LONDON & PARIS
Tour at a Glance
|LONDON||1 - 4||The Rubens at the Palace|
|PARIS||4 - 7||Hotel Le Six|
|Transfer||Heathrow International Airport [LHR]||The Rubens at the Palace|
|Transfer||The Rubens at the Palace||St Pancras International Station|
|Transfer||Paris Gare du Nord||Hotel Le Six|
|Transfer||Hotel Le Six||Charles de Gaulle International Airport [CDG]|
|St Pancras International Station||Paris Gare du Nord|
The southernmost country of the United Kingdom, set in the Atlantic Sea just off the coast of western Europe, England typically conjures up images of quaint village pubs, red double-decker buses, and of course, copious amounts of tea. While England offers all of these, the country’s real attraction is in its diverse variety of cultural and historical attractions. Marvel at the mystery of Stonehenge, walk the battlements of a medieval fortress, explore grand manors and royal castles, or visit London’s magnificent reconstruction of Shakespeare’s historical Globe Theatre. While preserving this rich heritage, modern English cities bustle with some of the finest shops, galleries and museums in the world. Lively nightclubs, theatres and world-famous music venues provide an endless array of captivating diversions.
BANKING AND CURRENCY
Britain’s unit of currency is the Great British Pound (sterling) – abbreviated to GBP. The symbol for the pound sterling is £. British money is based on the decimal system – there are one hundred pence to each pound. Coins have the values of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2. Notes have the values of £5, £10, £20 and £50.
Foreign currency can easily be exchanged at banks, post offices, some hotels and Bureau de Change kiosks, which are found at international airports and most city centres.
Banks are generally open from 09:30 to 16:30 Monday to Friday. However, opening hours are can differ considerably from branch to branch. All banks are closed on public holidays. Many banks have 24-hour banking lobbies where you can access a range of services via machines. Visitors from overseas should check with their own bank whether they will be able to gain access to these facilities.
You’ll find ATMs at most banks, high streets and shopping centres. You can use international credit cards, debit cards and bank cards at ATMs providing they have a four-digit PIN encoded. As a general rule, any cash machine that displays the Visa badge can be used by Plus cardholders and those displaying the MasterCard badge can be used by Cirrus cardholders.
All credit cards that bear the Visa, MasterCard or American Express logo are widely accepted in Britain. If your card does not bear one of these logos, you should ask the retailer in advance if you can use it.
TRAVEL, TRANSPORT AND GETTING AROUND
London Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world with many flights arriving daily from all corners of the globe. Travel to England is easy! And, once you’re there, there are plenty of transport options to get you around.
If you want to get around England fast then you’ll find all the main cities are covered by a range of airlines. However, because England is a reasonably small country many people rent a car or take a train or bus to different regions. There are plenty of discount rail passes available to overseas travelers offering unlimited travel on the network.
All towns and cities have bus services, and many cities have rail as well as taxi services. London transport options are excellent and you can choose from the underground (tube), overground trains, buses, taxis, even boats and trams.
FOOD, DRINK AND CUISINE ADVICE
Standards of hygiene in relation to food health and safety in England are generally high in hotels, restaurants, pubs and nightspots. Restaurants are subject to food safety control legislation, which is implemented by local government. Regulations include certification and regular inspections by health inspectors to ensure hygienic standards are maintained.
It is safe to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, and to put ice in your drinks. England’s fish, meat and chicken are of excellent quality, so there is no need to limit yourself when enjoying the local cuisine.
The most recognizable meal is the traditional English breakfast, which includes: eggs, bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, tea, and toast with marmalade. You cannot talk about food in the United Kingdom without mentioning tea, as the average Brit drinks three cups of tea per day. Fish and chips have been a traditional meal since 1865. Lightly battered and then fried until crispy, cod and haddock are the most common types of fish used.
Tap water throughout England is safe to drink and cook with when taken from taps in urban areas. Not all tap water in rural areas is safe for consumption, so take precautions if necessary.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Spring is from March to May and is cool and dry. Noonday highs can become quite warm, particularly as summer approaches. However, snow is still possible, right up until the middle of April. Temperatures range between about 0 and 10 degrees Celsius during the English spring time.
Between June and August, England experiences its highest temperatures. While this is the driest season, localised thunderstorms can occur – usually in the southern, eastern and central parts of the country. The south eastern parts of England generally experience higher noonday temperatures, which reach around 30 degrees Celsius at the hottest, while most days average around 17 to 20 degrees.
Autumn occurs between September and November and produces unstable weather conditions throughout England. Different pressure systems and cold air creates an increased amount of precipitation. Autumn temperatures range between about 1 and 13 degrees Celsius.
