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LAST UPDATED 12/09/2008
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Level of surfing


Quality of surf


Call code


Net code





4,668 km


Cool winters, mild summers on the mainland



Best Months

October - January




Euro (EUR)

Time Zone

Central European Time (UTC+1) DST Central European Summer Time (UTC+2)

Special Requirements

Private Beaches


NASA: Satellite image of France; August 2002

France is a country located in Western Europe with the Mediterranean Sea to the south of it, forming a small enclave with the Principality of Monaco. To the west, France has a long Atlantic Ocean coastline, while to the north lies the English Channel, across which lies the last of France's neighbours, England (part of the United Kingdom).

France is the world's most popular tourist destination (with 78 million of them in 2006) which is rich for the major tourist attractions, like Paris, French Riviera (Côte d'Azur), Atlantic beaches, winter sport resorts of the Alps and many other small and enchanting towns across all the country. France is blessed with sunny weather, beautiful countryside, a nice selection of beaches, historic cities, ornate churches, picturesque chateaus, and some of the best food and wine in the world.
A trip to France is a must for anyone who surfs. With its long sandy beaches, hollow green waves and crazy nightlife – why wouldn’t you want to go?


John Trumbull: Surrender of Lord Cornwallis; 1820

France has a very long history and has been populated since the Neolithic period. The Dordogne region of the country is especially rich in prehistoric caves, some used as habitation, others presumed to be temples with remarkable paintings of animals and hunters.

Written History began in France with the invasion of the territory by the Romans, between 118 and 50 BC. With the fall of the Roman empire, the left areas were inhabited by descendants of intermarriages between gallo-romans and "barbaric" easterners (Mainly the Franks, but also other tribes like the "burgondes").
Clovis (died in 511) is considered to be the first French king although his realm was not much more than the area of the present Ile de France, around Paris. Than the country was under attack by the Vikings who came from the north and navigated upstream the rivers to plunder the cities and abbeys, it was also under attack from the south by the Muslim Saracens who were established in Spain. The Vikings were given a part of the territory (today's Normandy) in 911 and melted fast in the Feudal system.

Starting with Charlemange, who was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800, a new society started to settle. This era is named middle age and though generally seen as a period of stagnation, it can more be described as a very complex mix of periods of economic and cultural developments.
In 987, Hughes Capet was crowned as king of France and now he is considered to be the root of the royal families who later governed France. The beginning of the XVIth century saw the end of the feudal system and the emergence of France as a "modern" state with its border relatively close to what the country has now. That era and the following century also saw the expansion of France on the other continents, which started a whole series of wars with the other colonial empires (mainly England and Spain) over the control of North America.

1789 saw the start of the French Revolution, which led to the creation of the Republic. Being a bloody period, it was, and still is, a reference for many other liberation struggles. In 1905 the Church separated from the State, which was a traumatic process specially in rural areas. World War I (1914 -1918) was a disaster for France, even though the country was a victor. World War II (1939 - 45) also destroyed a number of areas.
Nowadays France is a Republic with a President elected for a 5-year term. Some current main issues are the further integration of the country into the EU and the adoption of common standards for the economy, defence, etc.


Tim McKenna: France, Hossegor, La Nord

France has a great variety of consistent waves, from mellow beachbreaks, to big wave offshore reefs, which makes it a good place for both a beginner and pro. The Atlantic coast of France is famed for miles of endless beaches, consistent surf and long summer days. It receives powerful Atlantic swells year-round, providing quality waves at a wide variety of reef, rivermouth and beach breaks all along the coast.
Lacanau, situated west of Bordeaux and known as one of Europe’s finest beach breaks. All ability levels are welcome as the beach offers a variety of conditions. Air temperatures range from 18 to 24°C and water temperature should be 17 to 21°C (70°F). Springsuits and boardies required. Lacanau is easily accessible from the UK with a 1 hour flight from Gatwick to Bordeaux.

