Travel Tips: Visiting France

Sunset over the Mediterranean – Cannes, France, October 2008

I have learned much from my frequent travels to France over the years.  I love the country and it’s one of my specialties.  Here are some tips specific to France:

  • Know some words in French.  I can’t emphasize this enough! Just a few words or requests (“hello”, “thank you”, “I would like”), will go a long way in France and it shows respect.  In most cases, people will respond in English since they want to practice their English skills with you.
  • Don’t try to see too much!  Too many people hop from one city to another after one or two nights.  It’s exhausting, stressful and it doesn’t give you a good sense of place.
  • Ask elderly people for directions.  They love to meet foreigners and enjoy talking to people.  They also know their city well.
  • Service is different in France.  Don’t expect a server to immediately approach you once you have been seated.  It just doesn’t happen.  Also, be prepared to have a long leisurely dinner as courses are not served immediately one after another.  Not feeling rushed in a restaurant is one off the things I love about France (and most other European countries).
  • You do not have to tip in France as the service charge is added to most restaurant and cafe bills.  If you liked the service, round up the bill by leaving some extra coins.
  • Save money on the Paris metro buy buying  a “carnet of 10” tickets.  It’ cheaper than buying the tickets individually.  Note that many machines only accept chip enabled credit cards (click here for more information)
  • If you are in Paris for more than one week, get the Passe Navigo Decouverte“. You can purchase these at most manned metro and train stations. The card costs 5 euros and the one week pass is 17 Euros.  You will need a stamp sized photo to get the card.
  • Visit popular museums such as the Louvre when they open in the morning or you may have to wait in a long line.
  • Buy museum tickets online whenever possible.  This will save you a lot of time.  Note that you may have to go to another location (e.g FNAC)  to print the ticket.
  • Get the Paris Museum Pass if you plan to visit a lot of museums in Paris and don’t want the hassle of getting in line for a ticket.  Note that you still may have to wait in  ticket holders line to enter a museum.  This card only pays for itself if you plan on visiting lots of attractions.  Buy cards in the USA or in France.  A two day pass is 39 Euros.  They also have 3, 4 and 6 day passes.
  • The Paris Visite Pass is similar to the above card but is also good in the metro and you can use the hop on, hop off buses.  A two day pass costs 103 Euros.
  • If you don’t want a city pass card, consider buying combination tickets.  You can stay a lot of time if you buy such a ticket to visit both Sainte Chapelle and the Conciergerie in Paris.  It is cheaper and you only have to wait in one line instead of two.

Click here for a complete list of travel tip articles.  Contact me if you have any questions or if you would like me to help plan and book your vacation to France.

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About Robert Kavalek

Robert Kavalek is a travel consultant who shares his love for traveling the world on theTRAVELER (www.RobertKavalek.com). While his specialties are Paris, Mexico and "digital overload escapes", he can advise clients on any type of vacation. In addition, he writes about travel destinations and travel tips on his blog and Facebook page. Robert has visited 31 countries and territories and hopes to check out at least one new country every year. He currently lives in Washington, DC.
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6 Responses to Travel Tips: Visiting France

  1. Ah! now I want to go to France, although I can’t. I love your picture, it’s enchanting!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Recently travelled to France, Deauville specifically. I had been to Paris but never to Normandy. So beautiful. The Hotel Deauville is so outstanding and full of history. They recently hosted the G8 summit there The beach there is great also. The Cabanas have celebrity names. Not sure if the celebs have actually been there or made contributions to the maintenance of those. Next trip to France, I’m thinking Marseille!!

  3. Great tips! As a regular traveller to France I would agree with your comments. I would also add that in Paris especially you get much better service if you look like you fit in – dress like the French rather than a tourist and you will get better service and you will avoid a lot of the tourist scams that abound – they just won’t approach you

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