Prepare your trip

Welcome to the “Prepare Your Trip” section, your one-stop destination for all the essential information to ensure a smooth and enjoyable immersion in Paris. In this section, we cover everything from getting to Paris from the airport to essential packing tips, managing your finances while abroad, staying connected with phones, and navigating appliances and IT challenges.

Whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned globetrotter, this section is packed with valuable insights and practical advice to make your immersion in the City of Lights a truly unforgettable experience.

Prepare your trip

Getting to Paris from the Airport

Transportation between Paris and its two major airports (Charles de Gaulle – CDG and Orly – ORY) is quite easy. The three best ways to go are by taxi, the RER, or one of the bus services run by the RATP or Air France. You can find out more about these options on the Aéroports de Paris website and the RATP website.

Taking a taxi is by far the easiest of the three, and it will cost you between 50 – 60 € depending on which airport you’re leaving from and which bank you’re going to (left or right bank). The taxi rate between the airport and the city is a flat rate.  Here is a link on the Aéroports de Paris website about how to find a taxi at the airport, what to look out for, and what to expect. Be sure only to take official taxis, which you can get at the taxi rank. We recommend that if you must arrive outside of the scheduled home-stay start date that you take a taxi.

Packing tips

  • Don’t overpack. Excess baggage is very expensive, plus you will probably buy things you want to bring home during the semester and end up with even more excess baggage when you leave Paris.
  • Include a lightweight bag in your luggage for travel during weekends or vacation.
  • Bring good walking shoes – it takes a lot of walking to get to know the city as a real Parisian!
  • Bring a warm coat and good rain gear. Winters in Paris are not very severe in that it rarely snows or freezes, but it rains frequently, and it is often chilly and damp. Interior temperatures will be lower than what you are used to as utility costs are higher than in the US.
  • Clothes dryers are very uncommon in French households. A word of advice from a former student: when line-dried, your clothes will not necessarily “shrink back” as they do when you put them in the dryer!
  • Dry cleaning is expensive in France –consider this when you start packing as well. Students living independently will find laundromats easily in every neighborhood. Students living in CUPA families will have access to laundry facilities in their homes and the families will provide towels and bedding.
  • Don’t forget your prescriptions (meds and glasses/contact lenses)
  • Double check all your electric/electronic devices to see of you need a transformer or adapter.

Money matters

ATM Cards/Credit cards
Your American ATM card can be used at ATMs (distributeurs) in France to withdraw funds from your checking account (not savings account). Before leaving:

  • Get a chip-and-PIN card. These are the norm in Europe. Having this type of card will make your life much simpler.
  • Make sure you know your four-digit PIN!
  • Ask which systems work with your ATM card (for example, NYCE, CIRRUS, PLUS, etc.).
  • Ask your bank whether or not they charge a flat fee for each withdrawal (most banks do).
  • Ask about other foreign transaction fees and procedures for using your card (ATM or credit) while abroad.
  • Tell your bank you will be traveling to avoid having your card frozen because of perceived fraud.
  • Keep credit cards, ATM cards and cash with you! Not in your suitcase!
  • Bring two means of payment to avoid problems if one does not work (e.g., a credit card and debit card).
  • Bring 100-200€ in cash (small bills like 10s and 20s) for your first couple of days in Paris.

French Bank Account
Opening a bank account in France is complicated and requires a lot of paperwork. Whether you choose to open an account in France is your choice, but you must know that FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) legislation requires international banks to report American citizens’ bank information to the IRS. If you still decide to open a bank account in France, cashing an American personal check takes 4 to 5 weeks, so it’s easier to make a wire transfer or electronic funds transfers (EFT) from the U.S. (it will take a couple of days before you can access your funds). Make sure you know the fees for cashing US checks/transferring money from the US!


Using your Phone in France

For safety reasons, you are required to carry your charged phone with you at all times to be reachable in case of an emergency.

  • Check your data and call plan if you wish to keep using your US number while in France.
  • If you wish to get a French number and keep using your U.S. phone, be sure to check if the SIM is unlocked before you leave the states. Your phone needs to be unlocked to work with a French SIM card. If your U.S. phone is locked, you will need to buy a French phone (you can get a basic “dumb phone” for less than 20 euros).
  • There are four main French operators: SFRBouyguesOrange, and Free. We don’t recommend monthly plans (they require having a French bank account and sometimes signing up for a minimum of one year). Pay-as-you-go offers are widely available.

Unlock Policies




Phone-related Vocabulary

  • Forfait, abonnement: plan or contract.
  • Sans engagement: free of minimum duration commitment. This means that you can cancel a plan or a contract at any time without penalties.
  • Carte pré-payée: pre-paid phone card. Each operator has a variety of options that vary depending on what type of communication is included (unlimited SMS vs. more data-heavy offer) and the length of validity (five days, ten days, one month, etc.)

French Phone Numbers

  • French numbers have ten digits. The first is always 0, the second depends on the zone or type of number: landline starts with 01 to 05 and 09, Cell phone numbers 06 or 07 are mobile phones, and 08 numbers are either toll-free (starting with 08 00) or very expensive (all the other 08 numbers).
  • When you call any French number from the U.S., dial the international access code (011 33), then omit the initial 0 and dial the last nine digits. For example, if you call CUPA from Paris, you dial 01 42 22 87 50, and if you call from the U.S., you dial 011 33 1 42 22 87 50.

Appliances & IT


  • American electrical equipment operates on a different voltage (110V/60Hz) than in France (220V/50Hz). Your U.S. equipment will not work in France without a transformer.
  • All electrical and electronic devices that do not operate on 220 volts (hair dryers, electric razors, etc.) will burn out and can be fire hazards unless used with a transformer. Some of these devices have a built-in transformer.
  • French plugs and outlets are different from their U.S. versions, so you will most likely need an adapter.
  • Warning: a plug adapter is NOT a transformer. Only using an adapter for a device that requires an adapter AND a transformer is dangerous.
  • Most US computers have a built-in transformer but double-check all your appliances before you go.
  • Adapters and transformers are available widely in France but tend to be cheaper in the U.S.
  • You can find out more about this subject here

IT and computers

  • The Wi-Fi network is widely available in Paris. Wi-Fi is, of course, available at CUPA, but also in most cafes, libraries, and even on the bus or in public gardens!
  • Install the French spell-check/grammar check on your computer. It is indispensable when writing papers for your French courses.
  • IT resources at CUPA: a free WiFi network, several Macs and a printer/copier/scanner are available for student use at CUPA.
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