French surfing regions can be divided into three main areas: Mediterranean coast in the south east (surf there is usually quite small, sometimes it’s just flat); North facing coast from Brest near the north west tip of France to Belgium; and the West, Atlantic facing coast. As already mentioned, we wouldn’t recommend the first area, but at the same time two other areas is where the real fun is! In the North surf is good and it just gets better if you go closer to the north west tip, there you’ll find some cool reef breaks. The further east you go the worse the swell gets. This area receives the same swells as the south coast of England.
The Atlantic coast receives the best swells and this is where the action is. This part can also  split into 3 main surfing areas - Brittany (furthest north), the Coast of Light (Cote de Lumiere) which stretches from Brittany down to La Rochelle and then the Silver Coast - the straight coast that joins with Spain in the south.

Britanny cops plenty of large swell and has some mean reef breaks to suit the more experienced surfer. There are plenty of spots to keep away from the crowds and a large variety of wave types to suit every surfer. As you go further south the coast cuts away to face south west and as a result misses out on some swells that other French coasts receive. That said there are still some great waves to be found.
The Coast of Light needs bigger swells to start working due to its coastline but still offers a wide variety of waves. It has some great beginners spots for summer surfers and is generally less crowded that the Silver Coast surf spots.

The Silver Coast has spot after spot after spot. If the swell is good the entire coast lights up. The quality of the waves here is so good due to the funnel shape of the Bay of Biscay - channeling the waves in to the eager surfers. The pick of the waves can be found in and around Hossegor and Biarritz, but  - be prepared for the crowds in the summer.

But even though headline acts like Hossegor, Biarritz and Lacanau draw the biggest crowds, you can head further north and you’ll find the coastline becomes much quieter and whole lot more varied. There are consistent reefs and beaches that break in virtually any wind direction, and hidden spots where you can score waves all to yourself. Check out places like La Torche, La Sauzaie, and Sauveterre – you won’t be disappointed.


The Map of France

France is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement, so 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. So travel between France and other Schengen Agreement is less complicated.

Australian, Malaysian or Indonesian citizens visiting France for holiday will not need a Visa.
Most of the travellers use the main international airport, Roissy - Charles de Gaulle (CDG). There are 3 terminals there, so if transferring through CDG (especially between the various terminals) it is important to leave substantial time between flights. Ensure you have no less than one hour between transfers. And add more if you have to change terminals, as you will need to clear through security.

Orly, the second Paris airport is used for a lot of domestic flights, and also some internal European flights. For transfers within CDG you can use the free bus shuttle linking all terminals, train station, parking lots and hotels on the platform. For transfers to Orly there is a (free for AF passengers) bus link operated by AF. The two airports are also linked by a local train (RER) which is slightly less expensive, runs faster but is much more cumbersome to use with heavy luggage.
Some low-cost airlines, including Ryanair and Volare, fly to Beauvais airport situated about 80 km northwest of Paris. Buses to Paris are provided by the airlines. Check schedules and fares on their websites.

The French rail company, SNCF, provides direct service from most European countries using regular trains. French train tickets can be purchased directly in the US from RailEurope a subsidiary of the SNCF. The Eurostar service uses high-speed to connect Lille and Paris with London, the later via the Calais-Dover channel tunnel. The Thalys service uses high-speed TGV trains to connect Paris to Brussels and onward to cities in the Netherlands and Germany.
There is no single national bus service. Eurolines is a private bus service that connects over 500 destinations, covering the whole of the continent and Morocco. Eurolines allows traveling from Sicily to Helsinki and from Casablanca to Moscow.

You can also travel by boat, for example easyCruise offers weekly stops in southern French cities. It also goes to Monaco and the Italian Riviera.
Another easy way to get around would be by car. France has a well-developed system of highways. Most of the freeway (autoroute) links are toll roads. Make sure you don't lose your entrance ticket or you will be charged for the longest distance. All toll stations accept major credit cards, or you can use the automatic booth, but only if your card is equipped with a chip.

