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Travel Tips

Airports

The two main Paris airports are Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Orly. There are regional and other more local airports throughout France served by Air France, British Airways, other international carriers and by several low cost carriers. Useful websites below.

Airlines UK and Ireland

- Air France: www.airfrance.co.uk
- British Airways: www.ba.com
- British Midland: www.flybmi.com
- Bmibaby: www.bmibaby.com
- EasyJet: www.easyjet.com
- Flyglobespan: www.flyglobespan.com
- Ryanair: www.ryanair.com
- Flybe: www.flybe.com

Airlines USA and Canada

- Air France: www.airfrance.com
- American Airlines: www.aa.com
- British Airways: www.ba.com
- Continental: www.continental.com
- Delta: www.delta.com
- Northwest Airlines: www.nwa.com
- United Airlines: www.united.com

Roads

France has an extremely good road network. Driving is on the right hand side. Seat belts are compulsory. Road signs are fairly universal and easily understood. There are several main motorways (Autoroutes) from North to South and East to West that can cut travelling time down considerably and have excellent motorway facilities and picnic areas. Nearly all motorways are toll roads, so you will need to have small change with you. Toll booths also accept Visa and Mastercard. Speed limits are 130 kms (80 mph).

RN national roads are just as good, a little quieter and more scenic. If you are in no hurry and intend to make driving part of your holiday, spending the night in Bed and Breakfasts along the way, follow the green routes (bison futé), which will show you parts of France you never knew existed. RN speed limit is 110 kms (68 mph).

The speed limit on minor roads is 70 kms (50 mph), slowing down to 50 kms (30 mph) and less through towns and villages. Look for Autres directions or Toutes Directions usually in town centres to find the direction towards the place name you are heading for. Alcohol limit is 0.05%. On the spot speeding fines can be stiff.

Trains

France has a fast and efficient rail system through all major towns and cities. Trains are never late and connections are good, so you can plan ahead and depend on arriving on time. TGV trains are a quick, direct service; SNCF trains stop at stations along the route, so take slightly longer. The TGV has snack bar cars for long journeys and it is quite acceptable to take a picnic along with you. Trains are non-smoking. Paris/Toulouse takes approximately six hours via Bordeaux. The new high-speed Paris/Avignon line takes about 2h.45 minutes and terminates in Marseille.

The Paris metro is the quickest and cheapest means of travelling around the city and serves the centre of the city with lines going to destinations beyond the city centre. The five overland RER lines run across Paris and out to the suburbs and are useful for getting to and from the centre, or for reaching Versailles or Fontainebleau.

Tickets and train information can be obtained from railway stations throughout France.

On-line booking at:

http://www.sncf.com/indexe.htm or http://www.eurotunnel.com/ukcP3Main/ukcPassengers/

Car hire

Most car hire companies can be found at all major airports and cities, or you can book with any one of them on-line before you leave. Useful websites below. Local car hire companies operate at smaller airports, at or near railway stations, or in local towns. British, US, Canadian and Australian driving licences are all valid in France. Always carry your licence, the car's registration document and valid insurance.

Car Hire UK and Ireland

- Avis: www.avis.co.uk
- Budget: www.budget.com
- Europcar: www.europcar.com

Car Hire USA and Canada

- Auto Europe: www.autoeurope.com
- Avis Rent a Car: www.avis.com
- Europcar: www.europcar.com

Public Holidays

As a Catholic country, France celebrates a succession of public holidays during the year. The main ones are Christmas day, New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, May Day, Liberation Day, Ascension Day, Whit Sunday and Monday (Pentecost), Bastille Day (July 14th), All Saints Day, Armistice Day. Although banks, most shops and museums may be closed on these days, most local grocery shops and boulangeries will be open until noon.

Be aware that many shops in general are closed on Mondays and most national museums and galleries are closed on Tuesdays.

Opening hours

Standard opening hours for shops are 8am or 9am - 7pm or 8pm. Smaller shops and businesses often close for lunch, usually between 12.30pm-2.00pm. Major supermarkets remain open all day until 9pm. Everywhere closes on Sunday, except for local grocery stores and boulangeries, which open until noon.

Tipping

All restaurants, café and bar bills include a service charge of 10 - 15%, so the tip is included and not expected. However, it is polite to either round up the final amount for drinks (or leave the small change) and to leave a cash tip of €1- €2 or more for a meal, depending on the restaurant and of course, the quality of the service you receive.

Credit Cards, ATMs, Banks

Major international credit cards are widely used in France; Visa is the most readily accepted.
Withdrawals in euros can be made from bank and post office automatic machines. Most give instructions in English. Credit card companies charge a fee for cash advances, but rates are often better than bank rates. Don't forget your PIN number.
Banks usually open between 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday (some close for lunch). Some banks are open on Saturday. All are closed for public holidays from noon the previous day. Note that not all banks have foreign exchange counters. Commission rates vary between banks. Most banks accept travellers cheques, but may be reluctant to accept personal cheques, even with the Eurocheque guarantee card, which is not widely used in France.

Emergency numbers

Ambulance service - 15
Police (Gendames) - 17
Fire service - 18
All are excellent services and will be there within minutes.

Telephones

All French phone numbers have 10 digits. Paris and the Ile de France begin with 01, the rest of France is divided into four zones (02 - 05). Mobile phones start with 06. Public telephones use phone cards (télécartes), which are sold at post offices, newspaper shops (tabacs), airports, train and metro stations.

Time

France is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and uses the 24-hour system (eg. 20h for 8pm).
 
 
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