Friday, 21 August 2009

Etiquette in France

France has long been one of the most popular holiday destinations for the British. The scenery, climate, coastlines, mountains and culinary offerings have ensured this popularity for many decades.

Although France is just a hop, skip, ferry ride, Eurotunnel or Air journey away, don’t be too quick to assume that French social customs are no different to any other European etiquette. You might be surprised at how much difference a few miles and a stretch of water can make to such social etiquette.

Making Conversation
France might be a popular destination for English-speaking tourists, but it is bad etiquette to assume that every French person will speak English. It might appear discourteous and arrogant to immediately begin speaking in English, hoping that your counterpart will. When attempting to converse in France, be it with a shopkeeper, waiter, policeman or local, you should as least make a certified and respectable attempt to speak some elementary conversational French. There are numerous basic French phrase books available, and it would be a good idea to get to grips with one prior to your trip.

However, if you are still not confident of your French-speaking abilities, after at least attempting a few phrases, if you and your French acquaintance are still struggling, you could politely ask if they speak English - “parlez-vous Anglais?”. If the answer is yes, it might be considered polite if you still interject what French you know into your sentences. This way you will be seen to be making as much effort as possible with your verbal communication.

The French may seem very direct and brusque in the way in which they speak – do not be surprised if you are asked seemingly personal questions. This is not bad manners, it just indicates an interest.

Body Language
The French tend to be very direct in the way that they speak. They have relatively little reserve in showing emotion, and will often articulate and accompany their speech with large gesticulations. In some cases, especially when engaged in discussion or debate, this spirited emotiveness may come across as insistent or slightly aggressive, but usually is not meant as such at all. It might be considered good etiquette to engage yourself in conversation as vivaciously as your French acquaintance.

Eye contact is also important, as it shows that you are alert and interested. You should try and maintain eye contact when in conversation or being introduced to a French person.

Meeting & Greeting
You should always begin by addressing your French counterparts by their title and surname, for example “Madame Chabert” or “Monsieur Agnes”. “Mademoiselle” is reserved for unmarried young women or girls, as older unmarried women can be referred to as “Madame”. When meeting and speaking to someone in France, even if they are your peer, you should start by referring to them with “vous” (you). This implies formality and respect, as “tu” (you) is used amongst friends and family. “Tu” should only be used if the word is instigated by your French counterpart, but this usually only occurs after a prolonged acquaintance. The same concept also applies to the use of a first name – this should only be used when once your counterpart has done so.

When meeting in France, you should shake the hand of every person present, including any children. Usually, the most senior or elderly people present will offer their hand to initiate a handshake first. In more familiar or social situations, your French host may initiate “une bise” – touching cheek to your cheek, whilst kissing the air. This is only usually occurs between familiar acquaintances and friends.

France is well known for its fine cuisine. Eating is an important part of social and family life in France, and the likelihood is that if you are visiting France, you will no doubt be eating out. You may even be invited into the home of a Frenchman, but in both cases you should be aware of basic French dining etiquette.

When dining out, if you need to request the bill, you should never snap your fingers at the waiter or waitress. This is extremely bad etiquette and can translate as rude and arrogant. The best way to ask for the bill is to catch the attention of the waiter or waitress’s by making a writing motion, as well as saying “L’addition s’il vous plait”.

You should always use your food utensils when eating, even in fast food restaurants. Although eating with your fingers is fine in very informal surroundings and situations, generally eating with your fingers, or eating on the street is considered to be quite uncouth and should be avoided.

When invited to dine at a French person’s house, you may want bring a good bottle of wine with you but be aware that in some parts of France such as Paris, this may be considered bad etiquette. This is due to the fact the host and hostess will have put a good deal of thought in the menu and the wine to accompany it, if you then bring wine with you they will feel obliged to serve it with the meal. By bringing your own wine the message that you will be sending is that you do not trust the host's tastes to select the proper wine. Proper etiquette is to send flowers or a bottle of good brandy or armagnac the next day.

You should not just dive into your meal – first, wait for your host to put their napkin on their lap, and then do the same. Once a drink has been served you should join in with the toast and once the host invites you to dine, it is then fine for you to start eating. It is polite to eat everything on your plate if you can manage, and at less formal dinners it is not uncommon to wipe the plate clean with a piece of bread. However, this should always be done using a fork.