When renting keep in mind: large cars can be very unwieldy, so it often makes sense to just park and then use public transportation. By the way, France drives on the right.
For those who are into hitchhiking, France is a good place to go, as people who stop are usually friendly and not dangerous. And you will definitely have more chances for a longer ride if speak a little French. But keep in mind that getting out of Paris by thumb is almost impossible. And remember that it's illegal to hitchhike on the motorways (autoroutes) and they are well observed by the police. Not for you? Then catch a train as it’s a great way to get around in France - you can get pretty much from anywhere to anywhere else.


Robert A. Rohde: Annual Average Temperature Map, 15 February 2008

The French climate is one of the more temperate in Europe. However, it is a large country and the climate does vary considerably according to location. The climate in Northwest and mid-west coasts of France are temperate, although the weather conditions are greatly affected by the Atlantic Ocean, with mild winters, cool summers, and frequent rain all year round. While, the climate in the South of France is synonymous with sun, sea and sand. The southern coasts of France have a Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers, while winters are mild.  Spring is wettest season in the south of France with Autumn fairly similar. During the summer months there is almost no rain at all in the south. The main influences of the weather in France are the semi-permanent Azores anticyclone, a large subtropical semi-permanent centre of high atmospheric pressure found near the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, and the Icelandic low, a semi-permanent centre of low atmospheric pressure found between Iceland and southern Greenland. The strength and position of these systems determine the climate in France year round, which is divided into four northern hemisphere seasons: Winter (December-February), Spring (March-May), Summer (June-August) and Autumn (September-November).

Winter (November-February)

The Icelandic low, and associated low-pressure systems travelling from North of Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland, are at their strongest, while the Azores high is at its weakest and is shrunken southward to its smallest.  As a result, the storm systems sweep over northern Europe repeatedly all winter, often four or five in a row, each following a similar track. Extensive cloud cover and precipitation accompany these storms and occasionally, powerful onshore winds and violent thunderstorms also occur, which makes surfing in France for the hellman and the crazies at this time of year. The prevailing winds come from the west or southwest and onshore in the south, while some points in the north may set up well. Calm conditions are not common. Precipitation occurs on an average of 12-16 days per month with the most days in January.  The mean highs are 7 to 11°C. The mean lows are 2 to 4°C.

Spring (March-May)

The Icelandic low weakens while the Azores high intensifies and moves north and east.  As a result, storm systems out of the Icelandic low are shifted farther north and weaken.  However, storms crossing the English Channel or passing north of France are still relatively common. Often though, France comes under warmer airflow as the Azores high begins to dominate the region and periods of good weather get longer and longer and temperatures rise, and surfers re-enter the water for left over winter swells. The prevailing winds come from the northeast or west.  As spring progresses, the westerly winds are more and more from the southwest. Precipitation occurs on an average of 12-13 days per month.  The heaviest rainfall tends to occur with strong thunderstorms and rainshowers associated with passing cold fronts.  The mean highs are 9 to 10°C in March and up to 18°C by May.  The mean lows are 5°C in March and 9°C in May.  

Summer (June-August)

The Icelandic low is weakest while the Azores high is strongest and largest.  As a result, only weak storm systems out of the Icelandic low move over Northern France. So most of France and especially the South enjoys warm airflow. North Atlantic storms reach minimum frequency and the weather becomes almost perfect as most of France head for the southern coasts. However this also means the Atlantic has an annoying tendency to go completely dead flat for long periods, which means you can share no waves with 100+surfers. Though you can always resort to the beach party life for compensation, something with is definitely at its highest intensity in Summer. The prevailing winds are light and come from the west all summer, with strong sea-breezes in the afternoons that see the surf deteriorate. Rainfall occurs on an average of 12-14 days per month in the north and virtually nothing in the south. The mean highs are 22°C in June and 24°C in July and August.  The mean lows are 12°C in June and 14°C in July and August.  

