Facts for the Visitor

US citizen: No visa required, visitors permitted to stay 3 months.
Japanese citizen: No visa required, visitors permitted to stay 3 months.

Language Skills Needed
Some knowledge of French and an English-French dictionary is recommended.

Cash Machines
Available everywhere. Most are on the Plus and Maestro international networks. The usual maximum withdrawal is € 300 (Euros).

US$ 1 = 1.02 Euros (€) on October 15, 2002.

220V, 50Hz. Plugs have 2 round pins.

International Certificates of Vaccination are not required.

A 15% service charge is added to restaurant bills as mandated by French regulations. No additional tip is required nor expected.

Paris Metro (Subway) Tickets
Buy a "carnet" of ten tickets for zone 1. The city is divided into 5 zones, but things most visitors will want to see are in zone 1. A carnet costs 55 Fr, which is slightly more than the cost as five zone 1 tickets bought individually. In addition, having pre-paid tickets will save considerable time by not having to buy a single ticket each time. There are no travel or time limitations on the tickets in the carnet. They are identical to individually bought zone 1 tickets.

Stamp Your Train Ticket
All train stations have a ticket time/date-stamping machine at the door leading to the platform. Be sure to stamp your ticket before boarding the train. Why? Train tickets in France are valid for about 2 months. Stamping the ticket validates the ticket for the day of use. Forgetting to stamp your ticket will make the ticket-checker aboard the train suspect that you intend to use your ticket for multiple unpaid trips.

In addition to hotels and youth hostels, France has a regulated network of Gîtes (short-term rental properties) and Chambre d'Hôtes (Bed and Breakfasts). Both are part of Gîtes de France, which publishes listings in a thicker National Guide and thinner Provincial Guides, rates them between 1-5 ears of corn (like 1-5 stars) using consistent, published standards, and handles bookings for the Gîtes (Chambre d'Hôtes should be contacted directly for reservations). Find the Gîtes de France guides in any book store in France. Most of the information is also on the Internet at URL

A subset of rentals regulated by Gîtes de France:

Chambre d'Hôtes: A Bed and Breakfast. Rooms usually has a private WC, and a French style breakfast is normally served in a common eating room with other guests.
Chambre et Table d'Hôte: A Bed and Breakfast as above, but these B&B's also serve dinner on request.
Gîte Rural: A short-term property rental away from the city centers or in the country. Bookings are handled by the Gîte de France office of the province where the Gîte is located. Gîtes can typically accommodate 2, 4, or 6 people and are fully furnished. July, August, and school holiday week rentals are for 1 week minimum starting on a Saturday and are priced higher. Rent is paid to the Gîte de France office by bank draft or credit card. A set published fee for utilities, and sometimes bed sheets, is paid to the Gîte landlord.
Gîte d'Etape: Dormitory accommodations, usually catering to hikers. Demi-pension (bed, dinner, and breakfast) option is normally available.

Car Rental
Americans and Canadians wishing to rent a car in Europe can find the best deal through AutoEurope in the USA. Reservations can be made after arriving to Europe. Simply reserve on the AutoEurope web page or telephone AutoEurope (US Eastern Standard Time business hours, which would be night time in Europe) toll free (some of the numbers are listed below). AutoEurope will fax or email the rental agreement with pick-up / drop-off specifics. Payment is via credit card over the phone or by secure browser. The savings is significant - EuropCar in France quoted us the equivalent of US$1850 to rent an economy manual-shift car for 30 days. With an AutoEurope rental agreement, we got the same car for the same period through the same rental office (AutoEurope uses EuropCar cars) for US$479. Rent online at:

Some AutoEurope toll free numbers: (Note: the telephone number system is gradually changing in Europe. If any of the below toll-free numbers from a European country no longer work, try 00800-223-5555-5 (from any European country).

within the USA: 1-800-223-5555
from Austria: 1800-12-6409
from Belgium: 00800-223-5555-5
from Britain: 0800-89-9893
from Finland: 9800-1-56218
from France: 0800-901-770
from Germany: 0800-822-1980
from Greece: 080011-574-0300
from Italy: 00800-223-5555-5
from Ireland: 00800-223-5555-5
from Netherlands: 0800-022-3570
from Portugal: 00800-223-5555-5
from Spain: 900-96-1280
from Switzerland: 0800-89-7877

City Maps
Find maps of Europe adjusted to any level of detail online at Via Michelin

Paying Parking (Violation) Tickets
Tickets for parking violations are paid with special stamps available at a Tabac shop. The ticket is a card with an attached carbon sheet. The top right corner of the card has 2 squares for stamps: the parking violation stamp for the value of the violation and the postage stamp to mail the card. The carbon sheet is a souvenir. Proof of proper payment is straightforward. The parking violation stamp comes in 2 pieces: a large stamp for the card and a small one showing the same value to stick onto your souvenir. To mail the card with its 2 stamps affixed, pop it in a mailbox. 30 day delays in payment result in an increased fine. 

Duty Free
Non-EU (European Union) tourists staying in the EU for less than 6 months can claim for reimbursement of sales tax on purchases above FRF 1,200 from stores offering duty free sales. At the time of purchase, show your passport and ask the store for a tax reimbursement form (in duplicate pink and green sheets) and pre-paid, pre-addressed envelop. Before check-in at your departure airport, take your purchase and reimbursement form to the customs counter to be stamped. (At the Marseille Airport, the customs agent wanted to see the purchased item, not just the form and passport.) Put the stamped pink sheet in the envelope and mail it before leaving Europe. Keep the green sheet for your records.

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