France consistently ranks among the most visited countries in the world, and for good reason. From the bustling cafés and iconic landmarks of Paris to the sunny lavender fields of Provence and prestigious wine regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy, France offers plenty of unique experiences for discerning travelers.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned francophile, having some insider knowledge can help you make the most of your trip to this European destination.

I’ve lived in France for 4+ years, and today I’ll share some of my top France travel tips gleaned from multiple jaunts – from the best ways to navigate cities, to amazing off-the-beaten-path gems, to crucial etiquette advice for blending in like a local.

With some planning and these helpful hints, you’ll be saying oui to an unforgettable French adventure.

Traveling to Paris or France for the first time can be an exhilarating experience filled with rich culture, delicious cuisine, and stunning sights.

Here are some tips to make your trip smoother and more enjoyable:

Learn Some Basic French Phrases: While many people in tourist areas speak English, knowing some basic French phrases can go a long way in helping you communicate and show respect for the local culture.

Respect the “Bonjour”: French culture has its own set of customs and norms. For example, it’s customary to greet people with a polite “Bonjour” before starting a conversation, and it’s considered rude to speak loudly in public places. Always say “Bonjour” when entering a shop. Not observing these niceties can result in brusque treatment from servers, shopkeepers, etc.

Plan Around Strict Meal Times: In France, meal times are taken seriously, and many restaurants close between lunch and dinner. Be sure to plan your meals accordingly, especially in smaller towns where dining options may be limited. Lunch is from midi-14h and dinner is from 18 or 19h until 22 or 23h.

Validate Your Train Tickets: If you’re traveling by train, be sure to validate your ticket before boarding. Failure to do so could result in a fine if caught by a conductor during the journey.

Some hotels have full-room power switches: France is incredibly energy-conscious. This is an example of a hotel room with two buttons. One button turns off all the power in the room, and the other turns on the entryway light. You may accidentally turn off the power in your room if you aren’t aware of this feature, which is becoming more common.

France travel tips hotel electricity switches
A switch to turn off all the power in this hotel room

Be Mindful of Pickpockets: Like in any major tourist destination, be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings secure, especially in crowded areas such as train stations and popular tourist attractions.

Respect Dress Codes: When visiting religious sites or upscale restaurants, it’s important to dress appropriately. Avoid wearing shorts, flip-flops, or revealing clothing in such places.

Take Advantage of Free Attractions: While some attractions in France can be pricey, there are also many free or discounted options available, especially for the under 26 youth. For everyone, many museums in Paris offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month.

Try Local Cuisine: French cuisine is renowned worldwide for its delicious flavors and variety. Don’t miss the opportunity to try regional specialties like coq au vin, bouillabaisse, or tarte Tatin.

Opt for Mineral Water: Most French people avoid drinking tap water due to its metallic taste. Play it safe and order mineral water with meals.

Sunday Is a National Day of Rest: On Sundays, you’ll find most shops, attractions, and even restaurants in smaller towns completely closed as they rigorously observe the day of rest. Plan accordingly.

Topless Sunbathing is Common: At beaches, parks, and sometimes even public pools, topless sunbathing by women is perfectly acceptable and legal across France. Try not to gawk or be scandalized.

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