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FRANCE – GENERAL INFORMATION

   
                      Fig.1 – France Flag

GEOGRAPHY

France is the largest western European nation with almost 398,000 sq miles of land. The majority of the land is a mix of lowlands and hilly landscapes. The remaining area is covered with mountains. The English Channel forms the border to the north and northwest and The Bay of Biscay to the West. Spain and the small country of Andorra border to the south-west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south and southeast. The countries bordering the east starting from north to south are Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

HISTORY

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

France is one of the earliest European countries to form a nation. Between 1643-1715, France became one of the strongest nations in Europe under her famous absolute monarch, Louis XIV, also called the sun-king.  By the mid 18th century, the economy struggled, causing bitterness by French citizens towards the government. This eventually led to the French Revolution between 1789-1794. The result of the uprising was supposed to lead to a republican form of government, but eventually France fell back into the hands of monarchs. They incuded Napolean, Louis XVIII, Louis-Philippe and Napolean III.

France did form a republic again after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870/71. This form of government lasted until 1940. After World War I, France had created a strong defense border to protect them from Germany, however, France was defeated by Germany quickly in World War II. Following this loss, France was divided into two parts. One side was ruled by the Germans and the other was still ruled by the French known as the Vichy zone. Eventually German and Italian armies took control of all of France including the Vichy zone. During this time, a large population of Jews living in France was sent to concentration camps. Germany also took whatever resources it could take from France. This lasted until 1944, when Allied forces pushed the Germans out. France emerged from World War II and eventually set up their Fourth Republic with a new constitution. Divisions within this government developed after 4 years of war with Algeria. By 1958, the government collapsed under the threat of a coup which led the government to select General de Gaulle to become the leader and prevent civil war. This became France’s Fifth Republic which still exists today. The eventual election of De Gaulle as president was France’s first direct ballot election in the 20th century. France has played an integral part in the creation of the European Union and NATO and is one of the six founding members of the European Union together with Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

THE PEOPLE

The native people of France are actually a mixture of three European groups that passed through the area for various reasons from trade to conquering. They include Celtic, Latin and Teutonic. Although many identify as Catholic, France doesn’t keep statistics on religious membership. Other religious minorities in France include Muslims, Jews and Protestants.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

When referring to a person, most people use the word “Monsieur” for men and “Madame” for women. Smoking is prohibited in most public areas. Many beaches allow men and women to attend topless. When eating with others, especially as a guest, mealtime courtesies and decorum such as elbows below the table and hands always visible above the table are usually observed.

LANGUAGES

French is the official language but many also speak English. Other languages have been on a decline.

GOVERNMENT

Republic

TIME ZONE

UTC + 1 – (observes summer daylight savings time)

ELECTRICITY

230V supply voltage and 50Hz

Plugs and Sockets Type C & E

CLIMATE

Most of France experiences cool winters and moderate summers. In the south along the Mediterranean coast, winters are moderate with warm summers and even hot temperatures a bit inland away from the coast. The northern part of the country can experience rain throughout the year. The climate in the south is Mediterranean, similar to southern California.

Clothes to Wear:

Bring light-weight clothing for the summer, especially along the Mediterranean where temperatures are higher. A jacket or sweater will work for the winter and may also be needed for summer evenings depending which area you are visiting.

LOGISTICAL

Entry & Exit Requirements:

France is a party to the Schengen Agreement. Visit the Embassy of France website for the most current visa and entry requirement information. For US and Canadian residents who are not US or Canadian citizens (green-card-holders) with foreign passports please consult https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/ for correct European Union visa rules. 

Passports must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen area. If your passport does not meet Schengen requirements, you may be refused boarding by the airline at your point of origin or while transferring planes. We recommend that your passport have at least six months’ validity remaining.

