France – The land of art, culture, and wine. With some of the best food in the world and most picturesque sights, no wonder that France is the most visited country in the world. If you’re heading there for the first time, here are five easy tips for your France trip to go smoothly.
Big French cities, with Paris in particular, have a serious pickpocketing problem. Don’t carry too much cash with you and try to keep your wallet in a money belt under your clothes, or swing your backpack to the front when in public transport.
We usually let our guard down when we’re having fun and French scammers know this all too well. Beware of the common tricks. Don’t accept “free” friendship bracelets (you will be charged) and don’t sign any street petitions (those usually include a donation field that you will be pressured into filling in).
Use a VPN whenever you connect to public Wi-Fi. Open Wi-Fi networks in hotels and cafes are usually unencrypted, making you an easy target for hacking attacks. VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts your traffic and protects your sensitive information from prying eyes.
Eat like a local
French dining usually starts with an aperitif, or pre-dinner drink. The unofficial national apéritif of France is Kir, a mix of white wine with blackcurrant liqueur ‘Crème de Cassis’. If you’re feeling fancy, go for Kir Royale made with champagne instead of wine. Aperitif is accompanied by snacks, such as olives, breadsticks, and cheese.
Not sure what to order for the main? Check the prix fixe (fixed price) menu. It’s selected by the chef and includes several dishes from the entrée (appetizer) to the dessert. That’s your whole meal sorted!
In addition to a pre-dinner drink, the French also have a digestif, a post-meal drink. Typically it’s espresso but you can also try fruit brandy or various local liqueurs.
Brush up on your French
French people are quite reluctant to speak English and they really appreciate it if you make an effort to speak their own language. Try learning at least a few basic words. A bonjour can go a long way!
Eating out in France is pretty expensive. If you want to spare your budget, organize a picnic instead. Get a baguette from a local bakery, some excellent cheese from the supermarket and cheaper-than-water wine and you’re all set. There are plenty of great places for a picnic in Paris and other French cities.
French National Museums (such as Louvre) are free for EU-citizen students under 26. If that’s you, make sure to bring your ISIC card. Museums in France are not among the cheap ones so you can save a lot of money!
Take care of your health
No one likes to plan for a potential illness but better safe than sorry! If you’re from any of the 28 EU countries, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, getting healthcare in France will be easy. Simply request a Health Insurance Card, or EHIC. It’s free of charge and affords the cardholder the same level of healthcare access as a resident in France. If you are not, make sure you purchase a health insurance plan suited for your needs. Make sure you do this ahead of your trip.