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France

If you’re travelling to France, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information. 

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), available by contacting the Health Service Executive, and that you also obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security Status

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution.

Latest Travel Alert

A serious security incident took place in Nice on the night of 14 July. Irish citizens in Nice should closely follow the advice of local authorities, which is currently to remain indoors, and that the area around the Promenade des Anglais is closed. The Embassy is in contact with the French authorities, and we will update this page as information becomes available.

Irish citizens throughout France should exercise a high degree of caution, and follow the instructions of local authorities. Airlines have shown flexibility in changing tickets and your airline should be your first point of contact in this regard.

Periodic transport and air traffic control strikes across France have been affecting rail and air travel across France and Paris metro and bus services. These strikes are ongoing. Check with your travel provider or airline for the latest updates. You can find real time information on rail traffic on the SNCF website and on Paris metro and bus systems on the RATP website.

On Friday 13 November 2015, a number of terrorist incidents took place in Paris resulting in widespread casualties. A national state of emergency remains in place. You should be vigilant in public places and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Irish citizens in France are reminded they should be in possession of a valid form of photographic identification such as a passport or passport card at all times.

See the French government’s advice about what to do if a terrorist attack occurs.

Emergency assistance

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

You can contact the emergency services in France by dialling 112.

Our tips for Safe Travels:

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
  • Get a European Health Insurance Card
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
  • Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

You need a valid passport to visit France and we advise you 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.

 

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates. Due to ongoing threats to France, the French Government has reinforced its security measures and advised the public to exercise a higher level of vigilance. We advise all citizens to maintain an awareness of their surroundings, remain vigilant and to follow the security advice issued by the French authorities.

As part of the Government's Vigipirate security programme, there’s 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 you’re travelling by train, make sure your luggage is clearly marked with your name and never leave it unattended. Many left-luggage offices in train stations have been closed for security reasons so try and confirm their availability beforehand or make other arrangements.

Social unrest

The political situation in France is reasonably stable but there can be occasional outbreaks of social unrest. Strikes, marches and demonstrations often result in confrontation between the demonstrators and the riot police so we recommend that you avoid areas where large-scale demonstrations are taking place.

Always keep yourself informed of what’s going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in France but you should take sensible precautions:

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible

Petty theft

There is a risk of petty crime, such as wallet/handbag theft and pickpocketing, particularly at tourist attractions and on the transport systems in the greater Paris area (Métro, RER train, in particular the line B that goes to/from the airports).

Some overnight inter-city trains have also been targeted by thieves. On metros and trains, take particular care of your belongings when the doors are closing, as opportunistic thieves on the platform have been known to snatch passengers’ bags just as the train doors close.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in France, report it to the local police station ‘commissariat’ or gendarmerie immediately. You can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Paris if you need help.

Transport

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in France, remember that traffic travels on the right. If you’re not used to driving on the right, be extra cautious, particularly at junctions, where traffic coming from the right has priority.

If you want to drive:

•Bring your international driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance. You must be at least 18 to drive in France and learner permits are not valid.

•Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught.

•Be aware of France’s traffic laws, such as speed limits. Speed cameras are common and the French police are vigilant.

•Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights.

Driving penalties

Follow the traffic laws carefully as there are stiff penalties for breaking the law. These can range from an on-the-spot fine, to confiscation of your 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 won’t be allowed to continue driving and your vehicle will be impounded unless another fully-licensed driver is available to drive it.

Theft from vehicles

This is common, particularly in the south of France, so keep your doors locked, windows rolled up and valuables out of sight while driving and parked. In some tourist areas along the south coast, it’s common to remove the parcel shelf so that potential thieves can see that there’s nothing worth stealing in the boot.

Mobile homes and camper-vans have also been targeted by thieves so make sure you take appropriate steps such as an alarm or using a safety-deposit box to protect your belongings there.

Breathalysers

Since 2012, you’re legally obligated to have a single use breathalyser in your vehicle, (this includes motorcycles). Buy a kit that complies with French regulations and carries the ‘NF’ label. We advise you to carry at least two breathalysers at all times.

Safety equipment

You must carry a red reflective warning triangle and a high-visibility vest in your vehicle at all times. There are frequently police checkpoints at the exits of the major ferry ports to check whether drivers have the required safety equipment, so make sure your vehicle is stocked before you travel to France. If you can’t produce this safety equipment at an accident or breakdown scene or during a police inspection, you could be liable for a fine.

You must display the warning triangle 30 metres from your vehicle in case of a break-down or accident (except in the case of a break-down on a motorway where it’s not safe to walk back 30 metres – in this case, place the triangle a reasonable distance from your vehicle, taking into account safety considerations).

You must carry the high-visibility vest in the main body of your vehicle (not in the boot). You need to wear the vest in case of a break-down at any time and must put it on before you get out of your vehicle.

