ATMs are widely available in Paris, but if you’re venturing into rural France, it’s always good to have cash in your pocket. Be sure you know your personal identification number (PIN) and daily withdrawal limit before you depart. Many banks impose a fee when you withdraw money abroad, and that fee can be higher for international transactions than for domestic ones. In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. For currency exchanges, always use a bank (you’ll get a better exchange rate that way).
Visa is the most common credit card in France, but with the exception of American Express, which is sometimes refused, international credit cards are widely accepted. Foreign credit cards, particularly those without an embedded chip, do not always work in machines. Check for hidden fees when using your card abroad—some bank charges can be up to 3% of the purchase price. Use the following number to report any lost or stolen credit card: [tel] 08-92-70-57-05 (.35€ per min). For a specific card, call: American Express (www.americanexpress.com; [tel] 01-47-77-72-00); MasterCard (www.mastercard.com; [tel] 08-00-90-13-87); or Visa (www.visaeurope.com; [tel] 08-00-90-11-79). There are still shops, restaurants, and bars, often family run, that don’t accept credit or debit cards, so it’s always good to both check in advance and have cash on you.
Travelers’ checks are no longer accepted in many stores and restaurants. A better solution would be to buy a MasterCard Cash Passport (www.cashpassport.com), a prepaid, reloadable currency card with a chip and a PIN number that works like a debit card.
Taxes: As a member of the European Union, France routinely imposes a value-added tax (VAT in English; TVA in French) on most goods. The standard VAT is 20% and is already included in virtually all prices for consumer goods and services (you’ll know for sure when you see TTC, which means toutes taxes comprises, “all taxes included”). If you’re over 16 and not an E.U. resident, you can get a VAT refund if you’re spending less than 6 months in France, you purchase goods worth at least 175€ at a single shop on the same day, you are transporting the good yourself, and the shop offers vente en détaxe (duty-free sales or tax-free shopping). Give them your passport and ask for a bordereau de vente à l’exportation (export sales invoice), which must have a barcode. Both you and the shopkeeper sign the slip, and you choose how you want to be reimbursed (credit on card, bank transfer, or cash). Once you get to the airport, scan the code in one of the new “Pablo” terminals (if your airport doesn’t have one, just go to the “detaxe” counter). If your reimbursement is a credit to your bank account or credit card, it will be sent automatically once you scan the slip. If you chose cash, you’ll need to go to the “detaxe” counter. If all of this is too confusing, download the flyer in English on the French customs website, www.douane.gouv.fr (it’s a little tricky to find: Click "Particulier," "Détaxe," and then "conditions d’éligibilité" and scroll down to the bottom of the page) or search for “duty free” at the tourist office: www.parisinfo.com.
Tipping: By law, all bills in cafes, bars, and restaurants say service compris, which means the service charge is included. Waiters are paid a living wage and do not expect tips. However, they certainly won’t mind if you leave one, and if you are planning on frequenting a certain cafe, it’s a good investment to leave a euro or two after a meal. Taxi drivers usually appreciate a 5% to 10% tip, or for the fare to be rounded up to the next euro. The French give their hairdressers a tip of about 15%, and if you go to the theater, you’re expected to tip the usher 1€ or 2€.
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.