13 Top France Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring (2019 Update)

Updated on March 17, 2019 by Asher Fergusson

What should I pack for my France trip?

France’s gorgeous landscape and many tourist attractions make it a top-of-list destination for many travelers.

If you haven’t been there before, though, it can be hard to know what to pack.

To help you, we’ve prepared a guide to what to wear in France, what NOT to bring, and answers to some of the top France FAQs to make sure you get the most enjoyment possible out of your trip. Bon voyage!

1) France Power Adapter – Having this device on hand will allow to use your American electronics in the French outlets without damaging them. This one pictured is great because it also comes with 2 USB ports and works in over 100 countries. It also has a built-in fuse to protect your devices from irregular power supplies.

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2) Gorgeous Outfit: Women’s and Men’s – For your basic clothes, you want to bring enough outfits to last you a little over a week, even if you’re going to be gone much longer than that. A capsule-style wardrobe is best when traveling so that you can mix and match, and do laundry only when you need to. However, you will want to bring at least one smashing outfit that makes you feel great – wear it when you go out to a nice dinner or take in local nightlife, and you’ll look and feel confident!

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3) Cell phone and assorted paraphernalia – This one is pretty much a no-brainer and most people rarely go anywhere without their phone anyway. After all, these devices tend to come in handy for staying in contact with the outside world, especially if you get a data roaming plan set up for wherever you’re going. Most of the newer phone models can also double as a camera, a flashlight, and a GPS system. Some will even allow you to keep pdf files on them so you don’t even have to drag along heavy guidebooks. There is a wide variety of travel appsthat you might want to download and use on your journeys as well. Just be sure to bring along all the things you need to keep your phone running at peak capacity like a memory card, an extra battery, and a phone charger

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4) Toiletries – This is a catch-all category that includes everything you need to stay clean and presentable on your travels. These items vary from person to person but typically include bath supplies, hair styling equipment, and other hygiene products. Some travelers might even go so far as bring along nail clippers and mini sewing kits. Just take what you think you’ll need in this regard and leave behind whatever you don’t.

5) First Aid Supplies – You can buy premade first aid kits, but you can also create your own from the stuff you already have on hand. This allows you to customize your supplies based on your needs rather than more generic ones. For instance, I always take along two different kinds of aspirin: regular and migraine strength because I’m prone to headaches. Likewise, if you regularly suffer from motion sickness or stomach upsets, you want to prepare for those things as well as the more normal array of blisters, cuts, and scratches that go along with travel. My personal first aid kit also tends to include items like tough strip Band-Aids, Neosporin, Benadryl cream, Chapstick, and antibacterial wipes.

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6) Durable Luggage – I’ve found that a well-built backpack works better for my personal travel style than a rolling suitcase. A backpack allows me to keeps my hands free to deal with doors, transactions, and so forth. It is also easier to cart around and easier to hold on to. After all, suitcases usually have to go in the hold of the bus or be left in the designated areas on trains and airplanes. However, you’re not typically forced to part with small backpacks in similar situations. Just be sure to get one with a couple of inner pockets so that your documents can be safely stored while you’re en route. Even if you feel differently about what sort of luggage to use, you’ll still need to be sure that the gear you’ve chosen can stand up to a good bit of abuse. Otherwise it might not return home in one piece.

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7) Dual-Purpose Footwear: Men’s and Women’s – Dark colored boots or tasteful flats with good traction are your best bets pretty much everywhere in Europe. These shoes enable you to do a lot of walking around during the day but they also keep you from having to pack a second pair to wear to dinner at night. They are additionally good way of coping with the occasional hazards posed by cobblestoned streets, uneven pavement, and slick stone staircases.

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8) Lightweight Daybag – Don’t underestimate the usefulness of having a good daypack on hand. This item can serve as a purse/daypack, a beach bag, and a shopping tote. You want something that’s big enough to hold all your daily essentials without being overly large and unwieldy. It’s even better if this bag can be folded up and put in other bags so that you can easily avoid additional baggage fees.

