World Europe France France travel guide

France travel guide

With an area of 543,965 sq km, France is the largest country in western Europe. To the South West forms the mountainous Pyrenean boundary with Spain, the West side is the Atlantic coast, and the North West borders with the Channel of Manche. The North East side marks the frontier with Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Saar. On the East, the Rhine river provides a natural frontier with Germany, the Jura Mountains and the Alps divide France from Switzerland and Italy, at whose border stands France's, and the Alps', highest mass, Mont Blanc . Finally, the South East of France skirts the Mediterranean.
International flights serve Paris and various provincial cities and seaside resorts. Channel crossings by sea and air for passengers and cars are numerous; they are mostly all-year services. There is a rapidly growing network of internal air services as well. Orly and Chares De Gaulle, the main Paris airports are more central and more efficient than the smaller like Le Bourget. French trains are fast, clean, and punctual, and on many long-distance routes they carry cars. There are good long-distance buses; but local bus services are less frequent than in many countries, and this can make local touring difficult if you lack a car. Taxis are a little cheaper than in Britain; but in Paris they are relatively hard to find.
British and American visitors need a valid passport and, for a car, a national driving licence, the car's registration certificate, and a green card for insurance. Third-party insurance is compulsory, and, in the absence of the green card, temporary insurance can be taken out at the frontier for periods of two, seven, or twenty-one days. The car will not need a customs document for a stay of under six months. Caravans need a separate document.
Banks are are closed either on Saturdays or Mondays; but most hotels and many shops and restaurants will cash travellers' cheques or foreign bank-notes.
Driving and traffic: Traffic in France drives on the right, as in all Continental Europe. Traffic signs are standard European. You can buy a copy of the French highway code (Code de la Route) at most frontier posts. The main point to watch is that, at a road junction, cars coming from the right always have priority unless there is a road sign to the contrary. This is always the rule at cross-roads of equal importance, notably in towns, and it is essential to keep glancing right. If you are coming to a main road where you do not have priority, you will be warned by signs. If you are on a main road where you do have priority over a minor road to your right, a sign will say Passage Protege.
The speed limit in built-up areas is 37 miles . On the open road, you will sometimes be warned of a speed limit where there is a dangerous curve or road works. The French themselves tend to drive fast, but not recklessly. Their reactions are quicker than an Englishman's, and they use their brakes a great deal.
 The French prefer amber headlights. Though foreign cars with white lights are not obliged to change, it is a friendly gesture to put amber discs on your lights. The French sound their hooters often, though they are practically banned in the Paris region and some other towns, except in an emergency.  Zebra crossings give priority to pedestrians. A second type of pedestrian crossing, the passage cloute or double line of studs, is recommended for pedestrian use in towns, but does not give them priority. Mechanics are generally competent, and it is possible to get even quite major repairs done quickly on a Sunday. Best take a phrase-book, though, and spare parts if your car is not French.
There are few weather hazards for drivers, except through fog and ice on mountain roads in winter (where it may be wise to carry snow-chains). Many of the passes in the Alps, and some in the Pyrenees, are closed in winter, but enough roads remain
open for detours to be possible. When the Mont Cenis is closed (usually November to April), the rail tunnel from Modane in France to Bardonecchia in Italy provides an alternative. A new toll-road tunnel under Mont Blanc links Chamonix in France to Courmayeur in Italy.

WHAT TO WEAR Your newest, smartest clothes. The sort of thing you would wear in any large city at home. Don't wear white shoes on the street. You'll need a raincoat, a suit, walking shoes, evening clothes if you plan any gala night life. Men should dress as in any city. Dinner jacket is a necessity for a man. If you go to the Riviera, take your newest sports clothes, evening clothes and a fur jacket, beach clothes. Men need slacks, sport shirts, bathing trunks and robes. For skiing what you would wear at a good resort at home, or buy your ski things abroad.

 

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2007 travel guides