Everything you need to know before you travel to France
Looking for the perfect French getaway? We've got you covered. From city breaks to family-friendly trips, here's where you should visit in France.
9 min read
Millions of tourists travel to France each year to enjoy its varied landscapes and rich culture. Famed for its wine, soufflés, and patisseries, French cuisine is so delicious that in 2010, UNESCO granted the “gastronomic meal of the French” a world heritage status! So, whether you’re looking for a family-friendly trip, an adrenaline-fuelled adventure, or a cultural extravaganza, here are the best places to visit in France for the perfect French getaway.
Budget your trip to France
Going on a vacation that you’re fully financially prepared for it is an unbeatable feeling. Knowing that you can cover any hiccups that may happen along the way and still return with your finances in check can be deeply reassuring. So, before you travel to France, you should work out how much cash you’ll need to live comfortably while you’re there. This means researching how much accommodation, transportation, entertainment, and food cost in your chosen destination. A great tip is to use the baseline of how much you pay for food at home to get a rough idea of how much you may spend while on vacation. Of course, this will vary if you’re traveling solo, as a couple, or as a family—and depend on how extravagant you want to be while you’re there!
Once you have an idea of how much you’ll need to save, it’s time to identify areas where you can start cutting back. To get a solid understanding of your financial health, start by going through at least three months of recent bank statements. This will help you understand how much money you have coming and going each month. From here, you can start identifying areas where you can make some savings. The easiest expenses to tackle are your “variable costs,” i.e., your less essential expenditures such as subscription services, eating out, and unused memberships.
If the idea of creating a budget seems overwhelming, a good place to start is the 50/30/20 budget. It’s a simple budgeting method that has helped many people gain control over their finances.
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In general, French ATMs will accept most foreign debit cards, but it’s always a good idea to confirm this with your bank before you go. It’s also smart to tell your bank that you’re planning to travel to France so they don’t block your card while you’re away. Occasionally banks may do this as a security measure as they can suspect your card is being used fraudulently.
Foreign transaction fees abroad
When using your debit or credit cards in France, your bank can charge you foreign transaction fees. These fees are often incurred when using a currency different from the currency in your ‘home’ country. In addition, some banks also charge a 1.5% currency conversion fee on top of any transaction that takes place on the weekend. This is so that the bank protects itself against any fluctuations in the exchange rate. In general, it’s best to ask your bank what fees you can expect to incur when using your cards in France.
Losing your debit card while traveling
If you lose your debit card while traveling, act quickly and contact your bank immediately. The quicker the better as canceling your card prevents any potential fraudulent activity from taking place on your account. In some cases, your bank may be able to send you an emergency card to a fixed address while you’re traveling so you can still access your money.
Get insured when traveling to France
For peace of mind when traveling abroad, consider getting travel insurance to cover any health emergencies or cancellations while you’re away. This can save you a considerable amount of money and can help to reduce any travel anxiety both before and during the trip. There are many insurers to choose from, the important thing is to make sure you choose a plan that covers you for what you consider to be the greatest risks when traveling.
Planning your trip to France
Before you travel to France, it’s a good idea to first:
Get up-to-date on France’s current Covid-19 travel requirements
Find your perfect French travel location
Sort out your travel budget.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered for all of the above. So, let’s dive in! Before you know it, you’ll be sipping a gorgeous glass of Merlot with a stomach full of delicious patisseries, safe in the knowledge that you still have plenty of cash to spare on your French adventure!
Covid travel restrictions
As of February 2022, all vaccinated travelers no longer require proof of being tested before entering France. However, travelers must prove that they’ve been fully vaccinated and have received their last shot no longer than 9 months beforehand. Unvaccinated travelers are required to present a negative test result when entering France. But, if unvaccinated travelers are arriving from a country on France’s “orange” list, they require a compelling reason to justify their visit and may need to take a test upon arrival. As of July 2022, there are currently no countries on France’s orange list.
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Where to stay and what to do in France
Where you travel in France depends entirely on the kind of vacation you want to have. As France offers a wide variety of different experiences, you’ll undoubtedly find what you’re looking for. Here are our top picks to point you in the right direction.
The family-friendly vacation: Perigueux
The picturesque medieval town of Perigueux is located in the Dordogne region of southwest France, a family-friendly area renowned for its caves, adventure parks, and chateaux. The town itself has a largely pedestrian center, a charming cathedral, regular all-year-round markets, a ‘petit train’ that winds around Perigueux’s narrow streets, many parks, and a 17km long ‘green way’ that traces the banks of the river—a favorite with cyclists, rollerbladers, and pedestrians alike!
