uk to europe

The country of France


Wherever you choose to begin or end a sojourn in Europe's largest country, and however long you spend exploring you'll simply be scratching the surface of this vast and varied land. France's geography stretches from rugged coastline to seemingly infinite beaches, from bustling cities to quaint countryside villages and from a sun-drenched isle to luxury mountain ski resorts.
 
A civilisation dating back to 50,000 BC and a history spanning Roman and Frankish invasion, wars of power and religion, a wealthy and powerful monarchy ultimately crushed by revolution, the rise of Napoleon and a new battle between monarchy and republic, and two world wars, has left the country brimming with a rich heritage. Cave paintings, castles, cathedrals and battle scars are scattered across the land, yet much of the French countryside remains untouched, and traditional rural life still flourishes.
 
This is a country that has inspired Monet's reinvention of colour, Toulouse Lautrec's dark underbelly of Paris society, and the haunting harmonies of Debussy. It has tantalised our taste buds with foie gras and frogs' legs, and captured the imagination of the world's jet-set with the resorts of St Tropez and Port Grimaud. Discover France, and rediscover the meaning of joie de vivre.
 
Basics

Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October).
Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard.

Money: The Euro (€) is the official currency in France. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some large hotels, though you will get a better exchange rate at the ATMs. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques, particularly in major tourist destinations.

Language: French is the official language.

Entry requirements for Americans: US nationals must hold a valid passport for entry to France. A visa is not required for a stay of up to three months.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK nationals must hold a valid passport for entry to France. A visa is not required for a stay of up to three months.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians must hold a valid passport for entry to France. A visa is not required for stays of up to three months.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australians must hold a valid passport for entry to France. A visa is not required for a stay of up to three months.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African nationals require a valid passport and visa for travel to France.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a valid passport, but no visa is needed for a stay of up to three months.

Passport/Visa Note: Visitors are advised to hold a return or onward ticket and proof of financial means. The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all.

Health: French hospitals and health facilities are first class. British, and visitors from other EU countries, are entitled to heavily discounted medical treatment and medicines on presentation of Form E111 (available at UK post offices). Otherwise doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Medical insurance is advised. Pharmacies will provide some first aid, but charge for it. Travellers should be aware of the outbreak of Legionnaires disease in Alsace and Lorraine, which is currently being investigated.

Tipping: Most restaurants and hotels automatically add a 10 to 15% service charge so a tip is not necessary.

Safety: Following the Madrid bombings, security has been heightened particularly in the transport sector. A group called the AZF claim to have a number of explosives on railway tracks timed to detonate at future dates, and although the authorities have asked the public to be vigilant, they have issued no further warnings against using public transport. 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. Theft from cars is prevalent, particularly in the south, around Marseilles, and in Corsica. Several recent cases of buglary 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 airports. Terminal 2E at Charles de Gaulle airport has been closed until further notice due to a collapsed section of the roof on 23 May; flights have been diverted to other terminals and there is minimal disruption, but passengers should check with their airlines for the latest information.

Customs: 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, Americans will 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 pétanque (similar to lawn bowling but played on gravel) are popular in village squares, but the national sports are soccer, rugby and cycling.
Communications: The international access code for France is +33. The outgoing code (if dialling with France Telcom) is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Other codes are used if using different networks. Most public telephones accept phone cards, which are available in most newsagents. Most hotels add a surcharge to all calls; the cheapest way to call abroad is often with a phone card. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international mobile phone companies. Internet cafes are available in most towns throughout France.

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Airports

Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)

Location: The airport is 14 miles (23km) north east of Paris. Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October). Contacts: Tel: +33 (0)1 48 62 22 80. Transfer between terminals: The three terminals are linked by free shuttle buses. Transfer to the city: There is a good train service that serves the airport with connections to the Paris Metro. It operates regularly from 5.40am, takes around 30 min and costs €7.50. Taxis cost around €35 and take around 45 minutes depending on traffic. Buses are available from Terminal 1 to the city centre and major train stations. Car rental: All major car rental companies are represented.

Facilities: There are ATMs and bureaux de change in all terminals as well as a selection of shops, restaurants and bars. Terminal 1 also has a hairdresser and a business facility that includes meeting rooms, fax and photocopier. Disabled passengers are well catered for at the airport. Departure tax: None. Website: www.adp.fr

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Paris Orly Airport (ORY)

Location: The airport is 9 miles (14km) south of Paris. Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October). Contacts: Tel: +33 (0)1 4975 1515. Transfer between terminals: The two terminals are linked by a free shuttle bus. Transfer to the city: RER trains leave regularly from both terminals and connect to the metro and SNCF train stations (journey time 30 min; cost €8.70). A number of  bus services also operate from both terminals (journey time 30 min; cost between €4-6). Taxis can also be hired from outside the Arrivals area (journey time approx 35 minutes; cost €25). Car rental: All the major car rental companies are represented at the airport. Facilities: There are a number of shops, bars and restaurants throughout the airport and both terminals have ATMs and currency exchange services. Other facilities include information desks, an art gallery, left luggage, mobile phone rental, smoking areas, and a medical centre offering vaccinations. Disabled passengers are well catered for, passengers with special needs are advised to inform their airline in advance. Departure tax: None. Website: www.adp.fr

