As far as dream destinations go, France ranks high on many people’s lists. The dream destination is full of beautiful sights and sounds, and the food is renowned worldwide. However, visiting France entails more than just hopping on a plane and seeing the Eiffel tower. With so many factors to consider, here are eight things to keep in mind as you plan your visit.
1. Plan It All Out
There are so many aspects of your trip that you need to consider as you plan. These include transportation, where to stay, where to visit, and where to eat, just to name a few. There are so many activities that you may want to indulge in, but there is only so much time you can spare. Avoid cramming your schedule, and accept that some places will have to be scheduled for the next trip.
Setting up a tangible plan helps to space out your activities, and keeps you on a more relaxed pace as you make your way through the country. Remember: the best-laid plans often go awry, so give yourself some room for spontaneity.
Depending on your location, you may need to choose the most convenient flight. For example for Canadians Flight Montréal-Paris is definitely shorter, and cheaper, perfect for those living in or near Montréal. However, taking a flight from Vancouver to Paris is also a great option, although the price is higher. Your flight times should be included in the preliminary plan, accounting for lay-overs and delays.
In addition to flights, you have to consider whether you will need a private mode of transportation while in France. In major cities like Paris, a private car may be a source of frustration as traffic tends to be a nightmare. Trains are cheaper and more convenient, but keep in mind that tickets are available in batches of ten. If you choose to travel in a cab, you are more than welcome to leave the driver a tip.
Hotel rooms in France are smaller, and this may be inconvenient for family travel. Traveling in a bigger group may require you to consider other options such as Airbnb, so ensure that you make your booking well in advance. If your activities are all located in the same city, consider finding accommodation near the places you plan on visiting. This reduces the time spent on traveling.
4. Restaurant Etiquette
Mealtimes may be marginally different from what you’re used to, so always check for opening times. Lunch is usually served from noon to 2 p.m., and dinner from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Restaurant services are undertaken at a relaxed pace, and you may have to call a waiter to bring your check well after you are done with your meal. If you’re in a hurry, always ask for a check after your meal arrives. Tipping is not mandatory, and a service charge may already be added to your bill. However, this should not stop you from adding an extra tip.
5. Making Payments
Major cities do have more payment options, and credit cards may be the best payment option. However, you do need pocket change for a number of reasons, including visiting any public bathrooms. Paying with cash is also a great option if your credit card company charges foreign transaction fees. If you plan on visiting smaller cities, ensure that you have enough cash for your needs. Vendors in smaller towns may not have the credit card machines, or they may ask for a specific minimum amount on purchases.
6. Sunday Shopping Times
On Sundays, many shops, restaurants, and pharmacies remain closed. However, there are vendors who open during the day, but for a limited amount of time. This is usually either in the morning or afternoon. Ensure that you do your shopping on Saturday, or find out the opening times of the stores in the area.
It is no secret that tourists are usually the target of various criminals. Pickpocketing has become fairly common, in trains and on the streets. As you make your way through the country, always keep an eye on your possessions. In trains, ensure that your luggage is secured, and in your line of sight during the entire trip. This may be difficult if you are tired or jet lagged, but it is absolutely necessary.
If you have a private car, always ensure that you keep your valuables safe. You can either carry them with you or leave them in the hotel. If you have to keep them in the car, make sure they are not in plain view.
8. Avoid Booking in August
If you can, steer away from an August trip. Many of the citizens are usually on holiday in August, and the sights are jam-packed. August weather also features sweltering heat, and with the crowded beaches, this may take away your joy. Accommodation is usually fully booked, and the prices are higher. However, many of the popular spots remain open as tourist numbers remain high.