ABOUT DISCOVER FRANCE
DISCOVER FRANCE is the leader in self-guided bicycle tours to France. With our offices in both France and the USA, we are positioned to provide the best trips, itineraries, and value to customers.
In 2019 we celebrate 25 years in business!
Established - Since 1994 we have pioneered self-guided travel for travelers to France. We are an award-winning leader and recognized by reputable associations like National Geographic and Maison de la France.
- Professional- we are committed to giving our clients the best service and experience possible. We have the staff, professional and certified guides, systems, and know -how.
- Knowledgeable - We are French, speak French, live/lived in France; our unparalleled insight into cycling and hiking and multisport travel and the little details that make a great vacation are essential.
- Flexible and Responsive - we can adapt tours to your needs, and we offer enough tours to meet just about everyone's needs.
- Superior equipment - We offer SCOTT Sub Sport 20 hybrids along with SCOTT Addict 20 or Cannondale Synapse carbon road bikes with GPS in every region!
- Responsive support - We offer bilingual help, orientations, transfers, and other support services available 24/7.
- Pre-travel Documentation - We design and send you extensive materials to help you finalize and anticipate your tour.
- Price - Nobody beats our quality and affordability.
MEET THE TEAM
At Discover France, we have a team from around the world ready to meet each and every one of your needs. Based in southern France right between the Mediterranean Sea and the Massif Central mountains, we all love to be outdoors. Most of us bike, others run and play soccer, and we even have some swimmers and rugby players in the office. No matter what we like to do outdoors, we understand how to make an outdoor vacation absolutely unforgettable.
- Thomas BOUTIN: A former Top 10 MTB French Pro cyclist, Thomas is in charge of all organization (offices, bike shop, business development, Tour de France liaison, Bike School, as well as corporate team building programs, incentives, youth camps, vehicles, and bike fleet). In 2010 he was awarded a top business honor for entrepreneurs of small business in France and holds a Masters in sports management!
- Maggie Berardino: Maggie is part of the sales team in the US and is ready to create a special itinerary just for you. Ever the adventurer, she lived in Australia for two years and taught English in Japan for three. When she's not hitting the slopes in the winter, you can find her cycling the trails of the Rockies and training for triathlons.
- John Sessa: A former bike mechanic for top professional teams, John knows his way around a bike. After having traveled around Europe for years as a mechanic, he is now based in Florida where he wants new people to experience the thrill and beauty of cycling in Europe. He is the one of the newest members of the consultant team and is ready to share the beauties of France with the world!
- Valentina Perego: The token Parisian on our team, Valentina provides that authentic French touch when preparing trips. Although she lives in the bustling city, she still has her roots from the northern Italian countryside. Using her European perspective, she knows how to create the perfect trip for each client.
- Sakari Kyrö: Swedish national that was born in Finland, but lived most of his life in other countries (Austria, Sweden, USA) before marrying a French woman and settling down outside Nîmes in France. Sakari came to Discover France from the startup/agency world because of his love for cycling. He bikes to work, bikes when he has the time on his lunch breaks and bikes on his free time.
- Melanie Gentz: Melanie is part of the sales team in the US. She has been in the travel industry for over 15 years and has traveled to 35 countries and can help find the best adventure for you. When not working she loves cycling, hiking, running, skiing and of course traveling. She secretly thinks she has French blood!
- Sébastien Charles: A fanatic of every sport out there, Seb loves to go out and adventure. You are bound to see him canoeing one day and boxing the next! In the office, he handles logistical activities to make each trip run as smoothly as possible while also improving the office’s tech savvy by implementing software that has increased efficiency in the office.
- Valentine Segrestan: Valentine is an absolute work horse on the mountain bike trail and an absolutely friendly person in the office. She competes annually in the French Mountain Bike championships while effortlessly organizing our TDF trips and any other custom trip that comes our way. When the trip season gets busy, she likes to relax with the occasional piece of chocolate, so if you ever want to make her happy, a chocolate bar will do the trick!