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9) Rain Coat: Women’s and Men’s – It can be difficult to carry an umbrella all the time while you’re out and about in France. Opt for a nice rain coat instead, or along with your umbrella. You want to look for something that’s darkly colored and fairly stylish so that you’ll blend in more with the locals. You’ll definitely want to leave the rain ponchos at home, as the locals generally don’t wear them.

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10) Reusable Water Bottle – A good water bottle will often pay for itself before a trip is over. The tap water in France is perfectly safe to drink and doing so can save you several dollars per day. Of course, you can simply purchase one bottled drink when you reach your destination and reuse the container. It will still save you some money but it doesn’t take too long for the liquid inside to start tasting like plastic. You’re better off bringing your own bottle.

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11) Snacks – You’re looking for things that don’t require any prep work. Otherwise you could find yourself with a backpack full of things to eat but no way to prepare them. I’m personally fond of beef jerky, granola bars, mixed nuts, chocolate candy, and prepackaged olives. Once you get past airport security, you can add pastries and other baked goods to the list. While apples, bananas, oranges, and so on are wonderful healthy alternatives they have some clear drawbacks. Apples and bananas bruise easily and don’t taste very good after they’ve been carted around for hours. Meanwhile, citrus fruits can really make a mess. Proceed with caution.

12) France Guidebook – If you’re only going to one portion of France rather than attempting to see it all, get a region specific guidebook rather than one that covers the entire country. This should save you some weight in your luggage. Another option is to get the guidebook in pfd form and download it to whatever electronic device you’re taking along so that you don’t have to be bothered with a heavy book. You’ll still want to make sure that the guidebook you’ve chosen has a common phrase section and a pronunciation guide, especially if you don’t already speak basic French.

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13) Beach Supplies (Warm Months) – France has a lot of nice beaches. As a result, items like swimsuits, sunscreen, sunglasses, cover ups, and so on can come in handy during the warmer months.It might even be in your best interest to bring either sunscreen sticks or sunscreen wipes if you can find them before you leave. This allows you to bypass the TSA regulations on liquids and avoid paying a higher price for sunscreen when you arrive.However, if you’re already bringing a quick drying towel for your hostel baths, you probably don’t need to bring another one specifically for the beach.

Other items people often forget for France


What to wear in France

1) Stylish clothes in dark or neutral colors that can be worn in layers. Europeans tend to wear what Americans think of as “business casual” as their everyday attire. You’ll also want to make sure that whatever you pick out is seasonally appropriate. France tends to be warm in the summer, chilly in the winter, and somewhere in between the rest of the year so plan accordingly.

2) Scarves are always a good option, particularly those that are big enough to double as a lightweight blanket. You’ll want to take along one or two.

3) If you’re going to beach or the pool at any point, don’t forget your swimwear.

4) Having a sweater and a long pair of pants on hand is recommended, even in the summer. This will keep you from being cold if the temperature dips unexpectedly or you end up in an overly air conditioned spot.

5) Travelers who are planning on going to fancy places may want to take along a few nicer outfits, matching accessories/jewelry, and possibly makeup for these occasions.

What NOT to take to France

1) 🚫 Weighty Items: Overly large suitcases, heavy books, hairdryers,extra clothes and shoes all fall into this category. It’s better to leave extra items at home than drag them along the ride. The less stuff you bring with you, the less you have to tote around.

2) 🚫 Valuables: If losing the item in question will break your heart or kill your budget, avoid bringing it with you.Even if you plan on going places where dressing up is mandatory, leave your family heirlooms at home in the safe. Bring along tasteful but inexpensive accessories to dress up your outfits instead.

3) 🚫 Touristy Clothes: The best way to avoid being a target for thieves is to blend in with the locals. You can manage that better by leaving your white sneakers, American flag paraphernalia, fanny packs, camouflage, and wildly colored clothes at home. You might also want to avoid bringing your berets along for the ride as well. They might have been a popular style decades ago, but nobody wears them much anymore.

4) 🚫 Lots of Beachwear: If you want to fit in with the locals, you’ll need to avoid wear North American style beachwear (such as cut-off jean shorts and flimsy tank tops) in most spots. In Europe, this sort of attire is only acceptable at an actual beach.

