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France .. Many dream for its architecture, the variety of its landscapes … its gastronomy! I was born there, I spent 26 years of my life there before leaving to move to Toronto. I’ve been back every year since then, once or twice a year. At first you think you’re going home, you don’t feel like a tourist. Then the more time goes by and the more I learned to take advantage of my trips to France to rediscover my country. Here’s a complete guide to plan your vacation to France. You’ll find all the practical information you need, whether you’re a French citizen living abroad like me. Or for tourists planning a trip to France.
The first thing I want to talk about is travel insurance. It is valid for any trip and yet many people still don’t think about it and end up in complicated and expensive situations.
There are several solutions:
- If you have the benefits, the equivalent of health insurance, you can read my medical guide in Toronto, If you want to know more. You can check if you have travel insurance included. This is often the case, you can call them to check.
- If you have a credit card, check if you have travel insurance included!
- If you don’t have option one or option two you can buy travel insurance like Manulife. I’m giving you that name here because I already used it in 2019. At the time I paid about 50 Canadian dollars for 2 weeks in France. I had called them directly to be able to ask all my questions and they had confirmed all this by email (I like to have a paper trail), before confirming.
As you could see, during my last trip I was able to take advantage of the Air France lounge at the Toronto airport. This is an advantage I have with my Canadian credit card and I wanted to tell you a little more about it here so that you have all the details.
Each credit card has its advantages, you can check them out on each bank’s website (to learn more about the banks you can read my Newcomer’s Guide to Toronto). You earn points and cash back, you have travel and car rental insurance etc. And in the case of the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card you have 6 accesses to certain airport lounges per year, you accumulate points that you can transform into airline tickets, car rental insurance, travel insurance etc. If you want to know more and maybe apply for this card I put you the link of the Passport Visa Infinite ici !
Every time I go to France I prefer to take a sim card from a French operator rather than using my Canadian sim card. It is possible to use the Canadian number but it is really expensive (12$/day in Europe with most operators). It is possible to take a sim card and recharge it for one month. In most cases the number expires after 6 months if you don’t top up the credit. When I think about it I try to recharge them 5 months later to keep the same number and avoid buying another one but sometimes I forget!
Some general information:
- You can find these sim cards in tobacco shops
- You can easily recharge online or by buying a refill in a tobacconist’s shop and texting it.
- Free. They have kiosks everywhere. You have a map to find one near you here. You can get a sim card in minutes!
- Orange. The pre-paid offers, I took with them once, directly in store. I don’t remember the options at the time but you can check their site.
- SFR. It’s been 2 years that I take a card with them, we were able to have 20Go for 20€ with unlimited calls and sms, valid for 30 days. We had to take it in a tobacconist’s, easier than online but you can check the info here.
Now you have a French number. You can post your Instagram stories to make your friends dream, but above all you can use your phone to find your way around, do research etc!
Train in France
I’m originally from the South East of France so after my Toronto-Paris flight I’m still a long way off! There would be the option of landing in Lyon which is closer if you are going to that area. But there are more train options from Paris to Valencia than Lyon airport to Valencia. This option is simpler: I am picked up in Valencia directly.
From Charles de Gaulle airport you can go directly to Paris but you can also take the TGV to reach the rest of France through the train station.
- You can consult the website of the SNCF: oui.sncf. You will be able to book TGV, TER or Ouigo trips.
- You can also consult the site Ouigo which is the low cost train that you will find in France. To know:
- Prices start at 10€ per trip
- Only some cities are served by Ouigo
- The Ouigo unlike the TGV do not have wifi
- Extra luggage has to be paid for. 5€ online vs 20€ on the spot so be careful. You can choose to have a quiet seat, a seat with a plug etc for a few extra euros, more info here and when you book.
- This is one of my discoveries from our stay in France: Nanny Bag! And while preparing the article I just saw that it was also available in Canada. Youhouuuuu! It’s a luggage storage service, in France for 6€ and in Canada for 10$ per luggage, per day, you can leave your luggage with someone who will look after it in your absence. In our case we found a Nanny next to the Cannes train station (I talk about it in this vlog). The big advantage of this service is that the Nanny is in fact an office, so instead of being a single fixed place with a locker for example, there you have options from everywhere! We really recommend it.
- If you decide to drive it’s good to know that most highways are not free in France.
I hope all this information will help you plan your vacation in France.