- Francois BERNARD: Francois is in charge of all logistics including orientations, route book preparation, tour sales, and support. Along with this, he is the Tour de France logistics coordinator and a professional touring guide. He is the busy bee of Discover France, making sure everything runs smoothly. Working from France, he is bilingual in French & English, and his key hobby includes knocking heads on the rugby field!
- Aurelien BIANCIOT: Aurelien manages bikes, seminars, team-building, events, and logistics. And somehow he also manages to have time to be a Cat 1 road racer, downhill racer, mountain bike, and cross racer -- as well as a certified professional guide!
- Sandy Paclet: Madame Comptabilité (Ms. Accounting). Sandy is a steadfast rock who can handle any type of project. She is a true pro by making the difficult task of handling Discover France’s finances with absolute ease. However, while consistent and solid in the office, she lets out her creative side by acting in a local theatre!
- Sandrine Gaudot-Dulac: Part two of the dynamic duo of accounting. Sandrine is as organized as it gets and keeps the rest of us in order whenever business gets busy. Although working for a cycling company, she is a fan of swimming more than anything. That slight imperfection aside, Sandrine is a ball of joy and incredibly kind.
- Théo: Théo oversees the overall marketing strategy of Discover France by deciding how we market and who we market to. Although working for a cycling company, he constantly dreams of growing another 15 centimeters to join the Miami Heat basketball team and bringing home an NBA championship.
- Discover France is the pioneer in specialized self-guided bicycle tours, since 1996. We offer self-guided tours across Europe and France so our clients can enjoy visiting places by bike, keeping their independence, still knowing we are available and will provide support when needed.
- Discover France has won the Septuors award 2018. This award is given to the most innovative tourism company in "oenotourisme" or "wine tourism" in the region of Occitanie.
- French Affairs in Vegas Winner 2013 & 2014 Discover France picked up two awards at the French Affairs conference in Vegas in 2014: Best Regional Operator and Most Active Partner
- In 2013, France Tourism Development Agency Atout France named Discover France Most Active Partner at the 2013 French Affairs Awards.
- NGA Award 2009 National Geographic Adventure magazine : - named our Tour des Pyrenees one of the 25 Best New Trips for 2010 (read the article). - named our Provence Multisport Tour as one of the Best 25 New Trips for 2009. - selected Discover France as one of the Best Outfitters on Earth in 2007!
- Men's Journal, Outpost, and SmarterTravel.com have all selected trips by Discover France and our brands as Best Trips!
- Discover France has been recognized annually by the French Government Tourist Office for our extensive product offers and award winning websites.
- We are a member of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).
- Discover France participates in a variety of French Government Tourist Office events.
- In 2014, Discover France enters its 20th year of operations. Trade names are registered with the United States Patent Office. We work with various offices of tourism and employ destination specialists in the regions that we promote.
What does it take to be a professional cycling guide in France?
Answer: A LOT!
Dedication, experience, schooling, and a combination of social, language, and organizational skills. We believe we have the best when it comes to offering our Custom Guided Cycling Tours. See the full details of what it takes to be a Professional Cycling Guide in France and what Discover France requires before our guides ever meet you on the tour!
About our tours
How to Choose a Tour
Regarding our tours in France, our France travel and bike tour and walking tours we offer this added information about rating the tours and your ability:
About the "Level" rating system we employ:
- Casual: Beginners and occasional cyclists. Easiest tours we provide. Typically flatter terrain, no notable hills or anything of a steep gradient.
- Hobby: Weekend riders. People with some cycling experience, rolling countryside, possible short climbs.
- Active: Cyclists with experience on longer rides. Hilly terrain with reasonable amount of climbs and difficulty
- Pro: Avid cyclists, ride every week and love long and challenging rides. Dream on riding the Tour de France cols.
More challenging options : Ask us to design you a custom tour or simply take our maps and add miles to your route. Feel free to improvise, but know your limits and know what the symbols on the maps mean!
Weather: heat, rain, and wind will all have an effect on your ride/walk and extremes of each will make it more difficult. Load: carrying excessive weight obviously makes more work for you. We always transfer luggage, so this refers only to what you take in a day pack or in panniers.
Dress: layering, using appropriate and lightweight clothing, protection from the sun, and good footwear make it easier for you.
