This article outlines a few general facts and deals with some misconceptions, by providing general information to guide you if you are planning a holiday in France, especially if you have never visited before.
Do I need innoculations to visit France?
No specific innoculations are required to visit France. France also has an excellent health system if you run into any problems during your visit.
Can I drink the water in France?
Yes, there is no problem with drinking tap water in France. Sometimes the water is very hard, and occasionally the water authorities get over-enthusiastic with the chemicals and the water doesn't taste great, but there is no health risk!
Bottled water is also very cheap and very widely drunk, although it is not necessary for health reasons.
Dangers from wildlife
You should bring insect repellent, especially against mosquitoes.
Hornets: During your visit you may encounter hornets. These look rather like wasps but are MUCH bigger - at least two or three times bigger than a wasp. Contrary to popular belief you will not die from three hornet stings (unless you are allergic!), but they are very serious stings and not to be taken lightly. It can require less than 10 hornet stings to cause a coma in an adult. Happily hornets are very docile, and will generally not bother you. In the countryside, don't leave windows open and lights on after dark, especially in south-west france
Snakes: the snakes in France include adders/vipers, which have a very poisonous bite - stay very calm and seek immediate medical attention if bitten by an adder. Generally they are scared of people and there is a high probability you will never come across one, but you should avoid walking barefoot or in open sandals through long grass. This apples to children as well, since the small jaws of the adder can more easily bite a child's foot than an adults.
There are also grass snakes in France - often quite large (more than a metre long) and predominantly yellow or green. The bite is not venomous but it is painful. Again they will only bite if provoked or cornered.
Other animals and wildlife: There is little other danger from wildlife in France. Common sense says that you should avoid dogs and other animals behaving in a curious manner, because of the theoretical risk from rabies. If you sleep rough in the mountains you could come across bears or wolves, but most visitors will not see these!
See Wildlife in France for more information.
What is the currency in France?
In common with most of Europe, France now uses the euro which includes 100 cents as its currency.
Travellers cheques might be hard to exchange, but all towns of any size have cashpoint machines / hole-in-the-wall machines where your own cash card should work, using the same PIN number as at home. This is generally much more straightforward than trying to exchange currency in a small town where facilities often do not exist.
See Currency in France for more information.
What is the weather like in France?
France is a large country and each region has its own distinctive climate and weather. The further towards the south-east you go the warmer it is likely to be.
How do I get around in France?
In cities there is usually a good public transport system, and between cities there is an efficient and fast train system.
However when you leave these key routes public transport is usually almost non-existent. Most rural areas have virtually no buses or trains, and car hire will be essential
Most small towns in France will have a taxi service for transport in the local area e.g. getting back to your villa after a night in a restaurant. Check this before drinking too much - small taxi companies are often one-man operations and it might be their night off!
See car hire in france if you need to hire a car for your visit.
Drinking and Driving in France
The simple rule is - follow the law! The speed limits and drink driving limits are rigidly enforced. Two particularly important things to be aware of:
- speed limits are reduced in wet weather
- it is imperative that you stop completely at a STOP sign, not just slow down a lot! This applies even if you can clearly see that the road is clear.
See article about Driving in France for more detailed information.