- 1 Transport
- 2 Accommodation
- 3 Food
- 4 Connectivity
- 5 Busking
- 6 Visa
- 7 Cities
France is generally quite a cool place for nomads. Even if quite expensive, there are plenty of job opportunities also for foreigners (much better if you speak French and have a legal permit to work in sSchengen area), a legal minimum wage among the highest in the world and a social security system which might keep paying you also when you finished.
French (cool) people have usually a quite good understanding of modern nomadism and you won't have much difficulty to find the right environment that fits you. Wild camping is very common and popular, even if you don't have an accommodation, it should be easy to find somewhere to pitch a tent.
Try to avoid big urban areas like Paris searching more for countryside regions like Lozère, Hautes-Alpes, Charente or cool cities like Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux... Paris is of course a must to see in France, but it's also the highest population concentration in whole Europe ; one sixth of the whole French population is concentrated in its region. People are often busy there, as Paris provides lots of jobs for French people (but few which may interest nomads, it's especially office work), and don't really have the time to be very friendly. Centralization of everything to Paris is a French constant, and you may quickly notice that ambiance in Paris is not the same that in the rest of the country.
The soul of the country is still in the countryside, as France is a big European agricultural producer, and by the way this may provide you lots of jobs for fruitpicking, especially in the South. Départements such as Drôme, Vaucluse, Bouche-du-Rhone, Lot, Tarn... You can check out this map with many things like nomad bases, collectives, squats, self-managed farm, etc.
France is mostly a great country for hitchhiking. It's quite common, roads are not too tight and allow drivers to stop for you, and you can travel fast and main road and meet local people. Motorways network is one of the best in Western Europe, and it's also easy to hitchhike there. You'll travel even faster, but may not really meet people form the countryside (as it will be often drivers going from a main city to another). Hitchhiking works really good in the countryside, like in all countries, especially in the south, where rural areas can be more desert, and also in mountains. You often only need to get away from the Mediterranean coast to avoid a lot of tourists, and be picked up by local people.
- SNCF (national company), Thalys(for Benelux/Northern Germany), Thello (Italy by night trains), Eurostar (UK with Eurotunnel, or Belgium)
- low cost : Ouigo, IZY (to Belgium).
Main train services are TGV for many long distances travels (high speed trains) and TER for short ones (Regional trains). Long distance trains can be pretty expensive at last minute, but reservations open 3 months in advance. Main rule is the sooner, the cheaper. Cheapest fares for reservation trains are "Prem's" (French short for "First"), which are non refundable nor exchangeable. BUT, if you choose to have a paper ticket, you'll be able to exchange it with some else. Indeed paper tickets are non nominative, but this may engage you to withdraw the tickets at self service machines, which you'll find only in France (and Luxembourg). This can be a problem by example if you want to take the Milano-Paris TGV from Milano, you'll have to buy an "e-billet".
If you intent to travel a lot by train in France, a reduction card will be very appropriate, and final budget could be cheaper than Interpass Rail. If you're under 27, for 50€ per year the youth card ("Carte Jeune") will ensure 50% off on regional trains and every train without reservation in "blue" periods (off-peak), between 50 and 30% off on TGV trains, or minimum 25% in any case (always from normal adult fare). Peak period calendar available here. "Carte Jeune" tickets may remain slighty more expensive than "Prem's" ones, but they are fully refundable before departure (5€ fee only if you cancel for the same day, or the next one), and are a lot easier to buy ; you should be able to find them for the next day especially in working days. Moreover, reductions apply to all trains. As regional trains are without reservation, you'll have to pay adult full fare if you don't have the card.
Websites such as TrocDesTrains or PasseTonBillet.fr will help you to find people to trade your non-refundable tickets ("Prem's" or others). But it is possible only with non-nominative tickets, which is not the case with electronic tickets ("e-billets").
One important thing that foreign people should be aware of is that in France, like in Italy, you'll have to STAMP your normal "paper" tickets before getting on board. This is not at stake for electronic tickets (because you only carry a code/number), but if it's written on your ticket (unfortunately only in French) "A COMPOSTER", you'll have to stamp it or you would be fined. There are stamp points in every station before getting onto platforms, with bright yellow head. It's almost a sport to stamp it correctly, the machine always asking you to return it, even if you don't need to, just do it slowly.
