Planning a trip to France in 2023? Well, let’s talk money! In this blog, I’ll give you the lowdown on everything you need to know about the currency in France, exchange rates, and more. Whether you’re curious about cash or prefer going cashless, we’ll cover it all.
From tipping practices to taxes, we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty details to ensure you’re well-prepared for your French adventure. So, get ready to navigate the financial scene like a local and make the most of your trip. Let’s dive in!
The official currency of France is the Euro (€), and it is widely accepted throughout the country.
To get the best exchange rate for your national currency, compare rates and fees.
Debit cards and credit cards are widely accepted.
Major cities have lots of ATMs and banks for you to exchange money.
You can tip while in France at your leisure and claim back on VAT at department stores.
Table of Contents
The official currency of France is the Euro (€), which is the same currency used in several other countries in the European Union (EU) countries.
The Euro banknotes come in values of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, and 500 euro bills. The Euro coins are to the value of 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1, and €2. One side of the coin will have its numerical value and an image of the European Union map, and on the other side, all coins have the same design.
Euros are provided by the European Central Bank and are considered the second most traded currency in the world. The French currency used to include the French Franc but this was replaced by the Euro in 2002.
Fun factEuro banknotes come in different sizes and colors, making them easy to identify. The width of Euro coins also increases as the amount increases.
The French currency is the same as the Paris currency, so it won’t matter where in France you are, the Euro is the national currency.
Exchanging Currency in France
Before embarking on your trip to France, part of your planning should be getting to know the French currency, its exchange rate, and where and how you can exchange your home currency for the French currency.
The current exchange rate for France’s Euro can be found by visiting www.xe.com.
Where to Exchange Currency
There are a few options for you here, and this will depend on whether you are exchanging money before your trip, or once you land in France.
Using your home bank
This is a great option if you want to have some Euros on hand for when you land in France and are nervous about using your card. If you can stomach it though, I’d recommend you skip this option because some banks may exchange your Euros at a much higher inflation rate on top of transaction fees.
Once you land in France, simply make your way to an ATM at the airport and use your debit card to withdraw money. This is the most cost-effective and convenient option. If the hustle and bustle of the airport is a bit much, you can also find many French Banks around the city with ATMS for you to make a withdrawal. Just be aware of daily withdrawal limits.
Currency exchange bureaus
This is an especially great option for those wanting to exchange large sums of money or just prefer the safety of being in official exchange bureaus. They’re quick, they’ll give you a good exchange rate and they are proficient with many different currencies. Exchange bureaus can be found all around your major cities and at train stations. The only downside to exchange bureaus is that to use them when you arrive in France, you’ll have to travel with that amount of money on you, which depending on the amount, can be nerve-wracking for many. You’ll also need to have a form of identification with you for the transaction to take place.
Money exchange kiosks at the airport
While this is an option, it’s also one I wouldn’t recommend. We all know how airports love to overcharge on products and services because they know they’re a convenient option. The same applies to currency exchange. They will offer you extremely poor exchange rates that will end in you losing money.
You can still buy traveler’s checks but it’s not the best option because fewer vendors are accepting them. Also, if you do decide to go with traveler’s checks, you’ll have to go to a French post office to cash in. Post offices have varying amounts that they’re willing to cash in, so again, quite an inconvenience.
Using French Banks
Most banks in France won’t offer currency exchange to people who don’t have a French Bank Account. If you can find one that does, just be sure to pay attention to their operating hours and when they close for lunch.
Tips for Getting the Best Exchange Rate
Know the current exchange rates for Euros when planning your trip. This will ensure you get the correct amount for your home currency.
Compare exchange rates at different places before doing your currency exchange.
Use local Banks or their ATMs.
Use a prepaid travel card. This will allow you to lock in your currency and you can load a specific amount onto the card. You’ll also save on the euro exchange rate.
Use local currency.
Use transfer tools to easily move your money between bank accounts.
Things to Avoid When Exchanging Currency
Don’t use the airport, exchange bureaus, or train stations because they will offer you a bad exchange rate.
Don’t put all your money in one place. Use a variety (cash and card).
Watch out for hidden fees and commissions when exchanging money.
Avoid exchanging large sums of money all at once.
Don’t use traveler’s checks – they’re outdated and can cause complications.
Using Credit Cards and Debit Cards in France
Acceptance of Foreign Cards in France
Most businesses such as restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, hotels, etc. are equipped to receive foreign card payments. This will make it super easy to use your debit card while in France. But, depending on your card, you may pay high bank fees for the currency exchange. Even if you withdraw cash from a local ATM, you’ll still be charged. Debit cards are still more cost-effective than credit cards.
For credit cards, Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted throughout France and Paris. American Express is accepted in large cities or big tourist retail stores but to be on the safe side, have a backup card so that you don’t hit a snag when trying to pay with your American Express. Also, many businesses have a minimum purchase amount when paying by card.
