A trip to France will probably be one of the most memorable trips you’re going to take. It’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world and one that you need to visit if you’re an art and history lover.
As is the case with any other trip abroad, you’ll do well to prepare and to make sure that you have an itinerary and try to get to know the local customs a bit, just so that you know what to expect as a foreigner. This will make your trip more comfortable and probably less expensive.
There are many advantages to traveling off-season. First of all, it will make the trip and most of the expenses less costly without making any of the experiences less memorable.
It’s also a good way to avoid the crowds that can somewhat spoil the mood when visiting famous landmarks. When visited off-season the trip is a bit different, it has a smaller and more intimate tone to it, at least in some parts of the country.
Rent a Car
The best way to keep your own schedule and make sure you spend enough time at every site you plan to visit is to drive your own car. In order to do so, you’ll need an International driver’s license for France. Without it, you can’t drive and can’t rent a car abroad.
The international license is rather easy to get and it’s based on having a national permit. There are no additional tests to take and you only need to cover a small fee. The permit is valid for one year before it needs to be renewed.
Have Some Cash on Hand
It’s always a good idea to have some cash on you, even though most venues accept cards as a payment method. That way you can use the services even in small cafes and restaurants that won’t accept cards and you can tip in cash as well.
It’s less expensive to get cash at an ATM than it would be in a bank since the fees are smaller. If you plan to withdraw funds a few times, the fees add up and it makes a difference. It’s smarter to do it in smaller amounts if you plan to carry the cash with you in areas you’re not familiar with.
Carry an ID with You
It’s legally mandated to have an ID with you at all times while in France. For French citizens, it’s an ID card but for foreigners, the document will probably be a passport. It’s important to note that your international driving permit can’t be used as an ID document.
The permit is also only valid if you have an ID with you to prove your identity and you may get in trouble if you can’t show both when you’re stopped by the traffic authorities.
Courtesy is Important
It’s commonplace to say hello and good evening before you start a conversation or make an order at the venue. You would be considered rude not to do so, and it’s a good tell that you’re a tourist. If this isn’t a practice in your culture, it may take a few days to get used to it.
The French have a bad reputation for being somewhat rude, but it’s mostly unearned and it only happens if you’re being rude to the staff yourself. In general, the staff tends to get a bit cold if you won’t comply with the common etiquette such as the greetings.
Meal Time is A Bit Different Than You may Be Used To
Set meal times are a thing you’ll just have to get used to in Europe. Some items on the menu are served only as a part of a meal and therefore you can’t order them at any time of day. Breakfast is usually served rather early and the typical time for lunch is somewhere between noon and 2 PM.
Dinner on the other hand can be expected between 7:30 and 8 PM. This is something to consider when you’re traveling with kids and if you want to squeeze a small snack in between the two meals.
Strikes and Protests
Strikes and protests are common in France and especially so in the large cities where such events have the most effect. That’s just a part of the local political culture and for most French, it’s something that they’ve grown accustomed to. For a tourist, however, it can be frustrating.
Make sure to follow the news before your trip and to be informed if a strike is going to affect your plans. In some cases, it may cause a venue you plan to visit to be closed or it can block a part of a city you would like to visit. Don’t let this spoil the fun, it’s usually for an important cause.