France Hostels, Eurail Passes, and Backpacking Tips
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France Hostels, Eurail Passes, and Backpacking Tips
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France's most well known characteristic is its exceptional diversity. The largest country in Western Europe,  France extends all the way from the rolling hills of the north to the seemingly endless beaches of the south; from the wild coastline of Brittany to the icy crags of the Alps, with cliff-lined canyons, dense forest and vineyards in between.

Over the centuries, France has received more immigrants than any other country in Europe. From the ancient Celtic Gauls and Romans to the more recent arrivals from France's former colonies in Indochina and Africa, these peoples have introduced new elements of culture, cuisine and art, all of which have contributed to France's unique and diverse landscape.

Once on the western edge of Europe, today's France is the centerpoint between England and Italy, Belgium and Spain, North Africa and Scandinavia. Of course, this is exactly how the French have always regarded their country - at the very center of things.


Every city and town in France has at least one museum, but a good number of the country's most exceptional ones are in Paris. In addition to the massively overwhelmingly Louvre, other Parisian museums not to be missed include the Musee d'Orsay (late-19th- and early 20th-century art), the Centre Pompidou (modern and contemporary art), the Musee Rodin, and the Musee National du Moyen Age (Museum of the Middle Ages) at the Hotel de Cluny. Other cities known for their museums include Nice, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Lyon.

The royal palace at Versailles is the largest and most grandiose of the hundreds of chateaux located all over the country. Many of the most impressive ones, including Chambord, Cheverny, Chenonceau and Azay-le-Rideau, are in the Loire Valley around Blois and Tours.

The cathedrals at Chartres, Strasbourg and Rouen are among the most beautiful in France.

The Cote d'Azur - the French Riviera -has some of the best-known beaches in the world, but you'll also find lovely beaches farther west on the Mediterranean.

When to Go

France is at its best in the springtime if you want the optimum weather. Beaches are great to hit up during mid-May through September. Things start to cool down around late October

Winter snow sports in the Alps and Pyrenees are great for snow lovers, but prices rise considerably at Christmas, New Year and the February/March school holidays. Paris has all sorts of cultural activities during winter, if you find yourself traveling in that time of year.


In summer the weather is warm and even hot, especially in the south, and beaches, resorts and camping grounds are packed to the gills. In August, when millions of French people take their annual month-long holiday (conge), beach-town hotel rooms are in extremely short supply, while in the half-deserted cities - only partly refilled by the zillions of foreign tourists - many shops, restaurants and even hotels simply shut down. If at all possible, avoid travelling in France in August.

Visas & Documents

Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most European countries can enter France for up to three months without a visa. South Africans, however, must have a visa (to avoid delays, apply before leaving home). The usual length of a tourist visa is three months.


The biggest crime problem for tourists in France is theft - especially of and from cars. Pickpockets are a problem, and women are a common target because of their handbags. Be especially careful at airports and on crowded public transport in cities.





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