Area Codes: The country code for France is 33 and the area code for Paris is 01.
Business Hours: Opening hours in Paris are erratic. Most museums close 1 day a week (usually Mon or Tues) and some national holidays. Museum hours tend to be from 9:30am to 6pm. Generally, offices are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm, but don’t count on it—always call first. Banks tend to be open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, but some branches are open on Saturday instead of Monday. Large stores are open from around 10am to 6 or 7pm. Some small stores have a lunch break that can last for up to 2 hours, from noon onward, but this is becoming increasingly rare. Most shops, except those in the Marais or on the Champs-Élysées, are closed on Sunday. Restaurants are typically closed on Sundays and/or Mondays, and many businesses across the city are closed in August.
Drinking Laws: Supermarkets, grocery stores, and cafes sell alcoholic beverages. The legal drinking age is 18. Wine and liquor are sold every day of the week, year-round. Cafes generally open around 6am and serve until closing (midnight–2am). Bars and nightclubs usually stay open until 2am (sometimes 5am), but they must stop serving alcohol 1 1/2 hours before closing.
The law regarding drunk driving is tough. A motorist is considered legally intoxicated if his or her blood-alcohol limit exceeds .05%. If it is between .05% and .08%, the driver faces a fine of 750€. Over .08% and it could cost 4,500€ or up to 2 years in jail.
Driving Rules: The French drive on the right side of the road. At junctions where there are no signposts indicating the right of way, cars coming from the right have priority. When entering a roundabout (rond point), you do not have priority; once you are on, be sure to signal when you are about to turn off.
Electricity: Electricity in France runs on 220 volts AC (60 cycles). Adapters or transformers are needed to fit sockets, which you can buy in branches of Darty, FNAC, or BHV. Make sure your appliance can handle 220 volts; otherwise, you risk frying it. If it can’t, be sure to use a transformer.
Emergencies: In an emergency, call [tel] 112, or the fire brigade (Sapeurs-Pompiers; [tel] 18), who are trained to deal with all kinds of medical emergencies, not just fires. For a medical emergency and/or ambulance, call [tel] 15. For the police, call [tel] 17.
Etiquette & Customs: Parisians like pleasantries and take manners seriously: Say bonjour, madame/monsieur, when entering an establishment and au revoir when you depart. Always say pardon when you accidentally bump into someone. With strangers, people who are older than you, and professional contacts, use vous rather than tu (vous is the polite form of the pronoun you).
Holidays: Major holidays are New Year’s Day (Jan 1), Easter Sunday and Monday (late Mar/Apr), May Day (May 1), VE Day (May 8), Ascension Thursday (40 days after Easter), Pentecost/Whit Sunday and Whit Monday (7th Sun and Mon after Easter), Bastille Day (July 14), Assumption Day (Aug 15), All Saints Day (Nov 1), Armistice Day (Nov 11), and Christmas Day (Dec 25).
Hotlines: S.O.S. Help is a hotline for English-speaking callers in crisis (www.soshelpline.org; [tel] 01-46-21-46-46; open daily 3–11pm).
Language: English is increasingly common in Paris, particularly in tourist areas, but you’ll get much better service (or at least a shadow of a smile) if you attempt to use a few French words like “bonjour” and “merci.” For handy French words and phrases, as well as food and menu terms, refer to chapter 12, “Useful Terms & Phrases.”
Lost & Found: If you left something in the bus, Métro, or RER less than 5 days ago, call the the Bureau des Objets Trouvés (http://scope.ratp.fr/quand-un-objet-a-ete-perdu-sur-le-reseau-ratp; 36 rue des Morillons, 15e; [tel] 32-46; .80€ per min.) If it has been 5 days or more, you’ll need to visit the office in person.
Mail: There are post offices (La Poste; www.laposte.fr; [tel] 36-31) in every arrondissement. Most are open Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm, Saturday 9am to 1pm; the Louvre post office (16 rue Etienne Marcel; Métro: Louvre-Rivoli) is open daily midnight to 6am and 8am to midnight. Stamps are also sold in tabacs (tobacconists).
Smoking: Smoking is now banned inside all public places, including cafes, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs; it is still rife on cafe terraces, however.
Time: France is on Central European Time, which is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. French daylight saving time lasts from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. France uses the 24-hour clock. So 13h is 1pm, 14h15 is 2:15pm, and so on.
Toilets: Paris is full of grey-colored street-toilet kiosks, which are a little daunting to the uninitiated, but free, and are automatically washed and disinfected after each use. If you’re in dire need, you can duck into a cafe or brasserie to use the toilet, but expect to make a small purchase if you do so. In older establishments, you can still find Turkish toilets, otherwise known as squat toilets (holes in the ground). Fortunately, they are a dying breed.
Visitor Information: The Office du Tourisme et des Congrès (www.parisinfo.com; 25 rue des Pyramides, 1er; [tel] 01-49-52-42-63) is open every day from 9am to 7pm from May to October (except May 1); from November to April it’s open from 10am to 7pm. There are several other offices around Paris: Anvers (72 bd. Rochechouart, 9e; daily 10am–6pm except major holidays); Gare du Nord (18 rue de Dunkerque, 10e; daily 8am–6pm except major holidays); Gare de l’Est (place du 11-novembre-1918, 10e; Mon–Sat 8am–7pm except major holidays); and Paris Rendezvous (29 rue de Rivoli, 4e; Mon–Sat 10:30am–6:30pm).
Water: Drinking water is safe, if not particularly tasty. To order tap water in a restaurant ask for une carafe d’eau.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.