Cote D'Azur on the cheap

The French Riviera at Cote D'Azur. Photograph: Alamy

St Tropez
The lowdown

No matter how many times you go back, St Trop, as its 5,600 inhabitants call it, never fails to disappoint. Despite the millions of visitors and rip-off prices, the place defiantly oozes glamour. St Tropez has two very different sides - the ever-fashionable meeting place for celebs and millionaires, and the unspoilt picturesque fishing village.

So if you don't mind shelling out €5 for an espresso, you can sit out on the terrace of the iconic Sennequier cafe, and enjoy the daily street show of wide-eyed tourists watching the exhibitionist nouveau riche sipping champagne on the decks of their yachts. If that doesn't float your boat, there is a wonderful nature walk round the coast from the old port all the way to the sandy beaches at Pampelonne, where you pass through dazzling Mediterranean landscapes and can even find a quiet public beach to swim without paying a fortune for sun loungers and umbrellas.

Where to eat

Not even les Tropeziens can remember the bizarre name of Le Kikouiou (route de Bonne Terrasse, 00 33 4 947 98394). It's actually named after the Kenyan tribe, and those in the know flock here from the day it opens for the season at the beginning of April, through to the end of October. In an idyllic setting between a fragrant pine forest and lush vineyards, with the beach two minutes' walk away, Le Kikouiou is the most simple of locales - a wooden cabane offering grilled steaks or fish and tasty pizzas with crisp salads, while diners sit beneath shady trees drinking wine that comes direct from the owner of the adjacent vines. A main course will set you back €10-€15, while a half-litre carafe of wine costs just €6.

Back in St Tropez itself, it's difficult to avoid the tourist-trap set menus - expensive and for the most part not very good. Despite its name, Basilic Burger (place des Remparts, 00 33 4 9497 2909), does more than just burgers: owners Serge and Nicole offer salads, steaks, omelettes and other simple healthy dishes at prices that are not bumped up at night, and the €15 prix-fixe menu is a bargain. The locals love it.

Remember that the picturesque Place des Lys turns into a vast market every Tuesday and Saturday morning, and here you can stock up for a picnic, and even pick up an inviting portion of paella for only €5.

Where to stay

Finding somewhere affordable to stay in St Tropez isn't easy, but if you book far enough in advance two secluded B&Bs provide an idyllic solution. Right in the middle of the old town, squeezed in between chic boutiques, restaurants and nightclubs, are two ancient fishermen's cottages where three rooms have been stylishly tranformed into a chambres d'hote. At the B&B Rue Saint-Jean (12 rue Saint-Jean; 00 33 6160 52176; email:; doubles from €80) you can choose between an exotic Moorish duplex, a roomy studio with marble fireplace, or a pastel yellow loft with a beamed ceiling.

Villa Ambre (Route des Plages, Quartier des Mares, 00 33 6 8010 2324, email:, doubles from €80) is the plush home of Sylvie and François Siri, and they have added two B&B rooms whose cool decor comes straight out of World of Interiors. There's no sign on the street, and Sylvie pops outside to show guests where to drive in. Once inside, you enter a peaceful oasis whose garden looks out over vineyards. Guests have use of the swimming pool, jacuzzi and barbecue for lazy nights of grilled locally caught fish and chilled rosé wine.

Although not in St Tropez itself, Villa Ambre is just five minutes' drive away on the famous Route des Plages, and from here you can walk to the glamorous Tahiti Beach.

The lowdown

The Cannes Film Festival (which started last week and runs until 25 May) has been attracting celebrities for 70 years, but this ultimate Riviera resort has been a favourite of Europe's royalty and high society ever since it was discovered in the mid-19th century by aristocratic British travellers. So, though it is difficult to avoid a stroll down the palm-fringed Croisette, with its Hollywood-style film star handprints, this is just the facade, and Cannes has a lot more to offer. While rusting fishing smacks sit next to gleaming luxury speedboats in the old port, up above, the old town of Le Suquet is a maze of narrow, winding streets filled with restaurants and boutiques. And just across from the Palais du Cinema are two idyllic islands, Les Iles de Lerins, a 20-minute boat ride (€11 return) that transports you from the packed, expensive beaches of the Croisette to quiet sandy bays and lush Mediterranean gardens.

Where to eat

Gourmet dining can cost the earth in Cannes, but there are some great budget discoveries hidden away. Don't miss lunch at the Taverne Lucullus (4 place du Marché Forville, 00 33 4 9339 3274) for an authentic slice of local life and traditional cuisine. The bar of this bustling bistro next to the Forville food market is lined with a tempting selection of Cannois tapas - deep-fried courgette flowers, grilled red peppers and spicy meatballs - all of which are free as long as you order a drink.

