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France Travel Guide:

       Travel Information

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                                     Tourism Rating    Travel Safety   Entry Requirements  Avoiding Petty Theft                                   

Special Note  Road Safety and Conditions   Medical Care            


Tourism Rating  
Four globes = Place of a lifetime



Generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral.
Paris Climate
Lyon Climate
Marseille Climate Strasbourg Climate



France: Destination of a Lifetime (Our highest rating)

France is one of the jewels of world travel and deservedly one of the world's most popular vacation destination. Steeped in history, featuring a proud and unique culture, France offers the tourist an almost endless list of world-class travel destinations.   It is clearly among the "Best of the Best" vacation travel destinations and  an experience not to be missed.

  1. France offers an incomparable travel experience. 
    • The French are  justifiably proud of their history and have worked hard to preserve their heritage.  Travelers can spend time touring estates, châteaux, cathedrals and other edifices of historic significance; strolling the halls of the world's great museums; or touring some of the finest public art collections in the world. 
    • The leading French cities are delightful, memorable, offer wonderful food and reflect their unique French Culture.
    • The French countryside is  beautiful, inviting, and provides continual rewards that will stay with you during a lifetime of journeys.

  2. France is a good country for independent travel.

  3. ThereArePlaces recommended travel destinations for France are located at France: Places To Visit .

  4. Additional Information on Travel to France may be found at the official tourism site of the French governments Travel Planning Guides for insights on how  to "travel well" and "travel safe".














Travel Safety   Top of Page
green = safe travel conditions

Overall, France is a safe destination for tourists.

  1. No official health advisories, travel advisories, or specific terrorism warnings for France have been posted by the U.S. Government at this time.  Before you depart, always check with the Department of State  and CDC to insure that these conditions have not changed.  In addition, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office  of the British Government provides excellent travel advisories

  2. The State Department's Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444 .
    • Americans living or traveling in France or Monaco may want to consider registering with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, , to obtain updated information on travel and security within France. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in cases of emergency.

  3. Political assassinations and bombings have occurred in France. The National Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC), as part of its decades-long bombing campaign on the island of Corsica, continues to conduct limited operations in the south of France and on Corsica. In the 1990s there was a wave of bombings and attacks in Paris carried out by Algerian terrorists. Today, numerous radical Islamic groups claim sympathizers within France’s large immigrant community, as evidenced by arrests over the last few years.

  4. When visiting a foreign country, avoid public demonstrations (whatever the cause) and do not broadcast either your public opinions or your nationality. Although violent civil disorder is rare in France, in the past, student demonstrations, labor protests, and other routine demonstrations have turned into violent confrontations between demonstrators and police.

  5. If you have an emergency in France, call 112. 112 is a European Economic Community initiative to provide a one telephone number contact for ambulance services, the police, the fire service, air and sea rescue and other emergency services available within a specific country (such as mountain patrol). The 112-telephone number is designed for use in emergencies only. Calls in border areas may be  answered in English, German, or Spanish.  The direct emergency numbers in France for the police, fire, and medical assistance are as follows: 17 (police emergency), 18 (fire department) and 15 (emergency medical/paramedic team/ambulance).

  6. The U.S. Embassy / Consular Section in Paris is located at 4 avenue Gabriel, 75008 Paris (Place de La Concorde, métro stop Concorde), telephone: in country 01-43-12-22-22; from the U.S. 011-33-1-43-12-22-22 (24 hours); fax for Passport Services in country 01-42-96-28-39; from the U.S. 011-33-1-42-96-28-39; for Special Consular Services (emergencies) fax: in country 01-42-61-61-40; from the U.S. 011-33-1-42-61-61-40.  Further information can be obtained at the U.S. Embassy's web site at .

    See the ThereArePlaces' article on How the U.S. Counsel can help Americans abroad.

    See the bottom of this page for a comprehensive list of the US Embassy's Consular Offices and Agencies in France.

Entry Requirements   Top of Page  

A valid passport is required for entry to France.  A visa is not required for tourist/business stays up to 90 days in France. 

