Travel advice for France
Travel advice for France:
SAFETY & SECURITY
As in other parts of the European Union, the French government is fully aware of the threat of terrorism and is taking measures to combat this threat. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about potential threats to safety. Terrorist attacks could be indiscriminate and targeted at places frequented by tourists. Visitors to France will notice high levels of security, particularly in airports and on the railway and metro systems. Since 2005, France has maintained its terrorism alert level at "red", the second-highest on a four level scale. As part of the government's Vigipirate security programme, there is a highly visible police and army presence in cities and near main tourist attractions. Many museums, galleries and tourist attractions have security screening programmes in place and you may be asked to present your bags for inspection before being admitted.
If travelling by train, your luggage must be clearly marked with your name and should not be left unattended. Many left-luggage offices in train stations have been closed for security reasons; if you are planning to use these facilities, you should try to confirm their availability in advance or make alternative arrangements.
Strikes, marches and demonstrations in France often result in confrontation between the demonstrators and the riot police. You are advised to exercise caution and to avoid areas where large-scale demonstrations are taking place.
Advice for motorists
The traditional French summer holiday periods will see extremely heavy traffic on the weekends of 4 July, 11 July, 1 August and 15 August. Motorists are advised to allow plenty of extra time and to take regular breaks on their journeys on these weekends, particularly on routes connecting Paris to the south. As severe traffic jams can occur on the motorways, you should always ensure that you have plenty of fuel and to refuel regularly as it may take much longer than you think to reach the next service station!
To help plan your journey, you may wish to consult traffic websites such as http://www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr/diri/Accueil.do , http://www.sytadin.fr/ or http://www.infotrafic.com/home.php for further information on expected delays on the most popular routes. These websites are only available in French; however the colour-coded maps and graphics can be understood by non-French speakers.
The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to France. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
Irish Citizens should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
You should also obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) free of charge which entitles you to emergency medical treatment. This card is NOT a substitute for travel insurance. See www.ehic.ie for further details. The EHIC replaces the Form E111, which is no longer valid.
Irish citizens travelling or living overseas, outside the Common Travel Area, (Ireland/Great Britain) are encouraged to register their contact details with the Department of Foreign Affairs. Registration is voluntary. It is a facility available to all Irish citizens travelling abroad although it is primarily intended for those who are travelling to remote destinations or locations where they may be at risk. For more information, please visit our Travel Registration page by clicking here.
Irish passport holders do not require a visa to enter France.
It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times. You should ensure that your passport is valid for the full length of your stay.
France and Monaco both use the euro. Bank machines are plentiful in major cities but may be more difficult to find in rural areas. Irish bank and credit cards are generally accepted. French retailers use the "chip and pin" system so be sure that you know your PIN before you leave. Some shops may ask to see official identification before accepting foreign credit cards.
Most of France has a moderate to low rate of crime. However, travellers to France should be aware of the possibility of petty crime, such as wallet/ handbag theft and pick-pocketing, particularly at tourist attractions and on the transport systems (Métro, RER train in particular the line B that goes to/from the airports) in the greater Paris area. Some overnight inter-city trains have also been targeted by thieves. On metros and trains, take particular care of your belongings as the doors are closing, as opportunistic thieves on the platform have been known to snatch passengers' bags just as the train doors close. If you have been the victim of theft, you must report it as soon as possible to the nearest police station "commissariat" or gendarmerie.
If your bank or credit card is lost or stolen, you should contact your bank or credit card company immediately to prevent fraudulant use. Please make a note of the contact details for your bank or credit card provider before travelling. Contact details for the lost/stolen card services of some of the main Irish banks and credit card companies are below:
AIB: 00353 1 6685500
Bank of Ireland: 00 353 56 7757007
MBNA: 00 353 71 965 6262
National Irish Bank: 00 353 0 1 4843701
Ulster Bank: 00 353 1 7025108
Theft from vehicles is common, particularly in the south of France. Drivers should keep doors locked, windows rolled up and valuables out of sight while driving and parked. In some tourist areas along the south coast, it is common for drivers to remove the parcel shelf so that would-be thieves can see that there is nothing worth stealing in the boot. Mobile homes and camper-vans have also been targeted by thieves; please ensure that you take appropriate steps such as an alarm or using a safety-deposit box to protect your belongings there. Back to top
DRIVING / ROAD SAFETY
The Department of Foreign Affairs encourages caution and vigilance when driving in France, as regulations differ from Ireland in many areas; for example, the minimum age for driving in France is 18, 17 year olds with valid Irish driving licences are not permitted to drive on French roads. Provisional licences / learner permits are not valid in France. Traffic in France travels on the right; if you are not used to driving on the right, be extra cautious. It may be helpful to stick an arrow or a "keep right" sign on your dasboard; this can be particularly useful at roundabouts or when taking off from a parking space where your natural instinct may be to head for the left-hand side of the road.
Visitors to France should be careful to observe local regulations as penalties for transgressions are applied. On 4 January 2012 new legislation regarding driving came into force. Penalties for various offences have been increased. Depending on the offence this can range from an on-the-spot fine, to confiscation of the driving licence, to imprisonment (for serious offences such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or negligent driving). If your licence is confiscated, you will not be allowed to continue driving and your vehicle will be impounded unless another fully licenced driver is available to drive it.
