Seine River and Eiffel Tower Paris France

France Travel Tips for the Curious Traveler

 

Today we bring you some indispensable France travel tips.

No matter how much you’ve explored this amazing planet of ours, each country and region still brings its own surprises. France is one of the most beautiful and captivating countries in the world, and we are pretty sure you will fall in love with it – if you haven’t already.

We do know firsthand however, that some aspects of traveling can be stressful.

Travel tips abound, but so many do not give you the low-down on the concrete problems you’ll run into a a foreigner – and how to avoid them! Our job is to arm you, dear travelers, with detailed knowledge on how to navigate a foreign country. Instead of trying to figure everything out on the fly, here are a few nuts and bolts France travel tips for you to take note of now, before you take off.

Today we bring you wisdom on Finances, Phones & Communication, and Theft Avoidance.

I. FINANCES

No set of France travel tips would be complete without a detailed financial roadmap. Here is everything you need to know to manage your finances in France.

How to Prepare Your Finances Before you Leave
First, before you leave for France you’ll need to notify your credit and/or debit card companies that you’ll be traveling outside of the country. Otherwise your bank may freeze your card, or you may even experience the singular joy of your card being eaten by a local cash machine. Both are forms of fraud protection, sure – but not quite the happiest ways to start out your vacation.

In order to withdraw money in France – and we suggest preparing yourself for the possibility – you must have a four-digit pin code composed of only numbers. You can usually change your pin by calling your bank.

Next check with your bank to see whether they have a relationship with any French banks. Some banks will allow you to withdraw money for free at their international partners. This guarantees that you have a bank in France that will accept your card, and you can keep visiting the same bank during your trip. Lucky you! 🙂

 

 

Indispensable France Travel Tips:
Call your bank before you leave

  1. Notify your bank that you’ll be traveling abroad
  2. Change your pin code to 4 digit number
  3. See if your bank has a relationship with a French bank or two

 

Credit Cards

You may come across some roadbumps if your credit card does not contain a chip, also known as Carte Bleue locally. Most card machines in Paris will also accept cards without this chip, but remember: Chip-free cards must be swiped, and not slipped into a slot at the bottom of your standard French credit card machine. Sometimes you may need to remind the salesperson you’re interacting with that your card can only be swiped.

A credit or debit card is essential during your travels. However, a lot of businesses in France – especially those incredible street vendors! – only accept cash. Here are a few more France travel tips to help you access the cash you need.

Cash Withdrawals
All set to visit those French cash machines? You may still run into some difficulties trying to withdraw money on your foreign card in France. I know, I know – that silly French bureaucracy! Some banks will put a daily ceiling on your euro withdrawals, some won’t accept foreign cards, and some cash machines will eat your card after three failed attempts to withdraw cash.

Because you still may not be able to withdraw cash (if you’ve got bad luck, and I know I do), we recommend taking cash with you. If you’re coming from outside the Euro Zone countries, take cash in your local currency and get it exchanged when you arrive. Take an amount that you feel comfortable with. Don’t leave your debit card at home though – come prepared with as many options as you can.

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Indispensable France Travel Tips:
Finances in France

  1. Bring your local currency to exchange upon arrival
  2. Be sure that a cash machine accepts foreign cards – it will usually say “Foreign Cards Welcome”
  3. If a cash machine rejects your card – try another bank
  4. If your card has no chip, make sure that it is swiped

 

II. PHONES AND COMMUNICATION

You may be wondering, “Do I really need a local phone for my week-long travels?” While it is truly up to you, having a temporary French cell phone number is almost essential – for keeping social contact between co-travelers or new friends, confirming/canceling reservations, or getting directions – the uses are really endless. To really experience the country like a local, we really do recommend a temporary phone plan. The good news is – they’re cheap! Find out more about our telecom France travel tips below.

Can I use my own cell phone in France?
A cell phone that is unlocked for use international use is a great resource. The hardware of your phone is the first important thing to think about. French phones utilize the GSM system of SIM cards, so your phone must also use a GSM SIM. To see a list of GSM countries, click here.

Next, you will need to verify that your phone can be used internationally. If you are not sure whether or not your phone is unlocked, ask your local phone carrier. You can also go into any cell phone store in France to test your phone with a French SIM card, but you will have to purchase the SIM first.

If your phone does not work in France:
We still recommend that you purchase at least a low-end cell phone for use during your travels, especially if you are traveling around the country and may be changing locations often. For safety purposes, for ease of travel, and for making new friends – having a cell phone is an important resource.

Affordable Phones
Cell phones can be purchased for as little as 30€, and some carriers offer unlimited monthly use for 25€. You are also not obligated to sign up for more than one month!