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Bordeaux Airport (BOD)

Location: The airport is located 8 miles (13km) west of Bordeaux. Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October). Contacts: Tel: +33 (0)5 5634 5050. Lost & Found: Tel. +33 (0) 5 5634 5011 Transfer between terminals: A short covered walkway links the two terminals/halls. Transfer to the city: There are regular bus services to the city centre between 6am and 11.45pm; the journey takes 30 to 45 minutes and costs €6. Taxis are available outside the airport. Car rental: Car hire firms Avis, Budget, Europcar and Hertz, among others, operate from the airport. Facilities: Airport facilities include a number of bars, shops and restaurants. ATMs and bureaux de change are also available. Internet facilities are available in Departures. The airport has good facilities for disabled passengers, those with special needs are advised to let their airline know in advance. Website: www.bordeaux.aeroport.fr

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Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (LYS)

Location: The airport is situated 15 miles (24km) east of Lyon. Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October). Contacts: Tel: +33 (0) 426 007 007. Transfer between terminals: The two terminals are connected by a free shuttle bus. Transfer to the city: Buses leave regularly for Lyon and the other main towns and cities in the Rhône-Alpes area. Taxis are available outside Terminal 1 Arrivals and cost around €30 to central Lyon. There is a TGV train station within walking distance of the airport with regular services to France's main cities, details on the airport website. Car rental: Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, National Citer and Sixt are represented at the airport. Facilities: Facilities at the airport include left luggage, a post office, bars, restaurants, shops and a business centre with meeting rooms and secretarial services. ATMs and bureaux de change are available throughout the airport. Disabled facilities are good; passengers with special needs should contact their airline in advance. Website: www.lyon.aeroport.fr

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Marseille Provence Airport (MRS)

Location: The airport is located 15 miles (24km) north of Marseille and 16 miles (26km) south of Aix-en-Provence. Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October). Contacts: Tel: +33 (0) 4 4214 2114 or (0) 4 4214 1414 (24 hours). Transfer to the city: Buses leave regularly for Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, where connections can be made to other destinations. The journey to either Aix or Marseille should take no more than 30 minutes. Metered taxis are available outside the terminal. Car rental: Avis, Budget, Europcar and Sixt are represented at the airport. Facilities: Facilities include shops, bars, restaurants, Internet cafés, ATMs and bureaux de change. Website: www.marseille.aeroport.fr

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Nice Côte d'Azur Airport (NCE)

Location: The airport is situated 4 miles (6km) west of Nice. Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October). Contacts: Tel: +33 (0)4 9321 3030. Lost & Found: +33 (0)4 9321 3111/2. Transfer between terminals: A free shuttle bus connects the two terminals, which are also within walking distance. Transfer to the city: Buses leave regularly for hundreds of destinations between Marseilles and Genoa; details on the airport website. Trains go to Nice and Cannes and most other main towns and cities. Metered taxis are available outside both terminals. Car rental: All major car rental companies are represented opposite Terminal 2. Facilities: There are a number of restaurants, bars and shops in both terminals. Other facilities in Terminal 1 include a post office and business centre with meeting rooms, fax, photocopier and Internet access. Disabled facilities are good, passengers with special needs should contact their airline in advance. Website: www.nice.aeroport.fr

Strasbourg International Airport (SXB)

Location: The airport is 9 miles (14km) southwest of Strasbourg. Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October). Contacts: Tel: +33 (0)3 88 64 67 67. Transfer to the city: There is a regular shuttle bus to Baggersee station where trams can be taken to the city centre and main train station. Alternatively taxis are available outside Arrivals (journey time 15-20 min; cost €20-30). Car rental: All major car rental companies are represented at the airport. Facilities: Airport facilities include shops, bars, restaurants, ATMs, bureau de change and a business centre. Disabled facilities are good; passengers with special needs should ideally advise their airline in advance. Website: www.strasbourg.aeroport.fr

Toulouse Blagnac International Airport (TLS)

Location: Located 5 miles (8km) northwest of Toulouse. Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October). Contacts: Tel: +33 (0)5 61 42 44 00. Transfer to the city: A shuttle, called the Aerocar, leaves regularly for Toulouse between 7.30am and 11.30pm. Taxis are also available; Toulouse is a 15 minute drive and the fare should be around €20. Car rental: All major car rental companies are represented at the airport. Facilities: There are bars, shops and a restaurant in the terminal. Other facilities include ATMs, bureaux de change and a business centre. Disabled facilities are good, passengers with special needs should ideally contact their airline in advance. Website: www.toulouse.aeroport.fr

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