Essential France Travel Tips for a Smooth and Memorable Trip

Essential France Travel Tips for a Smooth and Memorable Trip

France is a country that is famous for its rich culture, stunning architecture, and delicious cuisine. It attracts millions of tourists from around the world each year. However, before visiting France, there are some important tips that travellers should be aware of to make their trip more enjoyable and stress-free.

One of the most important things to know is that French people take their language seriously. While English is spoken by many French people, visitors who make an effort to speak French are always appreciated. Learning a few basic phrases such as “bonjour,” “merci,” and “au revoir” can go a long way in making a great impression.

Another crucial tip is to be aware of the local customs and etiquette. For example, it’s considered impolite to eat or drink while walking down the street in France. Additionally, people greet each other with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek, depending on the region. By learning about these customs and following them, travellers can show respect for the local culture and make a positive impression on the people they meet.

Understanding French Culture

Language Basics

French is the official language of France, and while many people in the country speak English, it’s always polite to try and speak a bit of French. Here are a few basic phrases that can help visitors navigate French-speaking areas:

Phrase Pronunciation Translation
Bonjour Bohn-zhoor Hello
Merci mehr-see Thank you
Au revoir oh ruh-vwar Goodbye
Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay voo on-glay Do you speak English?


French cuisine is renowned around the world, and visitors to France should try some of the local dishes. Here are a few popular French foods to look out for:

  • Croissants: A flaky pastry that’s typically eaten for breakfast.
  • Baguettes: A long, thin loaf of bread that’s a staple in French cuisine.
  • Coq au Vin: A classic French dish made with chicken, red wine, and vegetables.
  • Ratatouille: A vegetable stew made with eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers.
  • Cheese: France is famous for its cheese, with over 400 different varieties to choose from.


French culture has a few customs and etiquette rules that visitors should be aware of. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Always greet people with a “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” (good evening) before starting a conversation.
  • When dining out, it’s customary to wait for the host to say “Bon appétit” before starting to eat.
  • Tipping is not as common in France as it is in other countries, but it’s still appreciated. A 5-10% tip is usually sufficient.
  • Dressing well is important in French culture, so avoid wearing casual or athletic clothing in public.
  • Finally, it’s important to respect French customs and traditions, even if they’re different from what you’re used to.

Planning Your Trip

Planning a trip to France can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help make the planning process smoother.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit France depends on what you want to do and see. If you want to experience the beaches and coastal towns, the best time to visit is during the summer months of June to August. If you want to see the famous lavender fields in Provence, the best time to visit is in June and July. If you want to avoid the crowds and high prices, the best time to visit is during the off-season months of November to March.

Choosing Destinations

France has so many destinations to choose from, so it’s important to narrow down your choices based on your interests and budget. Paris is a must-see for many visitors, but other cities such as Lyon, Marseille, and Nice offer unique experiences. If you’re interested in wine, consider visiting Bordeaux or Burgundy. If you’re interested in history, consider visiting Normandy or the Loire Valley.


France can be an expensive destination, but there are ways to save money. Consider travelling during the off-season, staying in budget accommodations such as hostels or Airbnb, and using public transportation instead of taxis. It’s also important to budget for food and activities, as dining out and visiting attractions can add up quickly.

Overall, planning a trip to France requires careful consideration of your interests and budget. By following these tips, you can ensure a memorable and enjoyable trip to this beautiful country.

Getting There

Flight Tips

When travelling to France, it is important to plan and book flights in advance. The peak travel season is from June to August, so expect higher prices during this time. It is recommended to book flights at least three months in advance to get the best deals.

Consider flying into Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, which is the largest international airport in France and offers direct flights from many major cities around the world. Alternatively, you can fly into other major cities in France such as Marseille, Nice, or Lyon.

When packing for your flight, make sure to check the baggage restrictions of your airline. Most airlines allow one carry-on bag and one checked bag but be aware of size and weight limits.

Visa Requirements

Citizens of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein do not need a visa to enter France. However, citizens of other countries may need a Schengen visa to enter France. It is recommended to check with the French embassy or consulate in your home country for specific visa requirements and application procedures.

If you are planning to stay in France for more than 90 days, you will need to apply for a long-stay visa. This visa is required for those who plan to work, study, or live in France for an extended period.

It is important to note that visa requirements can change, so it is recommended to check with the embassy or consulate before travelling to France.

