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What to expect when visiting France

A world-famous hub for art, history and fine cuisine, visiting France is a cultural experience like no other. From the iconic Paris skyline to the vibrant museums and galleries of Strasbourg, you can easily find the perfect backdrop for your sixth form, college or university trip.

The French have their own culture and etiquette, and if you’re visiting for the first time, adapting to doing things ‘à la française’ might seem a little daunting. No need to worry though, with this handy guide of do’s and don’ts, you’ll be on track to having a good time no matter where you are.

 

Transportation

The French transport system isn’t all that different to ours, but there are a few key points you and your student group should bear in mind. The most important thing to remember is that the French drive on the right-side of the road. In central parts of France traffic can be very busy, so keep a keen awareness of this when crossing the road, particularly in built up areas of Paris.

The metro is an easy way to get around Paris but it can be a tight squeeze for big groups. If you are travelling in larger numbers we’d recommend splitting into smaller groups and designating a meeting point at the stop you’re getting off at — it’ll make things a lot easier.

 

Food and Accommodation

French cuisine and hotels are world renowned for their sophistication. Bold flavours and fine hospitality are the standard, and you can make the most of everything there is to offer if you keep a few things in mind.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and you’ll find most hotels keep it classy and continental. Light bites of croissants, jam, fresh bread and a cup of coffee are the typical way to kickstart the morning.

The crème de la crème of French cooking can, of course, be found on the cities vibrant and varied restaurant scene. The best ones tend to get booked up quickly so it’s important to book ahead of time, but don’t worry, our travel specialists will handle all that for you.

In France there’s no hard and fast rule for tipping, so think of it more as a gesture than an obligation. In fact, tax and tip will most likely be included in the menu price and shown on your final bill.

The legal drinking age in France is 18, so some students may be able to have an alcoholic drink with a meal. Students 18 and above will be able to smoke as well, but remember that smoking is strictly prohibited in public places like restaurants, monuments and galleries.

 

Safety

On any group tour safety is paramount, and your trip will go all the more seamlessly if you plan carefully. French traffic can be hectic so whether you’re disembarking from a bus or a car it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Coach doors could open directly onto the road so be wary of approaching traffic, particularly given that the traffic flows in the opposite direction to ours.

No matter where you are in the world, large cities always pose the risk of pickpockets. Encourage your students to keep their valuables somewhere secure that they can keep an eye on at all times, particularly in built up tourist areas.

France uses the European plug types C and E, so remember to pack an adapter in advance so you can charge phones and other devices. Loss of Instagram access has been known to cause mass hysteria in students, so keep this at the top of your lists!

 

Parks and Recreation

Whether you’re travelling with sixth form, college or university students we’ll make sure your trip is populated with a variety of exciting visits and activities. From WW1 Battlefields to the heart of the Champagne region, we tailor a bespoke itinerary to complement your class learning objectives.

We organise everything for you, all you have to do is turn up. When heading out on an excursion, remember to turn up 5-10 minutes earlier than your allotted time-slot, as checking in can take time and you don’t want to be rushed

Much like in the UK, you’ll find that small shops, pharmacies and some restaurants will be closed on Sundays, but we will personally map out your schedule with this in mind if you’re staying over the weekend.

Lastly, they may say youth is wasted on the young but in France it might just help you dodge a few admission fees. Many popular attractions are free for people under 25 so remind your class to pack their student ID’s if they have them.

 

General Manners

We’re renowned for our politeness in the UK, but even so, it’s important to be aware how social etiquette differs from place to place.

In France, if you honour the basics, you should be fine. Knowing the four magic words - s’il vous plait (please), merci beaucoup (thank you), excusez-moi (excuse me) and désolé (sorry) is a surefire way to avoid a creme patisserie to the face.

Additionally, if people are providing you a service, take the time to greet and say goodbye to them. It might seem like a small gesture, but it goes a long way.

 

Paris

France’s romantic capital is a world all on its own, with spectacular architecture and a dazzling atmosphere that has inspired people for centuries. If you happen to be visiting, here are some useful tips to help you make the most of your stay.

The city is notoriously busy, with traffic jams a regular occurrence especially on weekends. For this reason, the city is best explored on foot or metro rather than taxis. If you do use the metro, keep your ticket after entering the station as you may be required to present it again upon exiting.

Should your bespoke itinerary require regular public transport use you might benefit from purchasing a Paris Visit Pass. The PVP is a transportation pass valid for up to 5 days that allows free travel between Zones 1 to 6 by metro, suburban trains, trams and buses.

If you are travelling at the beginning of the week, it’s worth noting that the main galleries and museums in Paris tend to be closed on either Monday or Tuesday. Your FHT travel consultant will advise you on this and suggest alternative activities that fit your class objectives.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, no matter how old you are no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the kingdom of happiness itself - Disneyland® Paris. If you’re spending a day in the parks, the best time to queue for the big rides is during the parades or fireworks displays, when Mickey and the gang have everyone else distracted.

 

At FHT, we know our destinations inside out, and our travel specialists approach every group tour as a unique challenge. If you’d like to find out more about bespoke school trips to France, or any of our other destinations, then get a tailored quote and start your journey today - Bon voyage!