Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European
two-pin plugs are standard.
French is the official language.
Most restaurants and hotels automatically add a 15% service
charge so a tip is not necessary, although another 2-3% is
customary if the service has been good. If service is not included
then 15% is customary. Taxi drivers expect 10-15% of the fare and
hairdressers 10%. Hotel staff generally receive EUR1.50 a day and
tips of EUR1 are given to washroom and cloakroom attendants and
museum tour guides. Tour bus drivers and guides are also
Following the London and Madrid bombings, security has been
heightened particularly in the transport sector. Unattended luggage
left in public places will be removed or destroyed by security
staff. While generally safe, visitors to France are advised to take
precautions against petty theft and to ensure their personal
safety. Thieves and pickpockets operate on the metro and around
airports. Theft from cars is prevalent, particularly in the south,
around Marseilles, and in Corsica. A Corsican nationalist group
FLNC have been responsible for a series of bomb attacks on public
buildings and holiday homes in Corsica and visitors should take
care, particularly in Ajaccio the capital, and other town centres.
Several recent cases of burglary have been reported while visitors
were asleep in their caravans or motorhomes and motorists are asked
to avoid parking in isolated or darkened areas of camping sites or
parking lots. Tourists are advised to conceal bags and purses even
when driving, and to never leave valuables unattended in the car.
Bag snatching is also common, particularly on public transport and
in shopping centres, and visitors should also be vigilant of
luggage while loading bags into and out of hire cars at
French culture is of paramount importance to the French and in
an increasingly Americanised world they feel duty-bound to protect
it. It is appreciated if visitors can speak a few words of French;
they do not respond well to being shouted at in English. While the
food is second to none, foreigners may find the service in many
restaurants sloppy; waiters can appear rude (particularly in Paris)
and take their time. This is just the way they are. Traditional
games such as
(similar to lawn bowling but played on gravel) are
popular in village squares, but the national sports are soccer,
rugby and cycling. Smoking in public places is not allowed and will
incur heavy fines.
Business etiquette is important in France. A smart, fashionable,
sense of dress is common as the nation prides itself on
. Punctuality is not always observed though and
the 'fashionably late' tactic may be applied. A handshake is the
common form of greeting for men and women upon first introductions.
Titles are important and the person is to be referred to as
'monsieur' (Mr.), 'madame' (Mrs.), or 'mademoiselle' (Ms.).
Meetings usually occur over lunches, and the French are known to
enjoy food. Business hours are generally 9am to 6pm Monday to
The international access code for France is +33. The outgoing
code depends on what network is used to dial out on (e.g. 00 for
France Telecom), which is followed by the relevant country code
(e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Other codes are used if using
different networks. The area code for Paris is (0)1. Most public
telephones accept phone cards, which are available in newsagents.
Most hotels add a surcharge to calls, which can be very expensive;
the cheapest way to call abroad is often with a phone card from a
public telephone or at a post office. The local mobile phone
operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most
international mobile phone companies. Internet cafes are available
in towns throughout France.
Travellers from non-EU countries over 17 years entering France
can bring in the following items duty-free: 200 cigarettes, or 100
cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g tobacco; 1 litre of spirits with
alcohol content 22% and over, or 2 litres of dessert wine or
sparkling wine not exceeding 22% alcohol volume, and 2 litres of
table wine; 50g perfume or 250ml eau de toilette and other goods to
the value of EUR175 per adult or EUR90 for children under 15