A little further afield, kids and adults alike will enjoy Cornille Aventure, an adventure park just a ten-minute drive from Perigueux that offers tree climbing, escape rooms, mini-golf, laser tag, and a 130m zipline! If it’s a hot day, consider visiting Quercyland Waterpark so the whole family can cool off while whizzing down water slides or chilling out in a jacuzzi. For a trip into nature, be sure to visit the mystical Le Gouffre de Padirac cave and take a boat trip on its turquoise underground river before hopping on the Truffadou Steam train for fantastic panoramic views of the Dordogne Valley.
For the adventure traveler: Annecy
Referred to as the Venice of the Alps, Annecy is located in the southeast of France and is known for its stunning lake nestled within the Alps. An adventure traveler’s paradise, Lake Annecy is surrounded by a 42km bike path which both serious lycra-clad cyclists and meandering tourists pedal around. Whether you’re looking to fire up your calves or leisurely enjoy the views from your seat, you can find many bike rental companies in the city. But, if you’d rather be on the water than cycling around it, then there are plenty of water-skiing, wakeboarding, and paddle boarding opportunities to be had!
Looking to the skies, there are parasailing, paragliding, and abseiling schools dotted all around the city that reward the airborne adventurer with unbeatable views of the lake and the Alps. Back on earth, adrenaline junkies should head to the Angon Canyon just south of the lake for a day spent canyoning around 40-meter-high waterfalls and sliding down natural rock slides. For the avid hiker, head to the Semnoz mountain, just one hour’s drive from Annecy. In the summer you can enjoy hiking and biking around the mountain and in the winter you can ski, and sled your way around it.
A culture lover's dream: Paris
When it comes to immersing yourself in culture, few cities beat Paris, the city of lights. The list of must-see attractions is impressively long. On a good weather day, be sure to tick the iconic Eiffel Tower, the Notre dame, Champ de Mars, and the Arc de Triomphe off your list. When the clouds gather, simply head to one of Paris’ fantastic cultural institutions. While the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world, you may also want to check out the likes of the Musée d’Art Moderne which is filled with Avant-garde masterpieces, or the Palais de Tokyo which is a mecca of contemporary art.
Beyond the classic tourist attractions, make sure to explore the Latin Quarter’s many arthouse cinemas. If you’re a fan of Nouvelle Vague, head to Le Champo on Rue des Écoles—this was a hotspot for directors in the ‘50s and ‘60s such as Claude Chabrol and François Truffaut. If music is more your thing, try to get tickets to The Philharmonie or visit the infamous underground jazz club, Caveau de la Huchette. For the finest in French cuisine, wander down Rue Cler, a pedestrianized street close to the Eiffel Tower, known for its first-class quality, with prices to match! To explore some of Paris’ best shops and eateries, head down Rue des Martyrs, home to over 200 shops and restaurants. Here you’ll find everything from vintage clothing boutiques, book shops, gourmet restaurants, cafes, and patisseries.
Connected by over 29,000km of railway, the French rail network is Europe’s second-largest rail system. There are three main types of rail services in France: Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) which are high-speed trains that travel between France’s major cities, Intercités which are standard regional trains, and the TER regional train which link France’s smaller towns. However, before jumping onto a train, make sure you’ve validated your ticket. If you don’t, a ticket inspector will consider your ticket invalid and you may have to pay a fine. This doesn’t apply if you have an electronic ticket.
If you need to get around France by car, check out companies like Sixt, Avis, and Europcar, all of which offer a range of different cars to match your needs. But, rather than going straight to a rental website, use a price comparison site such as Kayak, Expedia, or rentalcars.com to find the best deal. Alternatively, if you just want to make one trip, consider using a car-sharing app such as BlaBlaCar, Zify, or Ouicar to split the costs and the miles with other travelers.
In most French cities and large towns, you’ll be able to hire a car for short trips using car rental apps such as Heetch and DriveNow. For even shorter trips, you can hop on an e-scooter from Lime, Tier, Voi, or Dott, or jump on an electric scooter from Cityscoot or Cooltra. But don’t forget to check out public transportation options such as buses, metro lines, and trams to see which travel option works out cheapest for your trip!
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