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Travelling tips for day trippers and visitors to Calais, France – wanting to make the best of their day-trip or visit to France.

Travelling tips for France visitors

Tips and advice, checklist – for day-trippers, channel shoppers and visitors to France. This information is geared towards the traveller from the United Kingdom, but applies to most people.

Don't take everything for granted – it's better to be prepared. Find a minute to read this page and follow our advice.

New – Strikes in France, useful links.

Before you go

1. Spend some time researching the area you are visiting. Check out the local tourist office web site. See if there are any events taking place when you are there.

2. Plan your route using online guides, take into consideration holidays and peak travel periods.

3. Check if your passport, driving licence and insurance documents are up to date and will cover the period you are away. Ring your insurance company to check if your insurance is valid or adequate for your needs.

4. Buy or extend your breakdown insurance.

5. If hiring a car consider your own specialist insurance.

6. Get your car serviced and make sure your oil, water (windscreen) and tyres are in order. Other items to consider taking with you.

7 Book your hotels (the budget ones do get full quickly).

8. Inform your local police.

9. Turn off gas and if winter your water. In 2011 there were a large number of claims and a quarter were from owners who had been away.

10. Check and lock all windows and doors.

11. Make a copy of your eye prescription (if you break your glasses!) and any other vital health information.

12. Let your neighbours know you are away and leave them with a set of keys in case of emergency. Suggest they park their car in your drive whilst you are away.

13. Write out a list of important addresses, including family members who may need to be contacted.

14. Check if your travel provider is running the service as expected, or to find out if they expect any delays due to bad weather or strikes.

15. Check that your home insurance covers you for extended time away. Most policies state your home must not be unoccupied for more than 30 days. Some elements of cover such as water or malicious damage may not be covered. Many policies state your home should be checked every seven days whilst you are away. If you need to extend the cover, consider a seperate policy as these are often cheaper than simply extending your own existing one.

16. Tidy up your garden, an overgrown garden is a sure sign the owners are not at home.

17. Check out these website for the latest information;

Uk Passport – U.K. Government information (France).

Uk Passport – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (France).


Pay by Credit card – we find they generally give the best rates – you can buy just about anything with a credit card in France. Debit cards can be used in France. Eurocheques are generally not accepted nowadays.

Always keep some cash – you may for example have your card refused on the autoroutes. Keep a separate purse of money for emergencies.

Change money before you leave – check that your bank or credit card has any special offers (commission free). More information

Make a note of all your credit and debit cards, passports, driving licences, travellers cheques etc. as well as the help lines. A little preparation will save you a lot of bother in the unfortunate, but none the less regular occurrence of theft.

Credit Cards / Debit Cards

Most credit cards are widely accepted although some shops have a minimum (usually 15 euro). You cannot use English credit cards in most of the automatic machines in France (petrol stations for example) as they lack a microchip. Changing money is convenient on the ferries but you can also easily draw money out of the many cash machines using your English PIN number. Watch out for charges and loaded exchange rates though. Even better, simply use your credit card for all your purchases – not only is this the easiest option it also is the cheapest. Debit cards are widely used in France.

CREDIT CARDS – we suggest you ring your credit card company Before shopping in France – increased fraud means they are turning down shoppers cards if their spending deviates from the norm. Take your mobile – you can often sort the problem out over the phone.

Phone these numbers before you go; Barclaycard – 08700 100 578, Mastercard 020 7557-5000.

Credit card tips and advice


Make a photocopy and store it someone safe where you do not normally keep your passport. It will save time if your passport is stolen. United Kingdom Information. As an extra precaution, we suggest you leave copies of your passport, health card, driving licence and insurance documents with someone at home).

Everyone including children must have their own passport.

Uk Passport – United Kingdom Passport Service.

ePassport photo – ePassort photo, change your digital photo online into a passport size photo.

Paspic, another way to do an online application with the correct photo.

Travel documents

Scan your travel documents and anything else that may prove useful in an emergency (e.g. health records, driving documents) and upload them to a storgae space if you have access to some, or zip them all and send yourself an e-mail. Although some people think it's foolish to do this, we think the benfits outweight the disadvantages.

There may come a time when you will find this will save you time. Remember to update the file, and if resending an email with this zip, delete any old ones containing personal information.

Phone card

Buy one soon after you arrive, most public phones in France do not accept coins. More

Electrical Goods

French plugs are different and the voltage is 220. Buy an adapter before you go.