At lunch there is a hearty €10.50 dish of the day, and each Friday connoisseurs come from all over the Riviera for the aioli, the famous Provençal dish of salt cod, vegetables and a killer garlic mayonnaise. The place is aways buzzing with colourful stall traders, and the owners, Henri and Coco, are real characters, always with a coupe de champagne in one hand.

Alternatively, in the hip rue d'Antibes neighbourhood a unique venture has just opened, Les Apprentis Gourmets (8 rue Teisseire, 00 33 4 9338 7876; This is a glitzy hi-tech cooking school, where you reserve the day before (by phone or online) and arrive at midday, when a chef teaches the class how to cook a main course in half an hour. You then go upstairs to the restaurant and eat what you've cooked. All for €15.

Where to stay

The Croisette may be lined with mythical palace hotels such as the Martinez, the Carlton and the Majestic, where a room - let alone a suite - costs a small fortune, but just 50 metres away in the back streets of Cannes are a host of reasonably priced two-star family-run hotels such as Hotel Blue Riva (35 rue Hoche, 00 33 4 9338 3367;, doubles from €56).

But the ultimate address to reserve in advance is Cottage Bellevue (7 traverse Sunny Bank, 00 33 6 2002 1338; email:; from €55 breakfast included), a romantic B&B hidden away in the hills just above the city centre. The friendly Pacaud family rent out three spacious rooms, and guests have use of a lounge and a kitchen. Best of all, there is a fabulous terraced garden with exotic flowers and plants, gazebo, barbecue and panoramic views.

The lowdown

As you drive in along the coast, the first view of Antibes takes your breath away. An imposing medieval fortress juts out into the deep blue Mediterannean against a spectacular backdrop of the snow-tipped Alps. In the past, the resort has attracted painters including Picasso, Monet and Renoir. Today, it is a mega-rich jet-set crowd who moor their yachts on what the locals call Millionaires' Quay.

Antibes is actually made up of three parts: the historic old town, the idyllic peninsula of Cap d'Antibes, and the beaches, Art Deco villas and nightlife of the ever-glamorous Juan-les-Pins. There is a bustling market every morning in the centre of Antibes, perfect for stocking up for a beach picnic, while at Juan-les-Pins, you can enjoy a drink (€8) at the waterside terrace of the Art Deco Hotel Belles Rives, once a private villa rented by F Scott Fitzgerald.

Where to eat

Don't expect stunning sea views or smartly dressed sommeliers at La Taverne du Safranier (Place du Safranier, 00 33 4 9334 8050). Le Saf, as everyone calls this brilliant bistro, has a terrace that overlooks a car park and the genial waiter, Christophe, wears jeans and T-shirt. But the food is out of this world. Using the freshest produce, the €24 three-course menu offers traditional dishes such as daube de poulpe - octopus slowly cooked in red wine - sea bass stuffed with an artichoke and olive purée, and the best profiteroles smothered in a hot chocolate sauce you will ever taste.

Where to stay

The scenic coast road to Cap d'Antibes is an exclusive hideaway, home to millionaires including Roman Abramovitch. But there are two unbeatable addresses: La Jabotte (13 avenue Max Maurey, 00 33 4 9361 4589;; doubles from €81, breakfast included) resembles a cute doll's house, with 12 small but charmingly decorated rooms surrounding a shady patio garden. A comfy communal salon is painted in bright colours and doubles as an art gallery.

Almost next door, Val des Roses (6 chemin des Lauriers, 00 33 6 8506 0629;, doubles from €150 including breakfast), a late 19th-century villa with swimming pool, is more expensive, but this bijou B&B is definitely the place to splash out for a taste of luxury. The owner, Frederik, is Belgian, and utterly spoils his guests, with freshly squeezed orange juice, cheeses and smoked ham, home-made jams and hot croissants laid out for breakfast. Both addresses are just 30 metres from the beach - a free one - and the historic centre of Antibes is 10 minutes' walk or a quick ride on the free public bus.

The lowdown

Nice is the de facto capital of the Côte d'Azur, a Grande Dame the French often dismiss as being pour les riches et les vieux - for the rich and the old. But it has been recently transformed into a vibrant, cultural city. Although it is difficult to drag yourself away from the majestic seafront, the Promenade des Anglais, the baroque old town with its splendid pastel palaces and churches, conceals a labyrinth of funky bars, restaurants and late-night clubs.

