Essential Information when Travelling in France
When to Go
In July Paris starts to shrink, by August it is devoid of Parisians, animated only by tourists and the pickpockets who find them irresistible. The French Riviera fills with Anglophones from June to September. On the other hand the rest of France teems with Frenchmen during these months, especially along the Atlantic coast. Early summer and autumn months are the best months to visit France - the city has warmed up a little and is not completely empty. The north and west have cool winters and mild summers, while the less-crowded center and east have a more continental climate. From December to February, the Alps provide some of the best skiing in the world, while the Pyrenees offer a calmer, if less climatically dependable, alternative.
France has a mainly temperate climate, with mild winters, except in mountain areas and the northeast. The Atlantic has a intense impact on the northwest, where the weather is characterized by high humidity, often vicious westerly winds and plenty rain. The Northeast of France has a classic continental climate, with fairly hot summers and cold winters.
Health and Safety
Your main health risks are likely to be sunburn and foot blisters from to much sightseeing, insect bites, and an upset stomach from overeating and drinking too much French Champaign. Women tend to attract more unwanted attention than men, but female travelers need not walk around France in fear; people are rarely assaulted on the street. Be conscious of your surroundings and aware of situations that could be potentially dangerous: deserted streets, lonely beaches, dark corners of large train stations and so on.
Visas and Passports
For stays shorter than 90 days, only citizens of South Africa need a short-stay visa. For stays longer than 90 days, all non-EU citizens need long-stay visas. Non EU Citizens must carry a valid passport. In France, it is required to carry at all times a form of ID or at least a photocopy of it. Only police officers are allowed to check your identity. This can be done in any public places: administrations, streets, rail stations, etc.
Money and Currency
On January 1, 2002, the euro replaced the franc as the unit of currency in France. Tips are always included in meal prices in restaurants and cafes, and in drink prices at bars and clubs, look for the phrase service compris on the menu or just ask. If service is not included, tip 15 - 20%. Even when the service is included, it is polite to leave a pourboire of up to 5% at a café, bistro or even a bar.