It’s also advisable to carry cash on you for those smaller shops or even when traveling through toll plazas. You can exchange money at your local bank before departing to France, or you can withdraw cash from a local ATM once in France. This is a convenient option and many ATMs in Paris typically don’t charge transaction fees.
Helpful tipIf you’re using your foreign debit card or credit card to withdraw cash or make a payment, you may be presented with an option to transact either in the local euro currency or in the United States dollar. Always choose to go with the local euro currency. The exchange rate is better this way and it’ll save you money.
Also, make sure to let your bank know ahead of time that you’re planning a trip and will be using your card to make international payments. They will assist you with understanding the transaction fees you may encounter.
In addition to this, your bank needs to be aware of your travels as it’ll put their mind at ease when they see international payments being made to your account. Otherwise, they may be concerned about fraud and could block your card. That would put a damper on your trip.
Tips for Using Cards in France
Mobile payment services such as Apply Pay, Google Pay, and Alipay have become very popular ways to pay and have taken the stress away from carrying cash or cards around all the time.
But, since you’ll be traveling to France for the first time, you won’t know how the money in France works and if these contactless payment methods are readily available. I advise you to do your research first. Have the mobile payment set up on your phone and if you see the contactless payment symbol, then you can use it.
Fees and Charges
If you decide to use your own debit card or credit card while in France, you may be charged transaction fees. This amount will vary based on who you are banking with in the US and the type of card you have. Before embarking on your trip, check with your bank first on the fees you may encounter as this may greatly impact your decision on whether to use your card or opt for cash.
Generally, transaction fees are anywhere between 1% – 5% of the amount spent. So the larger amount you spend, the more fees you’ll pay (this is all based on using your card). You can monitor these fees because they’ll show on your bank statement as an additional charge. If your card is charging you more than 3%, then you may need to look into that because it’s rare for fees to be that high nowadays.
Some cards have no fees attached to them, so check with your bank if you want to organize one of those as it may save money.
A VAT refund is a great way to save yourself money in France when shopping. This system is useful for all non-EU residents. Your first step to a VAT refund is to shop at a qualifying store. Most department stores in Paris are part of the VAT refund scheme. If you’re shopping at a smaller store, you’ll need to ask the attendant if they offer this service or keep your eyes peeled for “tax-free” stickers.
To qualify for a VAT refund, you’ll need to spend a minimum purchase amount of €175 ($189) in one day. You’ll then ask the store attendant for the Retail Export Form (bordereau de détaxe in French). Keep your passport handy because the attendant will need this to fill out the form.
So all those lovely items in the duty-free section at the airports are all eligible for a VAT refund. Happy shopping!
Tips For Carrying Cash While Traveling in France
France is generally safe for tourists but as with all places, there are a few money tips you can follow because one can never be too safe.
When walking at night, stick to well-lit areas.
Never leave your personal items unattended.
Carry your money in your wallet and keep your wallet tucked into a front pocket. Don’t let your wallet stick out. Alternatively, use a money belt.
Only carry the amount of cash that you need for the day. Check online and research to predetermine the price of your outings so that you’re fully prepared and not carrying hoards of cash for no reason.
Have a variety of euro bills on your person. This will help when making small purchases with street merchants.
Cost of Living and Spending in France
It’s always best to do thorough research and be prepared before traveling to another country. By having a rough idea of what you can expect to pay for expenses and living costs, you’ll be able to plan and set up a budget. This will ultimately stop you from overspending and save you time and save you money. That’s a win-win situation!
Here is a breakdown of what you can expect to pay in France.
Overview of Costs
Accommodation prices will vary depending on the type of lodging you’re looking for. Hotels, for example, average around €152 ($164) per person and €305 ($330) for a couple. If you’re wanting a more luxurious hotel, the price will be more. Budget hotels are around €60 ($65) per night for a double bedroom. You also have Airbnb as an option, which offers a private room for €35 ($38) if you’re traveling alone or €65 ($70) for an apartment. Keep in mind though that if you decide to lodge in a touristy city such as Paris, the prices may be higher as they’ll be catering to the tourists.
If you plan on eating at restaurants most of the time, you can pay anywhere from €17-€35 ($18-$37) depending on what you order. It’s cheaper to buy local groceries and cook yourself. For a week worth of groceries, you can spend around €60 ($65).While walking the streets, you can pick up sandwiches for €4-€7 ($4-$8), coffee is around €3 ($3, and fast food is €9 ($10) for a combo meal.
Public transportation in France is the best way to go because most of the cities have well-organized bus, train, and taxi systems. Metro taxis are around €1-€3 ($1-$3) for a single ticket, but a great value-for-money option is to look at the Paris Visite Pass which will give you an unlimited amount of travel with various types of transportation. The price for this begins at €15 ($16) and can be bought for 1,2,3 or 5 consecutive days. There are also 5 zones to choose from, so you can pick the package that covers the cities and tourist destinations that you plan on visiting. The full package for 5 consecutive days that access all 5 zones is €81 ($88).