Up in the hills among the swanky villas of the exclusive Cimiez neighbourhood, the streets are named after the Prince of Wales and George V, and there's an imposing statue of Queen Victoria, who was a regular visitor. But there are also two state-of-the-art museums, dedicated to the painters Chagall (entry €6.50) and Matisse (entry €4), who were also long-term residents. From 1 July a new initiative will see all Nice museums becoming free. Any evening, you can pick up a sleek new tram from Place Masséna and take a tour of over a dozen colossal avant-garde sculptures that are lit up at night (a ticket for the tram, which passes most of the sculptures, costs €1; the proper guided tour costs €6).

Where to eat

Of all the Riviera resorts, Nice has both the best cuisine and the most affordable prices. Everyone visits the town's colourful Marché des Fleurs, and rather than sitting down at one of the dozens of touristy restaurants lining the square, head for Chez Theresa's flamboyant socca stall. Socca is a thin pizza/pancake made from chickpea flour and drizzled with fruity olive oil. A big portion costs only €3, and the socca itself arrives every five minutes on the back of a motorbike direct from the baker's oven.

Alternatively, the Lou Nissart (1 rue de l'Opéra, 00 33 4 9385 3449) has delicious dishes of the day at around €12, such as rack of lamb roasted with provencal herbs or petits farcis Niçois - vegetables stuffed with minced meat. A three-course set menu costs €23.

For the evening, reserve at L'Escalinada (rue Pairolière, 00 33 4 9362 1171;, in the heart of the baroque old town, where the owner, Marco, makes everyone feel like his best friend. There is a full menu, with three courses, a glass of kir and a pissaladière (a local onion and anchovy tart) at €23 , but it's worth going à la carte here just for their speciality ribambelle (€15.50, but there's enough for two), a selection of Niçois appetisers - chickpeas and onion, grilled red peppers, octopus salad, beignets of aubergine and courgette, and a frîture of sardines, baby squid and locally fished red mullet. For dessert, don't miss the fabulous tarte au citron topped with meringue.

Where to stay

You don't have to check in at the legendary Negresco Hotel to stay just by the Promenade des Anglais and the azure waters of the Baie des Anges. A few minutes' walk away, in backstreets lined with grand belle époque mansions, lies the enticing Nice Garden Hotel (11 rue du Congrès, 00 33 4 9387 3562;; doubles from €65). Owner Marion Hoffman has lovingly renovated nine rooms in this family-run pension, and while the decor is charming, the reason to reserve here is her secluded, luxuriant garden with its orange grove and fragrant flowers.

Even closer to the seafront, Villa Rivoli (10 rue de Rivoli, 00 33 4 9388 8025;; doubles from €69) is a rather grand, though faded, turn-of-the-century villa. But the place has just been bought by a dynamic new owner, who has embarked on a total renovation of the rooms and garden, which will be completed by summer. So this is definitely the time to book, as every effort is made to make guests feel special.

The essentials
Getting around

Nice, Cannes and Antibes are linked by a scenic train route that follows the coast: a one-way ticket costs €5, while a single bus ticket, whatever the distance, is just €1. From June to October, a day-trip ferry runs from Cannes (, to St Tropez for €37.50, about the same price you'd pay for a day's parking there.

Getting there

Easyjet ( flies to Nice from Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Newcastle and London; Bmibaby ( from Birmingham, East Midlands; Flybe ( from Exeter, Jersey, Southampton; Jet2 ( from Leeds-Bradfod and Manchester. has hire cars from Nice airport from about £35 a day.

C'est chic, c'est cheap: the French Riviera for paupers

Rich pickings for paupers ... doubles at Hotel de la Plage, Rayol Canadel cost from just €62 a night. Photograph: PR

Hotel la Marjolaine, Antibes Juan-les-Pins
Chic "JLP" may not be the glamour spot it was when the likes of F Scott Fitzgerald bowled through town, but Juan's art-deco charm pulls in hip holidaymakers from around Europe. One minute back from the 4km sandy beach, la Marjolaine looks out over the swank. Rooms are delightfully old-fashioned, with heavy wooden beds, beams, writing desks and good linen. A long gravel drive ensures that any nocturnal rowdiness is kept at bay. The €5 breakfast can be taken on the south-facing patio.

• +33 (0)4 93 61 06 60,, doubles €65pn.

