Airlines Aer Lingus tel 01.48.62.99.88; Air Canada tel 08.25.88.08.81; Air France tel 01.42.99.21.01; British Airways tel 08.25.82.54.00; British Midland tel 01.53.43.25.27; Delta tel 08.00.35.40.80; Qantas tel 08.20.82.05.00.
American Express 11 rue Scribe, 9e tel 01.47.14.50.00; M° Opéra. Bureau de change open MonFri 9am6pm, Sat 9am5pm, Sun 10am4pm, public hols 9am5pm. In a pinch, there is Chequepoint, 150 Champs-Élysées, 8e tel 01.42.56.48.63, M° Charles-de-GaulleÉtoile, open daily 24hr.
Banks Barclays, 6 Rond-Point-des-Champs-Élysées, 8e tel 01.44.95.13.80; M° Franklin-D-Roosevelt; MonFri 9.15am4.30pm; branches throughout the city (info on 01.42.92.39.08).
Car rental Budget tel 08.00.10.00.01, www.budgetrentacar.com; Europcar tel 08.25.35.23.52, www.europcar.com; Hertz tel 01.55.31.93.21, www.hertz.com. Or some good local firms are: Buchard, 99 bd Auguste-Blanqui, 13e (tel 01.45.88.28.38; M° Place-d'Italie); Locabest, 3 rue Abel, 12e (tel 01.43.46.05.05; M° Gare-de-Lyon), and at 104 bd Magenta, 10e (tel 01.44.72.08.05; M° Gare-du-Nord). Look up "location" in the yellow pages for others.
Electricity 220V out of double, round-pin wall sockets. If you haven't bought the appropriate converter (adapteur) or transformer (transformateur for US appliances) before leaving home, head for the electrical section of a department store (try BHV, for example), where someone is also more likely to speak English. If you are using an appliance larger than an electric razor or a radio a laptop computer for example you will need an adapter capable of transforming a large electrical load.
Emergencies Fire brigade (Sapeurs-Pompiers) tel 18; Ambulance (Service d'Aide Médicale Urgente SAMU) tel 15; Police tel 17; Doctor call-out (SOS Médecins) tel 01.47.07.77.77 or 22.214.171.124; Rape crisis (SOS Viol; MonFri 10am6pm) tel 08.00.05.95.95; SOS Help (crisis line/any problem: 311pm) in English tel 01.47.23.80.80. English-speaking (private) hospitals: The American Hospital in Paris, 63 bd Victor-Hugo, Neuilly-sur-Seine (M° Porte-Maillot, then bus #82 to terminus; tel 01.46.41.25.25) and The Hertford British Hospital, 3 rue Barbès, Levallois-Perret (M° Anatole-France; tel 01.46.39.22.22). In the event of a car breakdown, call SOS Dépannage (tel 01.47.07.99.99) for round-the-clock assistance; they can also send out locksmiths and plumbers.
Exchange Some of the more conveniently located bureaux de change are at Charles-de-Gaulle airport (daily 7am10pm) and Orly airport (daily 6.30am11pm); at Gare d'Austerlitz (MonFri 7am9pm), Gare de l'Est (summer 6.45am10pm; winter 6.45am7pm), Gare de Lyon (MonSat 8am8pm), Gare du Nord (8am8pm), Gare StLazare (summer 8am8pm; winter 8am6.45pm); at the Office de Tourisme de Paris (127 av des Champs-Élysées, 8e; 9am7.30pm; M° Charles-de-GaulleÉtoile); and at CCF (127 av Champs-Élysées, 8e; 8.30am8pm; M° George-V). Try also the main banks, American Express or branches of Thomas Cook, eg at 4 bd St Michel, 6e (daily 8am9pm; tel 01.42.34.70.00; M° St Michel).
Laundry You shouldn't have any trouble finding a laundry in Paris. If you can't immediately spot one near your hotel, look in the phone book under "Laveries Automatiques". They're often unattended, so come pre-armed with small change. The smallest machines cost around €3.50 for a load, though some laundries only have bigger machines and charge around €6.50. Generally, self-service laundry facilities open at 7am and close between 7pm and 9pm. The alternative blanchisserie, or pressing services, are likely to be expensive, and hotels in particular charge very high rates. If you're doing your own washing in hotels, keep quantities small, as most forbid doing any laundry in your room.
Left luggage Located at Gare Saint Lazare, Gare de L'Est, Gare du Nord, Gare de Lyon, Gare d'Austerlitz, and Montparnasse.
Lost baggage Airports: Orly tel 01.49.75.04.53; Charles de Gaulle tel 01.48.62.10.86.
Lost property Bureau des Objets Trouvés, Préfecture de Police, 36 rue des Morillons, 15e; tel 01.55.76.20.00 (M° Convention). Mon & Wed 8.30am5pm, Thurs 8.30am8pm, Fri 8.30am5.30pm. For property lost on public transport, phone the RATP on 01.40.30.52.00. If you lose your passport, report it to a police station and then your embassy.
Pedestrians French drivers pay no heed to pedestrian/zebra crossings, marked with horizontal white stripes on the road. It's very dangerous to step out onto one and assume drivers will stop as is usually the case at home. Take just as great care as you would crossing at any other point, even at traffic lights.
