A valid passport is all that is required if you are an EU national. Same applies if you are from the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, but only for stays of up to three months. Nationals of many countries need a ‘Schengen Visa’.
To ensure you are aware of the full entry requirements contact the French Embassy in your local country.
The currency used in France is the Euro which is made up of 100 cent. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c and 1c.
Banks in Paris usually open between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday; some banks also open on Saturdays. All are closed on public holidays, and from noon on the previous day. Commission rates vary between banks, but the state ‘Banque de France’ usually offers good rates.
French is the official language in Paris. English isn’t spoken as widely as in other European capitals, although you will find most people in the service and tourism industry will speak some.
Winter can get very cold in Paris, with temperatures hovering around freezing a lot of the time. Typical pleasant sunny days reach 20˚C to 25˚C. Spring and autumn are pleasant and mild.
Visitors from EU countries are entitled to medical treatment under the EU Reciprocal Medical Treatment agreement, as are visitors from Scandinavian countries. Natives of Britain need to collect an E111 form from your local social security office. This form may also be obtained in post offices also. Travellers from non-EU countries are obliged to pay for any medical treatment required during their stay.
Paris is in the Central European Time (CET) zone which his one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
The vast majority of shops in Paris open somewhere between 9am-10am, then close between 6pm-7pm. Others open from 8am-9pm. Office hours are usually between 9am-5pm from Monday to Friday.
The main tourist offices are at 127 Ave des Champs-Elysées, 8th Mº Charles de Gaulle-Etoile and at the Eiffel Tower and Gare de Lyon. You can get brochures on attractions and events in Paris, buy phonecards, make hotel bookings and exchange foreign currency. Opening times vary between 9am-8pm, changing in the winter months.
As an EU member, France imposes VAT (TVA in French) on most goods and services. The standard for clothing, appliances, alcohol, perfumes and other goods is 19.6%.
When in Paris you can exchange foreign cash in any bank. They open from 9.00am until 12.00pm and again from 2.00pm to 4.00pm from Monday to Friday. Many major banks also open their exchange facilities from 9.00am until 12.00pm on Saturdays. Try and change your money at the biggest banks such as Crédit Lyonnais as they offer the most competitive rates.
All major credit cards are accepted in the bigger hotels, restaurants and shops but in smaller businesses you may have difficulty using this facility. Bankcards which are members of the bigger international networks such as Plus or Cirrus can be used where the ATM states they are acceptable.
Electricity in France operates on 220 volts AC.
To call abroad from France dial 00, then country code, area code and local number, dropping the 0 on the area code. If you are calling France from abroad the international access code is +33 and the city code for Paris is 01, but don’t forget to drop the 0 on the area code when dialling from abroad. For operator assistance dial 12.
Post offices (bureaux de poste) are open between 8am-7pm Mon-Fri; 9am-noon Sat. You can also buy stamps at tobacconists (tabac). The main post office is located at 52 rue du Louvre.
By law a service charge must be included in all restaurants, café and bar bills in France. If you feel that the service merits a further tip an amount between 5% and 10% is sufficient. In bars or cafés one or two euro is the norm. Taxi drivers are usually given a tip of between 10% and 15%. It is worth noting, however, that at no time is it essential to tip and is entirely at your discretion.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to Paris as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In France they take place on January 1st, Easter Monday, May 1st and 8th, Ascension Day, first Monday in June, July 14th, August 15th, November 1st and December 25th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.