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France: Paris and Provence 1 - FAQ
With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring France, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for your Paris and Provence tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information you'll need as you get ready for your French adventure.
France is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States. Like most European countries, France has daylight saving time which lasts from April to September. It moves its clocks ahead an hour in late spring and an hour back in the fall, corresponding roughly to daylight saving time in the United States, but the exact dates vary. When it's noon in Paris, it's 6 a.m. in New York and 3 a.m. in San Francisco.
There are so many beautiful things to bring back with you from France, so make sure you have space left in your suitcase. You do not need formal clothing for this trip. Some people like to dress up if they are visiting high-end restaurants, but this is optional. They only ask that you don't wear sneakers or jeans. Some churches may require that you cover your bare shoulders and legs when entering, so it's useful to carry a light scarf with you. Keep in mind that during the Paris and Provence tour we will be taking two trains, and you need to carry your luggage onboard the train. Porters are not always available, and if they are, handicapped travelers have priority. If you can find a porter, you can hire him for about 5 Euro per bag. All that means that you should pack light, so you can carry and handle your luggage onto the train (two high steps) yourself.
Visitors from the US, Canada and Australia need a valid passport, but visas are not required for Americans, Canadians or Australians visiting for less than 3 months. If you are a citizen of another E.U. country, you do not need a passport, only an identity card. Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the European Union. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another in your suitcase.
|ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION |
This tour starts and ends in Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris (airport code CDG). The tour starts in Paris, France on Friday, May 31, 2019 at 3:00PM, and your flight should arrive no later than 1:00PM. That means that you'll probably depart North America on Thursday, May 30, 2019. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early. We have arranged for individual airport transfers on arrival in accordance with your flight arrival time, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival in Paris. This tour ends at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 9, 2019 at the CDG Paris Airport, so your return flight should leave no sooner than 1:00 p.m. on June 9, 2019. If you need help with your flights to France, please feel free to give us a call.
To avoid jet lag (common when crossing more than five time zones) drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
The France tour group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. However, because we have only 10 rooms available on this tour, we may have a much smaller group. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be assisted by private local guides and bus drivers, who will be sharing their insights about France with the group throughout the tour.
In general, France is a safe destination. You don't need shots, most food is safe, and the water is potable. It is easy to get a prescription filled, and nearly all destinations have English-speaking doctors at hospitals with well-trained staffs. Travelers from Canada and the United States must pay for medical services rendered, but will be reimbursed by their travel insurance. There are very few health problems encountered while traveling in France. You should limit your exposure to the sun, especially during the first few days of your trip and between 11am to 2pm. Use a sunscreen with a high protection factor and apply it liberally. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry prescription medications in their original containers, with pharmacy labels. Otherwise, they won't make it through airport security. Also bring along copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your pills or run out. Don't forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.
The public drinking water in France is safe to drink. Some people prefer the bottled water available at restaurants, hotels, cafes, food stores, and kiosks. If you do order bottled water at a restaurant, you will have to choose between natural (sans gas) or carbonated (avec gas). Quite often, cafes tend to provide a glass of natural water.
If you're in dire need, duck into a cafe or brasserie to use the lavatory. It's customary to make a small purchase if you do so. Paris Métro stations and underground garages usually contain public restrooms, but the degree of cleanliness varies. France still has some "hole-in-the-ground" toilets, so be warned. Please keed in mind that some public toilets may require payment, so you should always have some coins in the local currency with you to pay for them.
France is generally a safe place in which to live and travel, but crime has risen dramatically in the last few years. Property crime is a major problem but it is extremely unlikely that you will be physically assaulted while walking down the street. Always check your government’s travel advisory warnings. The most common menace, especially in large cities like Paris, is the plague of pickpockets. Travelers can become targets of pickpockets and purse-snatchers, particularly at popular sites, in restaurants, and on public transportation. In general, visitors to France should carry limited cash and credit cards and should leave extra cash, credit cards, and personal documents at the hotel safe. Travelers should also avoid using ATMs in isolated or poorly lit areas. The problems you’re most likely to encounter are thefts, mainly pick-pocketing/bag snatching, especially in dense crowds and public places. A common ploy is for one person to distract you while another steals your wallet, camera or bag. Tired tourists on the train from the airport are a frequent target for thieves. Particularly in Paris, museums are beset by organized gangs of seemingly innocuous children who are actually trained pickpockets. However, there’s no need to travel in fear. Taking a few simple precautions will minimize travelers’ chances of being ripped off. Photocopy your passport, credit cards, plane tickets, driver’s license, and other important documents – leave one copy at home and keep another one with you, separate from the originals. A hidden money belt remains the safest way to carry money and valuable documents. Take only what you need on busy sightseeing days and use the hotel safe. On trains, keep bags as close as possible: the luggage racks (if in use) at the ends of the carriage are an easy target for thieves. Be especially vigilant at train stations, airports, fast-food outlets, cinemas, outdoor cafés and on public transport.
