How to Prepare, What to Do, and How to Have Blast!
If you’re planning your first trip to France, then I’d love to help you out with this complete France travel guide. For many travelers, France is among the top destinations on their bucket list. There are many reasons to visit this wonderful country.
Each of us has our own reasons for traveling. It could be to experience the culture, taste the mouth-watering cuisines, or visit the famous and historical landmarks. Whatever your reason may be, this complete France travel guide will help you prepare for your trip so you can make the most of it. Let’s begin!
- France at a Glance
- Why You Should Visit France at Least Once
- Top France Destinations to Visit
- France Travel Tips to Remember
- Suggested France Travel Itinerary
France at a Glance
There are so many things that France can offer. From its world-class architecture and art to the simple but beautiful rhythm of the people’s daily life, it’s impossible not to fall in love with this country. You can visit France over and over but you will always feel that there are still so many things to explore, food to taste, and places to see.
France seduces us with its iconic landmarks, art collections, and diversity and the volume of its cultural repertoire. What’s really interesting about traveling to France is that when you’ve visited the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and the French Riviera, there’s a lot to keep you excited for the rest of your trip.
France is a top destination with over 89 million travelers visiting the country each year. Take part in experiencing the rich French culture by visiting the many museums and galleries. You should also visit ateliers or artists’ workshops so you can get a closer look at how French artists work on their craft. For sure, you’ll be inspired to find your inner artist.
Good, mouth-watering food is one of the most important parts of French culture. Start your day by visiting a boulangerie and eating a warm croissant. Let your nose take the lead and allow your feet to follow. With so many bistros to choose from, you could eat at a different one for each meal.
Make the most of your France trip by taking on a gastronomic adventure. Food for the French is not simply about consuming it but rather about experiencing it. So, observe, try, and learn the French way of eating while you’re in the country. You’ll never see food the same way again.
Why You Should Visit France at Least Once
There are countless reasons why you should visit France! It’s among the most visited countries in the world. France is blessed with an amazing sea coast, tranquil rivers, beautiful farms and meadows, and stunning landscapes.
When it comes to culture, art, and food, France is leading the way. Its capital, Paris, is filled with wonderful public squares, art-nouveau architecture, and baroque palaces. Of course, the Eiffel Tower is also there and it continues to be the country’s cultural symbol.
Being in France, you’d want to see more than Paris. In the north, you’ll find the beautiful meadows and the historic D-Day beaches. In the south, the Mediterranean Sea coast will greet you along with the cities of St. Tropez, Marseilles, Cannes, and Nice.
Wherever you may be in France, you’ll notice that the geography is unique and so are the flavors of their cuisine. Dominating the country is the arts and performances. There are so many writers, poets, and painters that share the most inspiring spots along with travelers.
There’s a lot to be said about France and why you should visit the country at least once. Here are some of the best reasons to do so!
Fall in Love with the Cities
If you’re the type of person who’s into poetry, architecture, cuisine, and art, you’ll fall in love with the French cities the moment you arrive. When you’re there, it would feel as though you wouldn’t want your trip to end and just stay there forever. Apart from Paris, make sure that you visit some of the country’s best cities like Marseilles, Toulouse, Canne, Nice, Lyon, Bordeaux, and Avignon.
Enjoy the Picturesque Countryside
A big portion of the country is comprised of quiet and calming villages that you may easily overlook. Once you’re through visiting the cities, travel to the countryside and embrace the warm hospitality of the French people. Some of the unique places that you should visit are Strasbourg and Mont-Saint-Michel. Taste the home-made sweets, cheese, and wines.
Spend Time in the Famous Beaches
Travel to the south of France and see an almost never-ending coastline. Enjoy the sun and sandy beaches. You have so many options such as Normandy, Saint Tropez, and Monte-Carlo. There’s so much to see and experience in France and the beaches are definitely one of them. So, when you’re in the country, make sure that you visit them and go for a good swim!
Immerse Yourself in the Art and Culture
The French style is so distinct that you can see it in their architecture, art, and culture. The whole country is filled with it. As you may already know, France is where the best art museum on the planet is - the Louvre. The country is also the place where the Impressionist art movement began. Whatever kind of art you may like, from the classics to pop culture, France has something to offer.
Experience French Cuisine
It’s impossible to visit France and not be amazed by French cuisine. The food is definitely something to experience. From their cheeses to their pastries, steak tartare and the sauces, you will surely not get enough of it. Once you’ve tasted French cuisine, you’ll always be looking for it. Try dining in the country’s many quaint bars and cafes. Each has something unique that you should try.