Equipment: primarily relates to bikes; but knowing how to shift, when to shift, and maintain your bike will make it easier for you as well. How long will it take to cover the rides/walks/hikes at these levels? There is no specific answer because everyone travels at his or her own speed. However, when we indicate a time, such as in the hikes, we generalize with an average of 5 km/hour on flat surfaces and 3.5 km/hr on grade. In the bike rides, we generalize an average of 13-18 km/h on flat surfaces and 10-13 km/h on grade. Those times do include bathroom breaks, but not time for lunch and visits. Everyone should allow time to stop and explore, visit sites, and check directions.
If you can ride a bike at 20 mph; you cannot take a trip and expect to finish a ride in 2 hours. First, you need to allow time to check directions as you go, and then stop to visit. No less than 4 hours should be allowed to do any of the hikes and rides we have in our programs on any day. Longer days will last as much as 8 hours with stops and visits included.
Star tours - aka loop trips! These are days where you return to the same hotel where you start the day. This means that people who are less strong can do shorter days than stronger persons. It also allows a day off, non-active participants to come along, and is a great way for families and groups of varying abilities/interests to do the same trip together. These tours offer everything from easy to challenging rides, (Levels 1 - 3) but are usually rated as easy because it accommodate easy.
Reading Maps and the Roadbooks:
All our Tours : We provide, at the orientation, a road-book with cue sheet (step by step itinerary), detailled maps and regional information. 1 GPS is provided for 2 persons.
Cycling & Multisport tours, you will find plenty of road signs and indications to keep you on course and roads are easily identified on maps included with the road-book.
On Hiking tours, it is more important to know how to orient with a map as you will have fewer sign postings to rely upon. Hiking tours mostly follow GR routes which are marked trails, sometimes paved, but nonetheless otherwise in remote areas. We provide more detailled maps for hiking Tours and still 1 GPS for 2 persons.
What else? You should be an independent person, capable of reading a map, interpreting directions, and taking charge of your planning. We are here to help you, but in the end, you will be the one out there on the road/trail and the more prepared you are mentally as well as physically, the more fun and better memories you will have! Use this tour as an excuse to increase your conditioning and fitness and take some time to read everything we send to you as well as do your own research. Preparation is part of the fun in travel - don't let it go unattended! Within this site you can discover more than just our tours, but also information about the regions of France, and information about traveling in France. Most important though for anyone visiting our site and considering a vacation in France is that you can call us! Let our service and knowledge set us apart! This website isn't to help us avoid speaking to clients, but to facilitate your planning process, and hopefully get you the information you need right away. If you have a question though, Please contact us if you have any questions about our services.
Bikes, Vans, Our Shop
At Discover France, we own our own bikes! We employ professonal mechanics to look after all rental bikes as well as our regular professional service to the local customers.
You are responsible for the bikes. Bikes are delivered to each participant based on height. They are sized as close as possible but they remain rentals and may take some minor adjustments. The quality is top notch for rentals. Our mechanics review every bike after each rental to prepare for the next use. WHILE ON TOUR: remember that YOU must know how to fix a flat. We give you the tools, but we are not on call to fix that. We will resolve any other mechanical issues if they should arise.
GPS, Route Books, Support
Discover France Adventures is proud to be a leader in providing complete and even 'advance' technology on our self guided and custom guided tours that allow our clients to use the best equipment possible. We invested in GPS units a few years back and have some simple to use, easy to read, yet sophisticated devices available on nearly all of our tours. (Pictured: hybrid bike with GPS and mount, bike computer, handlebar bag with plastic map holder and inside cover of a sample route book.)
Our route books or 'road books' (same thing) are complete packages of information that will help you to guide yourself through the itinerary that we have planned and laid out for you our travelers. Anyone can produce a route book, in general, but we have invested significant time and incorporated the feedback of our customers over many years to make our road books even better. It is always a work in progress as roads change, sites change, and we find even better routes between 2 points. We work on them every winter to prepare for the upcoming season. Our road books include: color coded information, color maps, highlighted routes, orientation points, and easy to follow directions. We try to give you enough information to interpret the route without giving you too much information that makes you read all the time and not enjoy the ride! It is a delicate balance!