Pharmacies see "Basics".
Public transport RATP information on 08.36.68.77.14 (6am9pm; premium rate) or tel 08.36.68.41.14 (in English, premium rate) or online at www.ratp.fr.
SNCF information on 08.36.35.35.35 or online at www.sncf.com.
Safer sex A warning: Paris has the highest incidence of AIDS of any city in Europe; people who are HIV positive are just as likely to be heterosexual as homosexual. Condoms (préservatifs) are readily available in supermarkets, and from dispensers in clubs, on the street often outside pharmacies and in the métro. From pharmacies you can also get spermicidal cream and jelly (dose contraceptive), suppositories (ovules, suppositoires), and (with a prescription) the pill (la pilule), a diaphragm or IUD (le stérilet). Pregnancy test kits (tests de grossesse) are sold at pharmacies; the morning-after pill (la pilule du lendemain) is available from pharmacies without prescription.
Sales tax VAT (Value Added Tax) is referred to as TVA in France (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée). The standard rate in France is 20.6 percent; it's higher for luxury items and lower for essentials, but there are no exemptions (children's clothes for example are a lot more expensive than in the UK). However, non-EU residents who have been in the country for less than six months are entitled to a refund (détaxe) of some or all of this amount (but usually around fourteen percent) if you spend at least €180 in a single trip to one shop. Not all stores participate in this scheme, though, so you'll need to ask first. The procedure is rather complicated: present your passport to the shop when you pay and ask for the three-page bordereau de vente à l'exportation form. They should help you fill it in and provide you with a self-addressed envelope. When you leave the EU, get customs to stamp the filled-in form (look for the douane de détaxe counter); you will then need to send two of the pages back to the shop in the envelope within six months; the shop will then transfer the refund through your credit card or bank. Some shops deduct the VAT there and then, but you still have to go through the above procedure. The Centre de Renseignements des Douanes (tel 01.53.24.68.24, www.douane.gouv.fr) can answer any customs-related questions.
Smoking Laws requiring restaurants to have separate smokers' (fumeurs) and non-smokers' (non-fumeurs) areas are widely ignored. Non-smokers may well find themselves eating elbow-to-elbow alongside smokers, and waiters are not that likely to be sympathetic; even if there are clearly defined non-smoking areas they tend to be in the least desirable part of the restaurant, tucked away in a back room, for example. Smoking is not allowed on public transport, including surburban trains, or in cinemas. Most office reception areas are non-smoking. Smoking, however, is still a socially acceptable habit in France, and cigarettes are cheap in comparison with Britain, for example. Note that you can only buy tobacco in tabacs.
Student information CROUS 39 av Georges-Bernanos, 5e tel 01.40.51.36.00; RER Port-Royal.
Taxis Try Taxis Bleus (tel 08.25.16.10.10, www.taxis-bleus.com), Alpha Taxis (tel 01.45.85.85.85), Artaxi (tel 08.91.70.25.50) or G7 (tel 01.41.27.66.99; in English). Aéro Taxis (tel 01.47.39.01.47) specialize in trips to the airports.
Time France is one hour ahead of Britain (Greenwich Mean Time), six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (eg New York), and nine hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (eg Los Angeles). Australia is eightten hours ahead of France, depending on which part of the continent you're in. Remember also that France uses a 24hr clock, with, for example, 2am written as 2h and 2.30pm written as 14h30. The most confusing are noon and midnight respectively 12h and 00h. For the talking clock phone 36.99. You can get an alarm call on 36.88, or with a digital phone dial *55* then the time in four figures (eg 0715 for 7.15am) then #. To annul, dial #55* then the time, then # (costs around €0.60).
Toilets Ask for les toilettes or look for signs for the WC (pronounced "vay say"); when reading the details of facilities outside hotels, don't confuse lavabo, which means washbasin, with lavatory. French toilets in bars are still often of the hole-in-the-ground squatting variety, and tend to lack toilet paper. Standards of cleanliness aren't always high. Toilets in railway stations and department stores are commonly staffed by attendants who will expect a bit of spare change. Some have coin-operated locks, as do the tardis-like automatic public toilets on the streets, so always keep some lose change to hand.
Tours The best walking tours of Paris in English are those offered by Paris Walks (tel 01.48.09.21.40; 1hr 30min; €10, children €5), with subjects ranging from "Hemingway's Paris" to "Historic Marais". A full list of times, meeting points and prices can be found in Pariscope in the Time Out Paris English-language section. The Paris transport authority, RATP, also runs numerous excursions, some to quite far-flung places, and they cost much less than those offered by commercial operators. Details are available from RATP's Bureau de Tourisme, place de la Madeleine, 1er (tel 01.40.06.71.45, www.ratp.fr; M° Madeleine).
Traffic and road conditions For Paris's traffic jams listen to 105.1 FM (FIP) on the radio; for the boulevard périphérique and main routes in and out of the city, ring 01.48.99.33.33.
Youth information CIDJ (Centre d'Information et de Documentation de la Jeunesse), 101 quai Branly, 15e (MonFri 9.30am6pm & Sat 9.30am1pm; tel 01.43.06.15.38, www.cidj.com; M° Bir-Hakeim).
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