During the Paris and Provence tour in France, we will travel by bus and by train. In Paris, we will also use metro and walk a lot. To be able to fully enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 5 miles throughout the day, sometimes on cobbled streets and uneven surfaces. You should be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you should be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. Overall, this trip is not strenuous, although it is busy. You must be prepared for a couple of full days and some early starts.
France has a temperate climate with mild winters, except in mountainous areas and Alsace. French pleasures can be indulged in any time, although many Francophiles swear spring is best. Festivals, outdoor markets and gastronomic temptations around which to plan a trip abound year-round. The best time to visit begins in May (when the average temperature is 69 °F (21 °C) degrees and rainfall less than 0.6" (1.5 cm). The weather in Provence is about 10-15 °F (6-8 °C) warmer than in Paris, but it can get chilly at night. However, Provence is known for its fierce and cold wind known locally as Le Mistral which occurs mainly in spring. The Mistral may blow continuously for several days, and may cause headaches.
France's cities have Internet access available in internet cafes, hotel lobbies and in some public places. Internet access in rural areas may be available, but it varies widely. Cellular phone coverage is generally very good in France's cities and metropolitan areas, although expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. All hotels where we’ll be staying have WiFi Internet available for their guests.
Voltage in France is 220 volts AC (50 cycles) and the plug is the typical European plug with two round prongs. Many stores in North America sell the appropriate transformers and adapters, and they can also be purchased on arrival in Paris CDG airport. If you bring a hair dryer, it should be a dual-voltage one, and you'll need an adapter plug. Any heat generating appliances that you bring need a transformer, and they may still not work properly with the different voltage.
The Euro, the new single European currency, is the official currency of France. Each Euro is divided into 100 Eurocents. Some people like to bring local currency with them when traveling to a foreign country, but it is not needed, and depends on what you're comfortable with. We believe that the easiest way to get local currency is on arrival at the airport ATM. ATMs are common throughout France. You'll find them inside and outside all banks, in major shopping centers, in supermarkets and gas stations.
As a member of the European Union, France routinely imposes a value-added tax (VAT in English; TVA in French) on many goods and services. The standard VAT is 19.6% on merchandise, including clothing, appliances, liquor, leather goods, shoes, furs, jewelry, perfumes, cameras, and even caviar. Refunds are made for the VAT tax paid on certain goods and merchandise, but not on services. The minimum purchase for a VAT refund is 184€ at one time for nationals or residents of countries outside the E.U. To get a VAT refund on purchases that qualify, present your passport to the salesperson and ask for the special stamped form. Present the form with your purchases at the booth marked IVA Tax Refunds at the airport, as you leave the country. You'll get your money refunded right at the booth.
Restaurants, drivers and guides gratuities are included in the Paris and Provence tour price. The tour director's gratuity is not included, and it's at your discretion. While dining on your own, it's good to know that the French law requires all bills to say service compris, which means the total includes the tip. But French diners often leave some small change as an additional tip, especially if service has been exceptional. It is customary to leave 10% or "rounding off" on larger bills to the nearest 1€. Good taxi service merits a tip of 5% to 10%. Hotel chambermaids should be left about 2€ per night per room. Bellhops and doormen should be tipped 1€ to 2€, depending on the services they provide.
Gifts to bring from France are: French clothing, such as Hermès scarves, fisherman’s sweaters from Brittany, French berets or fishermen cap; French food such as Dijon mustard, mirabelle preserves from the South of France, olives from the Mediterranean coast, herbes de Provence or specialty sea salt; French wines, French-milled soap from the south of France, perfume.