The cold winter lasts from December until February. This is a very wet and windy season and snowfall is common in many parts of England. Temperatures can range from as low as 0 degrees Celsius to about 10 degrees Celsius, with very chilly winds.
CLOTHING AND DRESS RECOMMENDATIONS
Like most of Western Europe there is no dress code as such and really anything is acceptable. Smart casual clothes will help you fit right in. In the UK jeans are worn by everyone – young and old alike – and, unless you are visiting more upscale restaurants, they are perfectly acceptable to wear everywhere. But a few upmarket London venues and country hotels do still have a ‘smart’ dress code which is enforced (no jeans or sneakers, jacket and tie for men) so check if you plan to dine in these places. Unless you are staying at a hotel with a swimming pool, or intend visiting a spa, or the beach in high summer – leave your swimsuit at home as you’re unlikely to need it. If you are hitting the beaches, regular swimwear / a bikini is fine for swimming on the hottest days (July and August), but in spring and Fall wetsuits are popular (short or full length) to keep out the chill. From October to March it will be just too cold to swim, except for the very hardy! When out in the countryside you may be some distance from shelter if the weather turns bad; at all times of year go prepared with a sweater, waterproof, snacks and drinking water.
ELECTRICITY AND PLUG STANDARDS
In England the standard voltage is 230 V. The standard frequency is 50 Hz. The power sockets that are used are type G which is compatible with three flat pronged plugs. You can use your electric appliances in England if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220V – 240V (as in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). If not, a voltage converter will be necessary.
France has long been the world’s favourite tourist destination, and it doesn’t take a much imagination to understand why. It has some of the highest mountains, the most dynamic cities, the best beaches and a treasure trove of the some of the world’s most famous artistic, cultural and historical artifacts. The wide open spaces and impressive mountain ranges of the French countryside allow for a vast scope of outdoor activities to thrill even the most adventurous traveller. Those seeking more of an urban adventure won’t be disappointed by the vast range of clubs, shops, fashion and music provided by France’s cities in abundance. Combine all of these riches with the most sumptuous culinary scene in the world, and you may be planning your next trip to France before you even head back home.
BANKING AND CURRENCY
France uses the European monetary unit, the euro (€).
Euro bills come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500; coins are worth 1 cent of a euro, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 euro, and 2 euros. Local merchants may refuse to accept €200 and €500 bills due to the prevalence of counterfeit bills.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding €10,000 or equivalent must be declared if travelling from or to a country outside the European Union.
Banking hours in Paris are usually from 10h00-17h00, Monday through Friday. Throughout the rest of France, banks are usually open from 10h00-13h00 and 15h00-17h00, Tuesday to Saturday. Banks often close earlier the day before a public holiday.
ATMs are by far the best way to get money in France. They all take CB, Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus and Plus and are ubiquitous throughout France. It is possible that some machines do not handle 6-digit PIN codes (only 4-digit ones), or that they do not offer the choice between different accounts (defaulting on the checking account).
Some first class hotels are authorised to exchange foreign currency. Traveller’s cheques are difficult to use. Note that the postal service doubles as a bank, so often post offices will have an ATM. As a result, even minor towns will have ATMs which accept foreign cards.
TRAVEL, TRANSPORT AND GETTING AROUND
The main airline connecting towns and cities within France is Air France (www.airfrance.com). Easyjet (www.easyjet.com), Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) and Air Corsica (www.aircorsica.com) are among the other options.
Air France’s Metropolitan France Discount Pass offers up to a 35% reduction on more than 100 domestic routes.
Car hire is widely available from international and domestic companies. Most of these require you to be over 21 years old and in possession of a license for at least a year. You may have to pay a surcharge if you’re under 25.
The French drive on the right. France has a well-developed system of highways. Most of the motorway links are toll roads. All toll stations accept major credit cards although may not accept foreign credit cards, or you can use the automatic booth, but only if your card is equipped with a chip.
Roads range from the narrow single-lane roads in the countryside to major highways. Most towns and cities were built before the general availability of the automobile and thus city centres tend to be unwieldy for cars. Keep this in mind when renting: large cars can be very impractical. It often makes sense to just park and then use public transportation.
France’s excellent train service means that long-distance bus routes within France are rare; regional buses are found mainly where train service is spotty. The service can be unreliable in rural areas, and schedules can be incomprehensible for those who don’t speak French. Your best bet is to contact local tourism offices.
All major cities in France have an excellent public transport system. In Lille there is the world’s first automated driverless train.