Hotel Miramar, Cap d'Ail
Le jet set may be just a few minutes east in Monaco, but staying in the slightly less pretentious village of Cap d'Ail is way cheaper. The Miramar is a glamour-free decompression chamber - unhurried calm imbues this simple hotel. For a few euros extra you can bag a room with a south-facing terrace complete with sun loungers - breakfast in bed looking out over the Med doesn't come cheaper than this. Four-person family rooms are available, too; these tend to book out months in advance. Ten minutes downhill is Mala plage, which boasts a large public beach area, excellent snorkelling and sea kayaks for hire at €10 an hour.

• +33 (0)4 9378 0660,, doubles from €43pn.

Villa Thalassa, Cap d'Ail
An even cheaper option in the village will set you back less than the price of a DVD. Villa Thalassa was converted into a youth hostel in 1952 and welcomes guests of all ages. A coastal path leads alongside public beaches that manage to feel exclusive, and on into Monaco. While it might be surrounded by the million-euro homes of Europe's caviar-chomping elite, you can go full board here for just €32.50. Accommodation is in well-spaced rooms of four to 10 beds, all with panoramic views over the Med. Like many hostels, it has a 10pm no-noise curfew. But party animals can take a key and tiptoe home later.

• +33 (0)4 93 81 27 63,, B&B €17pp pn

Camping les Cigales, Cassis
Once the stomping ground of Dufy and Matisse, the pretty seaside town of Cassis is an expensive place to bed down. A better option is Camping les Cigales, a family friendly resort shaded by olive trees, one mile from town. There are no studios or mobile homes, just tents and caravans. Cassis's biggest pull are the Calanques, deep gashes in the limestone cliffs that hide turquoise coves and white sand beaches, many accessible only by kayak or on foot. If you don't fancy hiking, rock-climbing or cliff-diving, pick up a free vin et terroir walking map from the Cassis tourist office for an easy trail around the valley's vineyards.

• +33 (0)4 4201 0734, (French only) €10.65pp pn.

La Villa sur la Plage, Eze-sur-Mer
Sharing a strip of pebbly seaside with Bono's Riviera hideaway, La Villa sur la Plage, midway between Nice and Monaco, offers what few properties in the south of France can claim: the Mediterranean is just a 20ft hop away. Views from the two ground-floor apartments take in sky and sea, with a colourful port to the west completing the postcard scene. Croatian-French owners Meri and Patric, who live next door, will steer you towards the Nietzsche Path, a steep, 90-minute hike up to the perched village of Eze. Each apartment has its own terrace, sun loungers and private parking spot - another rarity in these parts.

• +33 872 249 924, (listing no 18357), from €257 pp pw, based on four sharing.

Hôtel de la Plage, Rayol-Canadel
Just west of the Saint-Tropez peninsula, Rayol-Canadel has shimmering sandy beaches, a stunning botanical garden ( - and this little 12-room gem. This year, Hôtel de la Plage celebrates its 99th birthday. Its telephone number is no longer the original "22", but its simple, clean rooms, sun-dappled terrace and bargain rates continue to draw perennial guests. Settle into a sun lounger by the pool or cross over the road for direct access to la plage.

• +33 (0)4 9405 6122,, doubles from €62pn.

La Bambou, Ile de Porquerolles
Porquerolles is a boat ride away from the seaside towns of Toulon and Le Lavandou. This idyllic island is an underdeveloped former naval outpost, and about as unchic as the Riviera gets. Replacing glitz are pine forests, an organic vineyard and a dozen impressive beaches. And the cheapest place to stay? The good ship Bambou, a 24ft yacht moored in the main harbour. It sleeps four and offers such luxuries as an ice machine and a croque-monsieur maker. And if you can sail it, you'll have the island's best bits all to yourself.

• +33 (0)6 2094 0574, (French only), boat from €50pn.

Villa du Plageron, plage du Pramousquier
Slightly more expensive at up to £50 per person, but this final find is honeymoon standard. More of a souped-up chambre d'hôte than a boutique hotel, it's ringed by secluded outside spaces and tropical plants, while guestrooms are all antique tiles and luxury bathrooms. The villa markets itself as pieds dans l'eau ("feet in the water"), though those wanting to laze on proper sand rather than bask on rocks should head to the village of Rayol-Canadel's lovely plage du Pramousquier, a five-minute walk away. Proprietors Virginie and Bruno speak some English, but it's best to email for a booking enquiry.

• +33 (0)4 94 05 61 15,, bed and breakfast from €60pp pn.