Autumn (September-November)

The Icelandic low intensifies and the Azores high weakens and moves southwest. By November, the winter pattern returns full force with frequent storms that sweep across France.  However, the start of Autumn can be glorious with all the holiday tourists departed the coastal regions and swells from the North Atlantic still frequent and large.  This is the time for the serious surfer to head to the famed banks of Hossegor and Lacanau. Although lows move through the region often, there are still periods of good weather.  The prevailing winds come from the west and sometimes northeast so surfs will be largely determined by this.  Rainfall occurs on an average of 14 days per month in the north and 10 in the south.  Temperatures cool toward winter but the moderating effect of the Atlantic Ocean keeps the south warm enough for the odd surf ‘sans’ wetsuit. The mean highs are 22°C in September dropping to 16°C in October and 12°C in November.  The mean lows are 11°C in September and 8°C in October and heading towards bloody cold in November! 

where to stay

Vlastula: Hotel Ritz - Paris; image was taken on October 5, 2006

The country is well covered with accommodation to suit every style and budget, from the luxurious hotels in Paris (hotels come in 4 categories from 1 to 4 stars) to the camping areas close to the famous surf spots or a and everything in between. For example a fully equipped beach-house in Hossegor area will cost you around 500 Euro per week depending on the season.

There is a large network of clean, comfortable, basic motel style accommodation for travellers. These are usually near the main roads and autoroutes. The two main networks are those of "Hotel Formule Un", and the apparently similar "Hotel Premiere Classe". The system is automated as far as possible – just enter your credit card in the ATM outside, make your booking, and receive a password. The password gains you entry to the building and also to your room, which is identical to all the other rooms in the system throughout France! The rooms sleep three, have a washbasin, TV and table, and that’s about it. The benefits are having a good rest with minimal fuss or cost. The downside is that it is quite impersonal, so you gain little appreciation of being in France.

You can also stay in Chambre d’Hotes (bed and breakfasts); typically they are located outside city centres. There is a huge range, in terms of cost, comfort and convenience. If you are driving past, look for a green and white sign outside saying Chambre d’Hote (often with some indication of the rating). You can check what is available through the local tourist office (office de tourisme or syndicat d’initiative). Be careful though to check the location, as some can be quite inconveniently located. Some do not serve evening meals, but all usually produce excellent breakfasts.

Want to experience the local way of life and save some money? You can stay with a family, just borrow a room, sleep in a sofa, or borrow a whole house. All the idea is doing an exchange and not paying money, just some "grains de Sel". Every person has a different offer, so see for yourself.

what to pack

Rlsheehan: Packages; 17 April 2007

France uses the European three pin plug – one fixed on the wall socket and two on the plug itself, running at 220V. With the numerous power consuming gadgets we now carry, it is imperative that you have a suitable adapter for your appliances if your country uses something different. So better take it with you, because finding a suitable adapter could be difficult: and imagine how infuriating to have a digital camera with flat batteries which could not be charged because of the plug!

VISA (Carte Bleue) is the most widely accepted credit card, followed by MasterCard (Access or Eurocard). AmEx cards are not very useful except at particularly upmarket establishments, but they do allow you to get cash at certain ATMs.
You can pack light and buy new clothes there if you plan at least a bit of shopping. They have great clothing in France. If you must pack a lot be prepared to carry it around and make sure whoever's picking you up has a big enough car.

Comfortable footwear is paramount. Even if not planned - you will certainly end up walking for miles, either around town centres, cathedrals, museums or along beaches and coastal walks. Comfortable waterproof hiking boots will get you through rainy days and the occasional snowy day (depending on the season). The whole of France welcomes walkers, and caters well for their needs. At the same time, you should pack a light mackintosh or an umbrella - even the sunny south can be the subject of a swift torrent of rain. A wind breaker, wool sweater, winter jacket and a cool scarf also may be important if you don’t plan to go in summer. You may also want to take some nice clothes for fine dining. Incredible food in France!