Public Holidays

Most shops and restaurants close. However as in Britain, many of the larger hypermarkets are now opening. Avoid travelling on French Public Holidays if at all possible. French Public Holidays

Summer/Winter time

Remember that French time is one hour ahead of British time. Summer time starts on the last Sunday in March at 2.00am, and ends on the last Sunday in October at 3.00am.

Strikes (Grèves) and other disruption in France – Latest news about strikes in France.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Overseas Healthcare Team (NHS) for general enquiries or to make a claim. Tel: 0191 218 1999.

Top tip – check your EHIC card and make sure it has not expired. Reminders are not sent out.

What is it?

The EHIC is a free card which can be used by anyone, regardless of nationality, who is covered by the public healthcare system in any of the 27 EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

However, the EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and does not cover such things as private medical healthcare or repatriation to the United Kingdom Therefore it is important holidaymakers travel with a EHIC as well as a valid private travel insurance policy. The National Health Service web site has a country by country guide on how to access healthcare or claim refunds during a visit these countries. Just simply click on the web link of the country that you are visiting to prepare for your trip abroad.

Travel Insurance

Check that your card is up to date before you go! The new EHIC card runs for three to five years only and must be renewed. If yours was one of the first issued, it may be time to renew. This can be done easily over the phone, but delivery can take up to 10 days. It can also be renewed up to six months before the expiry date.

European Health Insurance Card (formerly E111 Health Form) ( – it's free and you can get it from the Post Office or local DSS Office, where it must be stamped to be valid. You will need your National Insurance Number and Passport. It entitles you to medical treatment at a Public Hospital, if you fall ill or have an accident, in a European Economic Area (EEA) country, and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. The treatment is free or at a reduced cost. However not all United Kingdom citizens are covered in the following countries; Denmark, Iceland, Liechenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It does not cover everything and you may want to take out extra insurance to be sure you are covered. Items not always covered include prescriptions and outpatient treatments. Bear in mind also, that many hospital facilities and clinics are privately run. Check that you are been referred to a State hospital or clinic – holiday companies often try and refer you to a private Doctor or clinic.

In France visitors seeking treatment must pay 21 euro to see a GP, 25 euro to see a Specialist. Emergency treatment is usually free, but ambulances have to be paid for.

If you do have a problem, make sure you keep all receipts. Even if you have travel insurance, the real advantage of the EHIC is that you do not have to pay for treatment up front. You are also saved the bother of dealing with the paperwork required in an insurance claim. There is also no "excess" to pay. The EHIC does not cover repatriation so you will need private insurance.

As a precaution, get a spare and keep it somewhere safe – in an emergency it can always be faxed over to where ever you are being treated. Keep a photocopy with the original in your passport – some countries require both.


If you have treatment and don't get the form back you will must remember to get a replacement.

It does not cover treatment for a pre-existing condition. You will need a E112 from authorised by the Department of Health.

More information;

A leaflet "Health advice for Travellers" is available at Post Offices. Call 0800 555 777 for a copy.

NHS healthcare abroad – Department of Health web site.

Applications for the EHIC can be made via any of the following methods:

– on line (delivery within 7 days).

– telephone on 0845 606 2030 (delivery within 10 days)

– post – application form available from the Post Office (delivery within 21 days)

The Association of British Travel Insurers have a leaflet on travel insurance. Tel: 020 7600 3333.

Our page of telephone numbers and links for companies offering travel insurance – Insurance

Medicalert – MedicAlert. "MedicAlert is a registered charity providing a life-saving identification system for individuals with hidden medical conditions and allergies".

Travel insurance

Travel insurance has not moved with the times. Originally, most people booked a holiday through an agent, so that if the airline went bust, you could claim for the loss of the whole holiday. Nowadays people use the internet, and book travel and accomodation independently. The failure of the travel side of your holiday does not always see you refunded for the accomodation you can no longer use. Check that your insurance polciy provides full cover for independently booked holidays.

Main things to consider; Lost baggage, cancellations and medical care cover/ restrictions, both whilst still in the U.K. (before you travel or on the way there) and when you are away.

More than one trip a year? Get an annual policy.

Unplanned disruptions – Cancellations caused by bad weather or tour operator failure, often fall outside general travel insurance provision.

Book using a credit card – you can get their money back in the event of unplanned disruptions.

If booking a package holiday or a flight, check that the travel companies used are ATOL bonded. ATOL licenses travel companies that have participated in a financial guarantee scheme to ensure customers are reimbursed in the event of a collapse, or brought home should the collapse occur during their time abroad.

Check time limits – the amount of time you can spend away per trip is often quite specific, especially for ski holidays.

