A historic nation, renowned for its world class cuisine, artistic heritage, intriguing history, beautiful cities, and varied spectrum of landscapes, France consistently ranks among the most popular European countries to visit. Whether you’re heading off on a skiing holiday, a romantic getaway, a beach trip, a family vacation, a city break, or some other kind of journey, France can provide everything you need.
Many visitors to France start off in Paris, known as the City of Lights and the City of Love. It’s one of the most touristic cities on Earth, with amazing shopping, dining, and sightseeing opportunities. Other visitors to France head to the coastal villages of Normandy and Brittany, the beautiful beaches of the Riviera, the vineyards of Bordeaux, and the cobblestone streets of places like Lyon and Toulouse. Wherever you’re going in France, here’s all you need to know about French currency.
Official Currency in France
The official currency for France is the euro. In the past, France used the French franc, but this was replaced by the euro in 2002. Many other countries around Europe make use of the euro, so it’s quite a simple system to understand and is very straightforward for people who have spent time in other European locations like Germany, Spain, or Italy.
The symbol for the euro is € and its code is EUR. A single euro is made up of 100 cents (c), but in France the term ‘centimes’ is used much more commonly than ‘cents’. A single euro is typically worth more than a US dollar, but exchange rates and currency values are always changing, so it’s important to check out the latest rates when buying your euros to have up-to-date information on their value.
Coins and Notes in France
Both coins and notes are used in the euro currency system. The coins are available in the following denominations:
The coin system for the euro is very easy to follow. All of the coins are circular, and they tend to get larger or change color as they increase in value. The three smallest value coins (1c, 2c, and 5c) are made from copper-covered steel. The next three values (10c, 20c, and 50c) are made from Nordic gold. The €1 coin features an outer ring of nickel brass and a middle section of copper-nickel, while the €2 features an outer ring of copper-nickel and an inner section of nickel brass. All of the coins used in France are clearly labeled with their values.
For notes, you’ll find these options in France:
- €5 (grey)
- €10 (red)
- €20 (blue)
- €50 (orange)
- €100 (green)
- €200 (yellow)
- €500 (purple)
The euro notes feature different sizes and a color-code system to easily differentiate between them. Each one is clearly labeled with its monetary value and they each feature images of architecture from eras of the past. The notes become larger as they increase in value. The colors of each note are listed above. The €500 note has stopped being produced and is quite rare, but is still accepted as legal currency.
Using Credit Cards in France
France is a modern and developed nation where cards are very commonly used in day to day transactions. Whether you’re visiting a big city or a smaller town, you’ll find that cards are accepted in the vast majority of locations, including small bakeries and stores, as well as restaurants.
The contactless payment system is quite prevalent in France also, and there are many ATMs all over the country. There are, however, some locations that will only accept cash, so it’s wise to take some cash along on your vacation to France and always have change on your person.
Using US Dollars or Other Currencies in France
The euro is the only official currency for France, so you’ll need euros in general when paying for goods or services. You may find that some hotels or restaurants, particularly in Paris, will agree to accept dollars, but this is very much on a case-by-case basis and it is unwise to travel to France and expect to be able to pay with dollars.
Tips for Currency in France
Here are some tips and useful bits of information to remember for money in France:
- Tipping isn’t as prevalent in France as in the United States, but it’s still widely accepted and many restaurants will automatically add gratuity onto your bill. You can also choose to add an additional tip as desired, and you may tip taxi drivers and various other workers too.
- If you’re going to Paris, be prepared to pay quite high prices for simple things. The cost of living in Paris is extremely high and simple purchases like food and drinks are significantly more expensive than in other parts of the country. If you’re traveling to France on a budget, consider heading outside the capital.
- Keep some change and paper money on your person at all times for the various market stalls and other instances where cards cannot be used.
- If you’re driving on an ‘autoroute’ in France, you may have to pay tolls. Be sure to look for the card or cash symbols above each toll booth and ensure you have the right payment method upon approaching the gate.
- When entering shops or bakeries or other establishments in France, take a look around near the cash register or ask a worker if they accept cards. Many places will put little signs up to let you know their policy on payment methods.
- Don’t forget to do your research when buying euros as the exchange rates can vary greatly from one place to the next. ATMs in France will often give you better rates than exchange centers.
- If you’re planning on visiting other parts of Europe, be sure to research their currency before you go. Many countries use the euro, so you can use the same euros in France in other places like Germany and Belgium too, but some European countries have their own specific currencies and won’t take euros.