France is party to the Schengen agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter France for tourist/business stays up to 90 daysfor tourist or business purposes without a visa. A passport is required and should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. Anyone intending to stay more than 90 days must obtain the appropriate visa issued by one of the French Consulates in the U.S., prior to departure for France. This also applies to anyone considering marriage in France.

  • The period begins when entering any of the following countries which are parties to the Schengen agreement: Austria, Belgium,  the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg,  Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia Spain, and Sweden.

(If you do not have a passport, see our article on the Ins and Outs of Passports.  Other important travel documents are covered in our Information Guide on Passport, Visas, Customs.)

For further information concerning entry requirements for France , travelers may contact the Embassy of France at 4101 Reservoir Road, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20007, tel. (202) 944-6000, or the French Consulates General in Atlanta , Boston , Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles , Miami, New Orleans, New York, or San Francisco .

The web site for the Consular section of the French Embassy in the United States is:

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure

DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. citizens who are also French citizens under French law may be subject, while in France, to certain aspects of French law . Those who may be affected should inquire at a French Embassy or Consulate regarding their status.

In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. For additional information, please see the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet home page at for an explanation of dual nationality issues.

U.S. citizens who are also citizens of France or any other nation are reminded that U.S. law requires they enter and depart the United States documented as U.S. citizens.



Avoiding Petty Theft   Top of Page  







Petty theft alert on the RER from DeGaulle airport to Paris





Petty theft alert on the Number One Subway Line




Be on alert for pickpockets as Gare du Nord Train Station













ATM scam - always use bank ATMS during operating hours







Smash and grab at traffic stops in southern France

Be alert!  Before you travel, read our articles on Pickpockets, Con Artists, and ATM safety in the ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Personal Safety for travelers.

While both France has relatively low rate of violent crime, a limited number of neighborhoods in the larger French cities merit extra caution. Additionally, although the overall crime rate has fallen slightly in recent years, the violent crime rate has increased. Thieves commonly target vehicles with non-local license plates, and work in or near tourist attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, hotels, beaches, trains, train stations, airports, and subways.

Americans in France should be particularly alert to pickpockets in train stations and subways. Photocopies of travel documents and credit cards should be kept separate from the originals.

Although thieves may operate anywhere, the U.S. Embassy in France receives frequent reports of theft from several areas in particular:


Gangs of thieves operate on the rail link (RER) from Charles de Gaulle Airport to downtown Paris, where they prey on jet-lagged, luggage-burdened tourists. In one common ruse, a thief distracts a tourist with a question about directions, while an accomplice steals a momentarily unguarded backpack, briefcase, or purse. Thieves also time their thefts to coincide with train stops so they may quickly exit the car just before the automatic doors close. Travelers should consider taking a bus or taxi from the airport into the city.

Reports of stolen purses, briefcases, and carry-on bags at Charles de Gaulle Airport have been on the rise. Travelers should monitor their bags at all times and never leave them unattended. As thieves commonly target laptop bags, travelers should avoid carrying passports and other valuables in computer bags. One common method involves timing the theft so that while the traveler is busy at the ticket counter, the traveler’s shoulder bag is picked up after being placed on the floor. Also be aware that unattended bags are subject to destruction by airport security.

Travelers should monitor their bags at all times and never leave them unattended. As thieves commonly target laptop bags, travelers should avoid carrying passports and other valuables in computer bags. Unattended bags are subject to destruction by airport security.

There have been reports of robberies in which thieves on motorcycles reach into a moving car by opening the car door or reaching through an open window to steal purses and other bags visible inside. The same technique is used against pedestrians walking with purses/bags/cameras slung over their street-side shoulder (remember to switch your belongings away from the street and read this article on how to protect your wallet or purse).

Many thefts occur on the Number One Subway Line, which runs through the center of Paris by many major tourist attractions (including the Grand Arch at La Defense, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, and Bastille).

