A helpful and thorough resource for all things related to travel in France is the About-France online travel guide.

Travel Agents & Online Bookings
All conference participants are responsible for booking their own air travel.  For online bookings of discounted air tickets, useful websites include www.kayak.com,   www.orbitz.com, and www.cheaptickets.com.  You can also click here for About-France’s listing of the airline carriers that service France’s various cities.

Telephones and International Calling
The country code for France is 33.  The city code for Carcassonne is 4 68.

One affordable means of making international calls when in France is through the internet. For an informative description of how to make internet calls, click here.

One option, Skype (www.skype.com), is either free when calling computer to computer, or available for a few U.S. cents-per-minute charge when dialing from computer to land line, or the reverse (SkypeIn or SkypeOut).  Most European Internet cafés have Skype, as well as microphones and webcams, built into their computers.

Mobile Phones
Here are some links to basic information regarding cell use for Americans and Canadians in Europe, in general, and France in particular:
http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/cell-phone-europe.htm
http://www.slowtrav.com/europe/cell_phones.htm
http://about-france.com/tourism/us-cellphones.htm

These sites explain options for buying or renting GSM cell phones (necessary for Europe), or for adapting your U.S. or Canadian GSM phone. Your smart phone should automatically connect to a local 3G or EDGE network easily enough. Bear in mind that your carrier’s “roaming” charges for service outside your home country may be substantial, and that your phone’s internet and network settings can make a difference (changing certain settings can save you money; check with your carrier).

You’ll also find information here on purchasing a pre-paid French SIM card, which tends to be the most economical and convenient option for making local calls once in France.  Alternately, it is possible to rent or buy an inexpensive European mobile phone with pre-paid time on it.

Internet
All three of our hotels provide free WiFi access.  Internet points/cafes are also to be found, if you are not traveling with a device of your own.

Electricity
France operates on 220 volts, 50 Hz.  Laptops, digital cameras and some cell phones (appliances with their own power adaptors) can be plugged into either 110-120-volt or 220-240-volt sockets/points and will adapt to the voltage automatically (however, it’s always best to check the owner’s manual to confirm this). These, however, will require a plug adapter that can fit into French outlets.

Information on your power adapter will indicate its voltage.  If it reads “INPUT: A.C. 100-240V”, then it can operate on either 110-120 or 220-240 voltage.  If instead you find something like “INPUT: 100-125V”, then it can’t run on France’s 220-240 volts and you’ll need to bring a transformer (also called a power or voltage converter), as well as that plug adapter.
French electrical sockets accept the two round-prong “C” type Europlug adaptors, as well as appliances with either “C” or “E/F” type plugs.

For additional information on adapting your devices and appliances for use in France (as well as one option for purchasing American-to-European plug adaptors, click here.

For clear details on global plugs and sockets, click here. And for a global map of different plug types, click here.

Identification & Visas
A valid passport (with at least 6 months remaining before its expiration) is required to enter France.

No visa is needed for stays of up to 90 days for nationals of the United States and Canada in possession of valid passports.  And citizens of European Union nations have no particular entry requirements.  You may contact your nearest French consulate (or this website of its New York office) to confirm visa requirements applicable to your citizenship and place of residence.

Immunizations & Health
No vaccinations are required to visit France; however, you may want to check with your health care provider’s recommendations for you.

To minimize the risk of gastrointestinal ailments as the body adapts to a new environment, it is wise to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water, to eat and drink (coffee, tea, alcohol) in moderation only, and to wash hands often with soap and water.  It also may be helpful to travel with lactobacillus acidophilus capsules, which enhance beneficial intestinal flora and can be a preventative measure against digestive upsets.

One important note: remember to bring any necessary prescriptions or over-the-counter medications in their original containers, and in your carry-on bag!

Safety
France is generally a safe place in which to live and travel.  However, it is always wise to remain mindful of your surroundings, especially in larger cities and crowded public places, such as railway stations and trains, and outdoor cafes, where pick pocketing tends to take place.  Exercising discretion with valuables, keeping your bags in your sight, and avoiding leaving smartphones and tablets lying casually on the table in front of you are useful practices to minimize any risks of theft.

The local number to dial in France in the event of any emergency is 112.

Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is strongly recommended in the event of unexpectedly having to cancel or change your travel plans either before or during our conference, losing your luggage, needing medical assistance, or if the program is affected by circumstances beyond our control.  You can purchase this from your own travel agent, or from online options such as www.travelinsured.com and www.travelguard.com.  Policies vary, depending upon the degree of coverage desired, and include options such as “Airline Ticket Protector” plans.  One resource for understanding the range of options available, and for comparing quotes, is www.travelinsurancereview.net.

It’s also wise to verify your chosen airline’s refund policy, as they too vary, and at times offer ticket reimbursements where travel insurance may not.