Rain gear, hat, sunglasses, fleece/jacket (if you'll be viewing the stages on the north coast), sunscreen, band-aids – these are the essentials. Waterproof bag can also come in handy.
Leave buying insect creams until your arrival - every area has its own brand of 'crawly/flying things' and the local pharmacist (look out for the green cross) will be happy to prescribe the necessaries. There are a lot of wasps in France, so better take some medicines if you are allergic to them.

If you are travelling in a car you must carry with you a set of spare bulbs (it is an offence to drive with a faulty light) and a red warning triangle. It can be good investing in a luminous waistcoat. The chances of being stranded on an unlit road at night are higher simply because of the distance between villages. Don't be afraid to approach any garage for help. Contrary to general belief, the French will go miles out of their way to assist.
And the last thing - bring your best swimming gear, because the beaches are fantastic. And then leave a lot of space in your bags for souvenirs, you will find a lot!

dangers and warnings

Eleassar: Round, biconvex white tablets, photographed by David Richfield; 29 May 2007

France is not a high crime area but large cities are plagued with the usual woes. While generally safe, visitors to France are advised to take precautions against petty theft and to ensure their personal safety. Thieves and pickpockets operate on the metro and around airports. Theft from cars is prevalent, particularly in the south, around Marseilles, and in Corsica.

If you are travelling alone, especially if you are a woman, you should avoid using public transportation at late hours especially on links between the city centre and the suburbs.
All important documents (passport data page and visa page, credit cards, travel insurance policy, air/bus/train tickets, driver's license, etc.) should be photocopied before you leave home. Leave one copy with someone at home and keep another with you, separate from the originals.

If you are sick but it is not emergency, you can try and see a general practitioner (generalist). With general practitioners you don't always need an appointment to see one, and most will speak some English.
Don’t drink tap water if you are worried about any digestive aspects of your health. Also, before you take a drink from one of the pretty fountains, look first for a posted sign stating "l'eau non potable" (unpotable water).

restaurants, shops and nightlife

Pinpin: France - Paris (75) - Galeries Lafayette (Avenue Haussman); 22:35, 28 November 2005

French cuisine is extremely diverse, with only the Chinese having similar variety in their food. This variety is supported by the French passion for good food in all its forms, France's extraordinary range of different geographies and climates which support the local production of all types of ingredients, and France's long and varied history. Meals range from the very basic, such as the traditional baguette plus cheese plus inexpensive wine, to very elaborate affairs than can involve a dozen courses and different wines consumed over several hours.
There are thousands of great restaurants in France. All of them seem to boast about one chef or another, which is good, but for most of us we want to get down to eating. Finding the right restaurant is therefore very important - try asking locals, hotel staff, and your friends who’d been to France before or even browsing restaurant guides for recommendations.
Parisians eat lunch at noon, and take their dinner late, around eight o’clock. Restaurants in France can be a pricey affair, but fortunately French law dictates that prices must include service. Rounding off the bill and leaving some change is good practice.

Regarding shopping….there is a very good chance that you will want to shop til you drop when you get there. After all, France is known to be one of the top shopping destinations in the world. Even if you do not buy anything, you at least owe it to yourself to take a closer look at what is available. There is a good chance that this will prompt you to make a purchase sooner or later. Generally speaking, the most fun places to shop in France are located in the city of Paris. Everybody knows that Paris is where fashion begins and ends, and for this reason the shopping industry in the area is one of the best in the world.
For a pleasurable and mainstream shopping experience à l'américaine, shoppers should check out the plethora of colossal department stores in Paris. Two of the most famous rivals, Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, may be found side-by-side on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement, carrying designer, brand name and private label merchandise. La Samaritaine, located in the 1st between Les Halles and the Pont Neuf, is a five-store complex which prides itself as the one where "on trouve tout". Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville - BHV, located in the 4th, is better known for practical commodities, such as furnishings, do-it-yourself supplies, lighting and auto parts, though they do stock a decent selection of clothing and accessories. Le Bon Marché, the only Left Bank (7th arrondissement) department store, earns top marks from both shoppers and food lovers, with its adjoining food halls and roof garden.
One of the most renowned places to find treasures in Paris is at the flea market. Paris has three main flea markets of ancient descent, situated around the old gates of the city.