Pickpockets are especially active on this metro line during the summer months and use a number of techniques. The most common, and unfortunately the most successful, is the simple "bump and snatch," where an individual bumps into the tourist while at the same time reaching into the pockets/purse/bag. Visitors should be particularly careful when metro doors are closing, as this is a favored moment for the less-sophisticated pickpockets to simply grab valuables and jump through the closing doors, leaving the victim helplessly watching as the thief flees. Visitors are encouraged NOT to aggressively confront thieves, who often operate in groups and may become violent if cornered. Simply drawing attention to an attempted theft will most likely stop the operation and cause a tactical withdrawal by the thief.

Gare du Nord train station, where the express trains from the airport arrive in Paris, is also a high-risk area for pick pocketing and theft. Travelers should also beware of thefts that occur on both overnight and day trains, especially on trains originating in Spain, Italy, and Belgium.

Thefts also occur at the major department stores (Galeries Lafayette and Printemps,) where tourists often place wallets, passports, and credit cards on cashier counters during transactions.

In hotels, thieves target lobbies and breakfast rooms, and take advantage of a minute of inattention to snatch jackets, purses, and backpacks. While many hotels do have safety latches that allow guests to secure their rooms from inside, this feature is not as universal as it is in the United States. If no chain or latch is present, a chair placed up against the door and wedged under the handle is usually an effective obstacle to surreptitious entry during the night. There are, however, reports of thieves breaking into hotel rooms on lower floors through open windows while the occupants are sleeping. To guard against this, hotel room windows should be kept locked at all times. There have been reports of thieves stealing safes from rooms in Parisian hotels. Whenever possible, valuables should be kept in the hotel safe behind the reception desk rather than in the room safe.

Many Americans have reported thefts occurring in restaurants and nightclubs/bars, where purses are stolen from the back of a chair or from under the table.

ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) are very common in France and provide ready access to cash, allowing travelers to carry as much money as they need for each day. The rates are competitive with local exchange bureaus and an ATM transaction is easier than the cashing of travelers' checks. However, crimes involving ATMs are increasing. Travelers should not use ATMs in isolated, unlit areas or where loiterers are present. Travelers should be especially aware of persons standing close enough to see the PIN (Personal Identification Number) being entered into the machine. Thieves often conduct successful scams by simply observing the PIN as it is entered (and then later stealing the card from the user in another location). If the card becomes stuck, travelers should be wary of persons who offer to help or ask for the PIN to "fix" the machine. Legitimate bank employees never have a reason to ask for the PIN.  Immediately report the stuck card to the bank where the machine is located.

Large criminal operations in Paris involving the use of ATM machines that "eat" the user's ATM card have been reported. This most often happens during a weekend or at night when the bank is closed. The frustrated traveler often walks away after unsuccessfully trying to retrieve the card, with plans to return the first day the bank is open. In such cases, the machine has been modified by a criminal gang, using an add-on device equipped with a microchip that records the user's PIN number when it is typed in and also prevents the card from being ejected. The criminal retrieves the card from the device once the visitor departs, downloads the recorded PIN number and then goes to other ATMs and withdraws as much cash as possible. ATM users are strongly encouraged to carry a 24-hour emergency number for their ATM card and bank account that will enable the immediate prevention of withdrawals from the supporting account. (See our article on the contact numbers you should carry with you during travel.)

Pigalle is the "adult entertainment district" of Paris. Many entertainment establishments in this area engage in aggressive marketing and charge well beyond the normal rate for drinks. There have been reports of threats of violence to coerce patrons into paying exorbitant beverage tabs. Visitors are encouraged to avoid this area unless touring with a well-organized and reputable tour company.

Normandy: There has been an increase in break-ins and thefts from vehicles in the parking lots at the Normandy beaches and American cemeteries. Valuables should not be left unattended in a car, and locking valuables in the trunk should not be considered a safeguard. Thieves often pry open car trunks to steal bags.

Southern France: Thefts from cars with open windows stopped at red lights are fairly common, particularly along the Riviera of the Nice-Antibes-Cannes area, and in Marseille. Car doors should be kept locked and windows raised at all times to prevent incidents of "snatch-and-grab" thefts. In this type of scenario, the thief is usually a passenger on a motorcycle. Similar incidents also have occurred at tollbooths and rest areas. Special caution is advised when entering and exiting a car, as this presents an opportunity for purse-snatchers. Break-ins of parked cars are also fairly common. Valuables should not be left in the car, not even in the trunk, when the vehicle is unattended.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of any crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.