5) 🚫 Uncomfortable Shoes: Make sure your footwear is well broken in before you leave to avoid rubbing blisters on your feet. After all, you’ll spend a lot of time walking around to get from place to place.

6) 🚫 High Heels: In some places, such as mountain-top towns in Provence, you’ll want avoid this kind of footwear for safety reasons.


FAQs about Traveling to France

1) What’s a good basic daily budget for visiting France?

Keep in mind that Paris is generally more expensive than the rest of the country. Dorm rooms there run an average of $35 a night and prices on the weekends are even higher. A daily budget of $80 or so should nonetheless cover basic backpacking expenses such as a dorm bed, budget meals, metro tickets, and some attractions. Of course, if you plan on staying solely in private rooms or doing a lot of activities over the course of your stay, you’ll want to factor those costs in as well.

2) Where are some cool places to visit in France apart from Paris?

There is little doubt that France is one of the jewels of Europe with its incredible history, love of food and wine and gorgeous landscapes. It’s easy to fall in love with Paris and never go anywhere else in the country but there’s so much to see! For example, there is the French Riviera on the Mediterranean with towns like Nice and Marseille, on the Atlantic side there is Bordeaux and there are the French alps and countless others town such as Lille, Alsace, and Toulouse. Lille is only a couple of hours north of Paris and if you want some inspiration, check out this guide to the top things to do in Lille.

3) Do I need to tip in French restaurants?

Europeans generally leave the change as the standard reward for good service and often leave nothing if they don’t feel like the service merited a tip. While waiters everywhere do tend to be among the more underpaid members of society, the cost of their service is normally factored into the overall cost of dining out in Europe. You may even see service charges already on the menu. In those cases, tips are not generally expected. Of course, if you plan on eating at a fancy place, be sure to leave at least a 5% tip or be prepared to be branded a cheapskate.

4) What’s the best way to get from Paris to Marseille?

Once you factor in the time it takes to get to the airport, the TGV train is certainly the fastest way to get across the country. It’s also the most expensive. Taking a slower train is can be somewhat cheaper but it may require several changes en route. Budget flights are only worth your time if they greatly outstrip the cost of train tickets or you’re headed to somewhere like Corsica that’s not easy to otherwise reach by public transport. Just be sure to factor in cost of getting to/from the airport into your calculations along with any baggage charges that might apply. For travelers with more time on their hands than money, the bus is certainly another option. There are even some overnight services available.

5) Where are the country’s major airports located?

There are three airports in the north of the country near Paris: Charles De Gaulle (CDG), Orly (ORL) and Beauvais (BVA). There are also busy airports at Nice (NCE) near the Italian border, Lyon (LYS) in the middle of the country, Marseille (MRS) on the southern coast, and Toulouse (TLS) in the south near the Spanish border. Most flights from the United States land near Paris at either Charles De Gaulle (CDG) or Orly (ORL).

6) When is the best time of year to visit?

Like most of Europe, France tends to be at its most expensive and busiest during the summer months. Nice weather, midrange pricing, and uncrowded attractions are all good reasons to visit in either the early spring or the early fall. However, Paris is known to be pretty damp in the springtime. Travelers who plan on spending the majority of their vacation in France’s northern regions might therefore be better off planning to visit in autumn.

7) Do you have any money saving tips for travelers?

France is one of the most expensive destinations in the world. However, aside from paying for hotel rooms and a very pricey TGV ride from Marseille to Paris, I didn’t spend a lot when I went there several years ago. For me, the trick to staying under budget and getting the most for my money has been discovering hostels. Having an extra $70 per night can quickly add up. Of course, I’d rather be doing fun things than throwing down large amounts of cash on a room that I only plan on sleeping in. Another trick I’ve found to saving money is to eat breakfast at my hostel and cook for myself rather than dining out constantly. It’s also a good idea to walk where possible and avoid taking taxis. Travelers passing through Paris should nonetheless buy carnets rather than purchase individual metro rides because it’s cheaper to do so.

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