Bonjour, mes amis américains! As a Frenchman, I am thrilled to share with you some insider tips before you embark on your journey to the beautiful land of France. From the enchanting streets of Paris to the picturesque vineyards of Bordeaux, France has much to offer.

However, there are a few cultural nuances and practices that may differ from what you’re accustomed to in the United States. So, before you set foot in France, here are five essential things you must know.

things You Must Know Before Traveling to France

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1. Don’t Buy Toiletries at Pharmacies

It’s Expensive! One of the common mistakes visitors make is purchasing toiletries, such as shampoo, toothpaste, or sunscreen, at pharmacies. While pharmacies are well-stocked and convenient, their prices for basic toiletries can be quite high. Instead, I recommend you visit supermarkets or larger retail stores like Monoprix or Carrefour, where you’ll find a wide range of affordable toiletries.

By avoiding pharmacies for these items, you can save some euros for indulging in delicious French cuisine or experiencing local attractions. It’s always a good idea to compare prices and make informed choices to make the most of your travel budget.

2. At Restaurants, They Don’t Bring the Check Until You Ask

In France, dining is an unhurried affair, and the notion of lingering over a meal is highly valued. Unlike in the United States, where the check is often brought to the table promptly after the meal, in France, it’s customary to wait until you request the check. This is considered polite and gives you the freedom to savor your dining experience without feeling rushed.

So, take your time, enjoy the atmosphere, and when you’re ready to pay, simply ask for “l’addition, s’il vous plaît.” Embrace the relaxed pace of French dining, allowing yourself to fully immerse in the gastronomic delights of the country.

3. The Tip is Included in France

Unlike in many other countries, tipping in France is not obligatory. The gratuity is generally included in the service charge, which is already included in the bill. However, if you receive exceptional service and want to show your appreciation, it is customary to leave a small additional tip. This gesture is not expected but is always welcomed. If you choose to leave a tip, round up the bill or leave a few euros on the table. Remember, tipping should be seen as a sign of gratitude rather than an obligation. Regardless, always ensure you express your appreciation verbally to the waitstaff.

4. Prices Are Tax Included Everywhere

When you go shopping or dine out in France, the prices you see are inclusive of taxes. Unlike in the United States, where sales tax is added at the point of sale, the displayed price in France already includes Value Added Tax (VAT). This means that the price you see on the tag or menu is the final amount you’ll pay.

It’s a straightforward system that makes budgeting and calculating expenses much easier for visitors. So, when you see a price, rest assured that it includes all applicable taxes. However, it’s important to note that for certain high-end services or goods, such as luxury items, there might be an additional tax called “taxe de luxe” or “taxe de séjour.” These additional taxes will usually be clearly stated.

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5. Many Museums in France Are Free!

Art and culture thrive in France, and the country is home to numerous world-class museums and galleries. Here’s a delightful secret: many museums in France offer free admission on certain days or for specific categories of visitors. For instance, on the first Sunday of each month, most national museums, including the Louvre in Paris, offer free entry to all visitors.

Additionally, some museums have specific days when admission is free for everyone under the age of 26. This provides a fantastic opportunity to explore the rich cultural heritage of France without breaking the bank. Take advantage of these opportunities to immerse yourself in art, history, and culture, and appreciate the masterpieces that grace the walls of these institutions.

Bottom line

As you prepare for your trip to France, keep these five essential tips in mind. Remember to shop for toiletries at supermarkets to save some money, embrace the relaxed pace of dining and ask for the check when you’re ready to pay, understand that tipping is not obligatory but leaving a small additional tip for exceptional service is appreciated, and be aware that prices in France already include taxes.

Take advantage of the many free admission days offered by museums in France to immerse yourself in the country’s rich cultural offerings. By being aware of these cultural nuances and practices, you’ll navigate your way through France with ease and fully enjoy all that this captivating country has to offer. Bon voyage et profitez bien de votre séjour en France! (Bon voyage and enjoy your stay in France!)

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