudent to carry a hand sanitizer for use overseas, especially after handling money. 

Air Conditioning/Heating

In French hotels which are equipped with air conditioning, the period in the season and times of day when it is operational are at the discretion of the management. The provision of central heating is also at the discretion of the management.

Swimming Pools

Where hotels have their own swimming pools, you may wish to arrange to take your own towels, as some hotels do not provide these.  Always familiarise yourself with the depth of the pool before swimming.  Diving is not recommended.

Time Zones

GMT +1 hour.

Coaches

Some coaches used on our European flight holidays and train holidays may be equipped with WC and washbasin however this cannot be guaranteed.  In all cases, regular comfort stops will be made to ensure a relaxing journey.

Please note that smoking is not permitted on any of our coaches.

Extra Charges

Please note that payment for any extras such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls and meals other than those included in your tour price, must be made directly to your hotel prior to departure.

Lost Property

We will endeavour to trace any lost property and provide you with contact details in order that you may recover your property.

Shopping

Many of our tours take in local shops and markets and some will visit factory shops or outlets, selling a range of goods.  However we cannot accept responsibility for the quality of the goods you have purchased or for any costs you may incur in having them delivered to your home address. 

Please ensure you have a clear understanding of the price you have agreed with the vendor and the conversion rate of local currency to sterling pounds, before signing for the sale either in cash or using your credit card.  Please exercise care when using your PIN number abroad making sure it is not visible to others.