Now that you have plenty of reasons to visit France, you may be thinking “what cities should I visit in France?” Don’t worry. We’ll cover the top France destinations as well. That way, you’ll have options on where to go to and immerse yourself in.
Top France Destinations to Visit
France is among Europe’s exciting and diverse places to explore. The romantic castles and hill towns will enchant you. Its river valleys and vineyards stretch across the landscape of the country. It makes you feel that you stepped into a place from childhood fairytale books.
France is a combination of both man-made and natural beauty. It is really something to experience. If you’re still wondering where to go to, here are some of the top France destinations to consider for your trip.
This place is an isolated but beautiful French region. It is anchored by St-Jean-de-Luz which is a seaside town and Bayonne which is a riverside town. The lovely villages of this countryside will give you easy access to various sights and numerous cities just across Spain’s border.
You’ll love the rugged and windswept Brittany. Its gorgeous coast, seemingly-forgotten interior, and Celtic ties is a different experience altogether. There are several towns that you should definitely visit there. Dinan is where you’ll find the medieval center, St-Malo is a wonderful beach resort, and make sure to see the sea-swept Fort la Latte castle.
This place is perfect for those who love the sunny climate. It has a Spanish flair to it, featuring Albi which is a cathedral that looks like a fortress. The Toulouse-Lautrec museum is also there. Visit Carcassonne which is a walled town with cobblestones, turrets, and towers. The Cathar castles and village are something to see. Its vineyards seem to go on and on. Don’t forget to stop by the lovely Collioure and other Mediterranean villages.
Lyon is situated between Provence and Burgundy. It is an old town with an Italianesque feel to it. The city has a Gallo-Roman museum and two Roman theaters. It also houses the French Resistance Center which is a fine arts museum with an impressive collection.
The capital city is also the world’s capital when it comes to literature, food, fashion, and art. It has breath-taking art galleries, chic boutiques, corner cafes, grand boulevards, and many historic monuments. Be sure to visit Orsay and Louvre to have a glimpse of various art masterpieces.
This place is where Arles is. If you’re an art enthusiast, you’d love to see the Van Gogh sights. Avignon is also in Provence where the Palace of the Popes is found. Be amazed by the Pont du Gard aqueduct from the ancient Roman times. Visit the villages of Vaison-la-Romaine, Roussillon, and Les Baux.
Reims and Verdun
Reims is famous for its champagnes, historic cathedral, and many cellars that serve the sparkling brew. Near it is Verdun for those who like history. It is the site of battles during WWI and it has an unforgettable and compelling memorial to the fallen brave men.
The French Riviera
In the French Riviera, there are countless coastal resorts to choose from. You can visit Nice and be amazed by the many art museums, Antibes with its beautiful beaches, the romantic Villefranche-sur-Mer as well as Cap Ferrat, and for those who are feeling lucky, you can play casino games in Monaco. There are also inland villages that will intrigue you like St. Paul-de-Vence and Vence. If you want the breath-taking view of the Mediterranean, visit Eze-le-Village.
Are you feeling inspired by all these places that you can visit in France? For sure you’re only just a small nudge away from booking that flight to France. So to help you prepare for your trip, let’s cover some of the tips that will be useful for your trip!
France Travel Tips to Remember
Now that you have a wide array of choices when it comes to the places to visit in France, you’d surely want to know how to prepare for your trip. Here are some practical tips on how to prepare for your trip to France.
- Currency: The currency being used in France is the Euro. As for ATMs and Credit Cards, look for the CB logo which stands for Carte Bleue Visa or MasterCard. It may be difficult to find shops that accept American Express though. Don’t worry about ATMs as they’re not a problem to find.
- Electrical Socket: They have 230V AC electricity in France. This means that the power outlets are two-prong round sockets. Before you leave for your trip, buy a universal travel adaptor to avoid any hassle.
- Visa: Since France is a member of the European Union and Schengen Agreement, EU nationals can travel Visa-free. Australia and Canada nationals can stay for a 90 days Visa-free within the Schengen Zone. Other nationals need to apply for a Schengen Visa.
- Safety: Like most countries in Europe, France is safe. However, because of the country’s geopolitical stance, there are many parts that are on terror alert. Nevertheless, France is generally safe. In Paris, Marseille, like other major cities, there are risks of getting scammed, mugged, and petty theft. It’s important to be vigilant.
