Passports and Visas
All U.S. citizens planning a French travel vacation need a valid passport to enter the country. Visas are not required for Americans staying fewer than 90 days. Travelers must carry some form of identification at all times. The U.S. Consulate in Paris is located at 2 rue St-Florentin, telephone 08.36.70.14.88. There are also U.S. consulates in Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, and Strasbourg.
Getting Married in France
Considering a French wedding? For information on how to marry there, see the U.S. Embassy in France document.
French electricity runs on 220-volt, 50-cycle AC current. To operate U.S. electrical appliances, travel with a voltage transformer and plug adaptor.
Most towns in France have a tourist office (Office de Tourisme or Syndicat d'Initiative), usually in the city center and identified by a blue "I" sign. Besides providing information about local services and attractions, many tourist offices can book French hotel accommodations.
A valid U.S. driver's license is required for all U.S. citizens who drive in France. Minimum driving age is 18. Proof of insurance coverage is necessary; your license, insurance certificate, and vehicle registration may be requested along the way. Car rentals in France can be costly; reserving a car in the U.S. can mean signivicant savings if you reserve ahead for a minimum of days and pay in advance.
- French banks are usually open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In many cities outside Paris, banks close for an hour or two at lunchtime.
- ATMs often offer the best exchange rates. Most take Visa and MasterCard and many are linked to the Cirrus and Plus systems. American Express has ATMs in major cities.
- The Euro, the European Union's common currency, officially came into existence in January 1999. Actual bills and coins started to circulate on January 1, 2002.
- Nearly all restaurants include tax and a 15 percent service charge (service compris) in their prices. If a meal or service has been particularly good, leaving additional change is customary, as is leaving the small change from your bill when you pay in cash. In hotels, tip porters per bag and chambermaids per day. Taxi drivers should be tipped 10-15 percent of the fare.
- U.S. residents who stay in France less than six months can get a refund of the value-added tax (VAT or TVA, in French) on purchases over a certain number of Euros. Ask stores to complete a VAT refund form, then submit them to customs upon your departure. Refunds from 13% to 19.6% will be credited to your credit card or mailed to you within a few months.
Museum Passes/Theater Tickets
The Carte Musées-Monuments pass gives direct access to the permanent collection of 70 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding French travel region. Issued for one, two, or five days, these passes are available at main Metro stations and the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. You may also buy a pass before you leave the U.S.
To place a call... Calling France from abroad: Dial 33 + the 9 digit telephone number (omit the 0 at the beginning of French telephone numbers). Calling within France: Dial the 10 digit telephone number. Also dial the 10 digit telephone number to reach mobile phones. Calling overseas from France: For direct dialing, dial 00 + country code + area code + telephone number.
Calling from public phones
Public phones use calling cards & bank cards. Public phones are available in all public places such as train and Métro stations, airports, hospitals etc. Purchase a phone card (télécarte) in a tobacco shop or post office. This enables you to make calls within France and overseas. There are two types of phone cards: the 50 unit one and the 120 unit one. You can also use bank cards with these public phones.
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