  • The Government of France does not recognize the 12-page U.S. emergency passport, issued by U.S. embassies and consulates overseas, as a valid travel document for visa-free entry into France. If traveling on this emergency passport, you may be refused boarding and/or entry by immigration officials. Only direct transit through France for a destination in the United States is permitted with an emergency passport. You should check entry requirements of any other country of destination to make sure the emergency passport is accepted for entry.
  • You may enter France for up to 90 days for tourist and business purposes without a visa.
  • Immigration officers may also request you show sufficient funds for your intended stay and a return airline ticket.
  • If you are traveling to France or Monaco for reasons other than business or tourism, such as employment (including diplomatic or official travel), study, or internship, you must obtain the appropriate French or Monegasque (Monaco) visa for that purpose before you leave the United States. You should be aware that it is nearly impossible to obtain or change visa status while in France.
  • No vaccinations are required for travel to France.
  • All minors (under age 18) traveling without a parent or legal guardian and who are resident in France must have the written consent of at least one parent or legal guardian to leave France. The minor must travel with his or her own I.D., a copy of the parent/guardian’s I.D., and form number 15646*01, executed by the parent/guardian and available at https://www.formulaires.modernisation.gouv.fr/gf/cerfa_15646.do.
  • If you are transiting through France to South Africa, there are special requirements for minors.

Contact the French Embassy in Washington at 4101 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007, tel. (202) 944 6000, or one of the French Consulates General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, or San Francisco for the most current visa information.

Special Note: Overseas departments and territories of France (i.e. those not located in Europe) are not included in the Schengen Agreement. Please see Country Specific Information on French Guiana, French Polynesia, and the French West Indies for entry and exit requirements.

Monaco: For further information on entry requirements to Monaco, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Principality of Monaco, 888 17th Street NW, Suite 500, Washington D.C. 20006, Tel: (202) 234-1530, Email: info@monacodc.org; or the Consulate General of Monaco, 565 Fifth Avenue – 23rd floor, New York, NY 10017, Tel: (212) 286-0500, Email: info@monaco-consulate.com.

HIV/AIDS Restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of France.

Embassy Locations:

U.S. Embassy Paris

2 Avenue Gabriel
75008 Paris
France
Telephone: +(33)(1) 43-12-22-22
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(33)(1) 43-12-22-22,

enter zero “0” after the automated greeting
Fax: +(33)(1) 42-66-97-83; +(33)(1) 42-61-61-40

(Special Consular Services)
Email: Citizeninfo@state.gov

Canada Embassy Paris

130, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré

75008 Paris

Telephone: +33 (0)1 44 43 29 02

Fax: +33 (0)1 44 43 29 86

Email: paris-consulaire@international.gc.ca

Health:

Dial 15 to connect to emergency medical services, or dial 112 to reach an operator.

Medical care is comparable to that found in the United States.

  • Except for emergency services, you may be required to pay for service prior to receiving treatment in France. Be sure to obtain a “Feuille de Soins” for later reimbursement from your health care provider.
  • You may be refused routine care under local law if you lack the ability to pay.
  • Foreigners with terminal illnesses may be denied treatment if treatment is available in their home country.

The U.S. government does not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with the government of France to ensure the medication is legal in France. Always, carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/infectious_ diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

BANKS & CURRENCY

Currency is in Euros (EUR). Banks are normally open Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm. Some banks may be open on Saturdays too, usually between 9:00am – 1:00pm.

COMMUNICATION

Country code: 33

Internet country code: .fr

Cell Phone Usage:

Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food & Drink:

French breads and pastries including croissants are very popular. France is very well known for her cuisine and world renowned chefs. They have more than one style of cooking. One style of cooking creates heavy and hearty meals while another style that has become more popular, uses lighter ingredients, where less is more and presented in an artistic fashion.  While the French cuisine is world famous France’s large cities also offer an international restaurant culture.

Among alcoholic drinks, wine is the most popular in France. The legal drinking age in France is 18.

Nightlife:

Night clubs and bars can be found all over the country. Every town and city has something to offer for entertainment at night. Small towns will almost always have some local bars. Most bars close around 2:00am, but some night clubs may stay open longer.

Shopping:

France offers a large variety of shopping. From food to fashion, art and antiques, shoppers in France will always find something that peaks their interests. Famous upscale fashion outfits, some of them members of internationally operating chains, and some boutique type stores individually owned can be found in fashion districts in major French cities. Paris is known for its avenues of shopping.

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.

TIPPING

Most restaurants and bars already include a 10% service charge in the bill. It is customary to leave a bit extra for good service. When the service charge is not included in the bill, 10-15% is the general rule. Tips are not expected by taxi drivers, although most people tell the driver to keep the change. Airport and hotel porters should receive the equivalent of US$ 1.00 per bag.

LAUNDRY

Most hotels will arrange laundry services for guests.

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

USE OF DRONES

The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases, drones are already forbidden, and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone, please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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