Top events in France

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Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
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Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

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France Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

551,500 sq km (212,935 sq miles) not including overseas territories.

Population

66.99 million (2019).

Population density

120 per sq km.

Capital

Paris.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Emmanuel Macron since 2017.

Head of government

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal since 2024.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are used.

You could spend a lifetime's worth of holidays in France and still feel as if you hadn't done the country justice. It remains one the planet's most visited tourist destination, meriting its standing with an almost overwhelming mass of historical treasures, storybook landscapes, and cultural idiosyncrasies.

The teeming glam of Paris makes for one hell of a centrepiece, matching any city on the planet for ambiance, individuality, and set-piece sights. But the real beauty of France, in many ways, lies elsewhere. The country's natural gifts are striking with white sandy beaches, hulking mountains and swathes of rolling countryside. It's a land that has inspired dreamers and drinkers, revolutionaries and artists. 

You can soak up the A-list beaches of the Cote d’Azur, drowse in the timeless greenery of the Loire Valley or gaze up at the monumental peaks of the Alps. Wander the lavender fields of Provence, eat your way around the legendary bistros of Lyon or sample the rugged charm of Corsica. France's cities, coastline, and countryside all have their own endearing rewards, and when taken as a whole, they present a near-perfect visitor package.

That's not to say that France is somewhere easily bracketed. When you're walking the moody portside backstreets of Marseille or delving among the sprawling flea markets of Paris, it can be a job to remember that they're all part of the same country as the vineyards of Alsace and the sand dunes of the Atlantic coast.

This diversity, in many ways, is the magic of France. It's why countless magazines, books, and texts have dedicated their works to the joys of the French lifestyle. It's why the national spirit is well-known for its boldness and radiance. And it's one reason why, in a world full of historical wonder and natural beauty, France still draws more tourist attention than anywhere else.

"How can one describe a country which has 246 kinds of cheese?" once asked former French president Charles De Gaulle. Even today, it's a very good question.

Travel Advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:

  • advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
  • information for women, LGBT and disabled travellers

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in France set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact France’s Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19

Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel company or airline for changes.

Visit TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre) for general COVID-19 advice for travellers.

Public spaces

You’re strongly recommended to wear a face mask in health settings. In some areas, people aged 6 and above may need to wear a face mask.

Passport validity requirements

If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, follow the Schengen area passport requirements.

Your passport must be:

  • issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
  • valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)

Check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.

Contact the French Embassy in the UK if you think that your passport does not meet both these requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

Passport stamping

At French border control, you may need to:

  • show proof of where you intend to stay, for example, a hotel booking or proof of address if visiting your own property
  • show proof of insurance for your trip – check FCDO’s travel insurance guidance
  • show a return or onward ticket
  • prove that you have enough money for your whole stay

Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through France as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.

You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area, and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.

If you live in France, read our Living in France guide for passport stamping information.

Proof of accommodation and funds

You may need to show proof of where you intend to stay. Read about documents you may need for short stays on the French government website. This will differ depending on where you are staying.

Staying with family, friends or a third party

You may be asked to provide an ‘attestation d’accueil’ (welcome invitation) from your host. The French resident hosting you must get the ‘attestation d’accueil’ from their local mayor’s office, and send the original ‘attestation’ before you enter France. Be prepared to show proof that you have at least €32.50 euros a day for the duration of your stay.

Second homes in France

You will need to be able to prove ownership or tenancy of your property, such as a tax or utility bill.

Staying in a hotel or other commercial accommodation

You may be asked for confirmation of your reservation when entering France. Be prepared to show proof that you have at least €65 euros a day for the duration of your stay.

Other circumstances

If you do not have an ‘attestation d’accueil’ (welcome invitation) or any pre-booked accommodation, you may be asked to prove you have at least €120 euros a day for the duration of your stay.

For more information on these requirements, visit the French government’s website on travel conditions for British citizens.

Visa requirements

You can travel to countries in the Schengen area, which France is part of, for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel:

  • as a tourist
  • to visit family or friends
  • to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
  • for short-term studies or training

If you are travelling to France and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.

To stay longer (to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons), you will need to meet the French government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa you may need on the France Visas website.

If you are travelling to France for work, read the guidance on visas and permits.

If you stay in France with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.

British citizens who cannot return to the UK before their visa, permit or visa-free limit expires should contact their local prefecture in France.

Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and vaccination certificates you may need on TravelHealthPro.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of France. Check the French Directorate General of Customs and Excise website. Declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Taking food and drink into the EU

You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in France

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in France.