what to do when it's flat

Vincent VanGogh: Cafe Terrace at Night; 1888

You won’t get bored in France when there’s no swell as there’s a lot to see and to do there. Some of the activities would be: sightseeing (museums, art galleries, theatres, famous places can be found all over the country), shopping (visiting Paris in this case is a must), wine tasting (there are many famous vineyards), mountain biking (you can find fabulous trails through the forest), tennis courts, beach volleyball, windsurfing, fishing, etc.
The Bois de Boulogne in Paris is one of the world's great urban parks. A leafy green expanse in the heart of this great city, it is were the locals go to get away from the hubbub and stress of big city life. A great spot for a picnic, you can watch Parisians stroll through the park walking their dogs (seemingly everyone in Paris owns a dog or two). Surprisingly some parts of the park are quite wooded and you will be quite isolated from other people while other parts are very busy.
You may also want to take a trip to Auch, which is a beautiful city located in the area of Gascony from where Dumas drew his inspiration for his book "The Three Musketeers".
It’s hardy possible to name all the beautiful places France has, but you definitely won’t regret your trip to Peillon, which is a lovely perched village, situated high upon a hill, north of Monaco. It is so secluded and seemingly unreachable on a hilltop! A winding road brings you to Peillon and at the entrance to the city is a car park, from where you can explore the village by foot. Unlike other perched villages in the Provence, Peillon has remained its authentic character. It hasn’t been taken over by commercialism and it feels like a ‘real’ village where people live their daily lives.
For those who appreciate Roman antiquities and love unspoiled beauty, it is essential to go to Arles, a town in the South of France. A Roman town where its magical light and untouched land has attracted artists such as Van Gogh for hundreds of years. You won’t regret it.

useful phrase guide

Jon Sullivan: St Pat Goat's Milk Cheese; 16 June 2006

Apéritifs - before meal drink
A table for two please - Une table pour deux, s’il vous plait
Boisson compris - including wine
Boissons – drinks
Confiture – jam
Contre-indications - warnings (when medicine should not be used)
Eau - water
Fromages – cheeses
La toux - cough
La diarrhée – diarrhea
Le rhume – cold
Les maux d'oreilles – earache
L'indigestion – indigestion
Mal de tête, migraine - headache
Thé - tea

AV - a vendre - for sale
BAL - Boîte aux lettres (électronique), Email, letter box
A/R - aller-retour, Round trip
AJ - Auberge de Jeunesse, Youth hostel
BP - boîte postale - post office box
BNP - Banque Nationale de Paris, Large French bank

Can I pay by credit card? - Puis-je payer avec le carte de credit?
Do you have a children’s menu? - Avez vous un menu pour les enfants?
Do you speak English? - Parlez vous anglais?
Excuse me - Excusez moi
Good bye - Au revoir
Good evening - Bonsoir
Good morning / day - Bonjour
Help me please - aidez moi s’il vous plaît
How do you get to . .? - Comment fait on pour aller à . .?
How long does it take to get there? - Ça prend combien de temps pour y aller?
How much is it? - Ça coûte combien?
I don’t know how to say it in French - Je ne sais pas le dire en français
I don’t speak French - Je ne parle pas français
I don’t understand - Je ne comprends pas
Is this the right bus for . ? - C’est bien l’autobus pour . .?
Nice to meet you – Enchanté
Pain au chocolate - Croissant with chocolate centre
See you tomorrow / soon - À demain / bientôt
Tasting - dégustation
Thank you – Merci
The bill please - L’addition s’il vous plait
Water is not for drinking - eau non potable
Where are the toilets? - Où sont les toilettes?
Where is the nearest phone box? - Où se trouve la cabine téléphonique la plus proche?
Where is the nearest supermarket? - Où est le supermarché le plus près?
Yes / No - Oui / Non
You’re welcome - Je vous en prie

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