Accommodation Tips

Choosing a Hotel

When it comes to choosing a hotel in France, it’s important to consider the location, budget, and amenities. Paris is known for its luxury hotels, but there are plenty of affordable options as well. Keep in mind that hotels in the city centre tend to be more expensive, so consider staying in a nearby neighbourhood or using public transportation to get around.

It’s also important to read reviews and check the hotel’s website for information on amenities like breakfast, Wi-Fi, and parking. Some hotels may offer discounts for booking directly through their website or for booking in advance.

Alternative Lodging Options

For those looking for alternative lodging options, France has plenty to offer. Airbnb is a popular choice and can offer a more authentic experience by staying in a local’s home. Bed and breakfasts are also a great option for those looking for a more intimate and personalized experience.

For those on a tight budget, hostels are a great option and can be found throughout the country. Camping is also a popular option, with many campsites offering amenities like showers and electricity.

When booking alternative lodging options, it’s important to read reviews and check the location. Make sure to communicate with the host or owner before booking to ensure a smooth stay.

Getting Around

Public Transportation

France has an extensive public transportation system that includes buses, trains, and subways. The most popular mode of transportation in major cities is the metro, which is fast, efficient, and relatively inexpensive. Visitors can purchase a ticket for a single ride or a pass for multiple rides. It is recommended to buy a pass if you plan to use public transportation frequently during your stay.

Buses are also available in cities and towns, but they are slower than the metro. However, they are a good option for travelling to destinations that are not accessible by the metro. Visitors can purchase a ticket on the bus or at a ticket machine.

Trains are a great way to travel between cities and towns in France. The country has a high-speed train network that connects major cities, and tickets can be purchased online or at the train station. It is recommended to book train tickets in advance to get the best deals.

Renting a Car

Renting a car is a good option for visitors who want to explore France’s countryside and smaller towns. However, driving in major cities can be challenging, and parking can be expensive. Visitors should also be aware of tolls on highways and roads.

To rent a car in France, visitors must have a valid driver’s license from their home country and be at least 21 years old. It is recommended to book a car rental in advance to ensure availability and get the best rates. Visitors should also consider purchasing insurance for the rental car in case of an accident or theft.

Sightseeing Tips

Must-See Landmarks

France is home to some of the world’s most famous landmarks. Here are a few that you must see:

Landmark Location Description
Eiffel Tower Paris The iconic tower is a must-see for all visitors to France.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Paris This famous cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.
Palace of Versailles Versailles The palace was the residence of the French kings and queens until the French Revolution.
Mont Saint-Michel Normandy This stunning island is home to a medieval abbey and monastery.

Museums and Galleries

France is also known for its world-class museums and galleries. Here are a few that you should visit:

Museum/Gallery Location Description
Louvre Museum Paris The Louvre is one of the world’s largest and most famous museums, home to the Mona Lisa and other famous works of art.
Musée d’Orsay Paris This museum is home to a vast collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.
Centre Pompidou Paris The Centre Pompidou is a modern art museum that features works by artists such as Picasso and Matisse.
Musée Rodin Paris This museum is dedicated to the works of the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin.

When visiting museums and galleries, it is important to plan. Many museums have long lines, so it is best to purchase tickets in advance. It is also a good idea to check the museum’s website for information on hours and exhibits. Finally, be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as many museums require a lot of walking.

Essential France Travel Tips for a Smooth and Memorable Trip

Food and Drink

Trying Local Cuisine

France is known for its gastronomy, and trying local cuisine is a must-do for any visitor. Each region has its specialities, so don’t be afraid to try something new. Some popular dishes to try include:

  • Coq au Vin: chicken cooked in red wine with mushrooms and onions.
  • Ratatouille: a vegetable stew made with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and peppers.
  • Bouillabaisse: a fish soup from Marseille made with various types of fish and shellfish.
  • Escargots: snails cooked in garlic butter.

In addition to these classic dishes, be sure to try local cheeses and pastries as well. France is famous for its cheese, and each region has its varieties. Some popular types include Brie, Camembert, and Roquefort. For pastries, try a croissant, pain au chocolat, or macaron.

Wine Tasting

France is also known for its wine, and there are many regions to visit for wine tasting. Some popular areas include:

  • Bordeaux: known for its red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.
  • Burgundy: known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.
  • Champagne: known for its sparkling wine made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes.

