France Health Care and Vaccinations
* A yellow fever certificate is required for travellers coming from South American and African countries.
If European visitors or any of their dependants are suddenly taken ill or have an accident during a visit to France, free or reduced-cost necessary treatment is available - in most cases on production of a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Full travel insurance is advised for all travellers.
If you take regular medication, bring it with you in its original container, ideally clearly labelled. If you have a serious medical condition, meanwhile, it’s worth also bringing a signed and dated letter from your GP, detailing your condition and medication – generic names would be best, as French medicines often use different names.
The level of healthcare on offer is generally of a very high, professional standard, with the same applying to dental care. Staff at local pharmacies are trained to be able to advise on minor complaints, so if you don’t speak French, it makes sense to carry a relevant phrase book. Pharmacies are recognisable in towns and villages by a green-cross sign outside the door – the sign flashes when the pharmacy’s open.
As ever, health insurance is highly recommended. You’ll have to pay at the time for any healthcare you receive—whether at hospital or a surgery—and while costs for a straightforward doctor’s consultation aren’t too stringent, having an insurance policy in place brings real peace of mind.
If an ambulance is needed, 112 is the EU-wide phone number for the emergency services.
Food and Drink
This being France, the only real problems posed by the local food and drink are mild stomach complaints resulting from overindulgence. Tap water is safe to drink (although you’ll find a huge amount of bottled water for sale too) and cooked food, assuming it’s come from a hygienic kitchen, is certainly no more risky to consume than that of any developed country. Some travellers steer clear of unpasteurised dairy products due to a perceived risk of disease, while others laud the same products for their perceived health benefits. If you’re at all unsure, it’s probably best to stick to what you’re used to.
Visitors to forested areas should consider vaccination for tick-borne encephalitis.
In more universal terms, sunburn is perhaps the most common complaint among visitors to France, particularly over the summer months – temperatures are generally higher in the south but it’s wise to be cautious across the country. The usual precautions apply: use a generous amount of sunscreen and be sensible about how long you spend in direct sunlight. Be aware that a breezy day can sometimes mask high temperatures.
If walking over a long distance in warm weather, it’s advisable to carry and drink plenty of water and to wear appropriate clothing, including a sun hat. Blisters can be another problem for hikers. These can often occur if new walking shoes are being worn across a long distance. Ideally footwear should be worn in before the trip.