France falls out of love with topless sunbathing

Brigitte Bardot sunbathing in a 'monokini' in 1960. Photograph: © Bettmann/Corbis

For some it's the stuff of naff Côte d'Azur postcards. For others it's a symbol of the feminist struggle in France. Topless sunbathing was once the summer battleground of French post-1968 society – educated middle classes insisted that peeling off was a women's right, while family groups claimed exposed nipples would scare children.
For decades, France has prided itself on being the world capital of seaside semi-nudity. Now the nation is facing a bikini-top backlash. A younger generation of women are covering up, citing new feminist priorities, skin cancer fears and a rebellion against the cult of the fetished body beautiful.
French academics and historians have spent the early summer months pondering the sociological meaning of the demise of France's once-favourite piece of beachwear, the "monokini" – the bottom half of a bikini with no top.
Angelique Chrisafis: 'It's become a symbol of French summers' Link to this audio
Since the 1970s, when the French state refused to ban "le topless" on beaches, women's semi-nudity has become a symbol of summer in France. It was a point of national pride that the same freedom to strip off in public was off-limits in other more prudish nations such as the US.
Women's bodies have always been the centre of national social debates in France. Jean-Marie Le Pen's far-right Front National once produced a poster warning against immigration which showed carefree French topless sunbathers in the 1990s against a doomsday prediction of burka-clad women invading French beaches in the year 2010.
But modern French 18- to 30-year-olds are rejecting toplessness, boosting the sales of two-piece bikinis and old-fashioned bathing suits.
A poll found 24% of women were perturbed by toplessness on beaches, while 57% said it was OK in a garden. Along the artificial summer beach Paris Plages, which opened on the Seine this week, topless sunbathing is punishable with a fine. The mayor of Saint Tropez has argued that the postcard myth of the feminine "charms" of the southern elitist sunspot are outdated as fewer women go topless.
French media insist that it tends to be the over 60s – women involved in the initial women's lib struggle - who dispense with tops. One swimsuit saleswoman said that going topless is no longer seen as a feminist act, as young women see equal pay and work-family balance as more pressing battlegrounds.
At the heart of this summer's cover-up phenomenon is historian Christophe Granger's new book, Corps d'été, a social history of the beach and the body in France.
He said: "In the 1960s and 1970s, toplessness was linked to the women's liberation movement, sexual liberation and a return to nature.
"Historical feminist writing details how the row over toplessness was a struggle for women to do what they liked with their bodies. What has been projected on to it today are different values, identified, not with equality but desire, sexualisation of the body, voluptuousness and the body perfect.
"It's less about women feeling at ease and free. It has been linked to the harsh cult of the body beautiful, where no imperfection is tolerated."
In some areas, the battle goes on. Les Tumultueuses, a group of young militant feminists, are still fighting for topless bathing rights in public swimming pools, denouncing the fact that men and women's bodies are treated differently. "My body, if I want, when I want" is one of the slogans they have borrowed from the 1970s struggle. Two months ago, when a group of them removed their tops and dived in to Les Halles public pool in Paris, pool assistants tried in vain to get them to cover up.
Previous topless commando raids on public pools have seen police intervene to stop them. Attendants at Paris's notoriously strict public pools have argued that if toplessness was allowed, swimmers would take more and more liberties such as arriving with no swimming hat or trunks.

Travel advise

Travel Summary
There are confirmed human cases of the A (H1N1) virus (Swine Flu) in France, including one death (source: the French authorities). The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised its Pandemic Threat Alert Phase to Level 6. The WHO website at: www.who.inthas further details.
The French Authorities advise that travellers in France who think that they have flu symptoms should telephone “15” or contact a local General Practitioner for advice and assistance. Further information and advice on what to do if you are in France and think you have flu symptoms can be found at: 080509.pdf. There is a dedicated “Swine Flu” page on the FCO website. Guidance on Pandemic Flu is available on the UK Department of Health website at:
Although the The French authorities do not at present systematically screen travellers arriving in France, Local authorities at ports of entry have the authority to isolate any passengers suffering from flu symptoms upon arrival and will deal with such incidents on a case by case basis. Please see the ‘Health’ section of this advice for more details.
There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. On 16 December 2008, several packs of explosives were dismantled at the Printemps Haussman Department store in Central Paris. No-one was injured. Since 2006 a number of explosions and failed explosions have occurred in Corsica. You are advised to take care, particularly in town centres and near public buildings, and be wary of unattended packages. See the Terrorism section of this advice for more details.
It is compulsory to carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket in all vehicles. See the Road Travel section of this advice for details.
More than 14 million British nationals visit mainland France every year (Source: Ministère Français de l'économie et des finances). Most visits are trouble-free. 2,900 British nationals required consular assistance in France in the period 01 April 2006 - 31 March -2007. If you need to contact the emergency services in France call 112.
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency. More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.
Safety and security
Terrorism There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. On 16 December 2008, several packs of explosives were dismantled at the Printemps Haussman Department store in Central Paris. No-one was injured.During 2006 and 2007 a number of explosions and failed explosions occurred in Corsica. You are advised to take care, particularly in town centres and near public buildings, and be wary of unattended packages.

