28 Things to know before visiting France

Last updated on November 25th, 2018 at 06:48 pm

Sometimes referred to as the Hexagon, France has a population of 63.5 million. France is widely known for its sophisticated cuisines, array of different types of wines, art and culture.About two thirds of France is made of mountains and hills, but it doesn’t stop the tourists from putting France in their bucket list of places they want to travel to.

If you’re looking for the things to know before visiting France, you’re in the right place! Head on, read and let us guide you throughout this post on why France will be a great destination on your next trip!

Did you know that France has 12 different time zones and it is the most in any country in the world? It is because France has dependencies and territories around the world.

Things to Know before visiting France

Quick Facts about France

1. Currency in France

The currency used in France is Euro just like any other European country. €1 is equivalent to $1.16. Click here to know the exchange rate between the Euro and your currency!

2. Language

The French language is the only official language in France but there are other several regional languages to varying degrees all over the country. It is estimated that around 300 Million people uses French as their native language. Including the people living in the country side of France, about 39% of their population actually speaks decent English but the rate of people talking in English gets higher on places with a lot of tourists. When traveling to France we realized it was easier to communicate with Spanish language than English.

As French language is spoken in many countries around the world is worth it to make an effort and try to learn the basics!

3. Visa in France

US Citizens may enter Francel for up to 90-days only for tourist and business purposes without visa. Staying more than 90-days needs visa. Passports should also be valid for at least 3-months beyond the period of stay. If you are from a country of citizenship that is not covered under the Schengen Agreement, you’ll need a visa even if it’s just a short stay. Read here our article for the Schengen Visa Philippines where Rachel explained step by step how to get Schengen Visa Philippines.

4. Weather/Best time to visit France

There are 3 types of climate in France. For maritime/oceanic climate in the west near the coast, the winter is mild compared to other countries and it happens on January while the summer is also a bit cooler than other countries and it happens on July. In the continental climate on the eastern and central part of France, it has warmer summers and colder winters than the farther western part. In Mediterranean climate widespread to the south of France, has cool winters, warm summer and limited rainfall. The best time to visit France is Spring and autumn where you will find great weather and not so crowdy as summer.

Check the weather before visiting France!

5. Cash and ATM in France

You can use your debit cards in France everywhere. ATM cards are preferred because it’s free and a more instantaneous way of accessing money. Although co-branded ATM cards like VISA or MASTERCARD charges the same high rate as credit cards of about 3% in exchange fees. It’s also more convenient if the cash you’ll bring with you is already in Euros.

Things to know about culture before visiting France

France’s culture is a mix of fashion, art, cuisine and architecture. 64% of their population identifies themselves as Roman Catholic. Other religions are Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. French people’s motto is “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.” Which means Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

6. Fashion in France

Fashion is an important aspect of the French people’s culture and social life as well as their economy. Famous French luxury brands such as Chanel, Saint Laurent, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Dior and more are dominating the fashion scene in the world. Most brands have their own in-house workshops wherein tens of thousands of highly qualified hopefuls process their own creations and designs. The Paris Fashion Week can generate up to €400 Million yearlywith a total expenditure of €1.2 Billion every year.

7. Art in France

France houses the Louvre, which is the world’s largest and most visited museum in the world. There’s a total of 1,218 museums all over France, and French people loves to visit museums and attend art events yearly. Art is such a big part of their history and culture. There are also a lot of famous French artists such as Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. The offer of museums is great in France if you are planning a cultural trip to France.

8. Food enjoyment

Things to know before visiting France, places to visit in France

It is a traditional French culture to place a high priority in enjoying food. Their usual breakfast is called “petit déjeuner” which consists of coffee, hot chocolate with milk or tea which is served in a large handle-less bowl with breakfast pastries like croissant. French cuisines are often known as rich and sweet pastries. Most homes have desserts consist of only fruits or yogurt. They also enjoy wines and alcohol, after all, France produce some of the most famous wines. We enjoyed salads, foe, fish,cheese and meat in France. Try as much food as you can when visiting France.

9. French Architecture

Things to know before visiting France, places to visit in France

One of the many things that French people takes pride of is their architecture. France founded the Academy of Architecture in 1671, the first of its kind anywhere in Europe. From Gallo-Roman to Medieval to Neoclassicism, France is known to display magnificent structures under these architectural types. The Arc de Triomphe of Place de l’Étoile is a famous type of Neoclassicism architecture and is one of the most visited monuments in France. Rachel loved it so much balconies architecture in France!

