Need to know – France

Paris cityscape with Hotel des Invalides and Eglise du Dome in foreground.
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet Images

In this extract from Lonely Planet India’s France travel guide, we look at some of the very basic information you need while planning a trip to this amazing country.

Quick facts

Language: French
Time: 3 ½ hours behind IST
Currency:  Euro (€)
Mobile phones: The cheapest option is to get a SIM card in India from Matrix ( or Clay Telecom ( You can buy a SIM card sans engagement (without contract) from Orange/SFR/Bouygues telecom stores for €5. A call costs 55 cents a minute.
Internet access: Most towns have at least one internet cafe. It’s €2–6 per hour. Wi-fi is free in many hotels, train stations and airports.
Tourist information: Information on sights, activities, transport and special interest holidays in all of France’s regions can be found at the French Government Tourist Office.

When to go

July & August (high season): Be prepared for queues at big sights and on the road, especially in August. Christmas, New Year and Easter are equally busy.
Late-December–March: It’s high season in the ski resorts in the French Alps.
April–June & September (mid-season): Accommodation rates drop in southern France and other traveller hot spots. Spring is best, with its warm temperatures, flowers and abundance of local produce. Visit in autumn to watch the vendange (grape harvest).
October–March (low season): Lowest prices – up to 50% less than high season. Sights, attractions and restaurants open for fewer days and shorter hours.

What to pack

  •  Plug adaptors, since France uses two-pin European plugs.
  • Wash and wear clothes, and pack a jacket and woollens if visiting in autumn and winter.
  • Comfortable shoes or sandals.
  • A dressy outfit and formal shoes for entry into some posh places.
  • Waterproof holder for passport and money.
  • French phrasebook with a good food section. Lonely Planet’s Fast Talk French is perfect for your needs.
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and mosquito repellent for southern France.

Getting around

  • Train: France’s railway is fast, extensive and efficient. Regular trains travel to practically every town and city.
  • Car: A car buys freedom and flexibility, but driving in big cities can be a nightmare. An Indian who wishes to hire a car and drive in France will need an international driver’s license, a No Objection Certificate from his/her local transport office, and must be over 18 years of age.
  • Bicycle: A hip way of navigating the big cities.