Cyclomundo’s Travel Tips

Posted on: April 21st, 2016 by Santana

At Cyclomundo we have put together a basic document of general travel tips for anyone who plans on traveling abroad. For first time international travelers, these tips can help you make sure you have all the necessary arrangements and everything in order before you leave home. For our many seasoned travelers, this list of helpful tips and suggestions can serve as a reminder or check list before your next adventure. We have also provided some tips in green to help you be a more responsible traveler as well as some tips in orange that are specific for cyclists. Please feel free to leave any further tips or suggestions you find helpful from traveling below or email us at info@cyclomundo.com if you have specific questions.

 

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

Nationals of countries within the European Union entering France need only a national identity card. Others must possess a valid passport to enter France.

If you are a U.S., Canadian, or Australian citizen, you do not need a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. For other countries and stays longer than 90 days, check visa requirements with your local French consulate.

You can find more information about visa requirements, consulate and embassy locations at http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/france/coming-to-france/.

 

CURRENCY AND MONEY ISSUES

The currency in France is the Euro and is easy to get used to. It is a good idea to keep an eye on the exchange rates: at XE.com you can check the current rates or download their app to have an up-to-date calculator on your mobile device.

The best exchange rate is the one you get when shopping with a credit card. Visa is the most widely accepted, followed by MasterCard. In major cities like Paris and Marseille, cards are accepted almost universally, but as you travel to more rural areas it is best to keep cash and ask in advance if they accept your card.

ATMs, known as distributeurs automatiques de billets (DAB) in French, are open 24/7 and accept all major credit cards or bank cards. However, it is very important to ACTIVATE your debit and credit cards for international use. Most cards will not work abroad until they have been activated. It is important to notify your bank of your travel dates and if you will be visiting multiple countries.

 

VOLTAGE

The electric current in France is 220 volts 50 cycles (in the US it is 110 volts). You will need a transformer to convert local power down to your standards and an adapter for the European plugs that are different from those in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK.

 

TELEPHONE

When calling abroad from France, dial 00 followed by the country code and your correspondent’s number. (Australia: 61; Canada: 1; Germany: 49; Ireland: 353; New-Zealand: 64; South Africa: 27; UK: 44; USA: 1) For those who wish to reach you at a French line, they must dial 00 (or +), the French country code 33, then the number.

 

CELL PHONE OPTIONS

You have many options to stay connected while you travel, including:

  • Using your own cell phone while you travel, under an international package with your local carrier. Be sure to check your carrier’s international coverage and charges before you leave.
  • Buying a pre-paid or pay as-you-go French SIM card for your cell-phone (or an old phone). Just be sure phones are unlocked from the original network.
  • Renting a cell phone with a pre-paid or pay-as-you-go calling card.

For more information, check out or blog post on international cell phones. Please let us know if you need assistance with local arrangements.

 

INTERNET

In major cities as well as smaller “touristy” cities, WiFi hotspots throughout the city and in cafes and coffee shops have become very prevalent. Now, it has become almost ubiquitous for hotels to provide WiFi at least in some part of the hotel. However, some hotels require you to purchase WiFi usage in blocks of time and with some smaller hotels in rural areas, the level of connection can be extremely slow and low quality.

If you decide to bring your own laptop or tablet and do not activate an international data plan, it is a good idea to check with your provider from home to see if they offer international WiFi hotspots that you can connect to. Sometimes you can access the local service provider from your room or the lobby on your laptop and purchase time directly from them, like with T-Mobile.

 

RESTAURANTS & FOOD

A growing number of places have English menus. If not, more and more waiters speak English and will translate the menu for you.

At traditional restaurants, lunch and dinner hours are pretty strict so don’t expect to be served a lunch after 2:30 pm. Lunch is 12 to 2:30 pm and dinner is from 7 pm onward. Between lunch and dinner, sandwiches, and snacks can be found at cafés and bars.

Most people will have a glass of wine at lunch time, but it is a myth that everyone in France drinks wine. Cider and beer are popular options as well, particularly in Northern France.

Buy local. Whether you’re shopping for a picnic or eating at a restaurant, we recommend our clients to buy local produce. It is easy to find homemade local products, locally grown produce, and freshly baked breads. These don’t require as much energy to transport or process and are produced by local farmers, thereby contributing to the local economy.

