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15 Common Mistakes to Avoid in France and How to Avoid Them

Last updated on July 17th, 2024 at 10:37 am

15 Common Mistakes to Avoid in France and How to Avoid Them

Our full guide on the most common Mistakes to Avoid in France and how to avoid them for your next trip.

France is a top travel destination known for its rich history, stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture. To make the most of your visit, it’s important to be aware of common travel mistakes and how to avoid them. Here’s a guide to help you navigate your French adventure smoothly.

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Mistakes to Avoid in France

1. Not Learning Basic French Phrases

15 Common Mistakes to Avoid in France and How to Avoid Them

Mistake: Relying solely on English and expecting everyone to understand you.

How to Avoid

Learn Basic Phrases: Familiarize yourself with essential French phrases like greetings, thank you, and how to ask for help. Examples include “Bonjour” (Hello), “Merci” (Thank you), and “S’il vous plaît” (Please).

Use Translation Apps: Apps like Google Translate can be very helpful for communication.

2. Not Greeting Shopkeepers

Mistake: Entering a shop or restaurant without greeting the staff, which can be seen as rude.

How to Avoid

Say Hello: Always greet with “Bonjour” (Good day) or “Bonsoir” (Good evening) when entering a shop, restaurant, or any business.

Politeness: Saying “Au revoir” (Goodbye) when leaving is also appreciated.

3. Expecting Non-Stop Shopping Hours

15 Common Mistakes to Avoid in France and How to Avoid Them

Mistake: Assuming shops will be open all day, especially in smaller towns.

How to Avoid

Check Opening Hours: Many shops close for lunch (typically between 12 PM and 2 PM) and on Sundays. Plan your shopping trips accordingly.

Local Markets: Visit local markets, which often have specific opening days and hours.

4. Tipping Incorrectly

Mistake: Over-tipping or not tipping at all due to confusion about local customs.

How to Avoid

Service Included: In France, a service charge (usually around 15%) is included in restaurant bills. It’s customary to leave a small additional tip (a few euros or rounding up the bill) for good service.

Cash Tips: Leave cash tips on the table rather than adding them to the credit card receipt.

5. Misunderstanding Meal Times

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Mistake: Not adhering to French meal times, leading to difficulties finding open restaurants.

How to Avoid

Lunch Hours: Lunch is typically served from 12 PM to 2 PM.

Dinner Hours: Dinner usually starts around 7:30 PM and can go until 10 PM.

Reservations: Make reservations, especially for dinner, to ensure you get a table.

6. Not Validating Train Tickets

Mistake: Forgetting to validate your train ticket before boarding, which can result in fines.

How to Avoid

Validate Tickets: Use the yellow validation machines (composteurs) located at the entrance to train platforms to stamp your ticket.

E-Tickets: For e-tickets, validation is usually not required, but double-check the requirements for your specific ticket type.

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7. Ignoring Local Etiquette

Mistake: Not respecting local customs and etiquette, such as dressing appropriately or understanding dining etiquette.

How to Avoid

Dress Code: Dress more formally than you might at home, especially when dining out or visiting churches.

Dining Etiquette: Keep your hands on the table (but not elbows) while eating, and don’t start eating until everyone is served.

8. Relying Solely on Taxis

15 Common Mistakes to Avoid in France and How to Avoid Them

Mistake: Using taxis for all your transportation needs, which can be expensive and less efficient.

How to Avoid

Use Public Transport: France has excellent public transportation, including metros, buses, and trains. It’s often more convenient and cheaper than taxis.

Walk or Bike: Many cities are walkable and have bike-sharing systems, such as Vélib’ in Paris.

9. Overlooking Regional Cuisine

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Mistake: Sticking to familiar foods and missing out on regional specialties.

How to Avoid

Try Local Dishes: Each region of France has its own specialties. Try dishes like bouillabaisse in Provence, choucroute in Alsace, and crêpes in Brittany.

Visit Local Markets: Explore local markets for fresh produce, cheeses, and regional delicacies.

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10. Not Booking Attractions in Advance

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Mistake: Assuming you can buy tickets on the spot for major attractions, leading to long waits or sold-out experiences.

How to Avoid

Book Online: Reserve tickets for popular attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Château de Versailles online in advance.

Use Skip-the-Line Passes: Consider passes that allow you to skip the lines and save time.

11. Forgetting About Sundays and Public Holidays

Mistake: Planning activities without considering that many places may be closed on Sundays and public holidays.

How to Avoid

Check Schedules: Verify the operating hours of attractions, shops, and restaurants for Sundays and holidays.

Plan Accordingly: Use these days for activities that don’t require specific opening hours, like park visits or scenic walks.

12. Not Tasting French Wine

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Mistake: Missing out on experiencing the variety of French wines.

How to Avoid

Try Regional Wines: France is famous for its wine regions. Try wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and the Loire Valley.

Wine Tasting Tours: Consider a wine tasting tour or visit a vineyard for a deeper experience.

13. Overlooking Travel Insurance

Mistake: Traveling without insurance, risking high costs in case of emergencies.

How to Avoid

Purchase Travel Insurance: Get comprehensive travel insurance that covers health, accidents, theft, and cancellations.
Know Your Coverage: Understand what is and isn’t covered by your insurance policy.

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14. Not Using Proper Currency

Mistake: Assuming all places accept credit cards or not having enough cash.

How to Avoid

Carry Euros: Have some cash on hand for small purchases, tips, and places that don’t accept cards.

Use ATMs Wisely: Withdraw cash from ATMs as needed, but be aware of any foreign transaction fees.

15. Being Unaware of Emergency Numbers

Mistake: Not knowing local emergency numbers in case of an emergency.

How to Avoid

Know the Emergency Number: The European emergency number is 112, which works in France as well.

Local Contacts: Have contact information for your accommodation and local embassy or consulate.

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