Roadbooks are a tool, one that every traveler will use and interpret differently. 2 people do not always see the same thing on a map, and so some people will not interpret the directions the same way. We know this and its why we have created the system we have. Combining the GPS with road book really gives you all the tools and a fail safe way to make your way along a tour route without stress and all the time available to take in the gorgeous countryside, rich culture, and historic sites!
Tour Support? Yes, even on a self guided tour we are behind the scenes working and we are available to you if you need help. We refer to this in our tour pages as 'emergency support' but we don't treat many emergencies. In our 2 offices in the Loire Valley and in the South of France we are on standby via phone for all of our travelers no matter where they are in France. Our offices are bilingual French/English and we have some Spanish, Russian, and Italian speakers as well. This support service is available during daylight hours when our clients are out on the routes. We help customers arrange alternative transfers if weather is bad or someone is sick and can't participate in the day's activity. We can iron out any problem with hotels you may encounter when you arrive. We help if a bike problem should arise, and we help with additional services you may need during your trip.
Our travelers are never completely alone, even if you don't see us. The beautiful part of a self guided trip is doing the activity yourself and those close to you; doing it when you want, how you want, but not having to do all the work to make it happen. You get expertly designed routes, support, and service. A self guided trip is the best deal going as far as were concerned, and with all the above info we think you will agree!
Exceptional terms and conditions Tours linked with Covid 19
applicable for all bookings made from 1st April 2020 and until further notice for Reservations, deposits, payments, changes & cancellations
RESERVATIONS, DEPOSITS & PAYMENTS
Reservations: Reservations can be made by email or on-line by providing your credit card info, however no booking is final until you receive a written confirmation from us.
Deposits: An advance deposit equal to 30% of total amount per person is required at the time of booking via credit card. Full payment is due 30 days prior to the tour departure date. The tour price is per person based on double occupancy and includes those items mentioned in the itinerary plus any prepaid optional items selected by you. Single room requests are subject to additional charges and must be requested at time of booking. Group sizes may have a maximum and a minimum number of participants, which may vary for each tour.
If the requested tour is not available, you will be refunded the deposit. If you wish to pay your deposit by wire or check, your reservation cannot be confirmed until we receive your deposit and it has been cleared by the bank.
The deposit of 30% will be applied to the final amount due which will be determined and payable at the latest 30 days prior to the tour's departure date.
Final Payment: Final payment is due at the latest 30 days prior to the tour's departure date. Final payment shall be made in Euros by credit card or by wire transfer. We will remind you of your final payment date in advance and provide you the information on payment options. NO debit card shall be accepted. We will give you the wire transfer instructions and the amount due in Euros. If you find a more favorable exchange rate any time prior to your payment due date, you are free to pay your final amount in advance to save more money. If we do not receive payment by the 30th day prior to the tour departure date, your reservation will be automatically cancelled and subject to the cancellation terms and conditions below.
Last-Minute Bookings: If you are booking a tour within 14 days of a tour departure date, full payment is due within 24 hours of our written confirmation by either wire transfer or credit card. If we do not receive payment within 24 hours, then the credit card submitted with the booking will be charged for the full tour amount which shall not be refundable.
CHANGES AND CANCELLATIONS
Changes : If you wish to make a change to your tour itinerary, you must submit your request to us in writing by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or postal mail at: Discover France, 427 rue Hélène Boucher Espace Commercial Fréjorgues Ouest 34130 Mauguio, France. Once a booking request is received and confirmed by us in writing, any modification of dates or alteration of itineraries by you will incur change fees. Fees vary according to the type and scope of the change. Our vendors, which include hotels, often impose additional fees or penalties for changes and cancellations. These are included in the change fees and can be substantial. A minimum change fee of 200 Euros per person applies to any change within 60 days of travel.
Cancellations: If you wish to cancel your tour, you must submit your request to us in writing by email at:
email@example.com or postal mail at: Discover France, 427 rue Hélène Boucher Espace Commercial Fréjorgues Ouest 34130 Mauguio, France.