If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members of friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution for the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney.























































































































































Special Note   Top of Page
  1. Maison de la France,, provides an email newsletter that contains timely information on tourism in France.  Sign-up for the newsletter at the Maison de La France Website.

2. Contrary to popular opinion in America, we have found Parisians and the French, in general, to be good hosts and helpful to visitors. Of course, it pays to be polite and to try to use as many French terms as possible during conversation. Before starting ANY conversation use "Bonjour" or the appropriate phrase for the time of day. The French regard this introduction as a requirement for initiating a conversation. Adding “s'il vous plait" to the end of any request is also helpful. It is always a good idea to take a phrase book with you or to print out a list of everyday terms from one of the many Internet sites that specialize in foreign language phrases for travelers. Although you will find many restaurants provide a menu in English, it is also helpful to take a menu dictionary for those occasions when there in no English language menu and the server does not speak English.

3.  If you are unable to speak any French, we urge you to learn few phrases and use them often. Not speaking the language is a problem when taking a cab (see our article on Taxis) and you might find that taking the Metro is a good idea since it does not require that you converse with anyone, simply that you have the correct change for a ticket and know the stop nearest to the location of interest. .This leads to our recommendation to get a metro map and study the names of the transport lines and stops that will get you to your location. Each station is equipped with ticket vending machines that allow you to purchase one way or round trip tickets to your destination.

4.  Dining in Paris is a late affair as the Parisian generally dines later than most Americans dine. Eating a meal in France takes a lot longer at the table than we are used to spending. Be prepared for courteous but leisurely service and note that complaining about the speed will not make it any quicker. You are in Europe, so enjoy the time spent eating. Talk with your travel companions, people watch, enjoy the meal, and bask in the ambiance of being in Paris.

5. In shops or restaurants, always greet the proprietor with a "Bonjour" when you arrive and a "Merci" when you depart. If you do so, your visit will be a lot smoother.  The French are very proud of their language and expect visitors to know a little French.

6. ThereArePlaces makes every attempt to ensure that the travel information we present to you is current. Before you depart, be sure to check with official government sources to determine the status of critical information relating to a particular county.

Road Safety and Conditions   Top of Page
While in France, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States .

The information below concerning France is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

Roads in France are generally comparable to those in the United States , but traffic engineering and driving habits pose special dangers. Usually, lane markings and sign placements are not as clear as in the United States . Drivers should be prepared to make last-minute maneuvers, as most French drivers do. French drivers usually drive more aggressively and faster than Americans and tend to exceed posted speed limits. Right-of-way rules in France may differ from those in the United States . Drivers entering intersections from the right have priority over those on the left (unless specifically indicated otherwise), even when entering relatively large boulevards from small side streets. Many intersections in France are being replaced by traffic circles, where the right-of-way belongs to drivers in the circle.

On the major highways, service stations are situated every 25 miles or less. Service stations are as plentiful on secondary roads as in the United States.

Paris , the capital and largest city in France , has an extensive and efficient public transportation system. The interconnecting system of buses, subways, and commuter rails serves more than 4 million people a day with a safety record comparable to or better than the systems of major American cities. Similar transportation systems are found in all major French cities. Between cities, France is served by an equally extensive rail service, which is safe and reliable. High-speed rail links connect the major cities in France . Many cities are also served by frequent air service.

Speed Limits in France:

  1. Built-up areas - 50 km/h
  2. Outside Built up areas (including  dual carriageways) - 90 or 110 km/h (as posted)
  3. Motorways - 130 km/h

Our information on speed limits is as current as possible. Always confirm the speed limits with your rental car agent and observe the posted speeds limits whenever and wherever you drive.

Use of mobile telephones while driving is against the law in most European countries.  The fine for violating laws against the use of mobile phone while driving is significant.  If you need to use your mobile phone while on the road, stop your car in a designated parking area and place your call.