Medical – Whilst you must have a EHIC card when buying travel insurance, be aware the cover provided is limited. Think about what you may be doing when away, and check what the travel insurance policy offers.

If you are buying accommodation independently, make sure your travel insurance covers this.


Travellers and holiday makers with epilepsy can request a free ID Card from Epilepsy Action. This will enable people with epilepsy to ensure that Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, French and Greek speakers will know exactly what to do, should they have a seizure whilst travelling abroad. The ID Cards are free, and can be obtained now by contacting Epilepsy Action's Freephone Help line on 0808 800 5050.

Medications to take

Holiday first aid checklist from Imodium.

As part of the travel health campaign ImodiumTM has produced the following checklist which suggests useful OTC medications and first aid items that can be taken on any holiday:

Indigestion / heartburn remedy (e.g. Pepcidtwo)

– Anti-nausea tablets (e.g. Motilium™10 for post-meal nausea)

– An anti-diarrhoeal (e.g. Imodium™ Instants)

– Oral rehydration tablets

– Sunscreen and aftersun

– Motion sickness medication (e.g. StugeronTM)

– Painkillers

– Antihistamine tablets

– Laxatives

– Antiseptic cream

– Antifungal creams and powders (e.g. DaktarinTM Dual Action spray powder)

– Insect repellent

– Water disinfectant tablets

– Scissors and tweezers

– Plasters, bandages, gauze and tape

Holidaymakers can also get a free copy of the Passport to Healthy Travel which includes general health advice about how to prepare for, and deal with, holiday health ailments including one of the most common – the dreaded travellers's diarrhoea! Your free copy of Passport to Healthy Travel can be ordered online at or by calling 0800 1970797.

Suggested packing list

Driving Documents
– Fire extinguisher – Booking details (Campsite, hotel, BandB)
First aid kit – Books, guides
– Driving licence
– GB sticker -
– Headlamp beam deflectors – European Health Insurance Card (old E111)
– Multi-tool – Tickets (Ferry, airline)
– Spare bulb kit – GB sticker
– Spare car keys – Green Card
– Spare fanbelt – Insurance documents (Breakdown cover)
– Spare fuses – Insurance documents (Travel)
– Thermos – Maps
– Torch – MOT certificate (if applicable)
– Tow rope – Motor insurance certificate
– Warning Triangle – Passports
– Water bottle – Vehicle registration document
– Fluorescent jacket
– Spare pair of driving glasses
Bathroom Suitcase
– Cosmetics – Clothes, Clean Underwear
– Deodorant – Holiday Shoes
– Electric shaver or razor – Inflatable pillow
– Electric Toothbrush / toothbrush – Multi size Sink plug
– Insect repellent – Sealable plastic bags
– Nail clippers or scissors – Locks for suitcases and bags
– Shampoo – Wash bag (detergent)
– Shaving foam
– Sun cream First Aid Kit
– Toothpaste – Lipbalm
– Sunscreen and aftersun
Money – Insect repellent
– Currency (euro) – Water disinfectant tablets
– Credit and debit cards – Scissors and tweezers
– Make a note of credit card numbers and emergency contact numbers – Plasters, bandages, gauze and tape
General Medication – Emergency Medical Kit
– Address list – Antidiarrhoeal
– Books – Antifungal creams and powders
– Bottle opener – Antihistamine tablets
– Camera – Antinausea tablets
– Chargers for electronic items – Antiseptic cream
– Dictionary (e.g. English – French) – Headache tablets
– Digital camera – Indigestion / heartburn remedy
– Laptop – Laxatives
– Mains plug adaptor – Motion sickness medication
– Memory cards (camera) – Oral rehydration tablets
– Mobile Phone – Painkillers
Passport size photos – Prescriptions. Keep a copy of your eye prescription with you, and make a note of medication you may need
– Photocopies of important documents
– Sewing kit
– Spare pair of reading glasses
Send yourself an e-mail with important information

Samsonite suitcases

Tanning – play safe

Everyone knows how painful bad sunburn is and how dangerous it is long term. Take precautions and be sensible and you can have that perfect tan.

In general, keep out of the sun between 11.00am and 3.00pm. Remember sun tan lotion washes off, so wear a waterproof sunscreen, protect your face and privates.

If skiing, take into account altitude. Use a stronger than usual sun cream and be diligent in applying it (remember your neck).

