Practical Information for Travel in France

Visas are no longer required for Americans staying in France for less than three months, with the following exceptions: holders of diplomatic passports or government employees on official missions; students on study programs in France; and ship or airline crew members on duty.

If you lose your passport in France, go to the nearest U.S. consulate to get a three-month temporary passport.

U.S. consulate in Paris:
2, rue St-Florentin, 75001.
Tel: 42 96 12 02 or 42 61 80 75.

Other cities with U.S. consulates: Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, and Strasbourg.

It is mandatory in France to carry some proof of identification at all times.

A valid driver's license, issued in the U.S., is required for all U.S. citizens who wish to drive in France. The minimum age for drivers is 18. Proof of insurance coverage is necessary. Important Rules of the Road: Seat belts are mandatory in both the front and back seats throughout France, including cities. Children under 10 must ride in the vehicle's rear seat. At intersections, the driver to the right has the right of way, unless you are in a traffic circle or otherwise instructed. Driving while intoxicated carries severe penalties, and speed limits are strictly enforced.

The city speed limit is 50 km (30 miles) per hour or as posted. The speed limit on toll highways is 130 km (81 miles) per hour, on no-toll highways 110 km (68 miles) per hour, and 90 km (56 miles) per hour on other roads.

News Year Day January 1
Easter Sunday and Monday April 3 & 4
Labor Day May 1
V.E. Day May 8
Ascension Thursday May 12
Pentecost Sunday & MondayMay 22 & 23
Bastille Day July 14
Assumption Day-Feast of the Virgin MaryAugust 15
All Saints Day November 1
Armistice Day November 11
Christmas Day December 25

There are about 17,500 hotels, inns, and motels in France. They are classified according to their comfort levels into five categories, indicated by stars: Deluxe (4*L), first class (4*), good tourist-quality (3*), and budget (2* and 1*). Rates are usually quoted for a double room, with two people sharing the room, and usually include service and tax.

In general, national museums are closed on Tuesday and municipal ones are closed on Monday. Some museums are open late on Wednesday.

Most major international banks have offices in Paris. Banks are open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Banks are closed Sundays, holidays, and the afternoon before holidays. They are also closed Saturdays in Paris and Mondays in the provinces.

Post offices are marked PTT and are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. In Paris, the main post office at 52, rue du Louvre is open 24 hours a day. Stamps can be purchased at tabacs, hotels, and some newsstands.

American visitors carrying their passports can get a refund of the value-added tax (V.A.T., T.V.A. in French) on purchases of 2,000FF or more at any single store. The discount ranges from 10 to 22 percent, depending on the classification of goods. You can combine purchases in department stores.

Upon leaving French territory, show your goods and the V.A.T. refund forms filled out by the store at customs (la douane). French Customs will keep both pink pages, mailing one in the envelope provided by the store, and will give you the validated green page which you should keep in case of dispute. Documentation must be processed at airport customs counters before you check your luggage (you must be prepared to show merchandise), at the boarder customs office, or by the train's customs officer if leaving France by rail. Refunds are sent a few weeks later or are credited to your credit card. (Shopping with a credit card makes the paperwork easier.)

Returning home, your duty-free allowances for purchases brought with you is $400. For the next $1000 worth of goods, a flat 10% rate is assessed. You are also allowed 100 cigars or 200 cigarettes, one bottle of perfume, and one liter of alcohol.

Restaurants: Most include a 15 percent service charge and tax in their prices referred to as service compris. If a meal or service has been particularly good, leaving another 10 francs is customary, as is leaving the waiter small change from your bill if you paid in cash. If service is not included in the price, service non compris, a 15 percent tip is customary. If you have been served personally by the wine waiter, you may give him about 10FF.

Hotels: 10FF for every piece of luggage to porters; 10FF a day to the chambermaid.

Taxi Drivers: About 10 to 15 percent of the metered charge. Hairdressers: 10 percent.

Small tips (around 5FF) are reasonable for cloakroom attendants, washroom attendants, ushers, and museum tour guides. It is standard practice to tip tour guides and bus drivers after an excursion.