- You're not allowed to trade your tickets at a higher price than purchased.
- Paper tickets still have name, but remain non-nominative, it's the name or the purchaser.
- Reduction cards work only on SNCF trains (also on DB/SNCF trains to Germany), even for international travels, but not other operators, such as Eurostar, which remains very expensive.
You may not want to use the official French train website (there's a whole bunch of them and none of them really work well). Capitaine Train could be a good alternative if you don't mind using FB to log in. Kelbillet.com is another such site which is interesting in that it also shows prices of other forms of transport, it also often show much better prices than the "official" train websites.
While TGV normal fares are ~75€ on Paris-Marseille for an adult in workdays, it will be often 40€ with "Carte Jeune", and can be as low as ~20€ for "Prem's" If you book 1/2 months in advance.
- If you like to travel by train and don't want to hurry too much, several journeys are made both by TGV and by normal trains (still often travelling at 200 km/h), and can be a good alternative if TGV fares are too expensive : Paris-Toulouse, Marseille-Nice, Lyon-Marseille, Paris-Tours-Bordeaux, Paris-Lyon.
- To leave Paris, trains will be more expensive from the city centre stations, check from Marne-la-Vallée-Disneyland TGV, Aéroport Charles-de-Gaulle TGV, or Massy TGV stations. You'll just need to take the RER for 30/40 minutes (and can cost you 10€ but often worths it). Same tip for Lyon from Aéroport Saint-Exupéry TGV station, but public transports to go there are even more expensive. More generally, TGV stations were often buildt a bit in the middle of nowhere and remain cheaper.
- The new low cost branch of SNCF,Ouigo can offer very cheap prices, but not all the time (especially weekends), and from Paris you'll leave only from stations cited above.
- Few remains, but night trains are a very good way to discover France. From Paris (that's the main problem, everything is centralized in Paris), you can reach the Cote d'Azur, the Pyrénées, or the Southern Alps 1000 km far away in only one night. Or, of course, Venice ! With Thello
Companies provide bus service between main cities within France and neighbouring countries, this can be a good and cheap alternative for train, even though often slower. There are plenty of them : Flixbus,Isilines, Ouibus -owned by SNCF- ...
As there are high speed trains, it's almost an ecological crime to take the plane and you shouldn't need this too much (It's faster to take the train to make Paris-Marseille, if you want to be in the city centres). Just two things to be mentioned :
- If you want to find domestic low cost flights in France, the main company remains Easyjet (in particular Paris-Nice or Paris-Toulouse)
- To travel in Corsica (which you should do, it's wonderful ! but take even more care of the nature and environment there), this can be useful, and Air Corsica can offer not too expensive flights, from several European cities.
If you're looking for rideshares, the biggest company is Blablacar.com which offers rides all over Europe. An alternative is Covoiturage-libre, an not-for-profit organization as opposed to Blablacar that makes heaps of money out of the rides. But as it is, less people offer rides so might only find for the common main routes.
French internet hospexchange community is probably one of the biggest in the world. Spontaneous hospitality works also quite well under any form, hitchhiking drivers invitations, street hosting with panel in cities, door knocking, and so on.
Don't forget that France has one the lowest mean density per km^2 in Europe. Especially in rural areas, it will be very easy to camp for free. French law is quite unclear on that, because it is in the law that you are allowed to make free camping... everywhere it is not forbidden. So you'll have to check for local regulations. It is generally tolerated, furthermore if you're not in a too touristic period/region. Just find somewhere a bit hidden, not next to a road (also because of the noise), but you should even be able to camp next to a path. It is still better to decamp in the morning.
In practice, it is quite rare to be strictly forbidden. The main reason are safety (especially fires in the South East and Mediterranean) and nature protection. There are National and Regional natural parks in France, each of them has its own regulation, that you should check. Paradoxically, you will be sure if it's allowed or not ! "Bivouac" (from ~after 7pm to ~9am) are sometimes fully allowed (PN des Ecrins, PN Mercantour), sometimes completely forbidden (PNR Corse, PN des Calanques).