Money
The official currency in France is the euro (€), which is divided into 100 cents (or centimes).

ATMs (Cashpoints) provide the easiest access to cash, and tend to offer the best exchange rates, although there is a daily withdrawal limit (usually around $500 US, but check with your home bank first).  You will need a bank card with a four-digit PIN number (check with your bank to confirm that your ATM or debit card is equipped for international transactions).  Please remember to advise your bank that you will be making purchases abroad, since many banks will err on the side of caution and assume your card has been stolen and might suspend it temporarily.

It is important to note that French ATM keypads usually do not have alphabetical keys (ABC for 2, DEF for 3, etc). If you know your PIN in its alphabetical form only, be sure to translate this password into its numerical equivalent (in emergencies, the keypad of a pay phone or cell phone will function as a guide).

However, while ATM access is widespread, it is strongly suggested that you have at least some euros in cash on hand before your arrival in the country (enough to last 48 hours), for any emergencies, empty airport ATMs, or unexpected computer network failures. It’s also helpful to carry the more discreet smaller euro notes.

If you do not wish to, or cannot use, debit or credit cards, Traveler’s Cheques are still an option, and may be exchanged for cash at banks, urban post offices, and foreign exchange offices.  Banks tend to offer better conversion rates, and you also could consider purchasing your cheques directly in euros.

Standard banking hours are usually Monday – Friday from 8:30-9am to 4-5:30pm. Some banks also extend hours on one day a week, while some small branches close for the day between noon and 2pm. Some branches open on Saturdays, usually from 9am -1pm, but if so they are usually closed on Monday.

Post offices are usually open from Monday – Friday from 8am to 6-7pm, and on Saturdays between 8am to noon.

Food & Drink
The cuisine of the Languedoc-Roussillon region is quite varied, based, as it is, upon the particular vegetables, fruits, grains and game locally available.  Traditional dishes include cassoulet, a hearty casserole of haricot beans, mutton, sausages and goose; confit de canard, duck rubbed with salt, garlic and herbs and then cooked in its own fat; and bourride, a fish stew served with a garlicky mayonnaise.

The shallow lagoons of the coast offer oysters and mussels, and the sea salt for which the Camargue is famous. Goat’s milk cheeses, or chèvres, feature prominently, and include Tomme de Provence and Pélardon des Cévennes. Wild mushrooms and asparagus grow abundantly in the Languedoc region, as do truffles, which are used to flavor everything from olive oil to omelets. Olives from the scrubby woodlands north of Uzès end up in a number of dishes, including the typical Provençal tapenade, a finely chopped paste of olives, capers, and anchovies that is spread on crusty bread.  Deeper into Provence, the cuisine is distinguished by an abundance of herbs and produce that show up in soupe au pistou, a thick vegetable soup flavored with basil and thyme; the classic eggplant, zucchini, tomato stew of ratatouille, and lapin provençal, rabbit cooked with wine, garlic, thyme, black olives, and tomatoes.

Wine is an integral part of a French meal, and Languedoc’s “patchwork” vineyards are known for producing wines that are blends of different grape varieties, full-bodied reds, zesty whites, as well as the sparkling Cremant de Limoux, and sweet Muscat. Provence is famous for its red and rosé wines, especially those from Chateauneuf du Pape and the Côtes du Rhône designated area, as well as its Bandol, a distinctive dark red wine from one of the oldest wine-growing areas of France.

As for spirits, Pastis is a typical Provençal apéritif made of anise and licorice, and diluted with water before drinking.

And as for sweets, there is clafoutis, a French dessert of fruit, usually black cherries, baked into an egg custard, dusted with powdered sugar and served warm with cream, and les calissons d’Aix, slices of almond paste topped with a sugary covering.

Tipping
While service is usually automatically added to restaurant checks (service compris), tipping is nonetheless appreciated.  You may round up the bill a few euros, or leave 10% in recognition of especially thoughtful service.

Similarly, tipping 5-10% of your taxi fare to your driver will be much appreciated, especially if they provide assistance with luggage, or useful information about getting around in town.
And a tip of 1-2€ per day for the housekeeping staff, and 1€ per bag for the porter in your hotel, will be valuable extra income for these employees.

Taxis
Taxi stands (station de taxi) are usually to be found outside railway stations, at airports and at main junctions in towns and cities. Hailing a taxi is possible if it is at least 50m (160ft) away from the nearest taxi stand.  Phoning a radio taxi is another option (numbers are often available at taxi stands), but you must pay for the taxi’s journey to your pick-up point.

Climate
The climate in both Languedoc and Provence is generally a Mediterranean one. June brings lots of sunshine and warm temperatures to the region, with average highs around 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius).