If you prefer, you can also just get a pay as you go plan, where you add phone credits and top up as needed. Convenience-wise however,  monthly plans are your best bet. You will not have go back into telecommunications stores to add credits, and even if you are in France for less than a month the price is still quite reasonable.

If you are lucky enough to have a smartphone that you can use in France, a 25-35€ plan can get you unlimited calls and texts, and a high data allowance. Without a contract! Love this country.

Indispensable France Travel Tips:
Getting a temporary phone number

  1. Check whether your phone uses a GSM SIM card and can be used internationally
  2. If your phone is not enabled, we recommend buying a cheap phone in France
  3. Activate your phone in a communications or electronics store – we recommend an unlimited monthly plan so you can travel freely, never having to find a store to top up

Contacting friends internationally
Please be forewarned that most temporary plans do not include international calling or texting, and your phone may be disconnected if you try to call or text internationally without a calling card. If this happens, you can simply go into a phone recharge station to refill your balance. It can get quite expensive though, so instead we recommend that you use phone cards or international calling services from your computer or smart phone, like Skype.

How do I call people in France?
The French phone number format, if you are calling from outside the country, is as follows: +33 [country code] + (0)1  23  45  67  xx (10 digit number, always starting with a zero). Omit the first zero after the country code. If you are calling a French number from within France, you of course do not need the country code and must include the first 0.

 

Indispensable France Travel Tips:
Calling within France

  1. Remember not to use your temporary number to call or text internationally
  2. The French format is a ten-digit number that starts with 0; omit the +33 country code

 

III. THEFT

Ah, our least favorite topic to talk about. France is one of the world’s most beautiful and exciting places to visit, but the issue of theft is important because tourists can be targeted. We believe that an aware traveler is a happy traveler. Keep these safety-related France travel tips in tow and you’ll be able to avoid one of the worst traveling pitfalls.

To start off, use common sense and vigilance. Do not leave any of your belongings unattended in public spaces, ever. As much as you may think “Eh, this is fine!” – you really never know. Take your belongings with you or leave them under the watchful eye of your travel mates.

Also, be alert about your belongings and how they are secured, especially in crowded areas. The biggest opportunity to be victimized is when you are sitting or standing still. Keep a close eye on zippers to your luggage, and keep them close to your body when on public transportation or out and about.

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Indispensable France Travel Tips:
Secure your belongings

  1. Never leave your belongings unattended
  2. Keep a close eye on zippers and block them with your body when you can
  3. Stay alert in crowds, or at times when you are sitting or standing still

Unlike baggage, purses are with you all the time. How can you keep your purse off your mind? For starters, we recommend:

  • Choose a purse with strap long enough to fit over your arm, while still being short enough to wear close to your body.
  • Keep purse zippers close to you and in your view. For instance, with a standard bag, make sure zippers point toward the front of your body, and not the back.
  • Also, it follows – choose a purse that is zippered! If your bag is secured by a flap on the top that only offers partial coverage, pickpockets have an easier route to stick their hands in.

Above all: the most secure purse form is zippered and also secured with a flap. Double protection!

Choose a bag secured by a flap AND zipper.

Indispensable France Travel Tips:
Securing your purse

  1. Pick a strap that fits over your arm and a model you can wear close to your body
  2. Point zippers toward your front, and not your back
  3. Avoid purses secured only by a flap, and seek purses that are secured by BOTH a zipper and a flap

 

Backpacks can be a risky choice, especially in urban areas. This is why you’ll often see Parisians wearing backpacks on the front of their body. The “in view” thing is key. You don’t want to zone out with your valuables on your back.

If you are keeping your wallet in your pocket, the best option is to have pockets that close with buttons or zippers.

There are also groups of pickpockets that may try to ambush you and other tourists in big cities. No matter what, if something seems fishy – use your instincts. It probably is.

In the worst case scenario, remember to always inform the police in the case of a theft.

Of course, the best defense is to be informed. As long as you remember to keep your belongings close and stay vigilant, you should be fine. France is a safe country.

Keep our France travel tips handy for a smooth and secure trip!

Bon voyage !

Thanks for reading our France Travel Tips. We hope you found our advice helpful, and stay tuned for more travel advice in the future! Have a great week! 🙂

x, Sasha at TravelerCar

 

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Want to rent a local’s car with TravelerCar? As we work on translating our search engine to English, contact us directly here. We will get back to you ASAP!

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About the author:

Sasha is an American transplant living and studying French in Paris. She writes about culture and travel in France and Europe for TravelerCar, never losing sight of her adventurer’s perspective. She’s sharpening her French, trying to live like a local, and doing tons of exploring on the way. She’s just to keep the French food binges to a minimum. It’s a challenge.

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