For our Australian/American/NewZealander/Canadian (etc.) friends, it has to be noticed that fire camps are not so common in Europe, and maybe especially in Southern France (and probably around the Mediterranean Sea). It may be of course less tolerated than camping, and if wild camping is often allowed, this would almost never be the case for fire camp, but you should still be able to make one. In summer or in the dry season, take the greatest care with fires, even with gas stoves. There is often a complete fireban (but stoves should still remain allowed) in some southern Departments in summer.
Paying accomodation is usually expensive as most of rich European countries. Hostels are called "Auberges de jeunesse" or simply "Auberge" and range between 15 and 25€.
Food prices follow the general euro zone average, bit more expensive than Germany but further cheaper than Scandinavian countries like Norway or Iceland. As in Italy, supermarkets can provide you quite quality food (if you take care or find a good one), and there are often well provided fruit&vegetable stands, butchery, fishmonger's, and -of course- dairy. In rural regions, some supermarkets can be a cheap opportunity to have fresh and local meat/cheese/vegetables (maybe not be highest quality, but still from local producers).
Other alternative : Dumpster diving works very well in cities.
Not so great. There are no reasonably priced SIM cards with internet connectivity and wifi is not so widely spread. If you have friends, ask if they have codes for the FreeWifi and other hot spots they want to share.
A very interesting operator for nomads is Free (that's the name), which has only 2 offers, but they are both relevant.
- 2€ per month : cheapest of Europe. 2h phone call and unlimited text in France, but works also to call landlines of some countries, including USA, Canada, Australia, China, Brazil. But only 50 MB data. Perfect plan to be in France and stay in touch with friends. This offer is so cheap that some French choose it when they're abroad and don't use it, just to keep their phone number.
- 2O€ per month, but it's the perfect subscription if you want to keep the same phone number all across Europe. In addition of what is above, you have 100 GB (!!!) Data allowed in 4G. But that's not he main advantage : unlimited phone call, text and 5 GB (!!!) per month per country from 35 foreign countries (including whole EU, Norway, USA, Canada, Australia and NZ, but not Switzerland). That's enough to travel across Europe without taking care to your data consumption at any time.
The main disadvantage of Free is that it's cheap because there are no shops, everything is online, and the website is only in French. And You will need a French address and account to receive your SIM card.
Euro currency and general quite wealthy situation grant average decent salary. French people though tend to complain quite a lot about (almost anything and especially) their economical situation, which makes them often a bit cheap when it comes to give tips (famous worldwide for that) busking included.
France is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement. European visa policy will be covered in the article about the EU. In brief, a visa to any other signatory state of the Schengen Agreement is valid in France too. No visa is required for citizens of other EU member states, and those of some selected nations with whom the European Union or France have special treaties. Inquire at your travel agent or call the local consulate or embassy of France.
Paris is the capital of France and home to numerous embassies.
Depending on the length of the stay, as well as nationality, a visa may not be required. Nationals of the following "Schengen Agreement" countries may not require a visa: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal.
- For a stay of up to 90 days, nationalities exempted from a short stay visa are also exempted from requesting a student visa if the total stay in France does not exceed 90 days.
- However, if a student decides to stay one day longer or more after the end of the school period, he/she must apply for a temporary long stay visa (up to 6 months) BEFORE leaving for France.
- If you are studying for longer than 6 months, you’ll need a long stay visa : this type of visa allows its holder to request a temporary residence permit ("Carte de séjour") at a French Prefecture. You must apply within two months after the date of your arrival to France. Living in France for longer than 6 months without a residence permit is illegal.
Types of visa and cost
- A uniform Schengen visa is issued for Short-stay visits (tourist, business and students), Airport transit, Transit and Long-validity (circulation) visits.
- Visa application fees must be paid at the time of application. No visa application fee can be refunded, whatever the result of the application.
- All Schengen visa applications are now charged at €35, irrespective of the duration of stay requested (except for long-stay visas: stays over 90 days). The fee remains payable in Pounds Sterling only, approximately £22-26.
- Under no circumstances may a tourist visa be converted into a student visa. This is true throughout the European Union. International students of all nationalities intending to stay in France for more than 3 months must obtain a student identification card.