10. Transportation around France

France has trains, metro, buses and taxis. We found public transportation affordable and great in France. We moved by metro in Paris and we chose bus to move around Nice. Taxis can be hailed on the streets and can service up to three passengers. They can charge the fourth passenger or they can either refuse to pick up if there will be four passengers. Normal tariff in Nice is €6.50 and €1.50 per 1km while in Paris, the normal tariff is €5 and €1.30 per 1km. The trains in France are highly centralized. France is actually linked through its railroad to all adjacent countries except Andorra. But the best way to explore France is to just buy carte orange or orange card. It’s a pass for the public transportation system in Paris and the surrounding Île-de-France region. The most basic pass will cost €17.20 for a one-week pass and €56.60 for a one-month pass.

Read here how to get to Paris city centre from the airport.

11. Daily budget in France

Things to know before visiting France, places to visit in France

France is a bit expensive compared to other countries around Europe. Dorm rooms can go up to  €18–30, while double room in a budget hotel can go up to €90 depending on where you’ll stay. Everything will be a bit more expensive in Paris. If you want to go on a budget you can use Airbnb for your accommodation and try to cook by yourself.

Click here and you can get $30 USD off your first booking with AirBnB when you sign up with us!

Click here to get the best deals in Paris with Booking!

Lunch menus (set meals) can be less than €20, again, depending on where you’ll eat. You can have a snack on a bakery on a corner for €5, while pre-made sandwiches can cost €7. Average transportation costs a day is €7.  In cities like Marsseille and Nice prices are cheap than Paris and you can have a fine meal for €10 in a local restaurant.

Read here if you want to be connected online when traveling the world!

More things to know before visiting France about food

France can offer you the finest food with a gourmet feels. Food and wine is a central to their life at any socioeconomic levels, but they’re also know for their delicious and delectable pastries.

12. Coq au vin

Coq au vin is a traditional French dish made of chicken braised with wine, lardons, mushrooms, and optionally garlic. A red Burgundy wine is usually used in this dish and many regions in France cooks this in variety and sometimes with champagne.

13. Baguette

Baguette is one of the most iconic foods in France. It is delicious on its own or with a variety of spreads or jams. A French bread law was even passed making that any baguette calledmaison or homemade is mandatory be made only on the premises with only four ingredients: flour, salt, water and yeast. You can buy a piece for  0.90 Euros in bakeries, around 0.45 Euros in supermarkets.

14. French macaron

Things to know before visiting France, places to visit in France

French macarons is a French delicacy. They’re colorful and tasty, and while you might have tasted this somewhere else, wouldn’t it be nice to have a taste of the authentic French made one while in France? You can buy them in corner bakeries for €2-3.

15. French onion soup

French onion soup is a soup based on meat stock and onions (can be caramelized), and often served gratinéed with croutons and cheese on top or a large piece of bread. This is usually a winter food, so it’s cheaper on winter than on summer. This is an appetizer so some meals are accompanied with this soup. It usually costs a cup of soup is 3 and a bowl of soup is 4.

Places to visit in France

France is a charming country, via its museums, architectural heritage and romantic ambiance. Almost everywhere is very scenic and you can visit a lot of historical sites.

16. Paris

Things to know before visiting France, places to visit in France

Paris is France’s capital city. It is dubbed as the most romantic city in the world. It is a global destination for art, fashion and culture. Its most famous asset is the Eiffel tower located in Champ de Mars in Paris, France and is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel. The city is ringed with forests of Beech and oak called the lungs of Paris. It earned its nickname as the City if Light during Enlightment which was a European intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries. Read here our favorite instagrammable places in Paris.

17. Nice

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Nice is the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department on the French Riviera. You can breathe in the Mediterranean fresh air as you go around the promenade. You can also have the best view of the city at the top of Castle Hill. Experience the sun year round and take a walk at the vibrant and colorful streets and the shores. Nice is one of the most place that tourists visit in France. Nice has also been a hub for scientific and technological research. The coast is so beautiful from Nice to Menton passing by Montecarlo. Click here to read our full travel guide to Nice!

18. Saint Malo

Saint-Malo is a port city in Brittany, in France’s northwest. Tall granite walls surround the old town, which was once a stronghold for privateers (pirates approved by the king). Saint-Malo was named for Maclou, or Malo, a Welsh monk who fled to Brittany. The walled city had a long history of piracy, earning much wealth from local extortion and overseas adventures. The old town is known as intra-muros or ‘within the walls’. One place that you can go to in Saint Malo is Parc de la Briantais which is an attractive very large open park area offering good views. You can cover Malo from end to end by food, but you can also choose to ride the train for €5.50

19. Mont Sant Michel

Mont Sant Michel is an island and mainland commune in Normandy, France. The island is located about one kilometer off the country’s northwestern coast. It’s most visited attraction is the Mont Saint Michel Abbey which is an essential part of the structural composition of the town the feudal society constructed.The abbey is beautiful, but it becomes even more impressive when the guided tour is introduced and the history regaled. From Paris, you can ride a train to Mont Sant Michel that costs €55.80 it will take 3 hours and 40 minutes. While on the Normandy region, you can also visit the D-day beaches where the landing operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II happened. It’s a historical place and if you are a history buff, you’d love going there!