High traffic season

The traditional French summer holiday periods sees extremely heavy traffic on the weekends of 4 July, 11 July, 1 August and 15 August. Allow plenty of extra time and take regular breaks on your journey on these weekends, particularly on routes connecting Paris to the south.

There can be severe traffic jams on the motorways so always make sure you have enough fuel, and refuel regularly, as it may take longer than you think to reach the next service station.

These French websites have colour-coded maps and graphics that can be understood by non-French speakers so they may help you plan your journey:

Incident assistance

Failing to stop and help a third party in difficulty, if you witness an incident (on the road or elsewhere) is an offence in France. If you need to stop on the roadside to help someone, you must put on your high-visibility vest before leaving your own vehicle.

Taxis

You should only use properly licensed 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 unlicensed taxis frequently don’t 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 unlicensed taxi drivers so if you’re in any doubt, don’t use the service.

Licensed taxis are marked by a white roof sign and the driver's professional identity card is displayed on the left-hand side of the windscreen. A meter will be visible in the centre of the dashboard and there will be a sticker in the left rear window setting out the main rules governing taxis and fares.

Truck drivers

If you’re a truck driver, make sure you are familiar with French traffic regulations, particularly details on when you can or can’t use the motorways.

Cyclists

Paris and many other cities now have public bicycle-rental schemes. As a cyclist, you’re not allowed to cycle on the footpaths unless a cycle lane is marked as part of the path. Obey all relevant traffic rules and take appropriate safety precautions, particularly if you’re not familiar with cycling on the right-hand side of the road. Avoid cycling if you’re under the influence of alcohol.

All cyclists must wear a high-visibility vest when cycling outside urban areas at night.

Vehicle hire

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Car sharing

We’re aware of various websites offering car-sharing possibilities but we can’t vouch for the validity of these companies. Any decision to avail of such services is taken at your own risk.

Train

If you’re travelling by train, make sure your luggage is clearly marked with your name and never leave it unattended. Many left-luggage offices in train stations have been closed for security reasons so try and confirm their availability beforehand or make other arrangements.

Some overnight inter-city trains have been targeted by thieves. On metros and trains, take particular care of your belongings when the doors are closing, as opportunistic thieves on the platform have been known to snatch passengers’ bags just as the train doors close.

Eurostar operates from Paris, Lille, Calais and Brussels to London St Pancras. Bookings are through www.eurostar.com or (from within France – premium rates apply) 0892-353539.

You can book trains from within France through www.voyages-sncf.com.

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or even illegal.

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties. If you are found in possession of illegal drugs or smuggled goods, you can be held in pre-trial detention for the period of the investigation (which can last for several months or even years). If your vehicle was carrying illegal drugs or smuggled goods, French Customs can impound it for the investigation period.

Buying property in France

If you’re planning to buy property in France, we strongly advise you to consult an independent legal advisor from the beginning of the process. Be aware that as a property owner, you may be liable for annual taxes on the value of your property.

The Embassy cannot advise you on buying property or intervene in property disputes.

Health

Travel Insurance

We can’t pay for emergency medical repatriation, repatriation of remains, or for expenses as a result of a personal emergency while you are abroad. If you buy an appropriate travel insurance policy, these costs will be covered, provided you haven’t broken the terms and conditions.

Buying comprehensive travel insurance can save you and your family a lot of money if something goes wrong. It will also ensure that you get the medical attention you need, when you need it. Hospital bills can quickly run into thousands of euro, and a medical evacuation back to Ireland can cost thousands more.

Not all policies are the same, and the cheapest one might be cheap for a reason. Make sure your policy covers all the activities you plan to do on your trip. Insurance Ireland recommend that you purchase a policy that provides a minimum medical cover of €1 million.

Emergency expenses

Your policy should cover:

  • All medical care abroad, including evacuation by air ambulance, or other emergency procedures, and any other costs associated with an unexpected longer stay.
  • Your entire trip, from departure to return. Consider an annual multi-trip policy if you’re making more than one trip in the year.   
  • 24-hour emergency service and assistance.
  • Personal liability cover (in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property).
  • Lost and stolen possessions.
  • Cancellation and curtailment.
  • Any extra activities you intend to do that are excluded from standard policies (e.g. water sport activities such as jet skiing or other extreme sports).

Exclusions: You should know most insurance policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents.

European Health Insurance Card

As an Irish resident you are entitled to get healthcare through the public system in countries of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland if you become ill or injured while on a temporary stay there. Ensure that you get or renew your EHIC (the new name for the E111) before you go, and remember, you need one for every person travelling in your group.

Apply for your EHIC and find out more information.

The EHIC is not a substitute for proper travel insurance provided by a reputable insurer. It doesn’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. Also, some private hospitals may not accept the EHIC, so you should check with the hospital administrator beforehand.