Most public telephones only accept phone cards called télécartes, not coins. Purchase a télécarte from a post office or a café/tabac for 40FF or 96FF. The card on the inside back cover of this guide tells you how to access free tourist information. To call a region of France from Paris dial 16 followed by the eight digit number. To call Paris from the provinces dial 16 then 1 followed by the eight digit number.
To be connected with an English-speaking operator in the U.S. dial "19" from any phone, wait for the tone, then dial "0011" for AT&T USA Direct Service, dial "0019" for MCI, or dial "0087" for Sprint.

Since November 1, 1992, French law restricts smoking in all enclosed public places, including on the Métro and in Métro stations. On long-distance trains, certain cars are reserved for smokers and smoking is forbidden in the restaurant cars. Hotels, restaurants and theaters are free to decide how large a smoking area they provide. Espace Fumeur designates the smoking area and Espace Non-Fumeur designates the non-smoking area.

Units of capacity
1 liter = 1.7 pints = 0.88 quarts
10 liters = 2.64 US gallons
1 pint = 0.56 liter
1 quart = 1.136 liter = 2 pints
1 US gallon = 3.73 liters

Units of weight
1 gram = 0.035 ounces
1 kilogram = 2.20 pounds
1 ounce = 28.35 grams
1 pound = 0.45 kilograms

Units of distance
1 mile = 1.6 kilometers


Throughout France:
Telephone information 12
SAMU (24 hour ambulance) 15
Police 17
Fire 18

In Paris:

SOS Medecins (24 hour medical house calls) Tel: 47 07 77 77
SOS Dentaire (24 hour dentist) Tel: 43 37 51 00

Ambulances "Assistance Publique"
28, rue de l'Entrepôt
94220 Charenton
Tel: 43 78 26 26
Fax: 45 13 65 82

American Hospital in Paris
63, boulevard Victor-Hugo
92202 Neuilly
Tel: 46 41 25 25
Fax: 46 24 49 38

British and American Pharmacy
1, rue Auber
Tel: 47 42 49 40

Pharmacie Anglaise 62, avenue des Champs-Elysées
Tel: 43 59 22 52

Special hotlines to answer your questions:
In the U.S.: France On Call 1-900-990-0040 (50c per minute from anywhere in the U.S.)
In France: American Express Toll-Free Hotline 05-201-202 (effective 5/1-10/31, 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday)

"Information Loisirs": What's on in Paris 24 hour recorded information in English Tel: 49 52 53 56

Office du Tourisme et des Congrès de Paris (Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau) 127, avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris Tel: 49 52 53 54 Fax: 49 52 53 20 Métro: George-V or Charles-de-Gaulle/Etoile Information on anything concerning Paris and its surroundings. Tourist information offices are also located in the train stations. Open daily 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Current in France is 220 volts AC and current alternates at 50 cycles, not the 60 in use in the U.S. If you are bring electrical appliances, you will need a voltage transformer and a plug adaptor.

Travelers may bring their dogs and cats into France under the following conditions. Each family is limited to three animals, only one of which can be a puppy or kitten between three and six months of age. Dogs and cats younger than three months are not allowed to enter France.

Dogs and cats will be admitted only with presentation of a certificate of rabies vaccination signed by a veterinarian and valid in the U.S. attesting that the animal was vaccinated one month ago or more, but less than one year ago, or that the animal has been re-vaccinated within the year.

For further questions, call the attaché of agriculture at the French Embassy in Washington D.C. at (202) 944-6361.

The French Government Tourist Office offers a business travel division with an aim to offer complete advisory service for companies wishing to organize conferences, conventions, seminars, exhibitions, incentives, or product launches. For more information, contact Jacques Caradec, French Government Tourist Office, 444 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10020, tel: (212) 757-1125 ext. 221; or Carol Abrioux, French Government Tourist Office, 676 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611, tel: (312) 751-7800.

For all travel information, call the France on Call Hotline at 1- 900-990-0040 (50c per minute anywhere in the U.S.) or visit one of our public information offices.

628 Fifth Avenue
New, York, NY 10020-2452
Tel: (212) 757-1125
Fax: (212) 247-6468

676 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611-2819
Tel: (312) 337-6301
Fax: (312) 337-6339

9454 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 715
Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2967
Tel: (310) 271-6665
Fax: (310) 276-2835