- Language: French is the main language that is spoken in the country. There are regional languages as well such as Breton, Catalan, and Occitan. In major cities, English is spoken widely. But it would be best if you try to learn some French phrases to help you get around in case you get lost or if you’re asking for directions.
- Transportation: The country’s public transportation is fantastic. Many areas are connected by high-speed trains. There are also car rental services that are affordable and accessible if you want to explore the cities on your own.
Dos and Don’ts While Traveling in France
To make sure that you have the best time in France, it’s important to learn some of the basic dos and don’ts. These tips will save you a lot of trouble while you’re in the country. Take note of these and be sure to keep them in mind.
Do learn a bit of the language
Try your best to learn some French before you go on your trip. While French people do speak English, they would really appreciate it if you make the effort of speaking in French. You don’t have to be thoroughly fluent. Just learn a few phrases that will help you get by. Here are some phrases that will be useful for your trip.
- In English, please? - En Anglais, s’il vous plait
- I don’t speak French - Je ne parle pas francais
- Hello - Bonjour
- Yes - Oui
- Thank you - Merci
- Excuse me - Pardon
- Please - S’il vous plait
- Goodbye - Au Revoir
Do know when you should greet with a handshake or a kiss
In France, you shake the hand of someone you’re meeting for the first time. If you’re meeting with friends, you’re greeting should be a kiss on both cheeks. In smaller villages, strangers usually say hello to each other. This is not the case for big cities. The French take time to warm up to strangers so don’t feel bad if you say hello and don’t get a response.
Do wear nice clothing
You’re in the world’s fashion capital so it would be nice to dress the part. Avoid wearing short shorts or sweatpants when you’re walking the streets of Paris. Of course, it’s also best to dress up when you’re going to dine at restaurants. Go for sensible and stylish clothes. But you don’t have to overdo it. Just pick something comfortable and won’t catch attention.
Don’t talk about sensitive topics
As a traveler in a foreign land, it’s best to avoid discussing issues about religion, politics, and other topics that may be too sensitive. As a common courtesy, the French don’t advertise their religion or their beliefs. It is expected for you to do the same. There are so many topics to choose from that won’t make the other person you’re talking to feel awkward. You can talk about sports, fashion, and culture or history.
Don’t complain about slow service or waiting
The French people take their time, especially when they’re eating with friends. They love savoring their food and drinks. It’s very different in the American way where everything is fast and people are in a hurry. If there’s anything you can learn from the French, it’s to cherish the moments when you’re eating, enjoying your coffee, and just being with good people. So, while you’re in France, never complain about having to wait.
Don’t talk loudly
This is something that you shouldn’t do just in France but anywhere you may be in the world. It is rude to talk with a loud voice. It also disturbs and distracts other people. You may be excited about your trip but avoid talking loudly especially in crowded areas and public spaces. If you’re riding the metro, be considerate of the locals who may be tired from the day’s work and would want some quiet time.
Don’t speak in English to a French person right away
French people love their language. They do know how to speak English but some feel that they’re not very good at it. So, when you speak to French people in English, you may not get any response. Don’t be surprised. But don’t be offended either. It’s not that they’re being rude, they just don’t want to look like a fool. Do try your best to learn some French phrases so you can ask for directions, order food, and have a full experience while you’re in France.
So, you know some dos and don’ts for your France trip. Just observe what the locals are doing and try to follow it. You’ll be fine. Most of the rules are really just common courtesy. Be respectful, be courteous, say please and thank you, and of course, apologize if you did something wrong. Don’t be intimidated by the rules that you’ll end up not enjoying your trip to France.
When is the Best Time to Go to France?
You can visit France at any time of the year. But it’s better if you know what you’d expect for every season. For example, you may want to go there at a particular time when the climate is sunny. Or maybe you want to see the top attractions but would prefer to avoid the peak season.
The best time to go is during spring from April to May and autumn from September to October.
- October to March is the low season for tourism. During these months, it’s winter to spring. Most attractions are only open for shorter hours and fewer days. But prices can drop by up to 50% less compared to the peak season. Do take note that some restaurants and hotels in rural regions are probably closed during this season.
- April to June and September is midseason. The weather is warmer. It’s nice to explore the main cities. You can avoid crowds during this time. Accommodations are also more affordable.
