France - Facts for the traveller, when to go, events
Facts for the traveller for FranceVisas: Nationals of the EU, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel do not need visas to visit France as tourists for up to three months. Except for citizens of a handful of other European countries, everyone else must have a visa. To apply, you'll need a passport (valid for a period of three months beyond your departure date from France), a ticket in and out of France, proof of money and possibly of accommodations, two passport-sized photos and the visa fee in cash. Tourist visas cannot be extended except in emergencies (eg, medical problems). You might try calling the Préfecture de Police (tel 01 53 71 51 68) for guidance. If you don't need a visa to visit France, you'll almost certainly qualify for another automatic three-month stay if you take the train to Geneva or Brussels and then re-enter France.
Health risks: Sunburn
Time: GMT/UTC +1 (Central European Time)
Dialling Code: 33
Electricity: 220V ,50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
When to Go to France
Spring offers the best weather to visitors, with beach tourism picking up in May. Temperatures aren't too bad in autumn, although the short days mean limited sunlight and the cold starts to make itself felt towards the end of the season, even along the Côte d'Azur. Winter means playing in the snow in France's Alps and Pyrenees, though the Christmas school holidays send hordes of tadpoles in uniform scurrying for the slopes. Mid-July through the end of August is when most city dwellers take their annual five weeks' vacation to the coasts and mountains, and the half-desolate cities tend to shut down a bit accordingly. Likewise during February and March.
The French are a festive bunch, with many cities hosting music, dance, theatre, cinema or art events each year. Rural villages hold fairs and fêtes which celebrate everything from local saints to agricultural progress. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Provence is the venue for a colourful gypsy festival in late May honouring Sarah, patron saint of the gypsies. Enthusiastic singing and dancing characterise this extravaganza. Prominent national days off are May Day (1 May), when people trade gifts of muguet (lily of the valley) for good luck; and Bastille Day (14 July), which is celebrated by throwing firecrackers at friends. Regional events include the primping and preening prêt à porter fashion show in Paris (early February); the glittering and often-canned Cannes Film Festival (mid-May); the International Music Festival in Strasbourg (first three weeks of June); the mainstream and fringe theatre of the Festival d'Avignon (mid-July to mid-August) and the Jazz Festival in Nancy (9-24 October).