France

vacations

Many of the French take their vacations in August. As a result, outside of touristic areas, many of the smaller stores butcher shops, bakeries... will be closed in parts of August. This also applies to many corporations as well as physicians. Obviously, in touristy areas, stores will tend to be open when the tourists come, especially July and August. In contrast, many attractions will be awfully crowded during those months, and during Easter week-end.

Some attractions, especially in rural areas, close or have reduced opening hours outside the touristic season.

Mountain areas tend to have two touristic seasons: in the winter, for skiing, snowshoeing and other snow-related activities, and in the summer for sightseeing and hiking.

stores

Inside city centres, you will find smaller stores, chain grocery stores Casino as well as, occasionally, department stores and small shopping malls. Residential areas will often have small supermarkets Champion, Intermarché. Large supermarkets hypermarchés such as Géant Casino or Carrefour are mostly located on the outskirts of towns and are probably not useful unless you have a car.

Prices are indicated with all taxes namely, the TVA, or value-added tax included. It is possible for non-EU residents aged 16 or over spending less than 6 months in France to get a partial refund of TVA upon departure from the EU when shopping at certain stores that have a "tax-free shopping" sticker in French, 'la détaxe'; inquire within. A refund of TVA is only possible in you spend over €175 inclusive of TVA from a single shop in one day. TVA is 20.0% as of January 2014 on most merchandise, but 10.0% on some things such as books, restaurant meals, and public transport and 5.0% on food purchased from grocery stores except for sweets and candies!. Alcoholic beverages are always taxed at 20%, regardless of where they're purchased. For more information, see this French Customs webpage.

Always keep your receipt after purchasing an item in a shop, because if it turns out to be defective, you have the right to return it and get a refund/exchange.

Starting from 1 January 2015, shops in France will only be allowed to run sales for a maximum of 10 weeks per year in 2015, the legal winter sales period runs between Wednesday 7 January and Tuesday 17 February and the summer sales period between Wednesday 24 June and Tuesday 4 August - outside these two periods, sales are forbidden, but shops are allowed to sell their products at reduced prices. For more information, see this French Government webpage.

Although it is not common to bargain/haggle on prices, especially in bigger/chain stores, more and more French people are starting to negotiate prices and ask for discounts when considering making a purchase, particularly in markets and in smaller, independent shops in 2008, over half of French people admitted in a survey to negotiating prices. You are more likely to be successful if you smile when you bargain, purchase several products, and compare the price with that offered in other shops.

If you are still satisfied with the product which you purchased or the service you received in a shop, you should first try to resolve the problem with the shop staff/manager. If you are still dissatisfied, you can contact the responsible consumer protection authority if the shop has violated the law e.g. it sold you a product at a higher price to the one advertised, it refused to refund/exchange a defective product, it gave you an inferior level of service on the basis of your race/sex/religion/beliefs/disability/family situation. In Paris, the relevant authority is the Direction départementale de la protection des populations DDPP 8 rue Froissart, 75153 PARIS Cedex 03, ☎ 01 40 27 16 00 (ddpp@paris.gouv.fr. ). Outside Paris, you can find a list of consumer protection authorities by département at (http://www.economie.gouv....).

money

France has the euro € as its sole currency along with 24 other countries that use this common European money. These 24 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain official euro members which are all European Union member states as well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and the Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. Together, these countries have a population of more than 330 million.

One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse, as well as all bank notes, look the same throughout the eurozone. Every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.

Some foreign currencies such as the US dollar and the British Pound are occasionally accepted, especially in touristic areas and in higher-end places, but one should not count on it; furthermore, the merchant may apply some unfavourable rate. In general, shops will refuse transactions in foreign currency.

It is compulsory, for the large majority of businesses, to post prices in windows. Hotels and restaurants must have their rates visible from outside note, however, that many hotels propose lower prices than the posted ones if they feel they will have a hard time filling up their rooms; the posted price is only a maximum.

Almost all stores, restaurants and hotels take the CB French debit card, and its foreign affiliations, Visa and Mastercard. American Express tends to be accepted only in high-end shops. Check with your bank for applicable fees typically, banks apply the wholesale inter-bank exchange rate, which is the best available, but may slap a proportional and/or a fixed fee. If ever the merchant requires a minimum amount before purchasing, then they will post it in writing at the till or the shop's entrance.

French CB cards and CB/Visa and CB/Mastercard cards have a "smart chip" on them allowing PIN authentication of transactions. This system, initiated in France, has now evolved to an international standard and newer British cards are compatible. Some automatic retail machines such as those vending tickets may be compatible only with cards with the microchip. In addition, cashiers unaccustomed to foreign cards possibly do not know that foreign Visa or Mastercard cards have to be swiped and a signature obtained, while French customers systematically use PIN and don't sign the transactions.

There is practically no way to get a cash advance from a credit card without a PIN in France.

Automatic teller machines ATM are by far the best way to get money in France. They all take CB, Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus and Plus and are plentiful throughout France. They may accept other kinds of card; check for the logos on the ATM and on your card on the back, generally if at least one matches. It is possible that some machines do not handle 6-digit PIN codes only 4-digit ones, or that they do not offer the choice between different accounts defaulting on the checking account. Check with your bank about applicable fees, which may vary greatly typically, banks apply the wholesale inter-bank exchange rate, which is the best available, but may slap a proportional and/or a fixed fee; because of the fixed fee it is generally better to withdraw money in big chunks rather than €20 at a time. Also, check about applicable maximal withdrawal limits.

Traveller's cheques are difficult to use — most merchants will not accept them, and exchanging them may involve finding a bank that accepts to exchange them and possibly paying a fee.

Note that the postal service doubles as a bank, so often post offices will have an ATM. As a result, even minor towns will have ATMs usable with foreign cards.

Exchange offices bureaux de change are now rarer with the advent of the Euro - they will in general only be found in towns with a significant foreign tourist presence, such as Paris. Some banks exchange money, often with high fees. The Bank of France no longer does foreign exchange.

Do's Put money into your checking account, carry an ATM card with a Cirrus or Plus logo on it and a 4-digit pin that does not start with '0' and withdraw cash from ATMs. Pay larger transactions hotel, restaurants... with Visa or Mastercard. Always carry some € cash for emergencies.

Don't's Carry foreign currency USD, GBP... or traveller's cheques, and exchange them on the go, or expect them to be accepted by shops.