The French currency
Since January 1st, 2002, the currency in France is the Euro (€), which replaced the French Franc. You will not be able to buy anything with another currency while in France.
As far as cash is concerned, Totem Moto Tours recommends getting some Euros from your bank before flying to France, so that you have some cash on hand when you step off the plane, and then withdrawing Euros from French ATMs with your credit cards during the trip.
Travel Tip: To check the current exchange rates, visit xe.com.
Debit & credit cards in France
Foreign debit cards will probably not be of any help while in France. Only credit cards are accepted for payment or cash withdrawal from the ATMs.
If your credit card is of the « old type », with a magnetic strip but no chip, ask your issuer to send you a new, chip-equipped card with pin code, as it will be more widely accepted and the technology is much more secure.
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in most shops, bars and restaurants. American Express, on the other hand, is not as common as in the US. You should always ask beforehand if you plan on using it. Also, note that stores typically show which credit cards they accept on a little sticker near the entrance or at the cash register.
Travel Tip: Some card-payment machines, such as toll booths on the highways, may sometimes have trouble processing foreign credit cards. The Totem crew recommends carrying a small amount of cash with you at all times (100 to 200€).
If you carry a Visa or MasterCard, any French ATM should allow you to withdraw some cash. ATMs can be found at airports, train stations and on every second street corner in towns and cities. France’s major banking institutions include Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Banque Populaire and Crédit Mutuel.
Travel Tip: Your bank may have some rate agreements with international French banks. To save money on cash withdrawal commission fees, Totem Moto Tours recommends getting in touch with your bank before departure and find out if this is the case.
Cash vs. credit card payments
Any amount can be paid in cash. For everyday purchases, try not to use bills over 50€, as some shops do not accept them. ATMs usually let you choose which bills you prefer having when withdrawing cash.
Shops, bars & restaurants used to have a limit (usually 10 or 15€) under which credit cards were not accepted for payment. Since the pandemic, things have changed and it is now very widespread to be able to pay via credit card for the smallest amounts. Nevertheless, it never hurts to carry a few euros in your pocket for very small payments - it will be appreciated.
Unlike in the US or UK for example, tipping in France is not as established as an institution. Here is how a French person would tip, according to the occasion.
- Bars: You don’t have to tip for drinks served at the bar. When drinks are served at the table, you can round to the nearest euro.
- Restaurants: If the service was enjoyable, you can tip up to 10%. Leaving nothing is okay, though.
- Tours: For friendly activity tour guides, it is pretty common to tip, 1 to 2€ per person.