Shopping in France
Plan on shopping in France? A recent study indicated that goods prices in French shops are among the most reasonable in Europe, and maybe, on the off chance that you are purchasing an array of ordinary merchandise, they are. Be that as it may, visitors don’t shop like natives, so the lower costs may not be so clear to guests. In addition, the ripping off of visitors is known worldwide, and France is no special case. Read on for insights into shopping In France.
With the Euro and dollar almost equal, the fascination of shopping in France is not as incredible as it used to be. However, a great many people visit France every year, and lots of them will be heading for the shops and stores sooner or later. This page offers some general and hopefully helpful information for travelers vacationing and shopping in France.
What You See Is What You Pay
One pleasant surprise for first time visitors from the US and Canada is that the posted prices include the VAT, or Value Added Tax (sales tax). The price you see is the the price you pay. No surprises at the cash register.
Shopping Hours Can Differ Depending On Where You Are
In the smaller towns and villages, shops are normally open from 9 am until late morning when they close for lunch. The lunch ‘hour’ can actually be as long a three hours, at which time they re-open until 7 or 8 pm. They are also closed on Sunday by law, so you’ll have to get your shopping done between Monday and Saturday.
In the larger, touristy urban areas, the larger stores, like retail chains, no longer close at midday. Supermarkets and big box stores also tend to stay open throughout the day so you won’t starve to death if you happen to run out of something at noon, but they do tend to close earlier than most Americans are used to.
As mentioned earlier, depending on where in France you are, stores may be closed on Sunday. If you are in Paris, Marseilles or some other large tourist area, you probably have no worries there. The smaller towns are subject to what we in the US know as ‘blue laws’ where trading on Sunday is unlawful.
On the bright side, the French Parliament is listening to merchants who are screaming, and rightfully so, about how the Sunday restrictions are hurting them financially. As time goes on, you can expect to see the laws change and shops in smaller areas open on Sunday.
Twenty Four Hour Convenience Stores – Not!
You won’t find many, if any at all, with the exception of a few drug stores (more on pharmcies coming up). I guess that’s enough said on that subject.
Pharmacies(Chemists) – Just In Case
Drug store, pharmacies, chemists, whatever you call them where you live open and close like other small shops. In the smaller towns there is usually a “pharmacie de garde” open on Sunday, and sometimes even until late at night. In towns with two or more pharmacies, a rotation system is usually used where they take turns being open on Sundays. You’ll know if a pharmcy is open because its green cross will be lit. In the smaller towns, where there might be just one pharmacy, you may have to call in advance or ring the bell for service, especially at night. In larger towns and cities, there is usually at least one 24 hour pharmacy.
Paying For Things in France
All but the very smallest shops, such as neighbourhood convenience stores, accept Visa and Mastercard credit cards and debit cards. Foreign cards, including UK cards, are accepted in France as long as they are of the chip and pin type. For the past year or so, US card issuers have been moving their cardholders over to chip and pin cards in order to keep up with Europe. I guess we can’t be first in everything.
Cash Is Still King Out In The Countryside
Large department stores in cities may take travelers’ cheques, otherwise most shops accept French cheques as long as the customer has ID. All shops accept cash. You can get cash from any French ATM as long as you have a valid card from one of the main international operators (Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus).
My suggestion would be to buy Euros before leaving for France. This will save you from paying currency conversion fees when using a French ATM with a card denominated in another currency. You can buy Euros at any Bank of America branch.
I hope this article has been helpful in preparing to spend your hard earned greenbacks in Gay Paree, or wherever you plan on shopping abroad.