Below are frequently asked questions (FAQ) which I get via email and comments. I’ll agree, some are a bit “humorous”…. Select the FAQ category below for the questions to appear. Then click on a question for the answer.

Below are frequently asked questions (FAQ) which I get via email and comments. I’ll agree, some are a bit “humorous”…. Select the FAQ category below for the questions to appear. Then click on a question for the answer.

  • 1. Safety
  • 2. Accommodation/Food
  • 3. General
  • 4. Fun
Expand All | Collapse All
  • 1. Is it safe to travel/visit France?

    Yes, very safe. Despite recent terrorist events, France is a big country with an excellent police force. The chance that you are hurt or killed by a terrorist attempt is lower than the chance that you get killed putting on your socks (a true statistic).

    Apart from some areas, which are definitely not touristy, most of France will welcome you with open arms. The areas you will not want to visit (outside of Paris) are the Marseilles suburbs, or any "projects"-type parts of a big city.

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(2) / No(0)
    Viewed 3237 Times No Comments
  • 2. What's with all the different police forces?

    True, there are different police forces operating in France many with similar roles & duties.


    Police-GendarmerieAt the top of the pyramid is the Gendarmerie. The Gendarmes are the most known internationally, but believe it or not, they are military. Or at least, they used to be. Today they have dual reporting; Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior. But whoever they report to, the are the best trained and equipped and have the largest powers. They are also mostly used for riots.

    The gendarme is also the one who will ticket you speeding on the motorways.

    You'll find them mostly in the country, less so in the big cities. There are some 100,000 gendarmes in France.

    Police National

    Police-NationaleThe national police is a national level law enforcement, a bit like the FBI, that operates anywhere but mostly in big cities and towns. They report to the Minister of Interior.

    They have more or less 150,000 police officers operating throughout France.


    Police-DouaneAnother unit you will find frequently patrolling the motorways and highways is the Douane.

    They report to the Ministry of Economy and of course can be found at all the airports and harbours, but you'll find them more and more on motorways. There they are looking for drugs and other illegal items and for illegal immigrants.

    They have wide powers to stop you and search your vehicles. They have some 3500 vehicles.

    Municipal Police

    Police-municipaleThe Municipal Police are a local police force hired in cities. There are some 20,000 local police operating in 3500 communities in France.

    Though their powers are severely limited (for example they do not solve crimes), it is only recently that they have received weapons. They will however issue tickets for parking offences or speeding in the city.

    They also have a country side equivalent called "Police Rural" which operate in areas in France where there is little or no infrastructure. It gives the area a police presence.


    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(4) / No(0)
    Viewed 4403 Times No Comments
  • 3. What are the speed limits, and are they checked?

    Motorways (in French they are called Autoroutes) are normally 130 kph, except when it rains, then they go down to 110 kph. Secondary roads, country roads and national highways are limited at 90 kph. Some dual carriage roads (2 x 2 lanes) are limited to 110 kph.

    Cities are limited to 50 kph, but more and more are lowering portions of the city to 30 kph.

    As for the policing of the speed limits, rest assured: they are checked almost everywhere! France's government has fallen for the speed radar, an autonomous, digital and highly sophisticated unit that often checks not only several lanes, but also checks traffic in the opposite lanes. Photos are made and immediately sent wirelessly to a computer where it is analysed. License plates are read and the fine and license points (in France you start with 12 points and every time you get caught being naughty, they subtract points until you forfeit your license) are mailed to your house days after the speeding. There are also several unmarked cars patrolling the roads equipped with these sophisticated radars.

    They have also started placing radars before road works. These radars are mobile, so can be placed in many different areas where there is work in progress.

    Officially, international license plates can be ticketed by these smart machines, but in practise this would require the police in your country to come and get the fine and send it to France: That's not going to happen! But if you are driving a rental car, expect to have to pay when returning the car.

    The only plus point is that most fixed radars are marked with sign signalling a radar within the next 5 kilometres.

    "You are approaching a radar" sign
    "You are approaching a radar" sign
    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(1) / No(0)
    Viewed 3413 Times No Comments
  • 1. Are there enough camping sites?

    Yes, there are a lot of camping sites. On average, every 2-3 villages will have one, though sometimes you'll need to go to a neighbouring village. Many are comfortable, some are just rudimentary.

    Below is a link to an English language camping search site. Here you can find a camp site that best suits your needs:


    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(0) / No(0)
    Viewed 4320 Times No Comments
  • 2. Are there any good hotels in France?

    Yes, of course. Every major international hotel chain will have hotels in France, especially in the big cities. And France has its own very big hotel chain (Accor, the owners of Novotel, Ibis, and a few other properties).

    In every city you'll find good, if not great, hotels. In smaller cities or bigger towns you'll find 2 or 3 star hotels.

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(0) / No(0)
    Viewed 3333 Times No Comments
  • 3. Do hotels give themselves star ratings?

    No, the French government do. They have a series of criteria to obtain 1 to 5 stars (like is there a TV, airco, coffee/tea set, internet, etc etc in the room). The more criteria are met, the higher the score.

