TPG UK readers share their top tips for visiting France

Feb 16, 2020

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It’s France month at TPG U.K.! As one of our closest neighbours, France is a popular holiday destination for us Brits — it’s close enough to even pop to Paris for the day. With the capital nicknamed “The City of Love” and Valentine’s Day falling on 14 February, it seemed fitting to give this month an injection of ooh la la and all things Français. Stay tuned for top tips on where to stay, how to get there as well as the return of our readers’ insider tips.

So far this month, we’ve let you know the best ways to get to Paris, provided you with the set-jetters guide to Paris to see iconic movie scenes and what you can expect to eat if you’re on board an Air France flight. Now it’s time for you to have your say.

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From experience, you probably fall into two main types of traveller: either you’re more adventurous and do a minimum amount of research or you know all the places to eat as well as the dos and don’ts that apply to wherever you are.

Either which way, here are a couple of valuable tips about France, that you, our readers, think are helpful to know before you go — whatever kind of traveller you are.

Montmartre, Paris. (Photo by serts / Getty Images)
Montmartre, Paris. (Photo by serts/Getty Images)

Learn a few words of French

Number one, make sure to have a go at speaking a bit of the lingo. Even if it’s just a few simple phrases to get you started.

“At least try to speak the language. They appreciate it.” — Jamie H.

“Learn French and try speaking when out there.” — Luke B.

At the very least, it might be worthwhile just trying to master a simple “bonjour” (hello) and “merci” (thank you).

“Saying hello and thank you in French will be a lifesaver.” — Anthony G.

You’re unlikely to be able to learn enough to have full-blown conversations with people, but at least it will show you’ve made some kind of effort and it will most certainly not go unnoticed by the French.

Related reading: 9 best translation apps for travellers

Be formal when speaking to strangers

We were also reminded that France is quite a formal country when it comes to being out in public, especially when dining or going into a shop. So, to make sure you don’t get off on the wrong foot with a waiter, shop assistant or anyone else for that matter, be extra polite.

“Say ‘bonjour’ before asking someone something because if you don’t say it, it’s considered rude.” — A.J.

It might not seem like a big deal to us, but in the U.K. when we have a query or want to start a conversation with someone in a shop we say “excuse me” rather than “hello”. It might seem menial to us as, but it’s something the French take very seriously.

Be wary of travelling in August

For our next top tip, we were reminded that August is a bit different in France. As is the case across much of Europe, the French take pretty much the whole of August off because it can get very hot, and well, it’s summer so pourquoi pas?

“Everyone is on holiday in August so while all businesses may not be open, Paris is less crowded.” — Sonal C.

Related reading: Second cities: Destinations to add on to a trip to Paris

The upside is that lots of towns and cities become very quiet and less crowded as the French flock to the coast and other spots in their droves. The bad news is that lots of smaller businesses, cafés and restaurants might have reduced opening times or be closed completely for a few weeks.

Rent a Lime Scooter

Paris is quite spread out, and metro journeys can be lengthy, so this next tip is very helpful.

“Download the app Lime for Scooters. It’s a great alternative way to get around the city!” Colin C.

You’ll have the sights ticked off in no time at all.

PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 09: A woman rides an electric scooter Lime-S from the bike sharing service company
(Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

How to get around

When travelling around a new country, it’s not always clear which is the best or cheapest way to get about, and France is no different.

“Use Ouigo for budget TGV rail tickets.” Craig H.

Related reading: Uber may soon have self-driving scooters and bikes

A public transport employee walks beside TGV high speed trains during a nation-wide transport workers strike at Montparnasse railway station, operated by Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer (SNCF), in Paris, France, on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. The stalemate between Emmanuel Macrons government and labor unions deepened as France headed into a third week of transport strikes over the presidents effort to reform the countrys pension system, threatening further turmoil during the busy holiday season. Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(Photo by Christophe Morin/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Places to visit

Needless to say, there is so much more to France than just Paris. The same can be said for travelling around the city of Paris itself.

“In Paris, travel dates permitting, a Pass Navigo Découverte is cheaper than the Paris visit.”A.J. C.

The Navigo Découverte is more like London’s Oyster Card, whereas the Paris Visite is a pass made mainly for tourists and includes other benefits like discounts on tourist attractions and other special offers.

We were inundated with some of your favourite spots around the country, and it was hard to narrow it down but here is a couple of the best.

D-Day beaches

If you like a bit of culture, then our neighbours across the Channel have centuries worth of the stuff. If you’re a history buff, a visit to the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy was suggested.

Related reading: Plane versus train: Watch the TPG U.K. team race from London to Paris

Memorial to WW2 soldiers Juno Beach Normandy
Memorial to WW2 soldiers Juno Beach Normandy (Photo by tirc83/Getty Images)

Reims

When you think of France, what comes to mind? Bread? Cheese? Wine? Champagne, perhaps? If you have a passion for the bubbly stuff, then a top tip is to visit Reims — it’s in the heart of the Champagne region and is a beautiful town to boot.

“Reims is a must.” Peter H.

Colorful hot air balloons flying over champagne Vineyards at sunset montagne de Reims, Reims, France
(Photo by Pakin Songmor/Getty Images)

Related reading: Which airlines serve the best Champagne in first class?

The boulangerie

This is a great one. So simple, yet so great. If you do one thing, wherever you might be in France, make sure you wake up early and head to your local boulangerie (bakery). If you’re not sure where it is, you’ll probably be able to smell the freshly baked baguettes from a couple of streets away — so just follow your nose (or use Google Maps).

“Have a French breakfast and visit a bakery early in the morning.”Joel T.

An assortment of typical bread in a bakery and pastry shop
(Photo by Massimo Borchi/Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)

Joe is right — trust me. Having lived in France myself, I can tell you there’s nothing quite like a freshly baked pain au chocolat first thing on a morning and a bag of warm crusty bread to take home. Honestly, carbs don’t count when you’re in France.

Bottom line

Once again, thanks to our readers, we’ve all learned a thing or two about France. For your next trip across the Channel, be sure to take some tips from fellow travellers to have the best trip possible.

Featured image by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

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