Terrorism attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreign nationals such as:

  • shopping centres
  • entertainment establishments
  • cultural events
  • public transport
  • places of worship

Methods of attack have included knife attacks, shootings, bombings and vehicle attacks. Be vigilant in public places and follow the advice of local French authorities.

There have been several recent high-profile terrorist attacks in France, including: 

  • in 2023, one person was killed in a knife and hammer attack in central Paris  
  • in 2023, a teacher was killed in a knife attack in a school in Arras

Industrial action and demonstrations

There can be frequent industrial action across France. This can lead to disruption and delays on public transport. If you’re due to travel to or within France, monitor the media, check your operator’s advice and follow the advice of the authorities.

D-Day commemoration 

Between 5 and 7 June commemorative events for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings will take place in Normandy. Commemoration events are ticketed and it’s not possible to attend if you’re not in possession of a ticket in advance.

Plan your journey 

On 6 June from 6am until 8pm, there will be a restricted traffic zone north and west of Caen from the RN13 road area to the sea. You must display a vehicle sticker on your windshield in this area. Check the Calvados Prefecture D-Day 80 page (in French) for further information, including a map of the restricted areas. Some roads may be closed, allow extra time for your journey.

Crime

Protecting your belongings

Take sensible precautions against street and car crime. Pickpockets can work in gangs; one distracts you while the other one goes into your bag. Don’t leave your passport or other valuable items alone in vehicles.

Thieves and pickpockets operate on the Paris underground, RER lines and at mainline stations. Make sure you:

  • don’t keep your passport, credit cards and other valuables in the same place
  • use the inside compartments in bags where possible
  • carry your bag across your body rather than on your shoulder
  • keep your belongings close to you in restaurants and bars
  • aren’t distracted around tourist attractions and cash points

If your passport is lost or stolen, it is advisable to report this to the police and obtain a police report.

Assault

There have been several cases of serious assault on the RER (train) line B, which serves:

  • Paris Charles de Gaulle airport
  • Orly airports
  • Paris Gare du Nord Eurostar terminus

There have also been serious assaults on RER line D, which serves the Stade de France.

Be drink aware

Drinks served in bars abroad are often stronger than those in the UK. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers or leaving your drinks unattended. Victims of spiked drinks have been robbed and sometimes assaulted.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

You must be able to prove your identity either by providing documents when asked or within 4 hours at a police station. Identity documents can be:

  • passport
  • photo driving licence
  • other documentation provided by a government body

Covering your face in public

Covering your face in public places in France is illegal. This includes balaclavas, full veils or any other garment or mask that is used to hide the face. You can be fined up to €150 euros if you don’t comply. Forcing someone to hide their face is also a crime and is punishable by a year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to €30,000 euros. If the person forced to hide their face is under 18 years old, the sentence is doubled. This law applies to tourists.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Swimming safety

Some beaches may have strong undercurrents known as riptides (baïnes), especially along the Atlantic Coast. Local sea conditions can be dangerous even for strong swimmers.

Most beaches have lifeguards and flag warning systems. Make sure you understand the warning system before swimming and always follow the advice closely. Follow local advice if there are jellyfish in the sea.

There is a risk of rip tides in some areas, particularly around the coast of Gironde and Landes. See further information on the Gironde Prefecture French local authority website (in French).

See more information on safe swimming on ABTA’s swim safe webpages.

Trekking, winter sports and mountaineering

Check weather forecasts and conditions and make sure you’re properly prepared. Don’t undertake any activity alone and consider hiring a guide for expert advice. Always leave copies of your itinerary with someone.

For sporting activities, or travel to mountainous areas, make sure your insurance covers you for extra medical costs in case of accident or emergency, mountain rescue services and helicopter costs. In the départements of Savoie and Haute-Savoie, you may need to be transferred to Switzerland for treatment.

Read FCDO advice on how to stay safe on the slopes.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you’re planning to drive in France, see information on driving abroad and read the RAC France guide .

Licences and permits

You need either a 1968 international driving permit (IDP) or a valid UK driving licence to drive in France. The 1949 IDP is not accepted anymore. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You must be 18 or over to drive in France.

Driving a British car abroad

You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. These have replaced GB stickers. Check the guidance on displaying number plates if you are driving outside the UK.

Road safety

If you’re involved in a car accident or witness an accident on the motorway, use the orange emergency phones to ask for help.