- July and August are the peak seasons. It’s sunny during these months. Many travelers go to France, especially over the holidays and weekends. If you still want to visit the country during the peak season, do bring an umbrella in case it rains.
How Much Money is Needed to Travel to France?
Traveling to France can be quite expensive. But you can still enjoy the country for as low as $60 to $90 a day. Your largest expense is usually transport and accommodation. Food can also be somewhat costly so if you want to spend less on it, you can opt for self-catering. But since you’re already in a place where the food is something you wouldn’t want to miss, don’t forget that you deserve to splurge at least a few times.
Here’s a rough estimate on the budget you should prepare when traveling to France.
- Dorms: $17 to $47
- Budget Hotels: $70 to $100
- Mid-Range: $100 to $220
- Splurge: at least $235
- Food (a meal for one person)
- Lunch Menus: $25
- Restaurants: $25 to $50
- High-End Restaurants: at least $80
- Local Transit per trip: $2 to $4
- Long-distance trains: $30 to $235 (It’s best to book in advance)
- Long-distance buses: $18 to $35
- Taxis: at least $18 but only for short distances
What to Pack for Your France Trip?
Compared to many European countries, France is blessed with pleasant weather. You’ll be needing a variety of clothing to suit the country’s weather conditions though. For example, in the summer, there may be a few rainy days. It could get quite cold, especially if you’re somewhere mountainous. Do bring clothes that you can layer if in case you’re feeling the chill.
Like any trip, you have to bring the essentials and clothing you’d love to wear especially when you’ll be taking photos of your trip. What I do recommend is bringing a travel scarf, a water bottle so you don’t have to keep on buying bottled water, and a good pair of shoes for walking.
Food to Try in France
France is known for its luxury cheeses and fine wine. French food is simply exquisite. The country has a wide range of traditions when it comes to cuisine. Wherever you may be in France, you’re sure to experience gourmet meals. Here are some of the dishes that you should definitely try.
- Croissant - Of course, you can’t complete your trip to France without eating baked goods like croissants. You can even observe how this simple pasty is made in some of the boulangeries. Don’t worry about the carbs for now. Just enjoy the many French pastries.
- Croque Monsieur - This one is bread that is freshly baked and has ham and cheese as well as mustard. It’s the perfect snack when you’re hungry from all the walking around the city. It would certainly give you an energy boost.
- Beef Bourguignon - If you want to experience the French way of cooking meat perfectly, then be sure to try this dish. To make it, the best beef cuts are chosen and slowly stewed in red wine along with vegetables and herbs. It’s a flavorful French dish that you’ll fall in love with.
- Escargot - If you are feeling adventurous, try this dish! It’s among the most sophisticated and traditional French foods. It’s best to eat them while warm with parsley cream, wine, or garlic butter. Forget that they’re snails. Just close your eyes and eat them because they’re absolutely delicious!
- French Cheese - You can be in any part of France but you’ll never get enough of cheese. There are so many kinds of cheese that you’ll just be amazed. Stop counting the calories and indulge!
Suggested France Travel Itinerary
Whether it’s your first trip to France or you’re a returning traveller, it is important to plan your itinerary. It will ensure that you will be able to experience as much of France as possible. Here’s a suggestion for your France travel itinerary.
Days 1 to 3: Paris
Of course, your trip to France should include visiting the Eiffel tower. Also, drop by other famous landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame, and the Louvre Museum. Explore the lovely streets and take a break at the little cafes for some coffee and macarons.
Day 3 to 5: Epernay, Champagne
If you love tasting goodness, then you definitely have to go to the birthplace of champagne. The beautiful rolling hills and landscape will make your glass of bubbly even more amazing. Go cycling along vineyards and try wine tasting. The small town’s charm is something to experience.
Day 5-7: Loire Valley
This is where you’rd find yourself as though you’re in a fairy tale. There are so many Chateaux that will make you feel you’ve traveled back in time. Enjoy the impressive Renaissance architecture. Visit the castles of Nates and Ambroise. You’ll love the French culture and history of this place.
France is an amazing place to visit. If you’re thinking about traveling to France, don’t hesitate. This is a place you should absolutely visit at least once in your life. There’s so much to experience and see and do and feel. The French culture will open your eyes to the richness and beauty of life. Start going through your closet to find the clothes you’d want to wear while in France. Make that checklist of places you want to see and the food you want to try. And lastly, what are you waiting for? Go and book a flight to France!