For picnic lunches and snacks en route, think about the wrapping that you will be throwing away and try to reduce it as much as possible.

Organic produce are more and more widely available, as are organic wines and other drinks. We recommend clients give them a try to help minimize environmental impact.

 

TIPPING

A 15% gratuity is automatically added to hotel and restaurant bills. It is customary to leave the change when paying for meals or drinks in cash. You may leave more if the meal or the service has been particularly good. Taxi drivers appreciate it if you round up the fare to an even amount. (Tip: avoid the extra fee for bags put into the trunk by keeping them with you in the taxi.)

 

WHAT TO BRING/WEAR

The majority of France experiences warm to hot summers with mild winters. However, in the Rhone-Alpes region and the areas around the French Alps and Pyrenees Mountains, temperatures are milder in the summer and cold in the winter. In general, expect day temperatures to range from the mid-70s to the 90s, with nights in the 50s-70s F in the summer. For additional information on French climate, check Meteoblue.com or Meteofrance.com for local weather forecasts. Pack according to the expected weather. Cloths that LAYER easily are always a good idea.

The obvious is what we most often forget! Make sure you pack cycling shorts, cycling shoes, short- and long-sleeved jerseys, a windbreaker (or a light rain jacket), gloves, and sunglasses. Although we do provide helmets, you may choose to bring yours as it may suit you better. To best enjoy your trip, bring what you are most comfortable with, like your own pedals (and some people choose to bring their own saddle).

For off-bike clothing the same applies– bring whatever will make you comfortable. On all of our trips, casual dress for dinner is fine, and in all cities there is always a casual dining option.

Pack as little as possible! Cleaning and laundry services are available everywhere but keep in mind that porter service is not widely available in France. Be sure your luggage is clearly labeled (it is a legal requirements on trains). Do not pack valuables, airline tickets or passports in checked luggage.

 

SHOPPING

Shopping hours are Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon and from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. There are a few exceptions to the rules: bakeries and pastry shops are usually open on Sunday mornings; some supermarkets remain open during lunch hours, but not all, and are sometimes open on Sunday mornings. In the countryside of France, many shops are closed on Monday mornings, but are open on Saturdays.

Whenever possible, buy locally from family-run stores or open-air markets. Not only are local products generally fresher and high quality, but buying from local shopkeepers helps keep villages alive and lively, and strengthens the local economy. Additionally, this helps to reduce “wasting” by avoiding the poor management of land, unnecessary building of highways and roads, and maintaining a social village life that is in danger of rapidly disappearing. Craftsmen often sell on a direct basis so it is often easy to find fresh, homemade produce and products.

 

TAXES

The French value-added tax (VAT–TVA in French) is 20% on most items. You can get most of your VAT refunded if you spend more than 175€ in any store that participates in the VAT refund program.

You’ll receive VAT refund papers in the shop. Fill them in before you arrive at the airport and give them to the Customs Refund Desk. You’re required to show the goods at the airport, so pack them in your hand luggage or visit the Customs office before you check your luggage. Customs will stamp the form, which must then be mailed. Please note that all refunds are processed at the point of departure from the European Union (EU), so if you’re going to another EU country, don’t apply for the refund in France. VAT refunds cannot be processed after you arrive back home.

Please note that VAT can be refunded for goods, but not services. For additional information on VAT refund, please check http://www.franceintheus.org/spip.php?article779.

 

TRAVEL INSURANCE/HEALTH

We strongly advise you take out travel insurance for medical costs, cancellation, personal accident or baggage loss.

We strongly advise riders to opt for an insurance that offers comprehensive coverage as the recipient of medical treatment in French hospitals or clinics must pay the bill. Nationals of non-EU countries should check with their insurance companies about policy limitations. British and Irish citizens should apply to the Department of Health and Social Security for Form E11, which entitles the holder to urgent treatment for accident or unexpected illness in EU countries.

American travelers can contact the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers for a list of English-speaking doctors throughout France. The association can be reached at 716-754-4883.

First aid and medical advice are available from “pharmacies” identified by the green cross sign.

One Response

  1. Deb says:

    Thanks for sharing these tips. I especially like the last part. Some of us think that travel insurance is just an added cost, but it’s really better to have yourself insured than incur more bills to pay in case you got sick or your baggage got lost.

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