Other web sites with general information about travel in France

Pratique.fr. In French.


Visa to France for Visitors

Nationals of the EU, EEA, Switzerland and many other countries do not need visa to visit France for up to 3 months. For longer visits, please see our page "Living & Working in France"

www.france.diplomatie.fr, a government site, has the visa information you need. The site is interactive and takes your particular circumstances into account. In case of doubt, please contact the French consulate nearest to you. Note: That site appears to ignore the Schengen Agreement that provides for free movement of residents of the Schengen zone. See below for details about the Schengen zone.

The EU and the EEA

The European Union has 28 Member States: 

  1. Belgium - founding member since 23 July 1952
  2. France - founding member since 23 July 1952
  3. Germany - founding member since 23 July 1952
  4. Italy - founding member since 23 July 1952
  5. Luxembourg - founding member since 23 July 1952
  6. the Netherlands - founding member since 23 July 1952
  7. Denmark since 1 January 1973
  8. Ireland since 1 January 1973
  9. United Kingdom since 1 January 1973
  10. Greece since 1 January 1981
  11. Portugal since 1 January 1986
  12. Spain since 1 January 1986
    (Former Eastern Germany after German reunification 3 October 1990)
  13. Austria since 1 January 1995
  14. Finland since 1 January 1995
  15. Sweden since 1 January 1995
  16. Czech Republic since 1 May 2004
  17. Cyprus (Greek part) since 1 May 2004
  18. Estonia since 1 May 2004
  19. Hungary since 1 May 2004
  20. Latvia since 1 May 2004
  21. Lithuania since 1 May 2004
  22. Malta since 1 May 2004
  23. Poland since 1 May 2004
  24. Slovakia since 1 May 2004
  25. Slovenia since 1 May 2004
  26. Bulgaria since 1 January 2007
  27. Romania since 1 January 2007
  28. Croatia since 1 July 2013
Tour Fenestrelle, Uzès near Nimes, France Tour Fenestrelle, Uzès

The European Economic Area was created by a treaty that extended EU Single Market legislation to:

  • the EU Member States
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway.

Schengen: Free Movement of Persons

The Schengen Agreement lays down the conditions for free movement of persons. The Schengen zone covers:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland (not EU member)
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • the Netherlands
  • Norway (not EU member)
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland (not EU member)

The Service Public site has a good explanation of the rules. There is no border control within the zone, but personal identification must be carried. EEA nationals must carry either a national ID card or a passport not expired more than five years ago. As what concerns nationals of other countries, visas issued by Schengen Members are valid for the entire zone. Non-EEA nationals who live regularly in a Schengen Member State may travel for up to three months throughout the zone without visa, but they must carry a current residence permit issued by a Schengen Member and a current travel document (passport or similar). The family of an EEA national has the right to follow the EEA national upon who they depend throughout the EEA, regardless of their nationality. If a visa is required, it must be issued free of charge.

Schengen is the name of a village in the south east corner of Luxembourg, where the Luxembourgish, German and French borders meet. The agreement was signed aboard a boat on the Moselle river that is also the natural border between Luxembourg and Germany.


Familiarise yourself with customs regulations before travelling. It prevents unpleasant surprises. Be particularly aware of the obligation to declare cash, stocks, shares, securities, cheques and more if the total value exceeds 10,000 €. This also applies to travel within the EU.

Customs guide: All you need to know about French customs as a traveller. In French. Unfortunately, the administration that produced it didn't find it necessary to produce an English version.
Cash declaration: Explanation of the duty to declare cash, cheques, securities, stocks, shares and more if the total value exceeds 10,000 €. In French, with a link to a multilingual version.

The Euro €

France is part of the Eurozone which uses the euro as common currency. Eurozone member countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • the Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain

Bank notes and one side of the coins are identical throughout the Eurozone. The other side of the coins are different in each country, but all coins are valid tender in all Eurozone countries.

Monaco, the Vatican and San Marino have special agreements with the Eurozone, including their own motives on the euro coins.

Andorra, Montenegro and Kosovo also use the euro as currency, without being members of the Eurozone.

See the European Central Bank and Wikipedia for more details about the euro.

Americans, please note that dollars are not accepted as payment in Europe, as it is the case in some Latin American countries. These countries accept dollars because their own currencies are weak, but the euro and other western European currencies are not considered weak currencies. It is in fact the dollar that has lost its value to the euro, so seen from Europe, the dollar is a weaker currency than the euro. It is up to the traveller to be sure to have enough local currency or international credit or debit cards. Don't rely exclusively on credit or debit cards, as it can happen that the computer networks have difficulties obtaining approval from your bank and thus turn down a payment. It is expensive and time-consuming for a shop or restaurant owner to change your dollars into euros, and he or she can't use them for anything else. The exchange rate commission can easily be 12%, and not all banks accept to change currency. He or she might have to leave the shop or restaurant in the middle of the business day and waste up to an hour finding a place to change your dollars. There is also an exchange rate risk, since the dollar rate fluctuates quite a bit. Also, he or she can't enter an amount in dollars in the accounting. All in all, it's too much hassle, and that is why the vast majority of shops and restaurants will decline dollars and rather lose a sale than have so much trouble.

Credit Cards

Foreign Mastercard and Visa are usually accepted the same places where the French can use their national payment system carte bleue, often abbreviated to CB. All major shops and petrol / gas stations accept cards. Diners Card, American Express and foreign cash are not generally accepted. The French carte bleue is a chip card that needs a pin code instead of a signature as a security measure. The new UK chip cards generally work by entering your UK pin code. Older chip cards or cards without a chip must have their magnetic strip swiped. Most shop assistants outside tourist zones are not aware of this, and if you tell them, they don't even know that their card reader has a magnetic card reader. It's for you to tell them: C'est une carte étrangère sans puce; merci de lire la piste magnétique avec le lecteur que vous voyez à côté de votre lecteur à puce. If they still don't get it, ask for the manager: Je voudrais parler avec le responsable. When they figure out how to read the magnetic strip, the next problem is that the French centralised credit card validation computer network often has problems communicating with foreign clearing systems. When it fails, the shop won't accept your card, even by swiping it manually, and you may have to leave the shop without your goods if you have no other way to pay. They will show no mercy. They like tourists' money, but without the money, they couldn't care less.

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