FRANCE

Wine, cheese, cows, culture and beauty.

France

A mix of flavors, churches, wine, and history. Lose yourself in a small village, find yourself in a small cafe with a perfect cup of espresso. 

Where I’ve Been

France Placeholder
France

Currency = Euro. 

Find Yourself Rating

Excellent. For such a smallish country, it has amazing diversity. The trick is getting to places without lots of tourists which is sometimes about timing. You can find mountains, beaches, villages, large bustling cities, cows, even Buddhism! Mixed with fabulous food and wine, you can discover so much and do it any way you choose.

Female Solo Travel Ranking

Very Good. France is mostly safe for female solo travelers. Be mindful of your surroundings however late at night and when there are soccer matches things can get heated. Like any big cities, larger cities in France have places you shouldn’t go at night or alone, so keep informed. Note that pickpocketing is fairly common, don’t leave your bags unattended in Paris. Use taxis or a service like Uber or G7 if you’re out late.

Touristy vs Authentic

Touristy. Well, it has been discovered. During the summer it will be hard to find places that are devoid of tourists. However even in Paris there are always side streets to be discovered with hardly a soul. The key is to allow yourself to get lost to find the quaint spots that feel like you discovered a treasure. If you go out to places like Normandie, Bretagne, etc. take the time to go to the lesser known villages with only a handful of inhabitants.

Getting Around / Transportation

Car or trains, metro, tram and taxis. The SNCF is a great way to get around France. (Except when they go on strike…) Air France can cut down on traveling time but is usually expensive, so also try budget airlines if you prefer to fly. Having a car can be practical as well, however, once again, you’ll pay a higher fee if you can only drive Automatic transmission cars. Take a shared shuttle from the airport to cut down on costs. Be warned that Uber drivers in France can be unreliable – some don’t wait very long before they take off and claim you weren’t there and you get charged. Instead, try G7 which you can book in advance and has very professional drivers. In larger cities you’ll also be able to use the metro or local tram systems.

How to Save Money

Expensive. France is not a cheap place. The good news is you can eat well from supermarkets – if you want to sample wine and cheese and great bread, it can be done on a budget! Actually, bread is really cheap in bakeries, you can get inexpensive cheese at a Monoprix. If you want to taste good wine, there is plenty of delicious wine for about 3 euros. The exported wine we receive from France is much more expensive than the price in France, and, you’ll have access to countless varieties you won’t find outside France. If you need clothes and they don’t have to be the premium of French fashion, you can find things at the Monoprix and sometimes on a random side street you’ll find an unexpected sale. Within cities, opt for taking trams, metros, or buses instead of taxis. If there are lots of cafes and restaurants around you, compare prices before you go in and try eating a menu – that will give you a main course and either an appetizer or dessert, or both, for a better price than a la carte. So find a menu you like!

Tipping

Required but often included. Most of the time your bill will include a service fee, but you should always check. If you’re from the US you may automatically want to leave a tip, but remember it may already be charged! If not, leaving between 10 – 20% tip is good. Even if the service is included, you may still want to leave a few extra euros if the service was fantastic.

WiFi Access

Excellent. WiFi is just about everywhere and the connection is usually excellent, except, for example, on a train where multiple people are using a small amount of bandwidth.

SIM Cards / Cell Phone Service

SFR or Le French Mobile. If you have some time up front, you can order a SIM card from Le French Mobile and get your number before you leave for France. If you use your phone every month, or pay a small penalty if you don’t, you can also keep your number forever, and it allows you to roam all over Europe and many parts of the world and cut down on costs. Otherwise, you can buy a SIM card at the airport or at any newstand. SFR has some of the best coverage if you’ll be all over the place in France.

Toilets

Excellent. All toilets are Western, clean, have toilet paper and soap. 🙂

Insects, Rodents and Reptiles

A few. At least in larger towns, you’re unlikely to encounter a lot of bugs or vermin. You may see a rat here and there. The thing to pay attention to is if you’re in the countryside, there are ticks. Some carry lyme disease. A good investment is a tick removal tool.

Passport, Visa and Entry/Exit Rules

Easy. It’s always a good idea to check the US government website (or your country’s local government if not the US) for in-depth information as well as the embassy of France website. Spain follows typical Schengen country rules – a US citizen does not need a Visa and can stay up to 90 days within 180. If you’re from another country, here is a list of countries that do need visas. The stamp in your passport acts as your Visa and if you travel within the Schengen area, you’ll find immigration very diligent about checking how long you’ve been there.

Health, Water, etc.

Excellent. It’s safe to drink water throughout France. No vaccinations are required if you’re from the US but it’s always a good idea to Check the CDC website for recommended precautions. Be aware that there are ticks that carry lyme disease in France. Should anything medical come up French pharmacists are trained in medical school, so you can walk into any pharmacy, describe your symptoms and they can give you medication to treat you. You don’t need health insurance to get it and medication is typically very affordable.

Weather

Varies. While France has four seasons which follow the Northern hemisphere, the South of France is always much warmer, even in winter. With changing weather patterns in the world, France is also impacted with storms and temperatures. France typically has no or very little snow in winter. If you go to Normandie they have an expression “the four seasons in one day” because you really can go through sun, rain, freezing cold and hot weather in one day. So region by region, you will have either a moderate or heavy experience of the four seasons when you go.

Essentials to Pack

Depending on your travel plans, sunglasses are always a good idea. Be mindful of pickpockets – a wallet that stays clipped to your bag can be helpful. A tick removal tool is a good investment. French people actually do look at your shoes, especially in Paris. If you give a damn what others think, you might want to have one nice pair of shoes while traveling in France.

How to Make Friends

Cafes are places you can either enjoy solitude and quiet, or chat up someone nearby. It is likely going to be easier for you, to start, to chat with people who speak your language – so that may mean listening for tourists. If you speak French, however, then what works really well is to become a local – pick a nearby cafe or restaurant and go every day. Within a week, if it’s the place for you, they will recognize you, give you a warm welcome, and likely make you feel you have friendly people to see nearby.

What to Do and See

You can’t really go to France without going to Paris! So, of course, do that, but as best as you can after you do the tourist locations, try and walk down random streets with no particular destination in mind. Much of the beauty of Paris are the tucked away streets and gardens that aren’t in the guidebooks. After Paris, Normandy offers a lovely blend of port towns, history and seafood. Further South in France you’ll find amazing wineries and beaches. You can also opt for mountains or even pick up the the Camino walk.

Where to Stay

Here are a few of the places I liked:

Hotel le Clos Medicis – in Paris. Small boutique hotel, lovely rooms and staff.

Hotel Villa d’Estrees – another boutique hotel in Paris slightly pricier. Perfect location near St Michel.

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