What You Need To Know
Calais is a port city in northern France. Across the English Channel from the clifftop town of Dover, it’s the principal ferry crossing point between France and England. Its old town, Calais-Nord, sits on an artificial island surrounded by canals. The imposing Hôtel de Ville (town hall) has a 78m-high belfry with city views, and Rodin’s famous bronze statue, Les Bourgeois de Calais.
Calais is particularly popular with the British day trippers, known as “booze cruisers”, who come over to take advantage of the remarkable tax gap on alcohol and cigarettes. While, most tourists view this city merely as a shopping haven, there’s more than that. The city is slowly upgrading itself to a town of museums, cultural attractions, forts and medieval heritage.
- The Euro is the official currency of France, and of most European Union member states, excluding the UK and the Czech Republic, among others. The Euro, symbolized by a “€,” has been in public circulation since January, 2002. The franc, the former official currency of France, is no longer accepted, however, you may see that some price tags in France give the price both in Euro and in francs, to help those who still think in terms of francs.There are 8 different Euro coin denominations and 7 different Euro bill denominations in circulation. Coins are denominated in 2 and 1 Euro, then 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. Each member state decorated their own coins, but all coins are interchangeable within the countries. Bills are denominated in 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 and they vary in color and size.
- By far the easiest way to pay for things in France is simply to use an international credit card or debit card. Visa and Mastercard can be used all over France, and American Express cards and other international cards in a number of places. But obviously, there are situations in which paying with plastic is not an option. Visitors to France therefore need to have some Euros to hand, to pay for small or larger items and in cases where the trader does not accept cards.
- So again, the simplest solution is to use your international credit card or debit card. You can withdraw money from cash-dispensers (ATMs) in France in exactly the same way as you would at home – except that you will be asked to select a sum in Euros. Your card company or bank will automatically debit your account in your usual currency, having converted the sum at the day’s exchange rate.However, there are some golden rules that you need to follow if you do not want to end up paying far more than necessary for this service, or running out of cash because you have reached your limit for withdrawals.
Nord-Pas-de-Calais enjoys a pleasant climate all year round thanks to the warm North Atlantic waters. Generally the weather is cool, but not excessively cold. The summer season from June through September is quite warm, dry and sunny with frequent spells of rain through the late summer and early falls.
There are some beautiful spring days in the months of mid-March, April and May when the temperature starts to pick up and the weather is sunny enough to spot the white cliffs of Dover.
When visiting Northern France, pack your bag according to the climate. Bring in a warm jacket for the chills in winter and a light jacket during the summers. A sun block, when it isn’t raining, is also very handy as the rays can be quite intense.
As with the rest of France, French is the only official language of the region. Since then the English have been coming to Calais in their droves either to bag a bargain or on their way somewhere else. But one thing is for sure, with English influence so entwined into the town and English language so widely spoken in Calais, it may well be that Calais will forever be a little bit of England across the Channel.
Health and security
- The French healthcare system relies on both public and private facilities, which cater to both residents and foreigners. Care is funded by a public health insurance scheme, which is financed by mandatory contributions to the state health system.This funding covers the majority of costs; however, in most situations the patient is liable for a fraction of the cost (usually around 30%). This remaining charge can be funded directly by the patient or through a supplementary private health insurance.
Given the cost of treatment, it is advisable to take out supplementary cover. There are a number of insurers to choose from, some catering specifically to expats and English speakers living in Rennes while others are targeted to certain professions.
Unlike in other countries, the French health system caters to all. Those without private health insurance are entitled to use the same facilities as everybody else, so you can take your pick of treatment facilities should you need them.
- France is a fairly safe country, and it has a relatively low crime rate. But certain precautions should be taken while visiting unfamiliar destinations such as Calais. Petty crime involving tourists do occur, especially at train stations, buses, sometimes even at airports. Be alert while travelling at night, as purse / bag snatching are common occurrences. Do not flash large sums of money or jewellery. The area around Calais is very safe for women travellers, even if they are alone. Keep photocopies of important travel documents and save important phone numbers if the originals are lost or stolen.
- Since the abolition of Duty Free, in theory you can bring back unlimited amounts of alcohol. In practice, this is not so.Customs have built in some guidelines as to how you may interpret the words ‘for personal use’. They are clear in that your purchases must be ‘for your own consumption or gifts.’ If your interpretation is different you may well be stopped and the goods seized. For instance, a lorry load of beer stacked to the brim would look a little suspicious. The idea is to stop bootleggers and tax and duty evaders.
- DON’T Go to your bank and exchange all your money before your France or European trip. You will probably pay a higher rate than necessary, and you don’t want to be running around with all that cash in your wallet.
- Les Six Bourgeois is Calais’ most famous landmark. Sculpted by Rodin in 1895, it depicts the heart wrenching story of six men who surrendered themselves to England’s King Edward III to be hanged, in a hope that their city will give its freedom from the English rulers.
- Visit The Town Hall of Calais, one of the important landmarks in Calais mainly because of its architecture and historical importance. The construction of the Town Hall belfry started in 1911 with an aim was to merge the towns of Calais and Saint-Pierre.