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Travel guide to France

France was a painful lesson in more ways than one. Too expensive to travel extensively, I ended up camping. I tore my calf muscle while climbing a hill and lost all my Paris photos through a bad memory card. I also found the French nicer abroad than in their home country.

Information here is based on my personal travel & research- updated: (Dec 2011)

(click on a topic heading to skip to that section)

» Memorable places in France

» Ways into France

» French Food

» The French People

» The French Language

» Do's & Do not's

» Places to stay

» Potential for home?

» FAQ's on France


Some memorable places I have been


Paris: The capital and allegedly the most romantic city in the world. It certainly is a very European city

Arc de Triomphe: Watch out for the traffic, seriously it's bedlam!
Notre Dame Cathedral: A lot smaller than you think, and no hunchback. Lots of cafe's around and a good place to take a break.
Versailles: If you like this sort of thing, go early, very early.
Mona Lisa: Shame to miss it.
Grand Arche de la Defense: Very big, very white.
Eiffel Tower: Worth to say you've been there, expensive to use.
Moulin Rouge: Don't miss this area of Paris, its quite different from the rest.


South Coast: During my journey through France I met some friends and we rented a car for this part of the Journey. The South coast from Spain is expensive so we bought tents for 12 Euro and camped.


Ways into France

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By Plane: France has numerous airports throughout the country. Budget airlines from all corners of Europe have routes here, just be careful to note how far your airport is located from the nearest town - rail and bus fees can be expensive

By Bus / Car: Eurolines have direct connections all over France. Coming from Spain on a Eurolines bus, it was stopped during the middle of the night and all passports checked. A Chinese man was taken away, and did not some back. Along the south coast the old border on the road is long since closed and there was no border checks at all. Crossing the border with a car didn't even merit a guard at the border.

By Train: France has a well connected rail network, both nationally and internationally. The trick in using it when you are traveling is to either have a Eurorail ticket, or book well in advance. Otherwise, the cost of train ticket is very expensive.

Public transport: Buses / Metros are typically around 1-2 Euro per fare.


Try my custom flight search for the lowest priced flights to and from France! 
Rail Europe


The Food (link to top)


The average backpackers meal will suffer here. Bread and cheese rule as does fast food. Open markets in rural areas help, as do supermarkets. In Paris street Crepe's are great. If you splurge then you are really in for a treat.Try the small cafes in Moulin Rouge for cheap but great cafe's. Not to be cliched, but frogs legs and chocolate gateau are worth the price.


The People (link to top)


I will be the first to admit that I always found the French arrogant, know it all self opinionated people. In Paris and especially the south coast the rich are especially arrogant and egotistical. Having said that. Get out into the country, or the markets and find the real French. Polite, friendly and happy to help. In my travels I have met some nice french people that are slowly changing my mind about the French as a general rule, but back in the cites and forget it.


The Language (link to top)


Learning French is possible. But, at your own mercy in Paris. I tried and had a French man tell me I was terrible at it. He was of course correct, but he could have been nicer. His English was unfortunately very good. In the countryside they are more relaxed, but you do need to try to get anywhere in rural France.


Do's & Do not's (link to top)


Don't get into an argument unless you are fluent in French. Do eat a variety of food. Don't feel obliged to Climb the Eiffel tower, it's a rip off. Do walk the back streets for Paris. Do not camp outside of a camping zone in the south coast, the police will come. Do back up your photo's of a place like Paris, it's a bit expense to do it all again.


Places I stayed (link to top)


 

Where I stayed   Try my custom search for the lowest priced hotels in France!

I found France to be more expensive than Spain for accommodation. Paris was seriously over priced for a hostel. Dorm rooms range between 20-30 Euro, while a simple budget hotel starts at around 50 Euro.

Paris - Moulin Rouge: I cheated here and went for a 2 star hotel. It was 3 Euro more than a hostel but with an all you can eat breakfast.

Camping along the south coast: It costs around 12-20 Euro for a campsite in most places. This included a shower area. Most also offer rooms for around 20-25 Euro.

   



Potential for home? (link to top)


The strangest thing here is that aside from not communicating well with anyone. I could see why one could like living in Paris. But it would take a big commitment from me to do this, and I don't have "that" feeling for France. Neither do I have the money to make the move to this expensive city, and learn a language before finding employment.

Life outside the the big cities would certainly mean being fluent in French, and perhaps having an emotional commitment there.


FAQ's

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How much is a daily budget in France?

I was surprised at just how expensive France was. Paris can be harmful to the budget, and without a car the south coast would have been impossible.

Accommodation: 20-30 Euro for a hostel, 50 Euro for a basic hotel room.

Food: A typical readymade sandwich is 4-6 Euro and so a daily backpacker budget of 20 Euro for food. While basic restaurant meals start at about 10 euro.

This makes France top my list at 40-70 Euro a day without entrance tickets to anywhere and making your own food. Camping can knock 5-10 Euro off accommodation fees even if you take car rental into consideration. The above is based on a low budget, you can spend a lot more per day depending on your needs.

How to rent a cheap car in France?

Go to Spain. Well if you are on the border anyway. Otherwise look on the internet for cheap mid week deals, and rent the days from there. Weekend rental is expensive. Take photos of all four sides of the car before and after you use it.

How to get to/from Paris airport to the city?

Charles de Gaulle International Airport is about 1.5 hours in traffic from the center. Usually more. The rail network is better, but often full. You need to get to this airport a head of time. For smaller airports, be aware that many are not based near the actual towns budget airlines say they are. Bus, and or rail tickets may add a lot onto the cost of getting to your destination.

Money in France, what to do?

International Credit cards like VISA or Mastercard work everywhere as do most debit cards.

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Please keep in mind all the above is based on my own personal experience in France. It's not intended to be a guide. If the information here can help you on your own travels then that's a good thing!

 

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