Sun factor Guide (SPF)
Skin type England Mediterranean The Tropics / Africa/ Florida
Fair SPF 13 – 16 SPF 16 – 25 SPF 25 – 30
Olive SPF 6 – 8 SPF 10 – 12 SPF 16 – 18
Dark SPF 4 – 6 SPF 8 – 10 SPF 12 – 15


flymycase – Flymycase. Why not send your luggage on before you travel? Fly my Case can arrange it all for you.

First Luggage – First Luggage. Tel: (United Kingdom and Europe): 08452 700 670. Another company offering a similar service (bit more expensive, but generally offers more weight).

Collection and delivery

Please allow an average of 2 – 4 working days for collection before travelling – for further details to a particular destination call the number below. At the end of a trip, First Luggage arranges collection of your luggage on the day of departure.


Prices vary according to the country that the luggage is being collected from and delivered to. Costs range from £49 for a suitcase (one way) to certain destinations within Europe, to £189 for the same service to Barbados. Skis, for example, cost £35 to France or £99 to the USA. For other costings worldwide for suitcases, golf clubs, prams, snow boards, skis or ski boots call the number below or view the web site where all information is available.

Discounts are offered on multi piece shipments, ranging from 5% discount for three items to 15% discount for five plus.

Weight allowance

30kg per suitcase, 15kg golf clubs/holdalls, 10kg prams, 10kg snow boards, 5kg skis, 4kg ski boots.

Carry my Luggage – Carry my Luggage. "Using Carrymyluggage can remove some of the 'pain' of using supposed 'state of the art' airport terminals AND can be far less expensive and inconvenient than checking your baggage or excess baggage onto a low cost airline (a 20kg bag can cost up to £95.00 one way) – Carrymyluggage provide a full door to door service for £69.00 for the same item!*Call us now on 0845 009 0362, and let us make travel easier for you." Interestingly this company does internal United Kingdom deliveries as well.

Packing / Trolleys

Advice from and

Europ Assistance, the total solution for travel insurance, have come up with some top tips to make your trip easier:

1. When packing your suitcase be careful with bottles and tubes contain liquids or creams. Make sure tops are securely fastened and that the contents can'st leak out and damage your clothes.

2. If you take medication on a regular basis, make sure you take enough supplies to last the length of your trip.

3. Pack a small first aid kit for emergencies, including insect repellent and cream for mosquito and insect bites.

4. Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visas appropriate for your destination, if required. Also, before you go, fill in the emergency information page of your passport.

5. Always take a copy of your insurance policy with you, so you know who to contact in case of an emergency. Leave a copy of your travel insurance policy with a friend or relative at home. You never know when it might be important for someone else to know who your insurer is.

6. Read the Consular Information Sheets (and Public Announcements or Travel Warnings, if applicable) for the countries you plan to visit. If you have internet access, check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office web site for the latest advice before you travel.

7. Familiarise yourself with local laws and customs of the countries to which you are travelling. While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.

8. Make 2 copies of your passport identification page. Leave one copy at home with friends or relatives. Carry the other with you in a separate place from your passport. This will make it easier to replace your passport if it is lost or stolen.

9. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency.

10. Do not leave your luggage unattended in public areas. Do not accept packages from strangers.

11. To avoid being a target of crime, try not to wear conspicuous clothing and expensive jewellery and do not carry excessive amounts of money or unnecessary credit cards.

12. In order to avoid violating local laws, deal only with authorised agents when you exchange money or purchase art or antiques.

Here are some top tips for using your trolley safely

* Pack your trolley according to weight – placing the larger and heavier items at the bottom.

* Do not pile your trolley too high – ensure the luggage does not exceed the height of the trolley handle and that it does not protrude too far over the sides.

* Make sure that no straps are trailing – these might become caught in the wheels of your or another trolley.

* Never sit on or allow others to sit on a trolley.

* Always use both hands to steer and control the trolley.

* Use the lifts to take your trolley between floors – it is safer than carrying your luggage on the escalators.


Top 12 holiday essentials

According to a survey by Heathrow Express (Paddington to Heathrow Airport), the top 12 holiday essentials are;

1. Electric Toothbrush

2. Wash bag

3. Clean Underwear

4. Camera

5. Mobile Phone

6. Holiday Shoes

7. Razor

8. Book

9. Cosmetics

10. Laptop

11. Passport

12. Emergency Medical Kit

We suggest you add them to your holiday packing list (its sensible to write one out on a piece of cardboard and add to it from experience).

Driving tips

Make sure you are travelling with all the encessary items. The law has changed recently. You now need a fluorescent jacket for example.