In Paris, the metro is the best way to get around town. It is cheaper to buy a carnet of ten tickets rather than buying them individually. The first train leaves at 5.00am and the last train at 12.30am. A ‘Paris Visite’ allows unlimited travel on most forms of public transport in Paris for a period of three to five consecutive days.
Trains are a great way to get around in France. You can get pretty much from anywhere to anywhere else by train. For long distances, use the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse – High-Speed Train) on which reservations are obligatory. But, if you have time, take the slow train and enjoy the scenery. Booking is available in two classes: première classe (first class) is less crowded and more comfortable but can also be about 50% more expensive than deuxième classe (second class).
Almost all regions are served by a bus network, although these tend to operate over relatively short distances and services can sometimes be infrequent.
In France, taxis carry up to 9 passengers and are clearly marked with a ‘TAXI’ panel on top of the vehicle. The ‘TAXI’ panel will be green if the taxi is available and red if occupied or enroute to pick up a passenger. You can take a taxi either by hailing one on the street, going to a taxi stand/rank (station de taxi) or booking one through a taxi operator (central de radio taxi). If you book a taxi, when it arrives at the pick-up point, the taximeter may already be running. This is legally permitted as the taxi driver is allowed to turn on the meter as soon as he/she receives the request from the operator to pick you up. All taxis are obliged to have a taximeter which determines the fare.
In addition to the fare indicated on the metre, the taxi driver is permitted to add certain fare supplements (e.g. 4th passenger supplement; baggage supplement; pet animal supplement; supplement for picking up from a railway station or airport). However, all fare supplements must be clearly stated on the taxi fare information sheet displayed inside the taxi. If there are any road tolls, the taxi driver can only add the cost of the road toll to the fare if the passenger has agreed in advance, otherwise the fare includes the cost of the road toll.
France is passionate about cycling and much of the country lends itself well to exploration by bike. There’s a good number of urban and rural bike paths, as well as an extensive network of minor roads with little traffic. Most cities and towns have at least one outlet hiring bikes – some, such as Marseille and Paris, have a large-scale public bicycle sharing system.
FOOD, DRINK AND CUISINE ADVICE
This being France, the only real problems posed by the local food and drink are mild stomach complaints resulting from overindulgence. Tap water is safe to drink (although you’ll find a huge amount of bottled water for sale too) and cooked food, assuming it’s come from a hygienic kitchen, is certainly no more risky to consume than that of any developed country. Some travellers steer clear of unpasteurised dairy products due to a perceived risk of disease, while others laud the same products for their perceived health benefits. If you’re at all unsure, it’s probably best to stick to what you’re used to.
France has a more varied and developed cuisine than any other country in Europe. All establishments must post their menus outside, so take a look before you enter. Almost all restaurants offer two types of menu; a la carte (offering a wide choice for each course and is usually more expensive) and Le Menu (a set menu at a fixed price). Breakfast is usually served from 7.30 am to 10 am, lunch from noon to 2 pm, and dinner from 7:30 or 8 pm to 10 pm. Restaurants in Paris usually serve dinner until 10:30 pm. Many restaurants close on Sunday.
A 12 to 15% service charge is normally added to the bill in hotels, restaurants and bars, but it is customary to leave small change with the payment.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
France enjoys fairly mild temperatures throughout the year with a mix of rainfall and sunshine. Each region has its own particular climate: cooler and wetter to the north and west and warmer and drier in the Mediterranean. In winter, there is plenty of snow in mountainous areas. More rarely, snow falls on the plains, mainly north of the Loire, and extremely rarely in Paris. In spring, temperatures quickly rise above 20°C in the south. Summers are hot with temperatures often reaching 30°C in Ajaccio and Marseille, 25°C in Brest and Deauville. Autumn marks the return of the rain, with the weather turning cooler.
CLOTHING AND DRESS RECOMMENDATIONS
From November to March the weather in France can get very cold so dress warmly, with layers, and take a warm smart coat, gloves, warm hat and scarf. If travelling from July through to August, light breathable clothing is recommended and sunscreen, sunglasses and a sunhat are essential. Durning the Spring (April and May) and Fall (September and October) the weather becomes cooler and dressing in layers will help you cope with the temperature changes. Waterproof winter gear is advised for the mountains all year round. In winter even the Mediterranean resorts often require a sweater or jacket for the evenings.
ELECTRICITY AND PLUG STANDARDS
Electrical sockets (outlets) in France are one of the two European standard electrical socket types: The “Type C” Europlug and the “Type E” and “Type F” Schuko. If your appliance’s plug doesn’t match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance’s plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it’s crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all three types.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in France usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you’re plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If you appliance is not compatible with 220-240 volt electrical output, a voltage converter will be necessary.