20. Marseille

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Marseille is a port city on the Southern part of France. It’s the center for immigration and trade; it is also where fishmongers sell their catch. The old port of Marseille looks stunning at night when the lights from the houses and buildings are lit. In the morning, it looks like a place of its own, like its own kingdom. It houses the Notre-Dame de la Garde. It is a basilica and the city’s most well know symbol and the most visited site in Marseille. It was our first stop in France and we had an amazing time walking around the old port. Read our experience and things to do in Marseille!

21. Lyon

If you’re looking for an architectural paradise, Lyon is the place for you. It is where you can see the medieval buildings and establishments when you walk on the streets. From medieval and Renaissance architecture in Vieux (Old) Lyon, to the modern Confluence district on Presqu’île peninsula. Lyon is a sophisticated and intriguing for some tourists.  Most of the Nuits de Fourviere performances take place at the tiers of Lyon’s main Roman amphitheater that dates to 15 B.C.

22. Visit UNESCO Sites

France has a total of 39 UNESCO World heritage list, 4 natural and 1 mixed. The only mixed on the list is the Pyrénées – Mont Perdua mountain landscape, which spans the contemporary national borders of France and Spain. Despite the occurrence of numerous changes over the centuries, development has not affected the geology of the site, nor its topography, while the transformation of the biological environment has remained harmonious. Currently, the site presents the highest degree of biodiversity conservation in respect of European standards in force.

23. Festivals in France

The French people surely knows how to throw a festival. May it be about Movies, music or even sports, the French got you! Festivals are deeply rooted in their culture just like art and fashion. So if you are planning in witnessing any big festivals or event in France, we listed a few biggest and well know events and festival that happens in France yearly.

24. Cannes Film Festival

Things to know before visiting France, places to visit in France
From Flickr

Usually happens in May, you may already be familiar with this festival. Celebrities from all over the world gather in Cannes for this event. Although the event itself is by invitation only, you might be able to see a few famous faces around Cannes before or after the said festival. It is where numerous films from different place all over the world are showcased. Big names such as Matt Damon, Emma Watson, etc. are usually invited in this festival.

25. Fête de la Musique

Happens in June 21 across the country, it is a music festival. It happens in the street and is joined by over 100,00 party goers all around the world yearly. It’s a one big lively concert where hundreds of musicians are gathered to court the crowd and play different types and genres of music such as pop, rock, jazz, hiphop and more! And the best part of this is that, it is free! it gives amateur and seasoned musicians to be able to showcase their talents together and a chance to meet more listeners!

26. Tour de France

Things to know before visiting France, places to visit in France,tour le france
From Flickr

Tour de France happens in July across the country and has been a tradition since 1903. It  is an annual men’s multiple stage bicycle race primarily held in France. The route changes every year so it’s different every time. It covers 3,600 kilometers, 21 stages and usually lasts in 3 weeks or 23 days while also occasionally passing by nearby countries.

27. Bastille Day

Happening every July 14 yearly, Bastille day is the common name given in English-speaking countries to the national day of France. it consist of fireworks, concerts, military parades and balls across the country and is the most important bank Holiday in France. It is a major public holiday, traditionally considered as the symbol of the French Revolution.

28. Basic French

You might want to try to learn a few basic French words or phrase before going to France. They would appreciate it very much since it means you put on effort in doing so. You can try these words and phrases.
 
Ma’am = Madame      Sir = Monsieur                        Au Revoir – Goodbye
Bonjour – Hello           Bonsoir- Good Evening          Petit dejeneur- Breakfast
Merci – Thank you!     Oui– Yes                                  Chambre- Room
Pardon – Excuse Me     S’il vous plait – Please           Où sont les toilettes? -Where Is the Bathroom?  
Je ne parle pas francais– I don’tspeak French            En anglais, s’il vous plait – In English, please?

Click here and you can get $30 USD off your first booking with AirBnB when you sign up with us! Click here to get the best deals in France with Booking!

Are you ready to visit France soon? Tell us your experience or questions!

If you continue your trip around Eroupe read our things to know before visiting Spain.

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Happy travels!

Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has traveled more than 70+ countries around the world. He believes in travel without money. Recently, he finished a bicycle trip, 9500 km, from Madrid to North Cape.

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