If a cancellation is made after receipt of the deposit but before the 15 day final payment due date, 100% of the deposit are returned by wire transfer. For Cancellation within 15 days, the entire deposit is non-refundable, and additional cancellation penalties may apply, up to 100% of tour costs. No refunds shall be made once the tour starts. There are NO EXCEPTIONS to this cancellation policy, including but not limited to reasons related to force majeure (see paragraph below), weather conditions, family or medical emergencies or any circumstances beyond our control.
Pre-Departure Cancellations or Changes by Discover France: We reserve the right to cancel any tour prior to departure for any reason. In the event of such cancellation, a full refund will be issued to you via bank transfer, which shall constitute a full settlement. In the event that, prior to departure, we make any significant changes because of a problem with a supplier, for example a hotel bankruptcy, we will, as soon as reasonably possible, notify you of available alternatives. Such changes may generate a supplemental payment from you or possibly a refund. No refunds under this paragraph will be issued due to cancellations or changes due to Force Majeure .
No Reimbursements due to Changes or Cancellations: We will not reimburse Participants for any personal expenses such as airline tickets, other travel or hotel expenses due to changes in itineraries or tour cancellations.
Update: November 2020
EXCEPTIONAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS LINKED TO COVID-19 - TOUR DE FRANCE -
The booking is effective only upon receipt of your deposit and after confirmation from us of availability. For guided tours, a 50% deposit is required at the time of booking and for self guided tours a 30% deposit is required at the time of booking, after which a confirmation will be sent to you. For VIP access only and Tour de France days trip the full amount is due upon booking. All tours and access are fully refundable untill May 26th, 2021.
Payment of the balance:
The balance will be requested on May 26th, 2021. On receipt of the balance, an email will be sent to you with all the practical information concerning your stay or service: meeting places, times and means of access...
Once you have paid the deposit, you may cancel the service at any time for any reason until May 26th, 2021. If you wish to cancel, you must send us your request in writing (email). 100% of your deposit is refundable until May 26th, 2021.
If the cancellation takes place after May 26th, 2021, the deposit is no longer refundable unless you find someone to replace you. No refund is possible once the stay or service has begun.
No-show at the meeting place, abandonment on your part during the stay or the service, do not entitle you to any refund.
In case of cancellation on our side, you will be notified in writing. As far as possible, a replacement will be offered to you. In case of definitive cancellation, you will receive a full refund from us.
Update: November 2020
Read below and find the answer for these common questions regarding our tours in France & Europe, travel and bike tour and walking tour booking policies:
What does the trip include?
All trips include hotel, baggage transfer, guide maps and tourist information. Meals are included but vary from trip to trip on how many meals!Each tour indicates what it includes in the description and makes note as to what options may also be paid for such as bike rental. Some tours include special extras such as admissions to attractions, picnics, and so on. Please read each tour description carefully.
What about single rooms?
Single supplements are available in nearly every tour. This is an extra charge over the quoted double room rate which is a shared rate. If you are traveling with others, you will be booked into a double unless you indicate in advance your single preference. NOTE: Solo travelers are welcome, but a higher solo supplement is applicable to cover costs that aren't shared such as bag transfers, orientation, etc.
Why do you price in Euros, and how do I pay for my trip?
Prices in Euros are shown as all of our costs in Europe are based in Euros. We can price our tours and calculate a fair profit based on this and independent of fluctuation in currency values. This is done primarily as a benefit to our clients - you can compare better, and you can know that you are not paying more for a fictitious exchange rate that may or may not be in play at the time of your trip.
Paying for your services is done in $US, or Euros. Paying in Euros is possible by wire transfer or by credit card and wire transfer for $US. We convert to $US at current exchange rates so you can save money from your bank might charge you. See the Terms section to know more about methods for making your final payment.
Are support vans available and how is luggage transferred?
Bags are transferred for the self-guided trips via pre-arranged transportation with the hotel. You will need to have bags packed and left at the checkout desk by 9:00 am, or it will be noted what time bags must be dropped. Check for any bag limits. Bags are dropped at the hotel by 5pm (latest time). We have never lost a bag - don't worry about that!