If you are driving long distances in France:

  • plan your journey carefully
  • take into account unknown roads, weather conditions and fatigue
  • take regular breaks

Keep vehicle doors locked in slow-moving traffic and secure your vehicle if you leave it unattended.

Information on road safety and potential traffic black spots is available on the Bison Futé website (in French only). Alternatively, real-time information on road traffic conditions is available on 107.7 FM in French and in English (Motorways radio – Autoroute Info).

Migrants around Calais may try to enter the UK illegally. Sometimes migrants might try to slow down traffic on roads to ports, including by placing obstacles on the Calais Port road. If this happens, keep moving where it’s safe to do so, or stop and call 112 if isn’t safe to proceed. Keep car doors locked.

Driving regulations

France has strict drink driving laws. Police regularly carry out roadside checks for alcohol and drugs. Penalties include fines, loss of licence and prison. You can be given on-the-spot fines for a variety of driving offences, including speeding.

Air pollution sticker

All vehicles driving in central Paris, Lyon and Grenoble must display a pollution sticker from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday. Checks can happen at any time, depending on pollution levels.

Some older vehicles don’t qualify for a sticker at all due to their high emissions. These vehicles can’t be driven in central Paris at all from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.

Other cities may also limit vehicle access to town centres and main roads. For more information or to apply for a sticker, visit the French Ministry of Environment website.

Road hauliers

Burglaries can happen while lorry drivers are asleep in their vehicles. You should:

  • avoid parking in isolated or dark areas of unsupervised camping grounds or car parks
  • consider installing an alarm

There have been attempts by illegal migrants to enter lorries while stationary or in slow-moving traffic. Take sensible precautions against vehicle break-ins.

Heavy goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes are banned from driving on roads in France on some days, including all Sundays and public holidays. Dates are set by the French Ministry of Transport. See full restrictions on the Bison Futé website.

Camping and caravanning

Burglaries can happen while travellers are asleep in their caravans, mobile homes and other vehicles. You should:

  • avoid parking in isolated or dark areas of unsupervised camping grounds or car parks
  • consider installing an alarm

There have been many attempts by illegal migrants to enter vehicles while stationary or in slow-moving traffic. Take sensible precautions, particularly in northern France.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Forest fires

Forest fires happen anywhere in southern France during the summer months, particularly along the Mediterranean coast and in Corsica.

Fires have become more frequent because of drought and high temperatures. French authorities may evacuate areas and close roads for safety reasons.

If you’re staying in a high-risk area, you shoud:

  • check the local safety and emergency procedures
  • be vigilant
  • follow the advice of local authorities

See more information on how to stay safe on the French Government website. If you are caught in, or witness a wildfire, call the emergency services on 18 (fire) or 112 (emergency services).

Flooding

There is a risk of flooding in areas of France. If your accommodation is near a river, check the vigicrues website for more information on potential flood risks.

Avalanches

There is a risk of avalanches in mountainous areas. Check weather conditions on the Meteo France website and follow local advice before you ski or hike.

Observe all warnings about avalanches and where appropriate consider carrying avalanche search equipment. Check the latest avalanche risk areas on the Meteo Alarm website. Conditions on roads in mountainous areas can quickly become difficult in winter. Carry water, food, warm clothing and medicines in your vehicle.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 112 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

For more information, read guidance on healthcare when travelling in Europe.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

There have been cases of the mosquito-borne disease, dengue fever, in France. You should take appropriate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

TravelHealthPro explains best practice when travelling with medicines.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in France

FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in France.

COVID-19 healthcare in France

The French government advises people with possible COVID-19 symptoms to take a COVID-19 test. You can buy PCR and self-administered rapid antigen tests from pharmacies. For more information on how to get COVID-19 tests, see the French government’s COVID-19 website.

If you test positive, the French authorities recommend you contact your doctor, follow basic hygiene rules, alert your direct contacts, work from home if possible and avoid contact with vulnerable people.

Health insurance cards

Apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC, it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.

The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state-provided medical treatment necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as French nationals. If you do not have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team.

It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. An EHIC or GHIC does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.

EHIC and GHIC cover state healthcare only, not private treatment. You will be responsible for the cost of any treatment provided by a private doctor or private clinic.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in France

If you need to contact the emergency services, call these numbers:

Ambulance: 15

Fire: 18

Police: 17

All services: 112

Deaf and hard of hearing emergency number via SMS, Chat, video and fax: 114

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

You can also contact FCDO online.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.