France

Eiffel Tower   Lavender Fields

Why France?                                                                    Click here to view video

France - the world's most popular tourist destination - can confidently claim to offer it all, from glamorous beaches and storybook castles to panoramic countryside and city chic. It's a country of dramatic juxtapositions - the expansive boulevards of Paris, the timeless greenery of the Loire Valley, the wide slopes of the Alps, the lavender fields of Provence, the gourmet restaurants of Lyon, the rugged charm of Corsica - and one which, when taken as a whole, presents a near-perfect visitor package.

Paris itself is one of the globe's truly great cities: a multi-layered realm of high fashion, historical riches and haute cuisine. But seen in a wider context, it's just one of many world-class tourist destinations that France has to offer. "How could one describe a country which has 365 kinds of cheese?" once asked former French president Charles De Gaulle. It's a good question. Good, bad or ugly, everyone has something to say about France and the French: chic, smart, sexy, rude, racist, bureaucratic, bitchy as hell, pavements studded with dog poo, baguettes that dry out by lunchtime and a penchant for torching cars is some of the chitchat on the street. Spice up the cauldron with the odd urban riot, political scandal and a 35-hour working week - not to mention a massive box-office hit like The Da Vinci Code taking over Paris or superstar Angelina Jolie allegedly plumping for a chateau in Normandy to raise her kids - and the international media is all ears too.
 
This is, after all, that fabled land of good food and wine, of royal chateaux and perfectly restored farmhouses, of landmarks known the world over and hidden landscapes few really know. Savour art and romance in the shining capital on the River Seine. See glorious pasts blaze forth at Versailles. Travel south for Roman civilisation and the sparkling blue Med; indulge your jet-set fantasies in balmy Nice and St-Tropez. Ski the Alps. Sense the subtle infusion of language, music and mythology in Brittany brought by 5th-century Celtic invaders. Smell ignominy on the beaches of Normandy and battlefields of Verdun and the Somme. And know that this is but the tip of that gargantuan iceberg the French call culture.
 
Yes, this is that timeless land whose people have a natural joie de vivre and savoir- faire - and have for centuries. But change is afoot. France and the French are fed up - and inspired. It's on the tip of everyone's tongues.

  • When should I travel?
French pleasures can be indulged in any time, although many Francophiles swear spring is best. In the hot south sun-worshippers bake from June to early September (summer) while winter-sports enthusiasts soar down snow-covered mountains mid-December to late March (winter). Festivals and gastronomic temptations around which to plan a trip abound year-round.  School holidays – Christmas and New Year, mid-February to mid-March, Easter, July and August – see millions of French families descend on the coasts, mountains and other touristy areas. Traffic-clogged roads, sky-high accommodation prices and sardine-packed beaches and ski slopes are downside factors of these high-season periods. Many shops take their congé annuel (annual closure) in August; Sundays and public holidays are dead everywhere. The French climate is temperate, although it gets nippy in mountainous areas and in Alsace and Lorraine. The northwest suffers from high humidity, rain and biting westerly winds, while the Mediterranean south enjoys hot summers and mild winters.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
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.

  • What money should I take?
The currency is the Euro (EUR). American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. Travellers cheques are accepted nearly everywhere.

  • What language will they understand?
French is the official language. There are many regional dialects, but these are rapidly declining and many people speak at least some English.

  • How about my health?
The health care in France is of a very high standard. Pharmacies in France are denoted by a green cross, usually in neon. 
Since drug brand names vary across countries even though the effective ingredients stay the same, it is better to carry prescriptions using the international nomenclature in addition to the commercial brand name. Medical treatment can be obtained from self-employed physicians, clinics and hospitals. Travellers from South Africa should have travel insurance covering medical costs.

  • Public Holidays

2012
01 January New Year's Day
09 April Easter Monday
01 May Labour Day
08 May 1945 Victory Day
17 May Ascension
28 May Whit Monday
14 July Bastille Day
15 August Assumption
01 November All Saints' Day
11 November Remembrance Day
25 December Christmas Day

2013
01 January New Year's Day
01 April Easter Monday
01 May Labour Day
08 May  1945 Victory Day 
09 May Ascension Day
20 May Whit Monday
14 July Bastille Day
15 August Assumption
01 November All Saints' Day
11 November Armistice Day
25 December Christmas Day

  • Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders require a visa for France.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
There are no innoculations required for entrance into France.