French Overseas Possessions travel guide

About French Overseas Possessions

Scattered throughout the world are various French Overseas Possessions. A hangover from the colonial era, these possessions fall into various classifications: French Overseas Departments (Départements d’Outre-Mer or DOM), French Overseas Territories (Territoires d’Outre-Mer or TOM), French Overseas Collectivities (Collectivités Territoriales or COM) and French Special Collectivity.

The following DOM and TOMs all have their own sections: French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, New Caledonia, Réunion and Tahiti. Basic information on the others is given here:

French Overseas Departments

There are five overseas departments, each one an integral part of the French Republic. Guadeloupe and Martinique are both in the Caribbean; French Guiana is on the northwest coast of South America; and Réunion and Mayotte are both in the Indian Ocean. Despite the greater autonomy achieved with the formation of their own individual Regional Councils in 1974, each French Overseas Department still returns elected representatives to the Senate and National Assembly in Paris, as well as to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

French Overseas Territories

The French Southern and Antarctic Lands are located in the Southern Indian Ocean and are the only French Overseas Territories. Comprised of five islands in all, each one is home to a handful of inhabitants and is administered by an appointed representative of the French government.

French Overseas Collectivities

There are five French Overseas Collectivities in all. French Polynesia is found in the Pacific Ocean; Wallis and Futuna is also found in the Pacific Ocean; St-Pierre and Miquelon is found near Newfoundland, Canada; and Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin are both located in the Caribbean. They are integral parts of the French Republic and are administered by a Prefect appointed by the French government.

French Special Collectivity

New Caledonia, located in the South Pacific, was formerly a French Overseas Territory, but gained special status in 1999 following the Nouméa Accord in 1998. The French government is represented in New Caledonia by the high commissioner and two deputies are also elected to the National Assembly in Paris.

Key facts


2,507 sq km (968 sq miles).


 2.1 million (Insee estimate 2016)

Population density:

336.5 per sq km.




Réunion is an Overseas Department of France and as such is an integral part of the French Republic.

Head of state:

President Emmanuel Macron since 2017, represented locally by prefect Amaury de Saint-Quentin since 2017.

Head of government:

President of the Departmental Council Nassimah Dindar since 2004.


220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs have two round pins.

Travel Advice

Most visits to Réunion are trouble-free but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate international terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.

The mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus continues to affect Réunion with the number cases reported as increasing as summer and the rainy season approach. Travellers should take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes.

The cyclone season in Réunion normally runs from December to April.

This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organisations for the latest travel advice:

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Tel: 020 7008 1500.

US Department of State