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France > Details

Country Name
France
Geographical Area
547,030 square kilometers (386,662 square miles)
Population
60,876,136 (July 2006 est.)
Capital City
Paris
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People   Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese, Basque minorities
Language   French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)
Religion   Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%
Government   Republic. The chief of state is the president, elected by popular referendum to a six-year term. The head of government is the prime minister.
Head of Government   President François Hollande Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault
Embassy   American Embassy Pairs 2, rue Saint-Florentin 75382 Paris Cedex 08 Tel: 01 43 12 22 22
Visas   A valid passport is required of all U.S. citizens and foreign nationals entering France. No visa is needed for American visitors staying less than 90 days, unless you are a student planning to study in France. For longer stays, you must apply for a temporary-stay visa, long-term visa or residence card.

Health Risks   None.
Clothing Suggestions   Spring offers the best weather to visitors, with beach tourism picking up in May. Temperatures aren't too bad in autumn, although the short days mean limited sunlight and the cold starts to make itself felt towards the end of the season, even along the Côte d'Azur. Winter means playing in the snow in France's Alps and Pyrenees. Mid-July through to the end of August is when most city dwellers take their annual five weeks' vacation to the coasts and mountains, and the half-desolate cities tend to shut down a bit accordingly. The same happens during February and March.
Time Zone:   France is one hour ahead of Greenwich mean Time, so if it is noon in London, it is 1 pm in France and 7 am in Washington, DC.
Banking / Exchange   Banks are usually open weekdays 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In many cities outside Paris, banks close for an hour or two at lunchtime. Most Paris banks are closed Saturdays and Sundays. Provincial banks are often open Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday.
ATMs often have the best exchange rates. Virtually all ATMs in France take MasterCard and Visa, and many are linked to the Cirrus and Plus Systems. American Express has ATMs in major cities also.
Currency   Euro
Electric Current   Electricity
230V 50HzHz
Electric Plug Details
European plug with two circular metal pins
Credit Cards / Traveler Checks   Credit cards are accepted by larger hotels, restaurants and shops—especially those that cater to tourists—but cash is still the preferred method of payment. Traveler's checks can be changed at most banks and are accepted as payment at many tourist shops, hotels, and restaurants. Don't forget to take your passport when exchanging money. Be sure to ask for plenty of coins in small denominations when changing money.
Shopping   In large towns, bakers and food shops open very early in the morning and close around 7.00pm or 8.00pm (or even later in Paris). They are usually closed on Sunday afternoons, the afternoons of Public Holidays and one day in the week. Other shops open at 9.00am or 10.00am and close between 7.00pm and 8.00pm.

In the regions, they often close between 1.00pm and 2.00pm. They are usually open from Tuesday to Saturday (except public holidays). Large supermarkets are usually open until 9.00pm or 10.00pm.

Weights & measures   The metric system is standard throughout the country.
How to shop Tax Fee   1. Shop in any of the stores that display a TAX-FREE FOR TOURISTS window sticker and ask for a Tax-Free Shopping Form. With this form you can later claim your VAT (Value Added Tax) Refund. The VAT is included in the selling price. Non-European Union residents may reclaim VAT on purchasing amounting to approximately 175 euros or more at any participating store.
2. When you leave France, make sure your purchases and receipts are readily available for inspection. Allow plenty of time for this process when you arrive at the airport. A Customs official will stamp your form as long as the purchase was made within in the previous six months. Without this stamp, a form is not valid and VAT refund cannot be made.
3. A VAT refund will be mailed to you or placed in a credit card account
National Airport   Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), Paris Orly (ORY), Nice (NCE)
Major Tourist Attractions   Paris, French Riviera, Normandy, Provence, Brittany
Tipping Suggestion   Leaving a pourboire (tip) is done at your discretion - restaurants and accommodations add a 10-15% service charge to every bill, making a tip unnecessary, but most people leave a few coins if the service is satisfactory. Taxi drivers should be given 10% to 15% of the fare on the meter. It is customary to tip tour guides 5 to 7 EUR per person per day on multiday tours and drivers 3 to 5 EUR per person per day. The suggested tip for day tours is 10 to 15 EUR for the guide and 5 EUR for the driver.
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