Automobiles (Importing into France)
Bringing a U.S.-made or Canadian vehicle into France may be subject to customs duties and a 19.6% VAT (value added tax), payable at the port of entry. Since most vehicles will not conform to strict French safety and environmental standards, necessary modifications are likely to be expensive. A French registration must be obtained within 4 months, and if the auto does not pass muster, it must be re-exported. There are certain exemptions to the customs duties and VAT for tourists staying less than 185 days in a calendar year, or for those establishing their permanent residence in France.
Consular Information Sheet
Check this page for tips on crime, updated travel advisories and worldwide terrorist activities. Particularly useful are the cautions about avoiding pickpockets, organized rings of thieves, and coercive marketing practices by some entertainment establishments.
Imports into and exports out of France of counterfeit goods violating trademarks (and/or copyrights, patents, industrial designs, etc.) are offenses under French general Criminal Law, and such goods are deemed to be "prohibited" under French Customs Law even if declared to a Customs official. Violations are subject to a term of imprisonment from 2 to 5 years, and fines up to 1 million French francs, plus confiscation of the goods themselves and any conveyances in which they are found (such as a vehicle, vessel or aircraft). While this might not appear relevant to the average honest tourist, even bootlegged copies of music tapes and CDs could be construed as a violation; hence, caution is advised when packing for your trip.
Currency or Monetary Instruments
Although there is no restriction on the total amount of money brought into or out of France, anyone carrying more than €10,000 (or its equivalent) in any form must file a Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instrument ("déclaration de sommes, titres et valeurs").
Driving In France
Tips on driving, highways, signage, speed limits, tolls, parking, road safety, and gasoline costs in France. Glossary of useful French terms. Car rental/leasing requirements, age restrictions, insurance info.
English Speaking Doctors
Medical emergencies can be compounded if the patient and practitioner cannot communicate effectively. Fortunately, the U.S. Embassy in Paris has prepared this 15-page list of anglophone hospitals, pharmacies, and physicians grouped by medical specialty for the cities of Bordeaux, Lyon, Paris, and Strasbourg. (PDF file requires Acrobat Reader plug-in, free from Adobe.)
Firearms & Ammunition
France has stringent regulations on firearms and ammunition. As a rule, firearms which have no legitimate sporting or recreational use are not permitted entry into France.
Free Travel Publications
The French Government Tourist Office publishes a number of booklets on travel to all regions of France, available by mail at no cost to residents of the U.S. and Canada. (Other nationalities, inquire at your local Consulate.)
French Customs & Excise Taxes on Purchases
As a visitor to France you may be able to claim a tax refund (on Value Added Tax, or VAT) for eligible goods you take home. Some merchants participate in the program at the point of purchase (duty-free shops), while in other cases you can apply to receive the refund by mail. Requirements and paperwork are rather stringent, and should be initiated prior to leaving France. Residents of the EEC are not eligible.
Gifts Mailed To France
Private individuals in France may receive, free of duty and taxes, a gift (for personal use, at no cost to the recipient) mailed from a foreign country, if the total shipment's value (item value + shipping cost + insurance) does not exceed €45. Gifts that exceed this amount will be subject to duty and taxes based upon their entire value; there is no €45 deduction for gifts sent from abroad. The Postal form CN22 (available in any U.S. Post Office) should be filled out by the sender, then joined to the package.
We recommend that you invest in a few good maps before departing on your trip, particularly if you plan a foray into the provinces. Baedeker and Michelin publish excellent editions specific to various regions, while Fodor offers the world standard for informative travel guides. If you wish to print out a free neighborhood map showing the streets around your hotel, or the public transit systems of Paris, visit our page on Free Stuff. In Paris, most neighborhoods also offer wonderful billboard maps at major intersections and métro stations.
Meat & Dairy Products
As a rule, you can only bring small quantities of these products into France (1 to 2 kilograms i.e. 2.2 to 4.4 pounds where applicable), provided they are not prohibited or otherwise restricted.
No permit is required for personal medicines carried in your luggage, but you should have with you the prescription dispensed by your practitioner. Customs officials must be satisfied that you are not importing more than would be necessary for your personal use, taking into account the drug type and length of stay (for no more than 3 months). It is suggested that you do NOT transfer prescription drugs into an unmarked container, but keep them in the original prescription bottle. If you plan to import medications for personal use by mail or by express shipment, an Import Permit is required.
Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances
Needless to say, narcotics and dangerous drugs (including cannabis products and derivatives) are prohibited entry into France; violators face stiff prison sentences and fines. If you are traveling to France and need to use prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs for medical purposes, refer to Medicine (above).
There are limits on the number (and ages) of pets which may be brought into France, including birds, cats, dogs, reptiles, rodents and other species. Vaccination requirements are stringent. Be aware that France observes the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, with respect to both live flora and fauna as well as any products or articles manufactured from them.
Photography: Take Travel Pictures Like a Pro!
Author and photographer Jeff Wignall offers up nearly 100 easy-to-follow tips, with accompanying photos, covering every aspect of travel photography.
Plants and Plant Products
There are prohibitions and restrictions on plants and plant products imported into France. As a rule, these should be presented at the port of entry, for inspection by officers of the Plant Health Inspection Service ("contrôle phytosanitaire").
All cafés are required by law to let the public use their bathrooms, although this doesn't necessarily mean that they will be pleasant about it (you may also have to pay a few francs to use the toilet). Bathrooms are often located downstairs. Your best bet may be fast-food chains. You can also find pay-per-use toilet units on the street.
Non-residents of the European Union who inherit, buy, build or rent (on a two-year lease or longer) a permanent structure in France to use as a seasonal residence, may have a one-time opportunity to furnish the residence with certain goods free of customs duties, although such items will still be subject to VAT (value added tax).
Settling in France
Foreign nationals establishing permanent residence in France may import personal effects and furnishings without paying customs duty or VAT (value added tax), as long as they can prove having lived outside the European Union during the previous 12 months, and provide a detailed, itemized list of possessions owned longer than 6 months.
Studying in France
If enrolled as a student in a French academic institution, one may import personal effects, household goods (including computer), furnishings, and one motor vehicle without paying customs duty or VAT (value added tax), provided all such items are re-exported upon leaving France (may not be sold or otherwise disposed of in France). A list (in duplicate) must document all items, and proof of acceptance by a French school is required.
Everything you need to know about local and international telephone service, directory information, telegraph and Minitel services in Paris and throughout France.
Tips on Tipping
Visitors to France will appreciate this handy guide, which suggests how much to tip hairdressers, hotel personnel, restaurant staff, taxi drivers, theater ushers, and tour guides for their services.
Consult this page for details on all forms of transportation to and from as well as within France. Includes info on air travel, auto routes, bicycling, boats, buses, car rentals, railways, subway (métro), etc.
Residents of the U.S. and Canada traveling to France may import items free of customs duties or VAT (value added tax), limited to a value of 1200 FF (age 15+) or 600 FF (age <15 years), subject to certain restrictions on tobacco, alcohol, perfumes, and other products.
Arthur Frommer offers a series of helpful articles, with tips on what to do and pack before leaving home, reasons for carrying as little cash as possible, the most essential travel accessories, and more.
Welcoming Disabled Persons
In the past few years, much has been done to welcome individuals with disabilities who wish to visit France, with respect to accommodations, transportation, parking, phones, recreation, access to public venues, etc.