As of 1 July 2012, single use breathalysers are obligatory in all motorised vehicles. Motorists and motorcyclists travelling to France should purchase a kit complying with French regulations and carrying the “NF” label. Road users are advised to carry at least two breathalysers at all times.
All vehicles must carry a red reflective warning triangle. This must be displayed 30 metres from the vehicle in case of a break-down or accident (except in the case of a break-down on a motorway where it is not safe to walk back 30 metres - in this case the triangle must be displayed a reasonable distance from the broken-down vehicle, taking into account safety considerations). From 1 July 2008, all drivers must also carry a luminous high-visibility vest in the main body of the vehicle (i.e. not in the boot). The vest is to be worn in case of a break-down at any time and must be put on before you get out of the vehicle. Failure to produce the required safety equipment at an accident/breakdown scene or during a police inspection can result in a fine. There are frequently police checkpoints at the exits of the major ferry ports to check whether drivers have the required safety equipment, so it is best to ensure that you have all the necessary equipment before travelling to France.
Visitors to France should also be aware that failure to stop and help a third party in difficulty, should they be witness to an incident (on the road or elsewhere) is an offence. If you need to stop on the roadside to assist, you must put on your high-visibility vest before leaving your own vehicle, as described above.
Drivers should be aware that at some but by no means all junctions, traffic coming from the right has priority and should therefore takes extra care at all times.
Hundreds of extra speed cameras have been installed across the country and the police are now especially vigilant on speeding in an on-going drive to reduce road deaths.
Truck drivers should familiarise themselves with national regulations, particularly the details on when they are or are not allowed to use the motorways.
Pedestrians should also be vigilant and aware that the traffic will be coming from the opposite direction to traffic in Ireland. They should be particularly aware of the additional danger at night, when walking along roads without a proper pavement and when crossing roads even at a designated crossing place.
Paris and many other cities now have public bicycle-rental schemes. As a cyclist, you may not cycle on the footpaths unless a cycle lane is marked as part of the path, you must obey all relevant traffic rules and you should take appropriate safety precautions, particularly if you are not familiar with cycling on the right-hand side of the road. It is not recommended that you cycle if you are under the influence of alcohol. All cyclists must wear a luminous high-visibility vest when cycling outside urban areas at night.
You should only take properly licenced and marked taxis. Beware of people claiming to be taxi drivers who often tout for business at the arrivals areas in airports, train stations or at major bus stations - registered taxi drivers are not allowed to solicit business in this way. Drivers of unlicenced taxis frequently do not respect rules on fares and, more importantly, will not have undergone security and police checks that are compulsory for registered taxi drivers. There have been recent cases of assaults on foreign tourists by unlicenced taxi drivers. If you are in any doubt, do not use the service.
Licenced taxis are marked by a white roof sign and the driver's professional identity card displayed on the left-hand side of the windscreen. A meter will be visible in the centre of the dashboard and in the rear window, and there will be a sticker in the left rear window setting out the main rules governing taxis and fares.
LOCAL LAWS & CUSTOMS
Visitors to France are reminded that the importation, consumption and/or trafficking of illegal substances is a serious offence in France.
If you are found to be in possession of illegal drugs or smuggled goods, you may be held in pre-trial detention for the investigation period (which can last for several months or even years). If your vehicle was carrying illegal drugs or smuggled goods, French Customs may impound it for the investigation period.
Buying Property in France
Irish citizens intending to purchase property in France are strongly advised to consult an independent legal advisor from the beginning of the process. You should also be aware that as a property owner, you may be liable for annual taxes on the value of your property; please consult a qualified tax or legal advisor for advice. The Embassy is not in a position to advise on the purchase of property or to intervene in property disputes.
IN THE EVENT OF AIR TRAFFIC DISRUPTION
The following information has been given in good faith to the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist Irish citizens, however, the Department does not accept any responsibility for its accuracy at any particular point in time.
In the event of air travel disruption similar to that linked to volcanic activity in Iceland in April and May 2010, some alternative options for returning to Ireland are as follows:
Direct routes to Ireland: Cherbourg-Rosslare and Roscoff-Cork
Irish Ferries: Cherbourg to Rosslare
Celtic Link: Cherbourg to Rosslare
Brittany Ferries: Roscoff to Cork
Ferry ports with routes to Britain
Calais Port – Dover (P&O, Seafrance)
Calais (Eurotunnel – for passengers with cars only) – Folkestone
Dunkerque – Dover (Norfolk Lines)
Boulogne – Dover (LD Lines)
Dieppe – Newhaven (Transmanche Ferries)
Le Havre – Portsmouth (LD Lines)
Caen – Portsmouth (Brittany Ferries)
Cherbourg – Poole (Brittany Ferries), Portsmouth (Brittany Ferries & Condor Ferries)
St Malo – Poole (Condor Ferries), Weymouth (Condor Ferries), Plymouth (Brittany Ferries)
Roscoff – Plymouth (Brittany Ferries)
Belgium – ports / Eurostar
Hook of Holland
Eurostar operates from Paris, Lille, Calais and Brussels to London St Pancras. Bookings through www.eurostar.com or (from within France – premium rates apply) 0892-353539.
Website for booking trains within France: http://www.voyages-sncf.com/
We are aware of various websites offering car-sharing possibilities, however, this Department cannot vouch for the validity of these companies. Any decisions to avail of such services are taken at a person's own risk.