Make sure your driving licence is up to date. More

Driving long distances in France. Don't drive when tired. Many people forget that French time is one hour ahead. and find themselves arriving at their planned stopover in the early hours of the morning. Leaving after work and staying halfway down France seems popular. However you can arrive very late at your hotel, which may not have a concierge or automatic reception facility. Think your journey through before you book.


If travelling with a scheduled airline and making multiple journeys it is sometimes better to plan your journey to take advantage of cheaper fares because of a Saturday stop over. For example, if you intend to fly from London to Paris twice, book two return flights, the first (from London to Paris) for a longer period (a month for example) and the second return from Paris to London for a shorter period. Use leg one of the first ticket on your way out (London to Paris return) and then leg one of the second ticket (Paris to London return) to return. Go back to Paris with leg two of the second (shorter period) ticket and finish your holiday with leg two of the longer period ticket.

Headline rates – not always cheapest once all the add ons have been totalled up. Watch out for credit card charges, administration fees, online check in and luggage charges.

Apparently the airlines which have the most expensive add ons are; Ryanair and Jet2.

Best value for add ons; Cityjet and British airways only have a few extra charges.

Taking your car? Don't overload!

A case of beer weights 17kg, a case (12) of wine weighs 15 kg, and a case of champagne 22 kg. In France on the spot fines of £100 are levied for overloaded vehicles, in England the penalty is £40 plus 3 penalty points. In addition the Police will issue a PG9 notice which prohibits you from moving the vehicle until the excess weight is removed. You also must have a new MOT done before the PG9 is lifted.

Plated weights – cars may have no plated weights (which applies to vans) but they do have a maximum kerb side weight. Use your common sense – an overweight vehicle takes longer to stop, and is more difficult to control in an emergency.

Do not confuse the gross train weight (or GTW) with the gross vehicle weight (or GVW). The gross train weight only applies if you are towing a trailer.

Look in the cars handbook or check with the manufacturer to find the maximum load weight for your car and the correct tyre pressure.

Advice; check your MPGVW (maximum permissible gross vehicle weight – found on a silver plate under your bonnet) and your KW (kerb weight – look in your owners manual). Subtract your KW from your MPGVW and you get what is known as your payload. E.g. on a Ford Puma you're talking about (with two adults going across and assuming you fill up with cheap fuel over there) a payload of just about 200kg.

Who can weigh your vehicle? A Police Officer or authorised person. These are Trading Standards Officers and Department of Transport Officers. It is an offence to cause an obstruction.

United Kingdom information.

Cross Channel Companies

British Government

Emergency Numbers

Police (Gendarmerie) – 17 (Police in Calais and Kent)

Fire Department (Pompiers) – 18

SAMU/EMS (Emergency medical services) – 15

Operator – 13

Directory Enquiries – 12.

Pan European Emergency Number – 112. This works in any EU country from any telephone. If you are using a mobile phone use this number to call ANY emergency service.

Since December 2008, EU citizens have been able to contact emergency services from anywhere in the European Union by dialing 112, the EU wide emergency number, free of charge from fixed and mobile phones. However only one in four Europeans knows that this life saving number exists in other Member States and almost three in ten 112 callers in other countries have encountered language problems. Only 8% of United Kingdom citizens know what the 112 is for. The EU Commission, along with the European Parliament and the Council, has declared February 11th "European 112 Day" to spread the word about 112 and push national authorities to make the EU's single emergency number more multilingual. Apparently a quarter of EU citizens have called an emergency number in the last five years. Latest news on the 112 number (PDF).

Drugs / Alcohol hot line – 113.

SOS Help – SOS Helpline. A crisis line in English. Call 01 46 21 46 46. Open from 3.00 – 11.00pm every day.

"SOS Help is a listening service for English speakers in France. Whatever the problem, we are there to take your call every day from 3 to 11pm.

If you are worried, anxious or confused . . . If you are feeling lonely or sad . . . If you are suicidal . . . It may help to talk things over.

We can also provide practical information on dealing with problems you encounter as a foreigner in France."

Useful Outside links

– My Travelling Nanny. "A unique agency that provide Students, Qualified Childcarers, and Teachers to travel with families on their holidays, or in their home, helping out wherever the family needs. This can just be evening babysitting, or help around the swimming pool, and keeping the kids entertained on the journey too! We offer Uni Students, Qualified Childcarers, and Teachers, making it a service which is affordable on a wide range of budgets".

ePassport photo – ePassportPhoto. Change your digital photo online into a passport size photo.

say no to 0870 – Say NO to 0870.

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