Currency: 1 Euro (€) = 100 cents.
Dialing code: 33.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October).
Main cities: Marseille (a major seaport and a diversified manufacturing center), Lyon (an industrial center), Toulouse (a major manufacturing and trade center in southweste France), Nice (a resort city on the French Riviera), Nantes (a seaport on the Atlantic coast), Strasbourg (the principal French port on the Rhine River), Bordeaux (a major seaport in southweste France), Montpellier (a commercial and manufacturing city in southe France), Lille.
Land and Resources: France shares boundaries with Belgium and Luxembourg to the northeast; Germany, Switzerland, and Italy to the east; and Spain and Andorra to the southwest. In the northwest, France is bounded by the English Channel. France faces three major seas: the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the North Sea to the north, and the Mediterranean Sea to the southeast. Several major rivers drain France, including the Seine, Loire, Garonne, and Rhône. The Mediterranean isle of Corsica is considered part of the total area of metropolitan France. France has three distinctive types of surface features—rolling plains, uplands, and high mountains.
Climate: Generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean.
Govement: France is a presidential republic with a centralized national govement. The president is head of state.
Population: The predominant ethnic stock in France is mixed. The indigenous ethnic minorities include people of Flemish descent, the Bretons, the French Basques, the Catalan, the Alsatians.
Languages: French is the official language.
Religion: Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in France. Islam, Protestant.
1 January - New Year
6 January - Epiphany ("The Day of the Kings")
1 May - May Day, Labor Day
8 May - Victory in Europe
14 July - Taking of the Bastille
15 August - Assumption Day
the first day of November - La Toussaint (All Saints’ Day)
11 November - Armistice Day
25 December – Christmas.
Visa: A visa is not required for US, UK, Irish nationals, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders for a stay of up to three months. South African nationals require a valid passport and visa for travel to France. Visitors are advised to hold a retu or onward ticket and proof of financial means. The Schengen area.
Customs regulations: The following goods may be imported without incurring customs duty by passengers 17 years of age or older arriving from non-EU countries: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 cigarillos or 250g of tobacco; 1l of spirits more than 22 per cent or 2l of alcoholic beverage up to 22 per cent; 2l of wine; 50g of perfume and 250ml of eau de toilette; goods up to the value of €175 (€90 per person under 15 years of age); caviar up to 250g. Restricted items include plants and plant products; meat and meat products from Africa; pharmaceutical products (except those needed for personal use); works of art; collectors’ items and antiques.
Transportation: France enjoys one of the most highly developed transportation systems in the world. France has the dense road network, an extensive network of railways and navigable waterways. Today, high-speed rail lines link Paris and other major French cities to many destinations outside of France, including London, England; Brussels, Belgium; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Cologne, Germany. The principal inteational airports of France are located near Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Strasbourg, and Toulouse. The two major airports near Paris are Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Orly.
Sightseeing: The most popular tourist destination is Paris, one of the most visited cities in the world. The city’s attractions are many, from its colorful neighborhoods, sidewalk cafes, and famous cuisine to its prestigious cultural institutions and world-renowned architecture. Monumental landmarks in Paris include the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Louvre museum, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and the Georges Pompidou Center which houses the Musée National d’Art Mode. Champs Elysées, The Rodin Museum, the Musée d'Orsay, the Picasso Museum, the Château de Versailles. Other popular tourist destinations in France include the Mediterranean coast, with its numerous hotels and waterfront resorts, and the French Alps, which provide some of the world’s best skiing. Euro Disneyland includes hotels, restaurants and shops as well as the theme park.
Normandy: the chic seaside resort of Deauville. Rouen is one of France’s most historic cities. There is no shortage of attractions in Rouen; dozens of churches and some fine museums can be explored including the Musée des Beaux-Art.
Popular resort towns of Biarritz and St-Jean-de-Luz. Hikers and nature lovers are drawn to the grand Pyrenees mountains to fish for fat trout, wander the trails, dunk in warm mineral pools, marvel at the glaciers or climb challenging peaks. Another great attraction in the Bigorre region is the Roman Catholic shrine at Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a peasant girl in the mid-19th century. Biarritz is a town with magnificent beaches. There are a couple of interesting museums including the Musée de la Mer, and the best surfing in France. A popular seaside resort and active fishing port just above the Spanish border, Saint Jean de Luz is a lively and cosmopolitan town. Pau is is a good base from which to explore the Pyrenees and the picturesque little villages of the Bea region.
