For many people talk about France is talking about Paris, it is an automatism. However, this european destination is much more than its famous capital, and actually, it is more defined by its provinces. So, for discovering more than the capital, here are some tips for traveling to France.
1 – When to travel to France?
Basically, you can travel all around the year but depending on what you want to see there will be a time to do it.
If you want to see the French countryside, the best time is spring and fall. The colors will be in full splendor.
If you want to go to the beach, the peak months will be July and August, but they will also be months with a lot of people and in which prices are very high. In addition, the service will not be the best, personally, I avoid traveling during this season.
If you want to ski, February will be the time to do it. You should also know that in France the ski resorts are crowded like the beach in summer. And the prices can be high too. In March they seem to be more approachable.
Christmas is considered high season, even if it’s cold, and activities will be limited. Skiing at Christmas? you can imagine the prices. But you will find beautiful ski stations; and more expensive will mean less crowded.
In conclusion, I would personally choose to travel between March and June, or between September and November. But if you are a person who need intense movement, you will not find it at this time, and probably some establishments will even be closed.
2 – Do I need a visa to travel to France?
It all depends on your nationality and the time you will spend in France.
People with a European passport do not need a visa. Many countries outside the European community do not require a visa if they are going to be in the country for less than 90 days. However, there are requirements that you should have ready to be submitted at any time:
• Have a reservation for accommodation or an invitation letter indicating who is hosting you (this letter must be requested by the person who is hosting you, at the mayor’s office in his area of residence, a simple handwritten letter will not work).
• Have a certain amount of money, fixed according to the number of days of the stay. There is a set amount per day.
• Have medical insurance with a coverage of at least € 30,000.
This link will let you know if you need a visa or not: https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en_US/web/france-visas/ai-je-besoin-d-un-visa
3 – How to move within France?
Moving inside France is not very complicated, but it is not very easy either. There are many trains, but they will not necessarily reach the most interesting areas, if for example you want to visit small historic towns. These are generally only accessible by car.
The best way to get around France is by combining trains and car. But be careful with the french trains because there are areas that will have connected only with regional trains (TER, Intercités) that are not very fast, and sometimes you will even have to change trains during the travel, which makes it less interesting in time. However, the train journey is always an experience.
I will always say that the best thing to do in France is to take a car, leave the highway for a national highway, and move on, you will surely find very beautiful things. Not all areas offer this opportunity, but there are regions that certainly deserve it: the south-west, Britain, eastern France (Alsace, near the border with Germany) is an example of this.
They must be attentive to a phenomenon that is as French as the baguette, the strike (la grève in French). You can have everything planned, tickets bought, but it is always possible that a strike changes your plans, so you must always have a plan B for the train or the plane. Frenchs are like that, and famous for it, what we can to do?
4 – How to pay in France?
Almost everywhere you can pay by credit or debit card. Even the smallest amounts, bread for example.
Some payment machines are capricious and do not accept some foreign cards. It happens often with tram or subway machines. Have some cash on hand for these circumstances.
You can exchange the money in the bank, it is the best, or in some exchange points. It is not common to see exchange machines, so you should plan to make the exchange as soon as you’ll have the possibility.
For those who travel from outside the European community, you can choose to request international cards before traveling that will allow you to pay or withdraw money while minimizing commissions. Like the Transferwise card.
Attention in small towns, sometimes little restaurants or little shops do not have payments by credit card, or will not accept some kind of cards (ex: American express).
5 – What budget do I need for traveling to France?
This is a common question with a relative answer: you will need more or less money depending on what you want to do.
Accommodations are not cheap in France, hotels are particularly expensive and not always good. I would opt more for the Maison d’hotes (lodging houses), undoubtedly the better options, more beautiful, you will also be in contact with local people and it will surely be cheaper than a hotel.
HOTELS: they start at around €60 (but pay attention to this category, you can find really bad hotels). Those of more acceptable quality will be around € 100. Luxury hotels, will have very high prices, € 400 and more.
MAISON D’HOTES: from € 40 / night and you can find real gems, personally, I prefer them, and I consider it to be the best way to stay in France. You can search for them on Booking or on AirB&B. There are also specialized websites that group together some adherents. There is even a classification with spikes instead of the stars of the hotels. But don’t get too complicated with this and choose based on the photos and opinions on Tripadvisor. That’s my technique.
Average price of some items in France (2020):
- Food: € 15 / person (cheap restaurant), € 30 / person (average restaurant)
- Coffee: € 2.50
- Beer in a local: € 3 (cheap), € 4-5
- Bottle of wine in a restaurant: from about € 20, in the supermarket from 3€
- Public transport: € 1.70 a single trip (multi-trip cards are more profitable, look for the information in each city or region).
And what to visit in France? This question has a long answer, and I will write an article just dedicated to this.