Tourist attractions and activities
Most tourist attractions can be booked online, so I recommend you plan ahead and book early because this will also allow you to find cheaper prices. Two popular landmarks you may be interested in are the Louvre Museum which is €17 ($18) and the Palace of Versailles for €27 ($29).
Tipping Etiquette in France
Waiters in France are paid a livable wage with added benefits and as a result, they do not rely on tips. They will still wait on you professionally, but they won’t hover over you constantly during your meal in the hopes of getting a nice tip.
So when it comes to giving tips, you don’t need to tip 20% like you would in the US. Tipping in France is appreciated but not expected. You can round up your bill to a whole number by leaving a few euros or coins with the receipt. For example, if your coffee was €4.20, you can round up and pay €5. It just makes things easier.
At high-quality restaurants, you can leave a larger tip, around 5-10% of the total bill amount, but again, this is appreciated and not expected. Don’t feel bad if you only have the right amount of money on you or are paying by card and don’t have extra cash to tip because the waiter isn’t expecting a tip.
It’s also uncommon in France for the bill to be brought to you at your table. Particularly, if the restaurant is busy, it’s much easier to walk to the register to pay.
Bottom lineYou can tip in France at restaurants or for other services in hospitality, food deliveries, or cab drivers if you want or have some extra euros, but keep it small and don’t feel obliged.
Banking in France for Expats
How to Open a Bank Account in France
Opening a bank account in France can be fairly straightforward as long as you follow the steps and have the correct documentation ready. Your first step would be to contact your local bank to see if they have a branch in France. This will make it easy to transfer your existing account across. If your local bank doesn’t have a nearby branch, they may direct you to a French Bank that offers assistance to foreigners.
If you’re opening a French bank account from scratch, then you’ll need to gather these documents:
Proof of identification (passport)
Proof of address (rental contract or utility bill)
Proof of residence status (visa)
You can then choose the type of account you wish to open. French banks offer these three main accounts:
Current account – This is the most common account type because it’s perfect for everyday use. It will allow you to withdraw money from ATMs, make payments with a debit card and pay bills. Some banks also offer non-resident accounts and student accounts if you happen to be studying abroad.
General savings account – This savings account will allow you to transfer money to and from your current account. You can also look into a Livret A, which is a tax-free account, but this may have many restrictions.
Long-term savings account – For those wanting to save for large future purchases, this account has high-interest rates to help you save money.
When choosing a bank, pay attention to potential bank fees. These can be monthly service fees for having an account with them, ATM fees, or fees for debit cards.
Popular Banks and Their Services
Many popular banks in France can help you with your banking needs. Here are the top used banks to look out for:
Crédit Agricole – Serves customers all around the world.
BNP Paribas – Biggest bank in France. They offer joint and individual bank accounts.
LCL – Most popular for their “Essentiel” account, which for €2 will give you an international card, an advisor, and access to the LCL banking app.
Société Générale – Their current accounts and savings accounts have reasonable and low fees.
Caisse d‘Epargne – They offer packages that each come with a different fee, so you can pick the best one for you.
HSBC – This bank offers great options for opening an international account.
Banque Populaire – They focus on retail banking and provide services to small businesses and professionals.
La Banque Postale – They offer a “simplicity account plan” for people with a low credit history.
Money Tips for Traveling That You Shouldn’t Forget
Plan your trip well ahead of time and set a budget. This will give you a good money guideline and prevent you from overspending.
Take cash with you in the local currency. In this particular case, take France’s currency. This will give you time to settle in and figure out the card payment systems.
Monitor exchange rates. Some places will exchange money at a higher rate than others.
Use a credit card that has low or no charge fees.
Let your bank know that you are planning a trip elsewhere.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much is $1 US dollar in France?
The amount of $1 in French currency fluctuates all the time depending on the exchange rate. You can check the current exchange rate by visiting www.xe.com. But, the US dollar is usually quite close to the euro.
Are U.S. dollars accepted in France?
Unfortunately, other than Euros, no other currencies are accepted in France. US dollars can be exchanged for Euros at currency exchange offices.
Do the French still use francs?
No, they don’t. The European Central Bank replaced Francs with the Euro in 2002 and they no longer have legal tender anywhere.
Is it difficult to open a bank account in France if I stay there for a long time?
It can be a tricky process, but not an impossible one. You’ll need proof of identification (passport), proof of address (rental contract or utility bill), and proof of residence status (visa). It can often be difficult to sign a rental agreement without a French bank account, so you’ll just need to gather as many documents as you can.
So, there you have it! Money matters in France in 2023 summed up for you. Remember, Euros are the currency, but cashless payments are prevalent, making life easier. Keep an eye out for ATMs, compare exchange rates if you need to swap currencies, and don’t forget to check if the service charge is included when dining out.
With these money guidelines in mind, you’re all set to explore France and indulge in its vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, and captivating sights. Bon voyage and enjoy your time in the land of baguettes and croissants!
I usually write about traveling (there are so many places to fit all the lifestyles), relocation (finding a job overseas or moving without losing an income), and living in a foreign country (adapting to a different culture and mentality). Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn!
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