Many wineries offer tours and tastings, so be sure to plan if you want to visit. Keep in mind that drinking and driving is illegal in France, so consider hiring a driver or taking public transportation.

Safety Tips

France is generally a safe country to visit, but it’s always important to take precautions to ensure your safety and avoid any potential dangers. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when travelling to France:

  • Be aware of pickpockets and keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas like public transportation, tourist sites, and markets.
  • Avoid walking alone at night, especially in poorly lit areas.
  • Be cautious of people approaching you on the street, as they may be trying to distract you while someone else steals your belongings.
  • If you’re driving, be aware of aggressive drivers and be careful when navigating roundabouts.
  • Keep your passport and other important documents in a safe place, like a hotel safe or a money belt.
  • If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure to lock your door and windows when you leave the room.
  • If you’re using an ATM, be sure to cover the keypad with your hand to protect your PIN.

By following these safety tips, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to France.

Shopping Tips

France is a shopper’s paradise, and there are plenty of things to buy in the country. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your shopping experience in France:

  • Look out for sales: Sales are held twice a year in France, once in January and once in July. During this time, you can find great deals on clothing, shoes, and accessories. Keep an eye out for the signs in shop windows that say “Soldes” or “Promotions.”
  • Shop at local markets: France has many local markets that sell fresh produce, cheese, wine, and other local products. These markets are a great way to experience French culture and pick up some unique souvenirs.
  • Visit department stores: Department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps offer a wide selection of French and international brands. They also have tax-free shopping for non-EU residents, so be sure to bring your passport.
  • Buy from small boutiques: France is known for its fashion, and many small boutiques sell unique and stylish clothing and accessories. These boutiques are often run by local designers and offer one-of-a-kind pieces.
  • Don’t forget about food: France is famous for its food, and there are many speciality food shops where you can buy cheese, wine, chocolate, and other delicious treats. Be sure to try some local specialities like macarons, croissants, and baguettes.
  • Be aware of VAT: Value-added tax (VAT) is included in the price of most goods in France. However, non-EU residents can claim a VAT refund on purchases over €175. Be sure to ask for a tax refund form when making your purchase.
  • Bring a reusable bag: To reduce waste, many shops in France no longer provide plastic bags. Be sure to bring a reusable bag with you when you go shopping.
  • Learn some French: While many people in France speak English, it’s always a good idea to learn some basic French phrases when shopping. This will help you communicate with shopkeepers and make your shopping experience more enjoyable.

Etiquette and Manners

When visiting France, it is important to be aware of the local customs and manners. Here are some tips to help you navigate French etiquette:

  • Greetings: When meeting someone for the first time, it is customary to shake hands. In more informal settings, such as with friends or family, a kiss on each cheek may be exchanged. It is important to note that the number of kisses may vary depending on the region of France.
  • Dress Code: French people are known for their fashion sense, so it is important to dress appropriately when visiting. Avoid wearing athletic wear or shorts in public places. Instead, opt for more formal attire such as dresses, skirts, or slacks.
  • Table Manners: When dining in France, it is important to remember that the French take their meals seriously. Always wait for the host to invite you to sit down and begin eating. Additionally, it is considered rude to leave food on your plate or to ask for a to-go box.
  • Language: Although many French people speak English, it is always appreciated when visitors make an effort to speak French. Learn a few basic phrases such as “Bonjour” (hello), “Merci” (thank you), and “Au revoir” (goodbye).
  • Tipping: In France, a service charge is often included in the bill. However, it is still customary to leave a small tip for good service. A tip of 5-10% is appropriate for restaurants and cafes.

By following these simple etiquette and manners tips, visitors can show respect for French culture and make the most of their trip to France.


In conclusion, France is a beautiful country with a rich history and culture. The country has a lot to offer for tourists, from its stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, and picturesque landscapes.

Visiting France can be an exciting and enjoyable experience, but it is important to keep in mind some essential tips before travelling. From understanding the local customs and etiquette to knowing the best time to visit, these tips can help ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

By following these 20 France travel tips, travellers can make the most of their trip to France and have a memorable experience. Whether it’s exploring the vibrant cities, relaxing on the beaches, or indulging in the local cuisine, France has something for everyone.

Overall, France is a must-visit destination for any traveller, and with the right preparation, visitors can have an unforgettable experience in this beautiful country.

Essential France Travel Tips

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