Money Matters in France: A Guide for Travelers.


Shopping and French Savoir Faire

 Vladyslav Starozhylov |
© Vladyslav Starozhylov |

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 9 August 2023

Money Matters U.S. dollars are not accepted in most establishments, though some hotels, shops, and restaurants may accept U.S. dollars at an agreed upon exchange rate.

Euro (€): The French currency Bills: 500/200/100/50/20/10/5 Coins: 2€/1€/50 cents/20c/10c/5c/2c/1c The Euro is divided into 100 cents, or centimes.

Prices in France As a rule, prices for most goods and services, including hotels and restaurants, in the French regions are significantly less expensive than in Paris.

There are also significant discounts for senior citizens, students and children under 18 for domestic transportation, museums and monuments, and for some leisure activities (movies, etc.).

Restaurants Restaurants usually charge for meals in one of two ways: a prix-fixe menu (also called a "menu"). This includes two or three courses (with cheese and/or dessert, and sometimes a half-bottle of wine) for a stated price. Or you can order "a la carte", which is generally more expensive.

Cafes Prices at cafes can vary considerably depending on location as well as where one is seated in the establishment (standing at the counter or sitting at a table). Prices in areas that attract many tourists (for example, the vicinity of the Champs-Elysees and around Notre Dame) tend to be more expensive.

Tipping in France Almost all restaurants include tax and a 15% service charge (service compris) in their prices. If a meal or service has been particularly good, leaving another 2-3% is customary, as is leaving the waiter the small change from your bill if you pay in cash. If service is not included (service non compris) a 15% tip is appropriate. In hotels, tip porters approximately 1.50€ for each bag and chambermaids 1.50€ a day. Taxi drivers should be given 10-15% of the metered fare. Tip hairdressers 10%, assistant 5%. Small tips of around 1€ are reasonable for cloakroom and washroom attendants, ushers and museum tour guides. It is standard practice to tip tour guides and bus drivers after an excursion, generally 1.50-3.00€, depending on your level of the satisfaction.

Bank Opening Hours Banking hours in Paris are usually from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Throughout the rest of France, banks are usually open from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Banks often close earlier the day before a public holiday.

Currency exchange Currency exchange can be made in most banks and post offices as well as in some large stores, train stations, airports and exchange offices near major tourist sites. Look for a sign indicating "Change". Remember that even though exchange rates are fixed, agent commissions vary: they must be clearly displayed. Exchange rates vary from bank to bank in the U.S. and France. Large cities in the U.S. generally have banks specialized in foreign exchange with lower exchange rates. The same applies in France. In general, it is best to find a larger bank or exchange office in the center of town or in a financial area. If only a small amount of money is being exchanged, the hotel's money exchange rate may be adequate. Traveler's checks in U.S. dollars should be exchanged in banks or exchange offices because very few businesses will accept them. Traveler's checks in Euros can be purchased in the U.S. from specialized banks or in any major bank in France. While they offer a safe means of traveling with cash, many banks charge a service fee to cash traveler's checks, and not all hotels, restaurants and shops accept them for payment, even if they are in euros.

Consult for daily exchange rates.


ATMs (known locally as distributeurs automatiques de billets) often have the best exchange rates. Think of withdrawing directly from your savings, not from your credit card, which treats the transaction as a cash advance. If you do plan to obtain cash on your credit cards using an ATM, contact the credit card company for instructions and to let them know your intentions (and that you'll be withdrawing money abroad). Virtually all ATMs in France take MasterCard and Visa, and most are linked to the Cirrus and Plus systems. American Express has ATMs in major cities. Note: Most French ATM keyboards have numbers only, so if your PIN contains letters, remember the number equivalents. Four- and five-digit PINs are acceptable in France.

Credit Cards Credit cards are accepted in a large number of shops, hotels, and restaurants. Shopkeepers often state a minimum charge.

If you lose your credit card, contact your credit card emergency hot-line immediately to cancel the card, or call your credit card company's local office - see a list of numbers below:

Eurocard-Mastercard: 08 00 90 13 87 Visa: 08 00 90 11 79 Diner's Club: 08 20 82 05 36 (customer service) or 08 10 31 41 59 (lost or stolen cards) American Express: 01 47 77 70 00 (customer service) or 01 47 77 72 00 (lost or stolen cards)

VAT/Tax-Free Shopping

Non-European Union residents over the age of 15 who stay in France or elsewhere in the European Union (EU) for less than six months can get a refund of the value-added tax (VAT, or TVA in French) on purchases amounting to more than 175€ at any single store. In most cases, the refund represents 16.38% of the purchase amount. When making purchases, ask the store to complete a VAT refund form, then submit the form to customs (within three months of date of purchase) when leaving France or the last EU country you visit. If leaving from an airport, arrive before your check-in time and be prepared to show your purchases. Customs will stamp the form, which must then be mailed to the store where the purchases were made within six months of the date of purchase. Refunds are credited to your credit card account or are sent by mail within a few months. Get more information on tax-free shopping in France.


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