The French Government has to date exercised a strong counter terrorism policy. In July 2005 the French authorities raised their level of security, particularly at airports and on the railway and metro systems.

On 6 December 2007 a letter bomb exploded in a building in central Paris. One person was killed and another seriously injured.

There have been a number of explosions, failed explosions, and other attacks in Corsica. Government buildings, restaurants, police vehicles, bars, a discotheque and a number of holiday homes have been targeted and, in some cases, substantially damaged. In the main these buildings were closed at the time of the attacks. One person has been reported as being killed with another slightly injured. The authorities, who have previously warned that attacks might escalate, believe that the Corsican nationalist group, the FLNC, are responsible.

For more general information see Terrorism Abroad.

Take precautions against street and car crime. Avoid having your passports, credit cards and valuables in the same place.

In 2007 our Consular staff were aware of a number of British nationals who were the victim of a serious sexual offence in France.

Be aware that alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit. Remember that drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. For more general information see Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad.

For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.
Political Situation

France Country Profile
Local Travel Continuing discontent among fisherman in the French channel ports means that there could be further blockades affecting cross-channel transport services. If you are planning to cross the Channel with one of the carriers, or if you are planning to sail to Northern France in a pleasure craft, you are advised to check the latest position before your start your journey.
Road Travel Advice on driving outside the UK can be obtained from motoring organisations such as the AA and RAC.Information on safety and potential traffic black spots is available on the French government website: This website is only available in French.To drive in France you must be 18 years old and have a valid UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. Failure to comply may lead to a fine and/or your vehicle being impounded. You are not permitted to drive at 17 even if you hold a valid licence. If you do not own the vehicle you are driving, you are advised to obtain written permission from the registered owner. It is obligatory to carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket. The reflective jacket must be stored inside the vehicle itself. Non-compliance is a fineable offence.Driving regulations in France are different from those in the UK. Speeding can result in heavy, on the spot fines and potentially immediate confiscation of your vehicle and licence.In 2007 there were 4,620 road deaths in France (source: DfT). This equates to 7.3 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 5.0 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2007. Many drivers undertake long journeys in, or through, France. Care should be taken to plan journeys and take regular breaks.In-car radar detectors are illegal in France whether in use or not. If caught with one, you are liable to fines and/or, confiscation of the device and the vehicle.Road Hauliers British haulage companies and their employees should contact the Road Hauliers Association at: for further information about driving in France.Heavy goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes are banned from driving on roads in France on a number of days during the year, including all Sundays and public holidays. Dates are set by the French Ministry of Transport. Road hauliers should contact the Road Hauliers Association, the Freight Transport Association or the Department of Transport for further information.British lorry drivers have been the subjects of assault near Calais by men who may have been illegal immigrants intent on either robbery or possibly using their lorries to illegally enter the UK. The Road Hauliers Association is aware of these incidents and can provide advice to drivers on matters of personal security.For more general information see Driving Abroad.