    The government also employs inspectors who spot check hotels. So you can be reasonably well assured that the hotel star ratings are appropriate.

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(1) / No(0)
    Viewed 3217 Times No Comments
  • 4. What are "Gites"?

    A gite is a self-catering holiday rental accommodation. Usually a cottage with several rooms, with the owner living close by (but it can also be in the owner's house itself, with a room or more available for rent).

    A gite usually has everything equipped (washing machine, kitchen, utensils, etc), but you need to clean the rental yourself, do the beds and cook. At the end of the rental, you need to return the place to the way it was when you entered.

    There is one very large organisation that covers all of France for gite rentals. Called "Gites de France", they apply a star systems to each rental (called "Epis"), with 5 being "luxury".

    The good part of using gites is a) cost is lower than hotels and b) many offer several rooms, so if you are travelling with several people, you can unit them all under the same roof with no fear of disturbing other guests and c) you'll find gites all over France, even in the smallest villages where there are no hotels.

    Some gites offer "Table de Hotes", i.e. you eat at the owner's table (pots luck).

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(2) / No(0)
    Viewed 4974 Times No Comments
  • 5. What is a "Chambre d'Hote"?

    A "chambre d'hote", literally translated means "guest room", is one or more rooms in a private house that are rented out. The room can be in someone's apartment, house, farm or even castle. Usually the price includes breakfast, so in English terms, this would be a B &B "Bed & Breakfast".

    The organisation that specialises in "gites" also takes care of a lot of chambre d'hotes. Click here to have a look.

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(1) / No(0)
    Viewed 3381 Times No Comments
  • 6. What is a "Table d'Hote"?

    Table d'Hote, meaning "guest's table", is the means of eating at your host's table. Usually used at Gites and Chambre d'Hote, it allows you to eat whatever the host (owner of the facilities) is making.

    Based more or less on "pot's luck", the meal is a fixed set of courses at a fixed price. The quality of the meal will obviously depend on the host. You could be lucky and have a real top chef cooking for you.

    At the web site for gites and chambre d'hote you will also find the necessary table d'hote.

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(1) / No(0)
    Viewed 3849 Times No Comments
  • 7. How much does one tip in a restaurant?

    Nothing. In France, service is included in the bill. Many French people will however round-off the amount in case the service was really good and friendly.

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(0) / No(0)
    Viewed 3482 Times No Comments
  • 8. Where can I stay with my camping car?

    Obviously you can stay in camping sites, but many if not most cities offer free parking areas for camping cars. Many have free or low cost electricity and/or water .

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(0) / No(0)
    Viewed 3239 Times No Comments
  • 9. Is it possible to buy a castle?

    Yes, very much so. In fact, often castles are quite cheap to buy. But on the downside, you often need to commit to maintaining it, and that is a very costly affair. Not only will you be spending a lot of money on the roof, walls and other building elements, but also a small fortune keeping the castle warm and dry.

    On top of that, if the castle falls under the historical French monuments (and most do), any changes to the castle will ned to be approved by the authorities, a long journey.

    There is a good reason only the very wealthy built castles.

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(1) / No(0)
    Viewed 3266 Times No Comments
  • 1. Do the French speak any English?

    20 years ago you could have counted them on one hand, but today, many will at least try to speak English, while there are quite a few who speak very good English.

    So no worries when you're stuck and need to ask for directions in English. Just don't shout, they might have a problem with English, but they're not deaf.

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(0) / No(0)
    Viewed 3759 Times No Comments
  • 2. Do the French all wear berets and should I wear one?

    No. This is not a Hollywood-take on France. Very few still wear a beret. In the deep country you'll maybe find older people still wearing them. If you wear them, everyone will know you are a tourist.

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(1) / No(0)
    Viewed 3354 Times No Comments
  • 3. Is it true the French stink?

    No, remember that it's the French who specialise in making perfumes. Unless you're stuck in rush-hour traffic in the Metro during a heatwave, you'll not be bothered by B.O., unless it's from very tired tourists.

    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(0) / No(0)
    Viewed 3304 Times No Comments
  • 1. How good and clean are the beaches?

    It will depend where in France. There is an international organisation that rates all beaches called Blue Flag. In France, it's called Pavillon Blue, and on their web site (unfortunately only in French) you can see which beaches and which marinas have received the coveted "blue flag".

    The Pavillon Blue (blue flag) is given to those beaches that meet a very big series of criteria, not only ranging from clean water and beach, but infrastructure, lifeguards, signages, access, ecological, etc.

    On the Pavillon Blue web site (in French), you can see a map with all the beaches and marinas. You can zoom into the map to the beach you are interested in.

    Once you are at a beach, and you want to know if it has been approved, look for the logo, usually prominently displayed (mind you, this is not just for sea beaches, but also river beaches):

    Pavillon Blue (Blue flag) logo
    Pavillon Blue (Blue flag) logo
    Was this answer helpful ? Yes(1) / No(0)
    Viewed 4254 Times No Comments
Scroll to Top