Pyrenees National Park. The Ordesa-Monte Perdido National Park.
The coastline has made Brittany the most popular summer holiday destination in France, next to the Côte d'Azur, for both French and foreign visitors. The coast is sprinkled with resorts and camp-sites, always full during the summer season.
The cities of Amiens, Reims and Laon retain their magnificent medieval cathedrals, the lovely town of Troyes and the historic village of Jouarre with a beautiful Benedictine abbey.
The French Riviera is renowned the world over for its glamorous nightlife, glorious beaches and gigantic gin-palaces; the chic resorts of Cannes and St Tropez have for long attracted Europe’s most affluent, from Russian Tsars to the Hollywood stars. Along with neighbouring Monaco, the Côte d’Azur retains its reputation as the playground of the rich and remains one of the most desirable Mediterranean destinations.
Climbers and hikers head for the Alps between July and September when the weather is more predictable. There are a number of national parks with round-the-park trails requiring one or two weeks walking, there are also longer trans-alpine routes, which should only be attempted by experienced walkers.
Money: Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some large hotels, though you will get a better exchange rate at the ATMs. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques, particularly in major tourist destinations.
Communications: Most public telephones accept phone cards, which are available in most newsagents. Most hotels add a surcharge to all calls; the cheapest way to call abroad is often with a phone card. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most inteational mobile phone companies. Inteet cafes are available in most towns throughout France.
Shops and cafes: Special purchases include lace, crystal glass, cheeses, coffee, wines, spirits and liqueurs. Most towns have fruit and vegetable markets on Saturday. Hypermarkets tend to be situated just outside of town and all have parking facilities. Shopping hours: Department stores are open Mon-Sat 09:00-18:30. Some shops are closed between 12:00-14:30. Food shops are open 07:00-18:30/19:30. Some food shops (particularly bakers) are open Sunday moings. Many shops close all day or Monday afteoon. Hypermarkets are normally open until 21:00 or 22:00.
Tipping: Most restaurants and hotels automatically add a 10 to 15% service charge so a tip is not necessary.
Health and safety: French hospitals and health facilities are first class. British, and visitors from other EU countries, are entitled to heavily discounted medical treatment and medicines on presentation of Form E111. Otherwise doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Medical insurance is advised. Pharmacies will provide some first aid, but charge for it. Security has been heightened particularly in the transport sector. While generally safe, visitors to France are advised to take precautions against petty theft and to ensure their personal safety. Tourists are advised to conceal bags and purses even when driving, and to never leave valuables unattended in the car. Bag snatching is also common, particularly on public transport and in shopping centres, and visitors should also be vigilant of luggage while loading bags into and out of hire cars at airports.
Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard.
Important phone numbers:
Fire brigade -18
Police - 17
Ambulance - 15
Inquiries - 12
6 Perth Avenue Yarralumla
Tel: +43 2 216 0100
Fax: +43 2 216 0156
Tel: + 00 43 1 502 750
Fax: + 00 43 1 502 75 168
42 Promenade Sussex
Ottawa - Ontario
Tel: + 1 613 789 1795
Fax: + 1 613 562 3704
3 Sanlitun Dongsanjie
Tel: +86 (10) 6532 1331
Fax: +86 (10) 6532 4841
Tel: + 49 30 20 63 90 00
Fax: + 49 30 20 63 90 10
Piazza Faese 67
Tel: + (06) 686011
4-11-44, Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku
Tel: + 81 3 5420-8800
Fax: + 81 3 5420-8847; + 81 3 5420-8917
Campos Elíseos 339 Col. Polanco Chapultepec
Tel: + 52 5 282 9700
Fax: + 52 5 282 9703
Tel: + 47 23 28 46 00
Fax: + 47 23 28 46 70
Salustiano Olozaga, 9
Tel: + 34 91.423.89.00
Fax: + 34 91.91.423.89.01
Tel: + 46 08 459 53 30
Fax: + 46 08 459 53 31
23 Cromwell Road
Tel: +44 (0)20 7201 1000
Fax: +44 (0)20 7201 1004
France (Mission: Geneva)
Villa "Les ORMEAUX" 36, route de Prégny
Tel: + 41 758 91 11
Fax: + 41758 91 37; + 41 758 24 49
4101 Reservoir Road, NW
Tel: +1 202 944-6000
Fax:  (202) 9446166 ext 9446175
Encarta World Atlas