Air Travel

The revised EU-wide security measures that came into effect for all passengers departing from UK airports in November 2006 are also being implemented in France. For more details about this see Airline Security.
Entry requirements
Passports A passport valid for the proposed period of your stay is required for entry to France.Visas If your passport describes you as a British Citizen or British Subject with Right of Abode in the United Kingdom, you will not need a visa to enter France. Other British passport holders should confirm the current entry requirements with the nearest French Diplomatic mission. Travelling with children Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the French Embassy in London. Employment/Living in France For guidance on living and working in France please visit :
You should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as French nationals. It does not cover medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. For more general information see EHIC.British nationals planning a permanent move to France, especially those who have not yet reached retirement age, should consult the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) at the earliest opportunity to obtain advice on their longer-term entitlement as residents to health care provision under the French national system. Enquiries should be made to the DWP Overseas Medical Benefits help-line on 00 44 191 218 1999 which is open on Mondays to Fridays from 08.00 to 20.00 daily. Alternatively, information can be obtained direct from the English language service of the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (French social security service) on 00 33 8 20 90 42 12 or CLEISS (the Helpdesk in France for international mobility and social security) on 00 33 1 45 26 33 4. Information is also available on the website of the British Embassy in France.
In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 140,000 adults aged 15 or over in France were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 0.4% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.You should seek medical advice before travelling to France and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.For more general health information see Travel Health. Swine Flu (H1N1)
There are confirmed human cases of the A (H1N1) virus (Swine Flu) in France including one death (source: the French authorities). The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised its Pandemic Threat Alert Phase to Level 6. The WHO website at: www.who.inthas further details.
The French Authorities advise that travellers in France who think that they have flu symptoms should telephone “15” or contact a local General Practitioner for advice and assistance. Further information and advice on what to do if you are in France and think you have flu symptoms can be found at: 080509.pdf. In addition, you should monitor local media reports for any developments. There is a dedicated “Swine Flu” page on the FCO website. Guidance on Pandemic Flu is available on the UK Department of Health website at:
The French authorities do not at present systematically screen travellers arriving in France. Awareness posters and announcements are being used at ports of entry. Local authorities at ports of entry have the authority to isolate any passengers suffering from flu symptoms upon arrival and will deal with such incidents on a case by case basis. Should this occur, other passengers arriving may be subject to delay.
Organised youth groups in France are subject to strict hygiene controls. Should there be suspected cases of swine flu, groups may be isolated, as has already occurred in some cases.
For more information on Swine Flu in France, please visit the website of the British Embassy in Paris at Please also check Swine Flufor further information. Guidance about pandemic flu is also available through the UK Department of Health at: Influenza (Bird flu)
In 2007 two cases of Avian Influenza (bird flu) were reported in ducks in France, in the Diane-Capelle in the Moselle, in eastern France.You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which gives more detailed advice and information.
Natural disasters
Forest Fires Fires can be a regular occurrence in forested areas anywhere during the summer months but especially along the Mediterranean coast and on Corsica. It is not uncommon for fires to be started by unextinguished cigarettes thrown from cars or by the illegal lighting of campfires or barbecues. The fires are generally extinguished quickly and efficiently by experienced fire fighters, though short-term evacuations are sometimes necessary. Most visits to forested areas should remain trouble-free, but if you plan to stay in such an area you should familiarise yourself on arrival with local regulations as lighting fires in most forested areas is illegal and severe penalties exist for any infringement. You should also familiarise yourself with local emergency procedures in the event of fire.Avalanches There is often a danger of avalanches in the French Alpine regions. You are therefore advised to exercise due care and attention and observe all written notices and warning instructions and, where and when appropriate, consider carrying avalanche search equipment. For the latest on avalanche risk visit Sports activities and winter sports Conditions on roads in mountainous areas can quickly become difficult in winter. You should carry supplies such as water, food, warm clothing and medicines in your vehicle.Travellers to mountainous areas should take out comprehensive insurance to cover extra medical costs, repatriation or, in the départements of Savoie and Haute-Savoie, possible transfer to Switzerland for hospital treatment. For sports activities such as skiing, potholing and mountaineering, and for sports classed as dangerous (off-piste skiing or snow boarding, mountain biking, etc) travel insurance must include mountain rescue services and helicopter costs. Be aware of weather forecasts and conditions and make sure you are well equipped. Never undertake the activity alone and consider hiring a guide Always leave copies of your itinerary and plans with someone.If you intend to go hill walking in any part of France including Corsica, you should ensure that you are well prepared and equipped to cope both with the terrain, high temperatures and a lack of shade in summer and low temperatures during the winter months

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. For more general information see Travel Insurance.If things do go wrong when you are oversees then this is How We Can Help.Consular Registration Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency. More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.

Customs Regulations

There are strict customs regulations in force in France and the European Union, including movement of valuable items and assets. Further information can be found at


Legislation on the controls of cash entering or leaving the EU applies in all Member States. Any person entering or leaving the EU will have to declare the cash that they are carrying if this amounts to 10,000 euros or more; this includes cheques, travellers' cheques, money orders, etc. This will not apply to anyone travelling via the EU to a non-EU country, as long as the original journey started outside of the EU nor to those travelling within the EU.