France has always had a special place in my heart since my first trip to Paris in college. It was also my first time traveling solo, so I remember it clearly. I spent a week wandering down pretty streets, admiring all the Haussmann architecture, eating way too many croissants and going to every museum. I’m glad I read about tips for traveling to France prior!
Since that first trip, I’ve been back to France many times, exploring different regions and getting to know the local cultures. Some of my fondest memories include taking a hot air balloon ride over the Loire Valley, wandering the colorful streets of Menton in the southeast and visiting Claude Monet’s Giverny house and gardens that inspired his paintings. It’s rare for me to visit the same place over and over again, but I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of France!
Having been there so often, I picked up a few tips for anyone visiting for the first time. While the French often get stereotyped as being rude to foreigners, I think it’s more about respecting their customs and culture. For example, learning a few French phrases instead of just speaking English (How would you feel if in your country, someone automatically spoke to you in French?).
Below are my top tips for traveling to France that will hopefully make your trip that much more enjoyable.
Venture outside of Paris!
Whenever I mention going to France, most people automatically assume Paris. While it’s an incredible capital, there are so many other unique regions with local culture and food to explore. Some of my favorite areas include the Loire Valley and the French Riviera.
Learn basic French words and phrases beforehand
Before I went to Paris for the first time in college, I made sure to learn a few helpful phrases like Bonjour (hello), S’il vous plait (please) and Merci (Thanks). A simple smile and Bonjour, parlez-vous anglais? (Hello, do you speak English?) is all it takes. I think like most people, they greatly appreciate the effort!
Travel during the shoulder seasons
My favorite time to travel is always during the shoulder seasons or off seasons, when there are less people and accommodation is more affordable. In France that’s April to June and September. Bonus is you’ll have pleasant weather. Low season is October to March and can be quite chilly though you’ll find the most affordable accommodation at that time.
Buy a local SIM card
If you’re spending more than a few days in France and Europe, I recommend getting a local SIM card instead of using international roaming. My go-to is the Bouygues Telecom Travel SIM. It’s a prepaid plan that includes 20GB of mobile data with 15GB usable in Europe, unlimited calls & texts in France and Europe and 25€ credit for international calls and texts. You can connect up to 10 devices.
It’s valid for 30 days from when you first activate it and the line is valid for 12 months. You can buy it locally once in country at Relay shops and Bouygues Telecom stores or order it here before you travel!
Dress like your best French self
I love the French style sensibility—it’s chic, classically stylish and effortless. While it’s not imperative to dress like them as a visitor, I will say it’s important to look presentable. I would deter against wear sweatpants, short shorts or flip flops when dining in restaurants. Keep in mind it also depends where you are and what the crowd is like.
Learn the French schedule
In small towns, many shops, banks and post offices close 2 hours for lunch, generally between 12 and 2. Be sure to plan you errands around that time. Breakfast is eaten early and dinner starts from 7:30 onward.
Know how to greet people
Unlike in America where a simple wave and hello will do, French culture often includes more nuances. It’s expected to greet friends with a kiss when you see them, then a double kiss on both cheeks upon departure. For strangers, a simple hand-shake will do. If you’re not sure what to do, it’s best to watch the other person’s body language and follow their cues.
Learn about French wine and food
France is known for its gastronomical delights so be sure to indulge while on your trip. My favorite French foodie experience is shopping at outdoor markets or “marché en plein air”. The vendors generally span across the country offering the best food and ingredients. They include a mix of gourmet and specialty food shops, fresh produce, flowers, organic goods, Nutella crèpes and regional specialties like cannelé, a small pastry made of vanilla and rum from Bordeaux.
See, it’s not so bad! I hope your trip goes smoothly after hearing these tips for traveling to France. Everything is more pleasant once you learn and understand cultural differences. Isn’t that the reason why you’re leaving the comfort of your home anyways?
This post was written in collaboration with Bouygues Telecom to showcase their Travel SIM card. As always, all opinions and photos are my own.