On guided trips, van support is provided and all bags will be carried by the van. However the van may not be carrying the bags at all times during the day. Your things may be transferred, prior to a sweep of the route by the van. Guides will advise the groups about bag drop times and planned transfers.
How hard are the trips and am I capable?
Check this page where we explain the level rating
What should I bring?
You will be provided with a suggested packing list. Its up to you to decide what additional things to bring. Depending on your total trip time in France, you may have bags which you won't need on the bike tour. We suggest you make arrangements to store bags during the bike tour if you won't need them. Ask our staff for suggestions in coordinating your total voyage.
What if I need to cancel?
Consult the Terms section of this website linked above. Stiff penalties apply for cancellation within 60 days of the tour start. Insurance is available through our office at the time of booking to protect certain unforeseen circumstances that may cause you to have to cancel. At the moment, the insurance offered as optional only covers US and Canadian residents.
What meals are included and what can be expected?
This is the best part of travel in France!This is certainly no time to go on a diet, but as you will learn, in France many wonderful things can be enjoyed in moderation. All of the tours offer cuisine of the region, and suggestions for places to visit and specialties to enjoy will be available. The tours vary as to what each includes, and therefore read the description carefully. For meals that are included, if you have a special need, please let us know in advance and we will make every effort to meet those needs. In nearly every case, beverages are not included with meals, (your individual purchase).
What about wine tasting, and visiting wineries?
Wines of France are both plentiful and excellent, and the caves on our routes make great stops to visit. If you enjoy a good wine, we are happy to transport if for you if our transport is available, but alcohol is your individual purchase, and you are expected to respect the French laws. Several of the tours include tasting, but not purchases for "carryout".
What is the difference between 1, 2, 3, 4 stars in hotels?
The French rate their hotels based on a variety of amenities and services offered. Luxury hotels will naturally be at the top of the ratings at 4 star. Most of the hotels used are 3 and 4 star properties. This rating ensures you a excellent quality hotel property with room containing a private bathroom and shower at a minimum among other amenities. Most all of the properties will contain a restaurant, and if the property does not it will have an arrangement with a very close restaurant. You can expect to be able to store your bike either in a special storage area or in your room. All of the hotels used are bicycle friendly. In general, you are paying for a very good and charming hotel with excellent services. We never use chain hotels, and we as much as is available will choose a typical hotel, historic property, with friendly staff. Additional amenities such as swimming pools, internet/wifi, jacuzzi, etc. may be available, and upgrades are noted where available.
How will I get to the starting point of the tour?
Connections and getting there can be arranged through our offices as well as any other add-ons to your tour. We often book car and both TGV and local train travel. There are limits on airplane baggage and train baggage with the TGV, so be sure to check with us. Most tours will require you to get from the airport or train station to the starting hotel, but some will include picking you up and dropping you off. Check the tour descriptions.
How far is a kilometer?
Roughly 1.6 kilometers is a mile. (Ex: 50 km is about 31 miles.) All French distance markers are in kilometers, so to help you track progress, all of our distances are quoted in kilometers.
Is self-guided totally alone?
One of the largest US cycling magazines has even confounded what this type of travel means, and therefore it is easily misunderstood!This is NOT SELF-CONTAINED bicycle touring. Bags are transported and most of the services of a guided trip are provided!
Yes, you can be independent, but you're never totally alone. The trips are at your pace, however each night you have the comfort of knowing you have a room reserved and paid for in a charming location with an excellent meal and sites to see. Also, detailed guide maps provide all the information you'll need in explicit terms so that you won't get lost. You will have the phone number of each hotel, and our French office. All of the tours include daily briefings by our staff, usually in person after you arrive at your first hotel. Self-guided for these tours means partially supported. Perhaps the greatest quality of a self-guided tour is that you are never dependent on other group members for dates of travel, speed of cycling, visits desired, etc. You can do mostly what you want, when you want!
How do I book a trip?