Time
France is in the Central European Time Zone, and therefore is one hour ahead of GMT, and 6 hours ahead of New York’s EST.  The country observes Daylight Savings Time in summer, when it becomes 2 hours ahead of GMT (and remains 6 hours ahead of New York).

Language
The Occitan language (also called Provençal or Languedoc) is a Romance language spoken by more than a million people in southern France. However, all Occitan speakers use French as their official language. And while you’ll certainly find English speakers in touristed parts of France, every visitor should learn some basic French phrases out of common respect. Even the most humble attempts at speaking the language will enrich your travels and deepen your experience of the country and its people.

There are a number of free, online language instruction sites. One option is www.duolingo.com, an entertaining way to either begin or brush up on your studies. In the meanwhile, though, you’ll find some useful vocabulary and phrases below (with thanks to About-France.com).

Vocabulary

  1. S’il vous plaît (see-voo-play) Please
  2. Je suis (zheu swee) – I am
  3. Je cherche (zheu share-sh) I’m looking for
  4. Je veux (zheu veu) – I want
  5. Un hôtel (ern otell) a hotel
  6. Une chambre (une shombre) a room
  7. Manger (mon-zhay) – to eat
  8. Boire (bwar) to drink
  9. Payer (pay-yeh) to pay
  10. Acheter (ash-tay) to buy
  11. Petit-déjeuner (peuti – dayzheurnay) breakfast
  12. Diner (dee-nay) dinner
  13. Un demi (ern deu-mee) a half pint of draught beer
  14. Un verre (ern vair) a glass
  15. De l’eau (deu-lo) some water
  16. Un thé (au lait) (ern tay olay) a tea (with milk)
  17. La toilette (lar twa-lette) the toilet
  18. Prix (pree) price
  19. Carte de crédit (kart deu cray-dee) – credit card
  20. Une banque (une bonk) a bank
  21. Des magasins (day magga-zan) shops
  22. Un supermarché (ern supair-mar-shay) – a supermarket
  23. La gare (lar gar) the train station
  24. L’aéroport (l’aero-por) the airport
  25. Une voiture (une vwa-tiure) a car

Useful Phrases

  1. Bonjour. (bon-zhour) – Hello
  2. Merci. (mair-see) – Thank you
  3. Au revoir. (oh-reu-vwar) – Goodbye
  4. Je ne comprends pas. (zheu neu kompron par) – I don’t understand
  5. Je ne parle pas français. (zheu neu parl par fron-say) – I don’t speak French
  6. Pouvez vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plaît(poo-vay-voo par-lay ploo lontermon) – Could you speak more slowly, please.
  7. Pouvez-vous répéter, s’il vous plaît. (poo-vay-voo ray-pay-tay, see-voo-play) Could you repeat that please.
  8. S’il vous plaît, je cherche…. (see-voo-play, zheu share-sh ……) – Please, I’m looking for…
  9. Avez-vous…. (avay -voo) – Do you have….?
  10. Avez-vous une chambre pour deux personnes? (avay -voo une shombre poor deuh pair-sonn) – Do you have a room for two?
  11. A quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? (a kel eure esk slar fairme)  –When does it shut?
  12. Combien ça coûte? (kom-bjanne sar coot) How much is it?
  13. Où sont les toilettes, s’il vous plaît? (oo son lay twar-let, see-voo-play) Where is the toilet / washroom, please ?
  14. Où est-ce qu’on peut trouver des restaurants, s’il vous plaît?
    (oo esk on peu troo-vay day resto-ron, see-voo-play) Where are there some restaurants, please?
  15. Un café et un café au lait, s’il vous plait (ern caffay ay ern caffay olay, see-voo-play ) One black coffee, and one white coffee please.
  16. L’addition, s’il vous plait. (lad-eesi-on see-voo-play) – Could I have the bill please.
  17. À l’aéroport, s’il vous plaît (ar l’aeropor see-voo-play) – To the airport, please.
  18. Une table pour deux / quatre personnes. (oon tarbleu poor deuh /cat-r pair-son) – A table for two / for four.
  19. Je ne me sens pas bien.(zheu neu meu son par bjanne) – I’m not feeling very well.
  20. Nous sommes perdus. (noo som pair-dju) – We’re lost.
  21. Nous voulons aller à ……. (noo voolon allay are…) We want to go to…
  22. Je cherche un distributeur de billets. (zheu share-sh ern dee-stree-beaut-eur deu bee-ay) I’m looking for an ATM / cash dispenser.
  23. Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi, s’il vous plaît. (poovay voo maplay ern taxi see-voo-play) Could you please call me a cab.
  24. Nous sommes très pressés / en retard. (noo som tray pressay / on retar) – We’re in a great hurry / late.
  25. Quel temps va-t-il faire aujourd’hui? (kel tom vartil fair oh-zhour-dwee) – What’s the weather going to be like today?