Drivers of rental cars should ensure that they are familiar with the terms of their rental car contracts.  In addition, we strongly urge you to determine that you have appropriate insurance coverage.  See our article on Rental Car Costs for a description of the various rental contract terms.

Do not drink and drive anywhere at anytime.  In most foreign countries, especially in Europe and the UK, penalties and punishments are significant. See our article on drinking and driving in foreign countries for more information.

For specific information concerning French and Monegasque driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the French and Monegasque National Tourist Office hotline at New York at (202) 659-7779 or via the Internet at:

For information on obtaining international drivers licenses, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet home page at .

Medical Care   Top of Page
Medical care comparable to that in the United States is widely available in France.

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States . However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

We strongly urge you to consult your medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, you should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing medical service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your departure, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur.

Your existing medical insurance carrier may cover "customary and reasonable" medical care while you are abroad. Usually, if reimbursement is provided, it is paid at a reduced rate (due to the use of an "out of system" provider). Check with your insurance carrier before you depart to determine the type and amount of coverage that may be provided. If coverage is provided, be sure to ask how claims should be filed and ask them to send some claim forms, in case you require any medical treatment while on vacation.

Read our article on  travel insurance to learn the factors that you should consider before you purchase or decline to purchase a travel related insurance policy.

ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Health is another valuable resource for the traveler considering a trip abroad.

U.S. Consular Locations   Top of Page

The Consulate General in Marseille is located at Place Varian Fry, 13006 Marseille, telephone: in country 04-91-54-92-00; from the U.S. 011-33-4-91-54-92-00 (24 hours); Consular Section fax: in country 04-91-55-56-95 and main fax 04-91-55-09-47; Consular Section fax from the U.S. 011-33-4-91-55-56-95, and main fax from the U.S. 011-33-4-91-55-09-47.

The Consulate General in Strasbourg is located at 15 Avenue d'Alsace, 67082 Strasbourg, telephone: in country 03-88-35-31-04; from the U.S. 011-33-3-88-35-31-04; fax: in country 03-88-24-06-95; from the U.S. 011-33-3-88-24-06-95. The Consulate General in Strasbourg does not produce passports on the premises. American citizens in this area whose passports are lost or stolen and have urgent travel needs should contact the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

The U.S. Government also has consular representation in Bordeaux, Lyon, Rennes, Nice and Toulouse that provide limited services to Americans, by appointment only. 

The American Presence Posts in Bordeaux, Lyon and Rennes do not produce passports on the premises. American citizens in this area whose passports are lost or stolen and have urgent travel needs should contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

The American Presence Post in Bordeaux is located at 10 place de la Bourse, 33076 Bordeaux (entry on 1 rue Fernand Philippart); telephone: in country 05-56-48-63-80; from the U.S. 011-33-5-56-48-63-80; fax: in country 05-56-51-61-97; from the U.S. 011-33-5-56-51-61-97.

The American Presence Post in Lyon is located at 1, quai Jules Courmont, 69002 Lyon; telephone: in country 04-78-38-33-03; from the U.S. 011-33-4-78-38-33-03; fax: in country 04-72-41-71-81; from the U.S. 011-33-4-72-41-71-81. Web site:

The American Presence Post in Rennes is located at 30, quai Duguay Trouin, 35000 Rennes; telephone: in country 02-23-44-09-60; from the U.S. 011-33-2-23-44-09-60; fax: in country 02-99-35-00-92; from the U.S. 011-33-2-99-35-00-92. Web site: .

The American Presence Post in Toulouse is located at 25, Allée Jean Jaures, 31000 Toulouse; telephone: in country 05-34-41-36-50; from the U.S. 011-33-5-34-41-36-50; fax: in country 05-34-41-16-19; from the U.S. 011-33-5-34-41-16-19.

The Consular Agency in Nice is located at 7, Avenue Gustave V, 3rd floor, 06000 Nice, telephone: in country 04-93-88-89-55; from the U.S.  011-33-4-93-88-89-55; fax: in country 04-93-87-07-38; from the U.S. 011-33-4-93-87-07-38. 

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