France – Some Facts

Language

The language spoken in France is French. Most people do speak (or at least understand) some English. Ask 'Parlez-vous anglais? ' (Do you speak English?) before seeking information.

Currency

The currency is Euro, designated EUR or Ä. The Euro is divided into 100 Cents.

Voltage

The electric voltage is 220 volts (50 cycles). A standard voltage converter and plug adapter should be sufficient for conversions. Normally, the electrical outlets in France require a two-prong plug with round prongs. Computer modems require a European plug adapter and phone jack adapter that can be easily purchased at an appliance store.
Outlet C Outlet C

Office Hours

Business office hours are generally Monday-Thursday 9 am to 5 pm. Friday schedules vary, but a typical one is 9 am to 1 pm. Laws relating to store hours have been somewhat liberalized and stores may now be kept open a few more hours per week. As a general rule, larger stores and shops in very busy shopping areas operate Monday-Friday 9:30 am-7 pm, Saturday 9:30-5 pm. In neighborhood shopping areas, the stores (particularly small ones) close at 6 pm during the week, close an hour or more at lunchtime and close Saturday at noon or 1 pm. Chain grocery stores operate weekdays 8 am-7 pm, Saturdays 8 am-5 pm. Shops at railway stations (groceries, florists, tobacconists, bookstalls) are normally open until approx. 10:30 pm.

Tax

A sales tax of 19.6% is included in the price of almost all purchases. It's possible for a permanent resident of a non-EU country to have the value-added tax (VAT) reimbursed if at least ATS 1,000 were paid in one store on one day. The salesperson needs to fill out a special form, so carry your passport with you when shopping. If you've bought different items from different departments, the Customer Service Department will put all of them on a single customs form for you. To get the refund, you must show the purchased items to customs officials as you depart the country (or leave from a different EU country). Customs officials will stamp your customs form. (They may ask to see the merchandise, so do this before you check your bag.) At the Paris Airport and at many border crossing points, it's possible to get your refund immediately in cash. Or you can mail the stamped form back to France, with the refund being transferred to a credit card or bank account.

Telephone

France's country code is 33. If you want to call emergency dial 112, the police 17; fire, 18; ambulance/first aid, 15. Saturday and Sunday newspapers provide a list of doctors and dentists who may be called on weekends.

Time Zone

France follows Central European Time, which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. France observes Daylight Saving Time between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October.

Weather and Climate

Autumn (21 September-21 December)
When you see the avenues and parks take on their autumn reflections, and the soft light of the street lamps sets aglow the carpet of fallen leaves, itís an inspiring sight. The days may be getting shorter, but the colours are blooming. This is not only the time to return to school, but also a renewal of culture. Autumn has its own festival and the major trade fairs draw the crowds. Towards the end of November, Paris already sparkles with Christmas decorations.
The current weather situation in Paris can be viewed here.

Tipping

A 15% service charge is included in restaurant bills, but it's common to round up restaurant bills and taxi fares. (The more people, the larger the tip.)

Crime

Paris is the one of the safest city in the world, and most visitors shouldn't encounter problems. The city centers are considered safe even at night because - especially on walking streets - there are always people visiting the bars and restaurants.