Its very simple. Complete the online booking form over our 128 bit encrypted secure site , or you can go to our Brochure & Booking page and follow the instructions for printing and faxing a completed form. Be sure to read our Terms and Conditions as well. If you want, you can call us at 800-929-0152 to have us fax a booking form to you. We require a credit card or check deposit to complete the booking request, but we do not charge credit cards nor deposit checks until all hotel space is confirmed. If it is, then we confirm the dates with you and charge the deposit. If it is not, we will work to find convenient alternatives, which may only involve adjusting by one or two days or going to alternate hotels.
I need help with air, trains, and Paris hotels, can you help? Yes, we can help with car rentals, hotels and other special services. Our company is capable of providing all these services and often do so with the exception of airfare. Regarding train tickets, we can help by recommending websites and schedule that would work for your itinerary, but we cannot book the train tickets for you.
Within this site you can discover more than just our tours, but also information about the regions of France, and information about traveling in France. Most important though for anyone visiting our site and considering a vacation in France is that you can CALL US! Let our service and knowledge set us apart! This website isn't to help us avoid speaking to clients, but to facilitate your planning process, and hopefully get you the information you need right away. If you have a question though, please contact us if you have any questions about our services to France.
Travel Tips For France
Part of our included services for tour clients booking trips with us is a variety of travel documents that we send prior to travel. This includes a lot of information relevant to each cycling or multisport tour such as sites in the particular region, and the points of interest. We include suggested dining spots, and any specialties of a region. We also help our customers book trains, added hotel stays, car rentals, and any other ground service in France. Below are some general travel tips we believe useful for any one traveling to France.
France Time zone
France is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (G.M.T. +1). This makes it 6 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time (E.S.T. +6, and +9 PST).
The time is the same all over the country.
The country is divided in 95 departments â€“ each has its name and its number and this number is set by alphabetical order. That number is found at the beginning of each zip code of the department as well as the last 2 digits of the car plates.
Documentation U.S citizens only need a valid passport to travel to France as long as their stay does not exceed 3 months. You are required to carry identification with you at all times when traveling in France. If you lose your passport, contact:
2, rue Saint Florentin - 75001 Paris
Tel: 01.42.96.12.02 or 01.42.61.80.75
Consular Section for Canadians
35, Avenue de Montaigne - 75008 Paris
Post Office - Mail / Shipping
The Post Office is called LA POSTE or PTT. Generally open M-F from 9am to 6pm and Saturday from 9am to 12pm.
France is divided by 5 zones for the telephone. The 2 first digits of a phone number tells you the area: 01 is Paris / 02 northwest / 03 northeast / 04 southeast / 05 southwest.
From the States, you don't need to dial the 0. But once in France, you have to dial the 0. Phone numbers must have 10 digits (including the first 0), no exception â€“ except of course the emergency numbers. Public phones in France require a telephone card, or they can often work also with a credit card. Check for the signs Visa, Master Card, etcâ€¦
Emergency telephone numbers throughout France
24 hour ambulance (called SAMU): 15
Other telephone numbers in Paris:
24 hour doctor: 01.47.07.77.77
24 hour dentist: 01.43.37.51.00
English language crisis line: 01.47.23.80.80
January 1st / Easter Monday / May 1st = Labor Day / May 8th / Ascension Thursday (last Thursday of May) / Pentecote Monday (beginning of June) / July 14 = Bastille Day / August 15 = Assumption / November 1st / November 11th / December 25th.
Electricity in France runs on 220 volt, 50-cycle AC current. If you bring electrical devices, you will need to have a transformer and plug adapter.
Banking / Purchasing
Banks are generally open weekdays 9am - 4:30pm. In many cities outside Paris banks close for lunch, sometimes for 2 hours. Most banks are closed Saturday and Sunday and all holidays. The main banks are: BNP / Credit Agricole / Societe Generale / Caisse d'Epargne / Credit du Nord, etcâ€¦
The Euro - â‚¬
As of January 1, 2002, the Euro is the official currency in France and the 11 other countries currently participating in European currency union. The old French Franc is now part of history and is no longer accepted as a payment form. Check before departure the equivalent of the Euro compare to the U.S Dollar. The Euro paper currency will be the same in all 12 countries, in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 Euros. The coins however, will bear a different face according to the country. There are 8 coins: 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 cents and 1 and 2 Euros.
Driving in France
Document / Insurance / Law
- An American driver's license is valid for Americans driving in France. Have another ID document with you like your passport.
- Insurance is highly recommended, be sure you are set before you leave home.
- The legal age to drive in France is 18.
- Trucks â€“ except with special authorization â€“ are not allowed to drive on Sunday.
- Seat belts must be worn at all times â€“ children under 12 must sit in the backseat
- Park your car only where it is authorized, fines arrive quickly! And cars are often towed away.
The legal age to rent a car is 21â€“ but most companies require being 25 years old.
See our links page for companies, and insurance options.
Taxes on gas are very high in France, which explains the price of the liter:
On the petrol pump Sans Plomb means unleaded petrol. Gas stations along highways are open 24 h / 7 days. French usually get gas at large stores like Carrefour, Leclerc, Casino, etcâ€¦ You can go at any time, help yourself and use your credit card.
Types of roads
Interstate toll way / Motorway = A + the number of the road / 130km/h is the speed limit. This is also a toll road, you can pay tolls with a credit card; this is the fast way to travel, but is not cheap! Every 20 km you have restaurants, gas station, sometimes shops, restroomsâ€¦ National road = N + number of the road / 90km/h. If you are not traveling too far or if you have plenty of time, then the more scenic and free way to go is on the National roads. A famous road in France is the National 7 / N7. There is even a song ? about that road sung by Charles TRENET! Department road = D + number of the road / 50km/h. Great for seeing the back country of France; very slow going. TOURIST OFFICES
There are many convenient locations within Paris:
- Carrousel du Louvre: 99 Rue de Rivoli, 75001. Metro: Palais Royal / Louvre (1,7)
- Montmartre: 21 Place du Tertre, 75018. Metro: Abbesses (12)
- Gare du Nord: Metro / RER (B,D,4,5)
- Tour Eiffel: Metro / RER: Champs de Mars / Tour Eiffel (C), Bir-Hakeim (6)
- Gare de Lyon: Metro / RER (A,D,1,14)
- Opera â€“ Grands Magasins: 11 rue Scribe, 75009/ Metro: Opera (3,7,8) / RER: Auber (A)
- Gare du Nord: North of France, Belgium, Eurostar to London, UK
- Gare de L'Est: Champagne, Alsace / Germany
- Gare de Lyon: Southeast, Provence â€“ Cote d'Azur / Italy
- Gare Austerlitz: Loire Valley, Southwest France
- Gare Montparnasse: Brittany, TGV to Loire and Southwest
- Gare Saint Lazare: Normandy, western coast
Tips to buy your train tickets in France:
We suggest that people either buy in advance or in country! What other choice is there? The way to think about it is like this:
If you have a very popular route on the TGV; we recommend advance purchases. Usually TGV tickets with specific seats cannot be purchased more than 60 days in advance. A TGV ticket is almost pointless without the actual seat. They are 2 different things! A ticket between Paris and Avignon, for example, might be valid on any train in a certain time frame, but doesn't entitle you to a seat on any train. You have to also buy a seat reservation.
We recommend advance tickets with seats for the city pairs:
- Paris-Bordeaux/Tours/St Pierre des Corps
- Paris Lyon
Buying in country, or if you are very confident, then buy online direct from SNCF, the French national railroad: www.voyages-sncf.com They have English language available, but you may have to go through the French language only site to make certain purchases. If a rail pass isn't the best deal for you , then perhaps you can get a 'PREMS' deal on SNCF directly.
Other tickets: TER and regional trains for 1 way or simple/short round trips. We believe it is almost always best to buy them through SNCF, usually by walking into any station or at a kiosk when in France. Unless you travel with a rail pass, then your pass is good on these trains too. But, we don't recommend buying point to point tickets on regional trains through Rail Europe. Shipping fees and even seat assignments add up to too much. NOTE: Regional trains do not require seat reservations, so don't pay for them. Just sit in any open seat in your ticket class of service.
First of Second Class? Look at the prices! Sometimes there is little difference. On the train, there are no added privileges like larger seats or massages , etc in 1st class. What you usually have is a wagon that tends to be a bit quieter with business travelers or adults without children.