France has many advantages for retired people who want to see the country while enjoying each region at a gentle, peaceful pace. Pleasant climate, wonderful scenery, efficient public transport, fine cuisine, financial advantages, medical cover… there's no reason not to go! Here are a few things to take into consideration in order to make the most of a trip to France in your retirement.
When should I go?
Retired people aren't restricted by the school holiday timetable. July and August in France are particularly busy periods in which the crowded tourist attractions are less pleasant and accommodation rates are more expensive. To avoid these problems while enjoying the pleasant climate, the months of May, June, September and sometimes October are ideal times to visit. During the coldest periods, the southernmost regions remain quite pleasant. It's even possible to go in the middle of winter and enjoy some sunshine, in the overseas departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion and Mayotte.
Choosing the right destination for your health
France is a safe country that offers good health conditions for retired travellers. However, depending on your state of health, some destinations are more suitable than others.
- Older people who know they may require urgent treatment should avoid going to remote areas on their own. In this type of situation, it's best to bring a companion or remain in an area with basic services.
- For those who suffer from arthritis or gout, the South of France is preferable to the North. The temperatures are warmer there and there are more doctors per capita. A city like Toulouse, for example, is ideal thanks to its oceanic, Mediterranean and continental climates, as well as its low pollution levels, a plus for retired people with lung problems.
- Also be careful at high altitudes, in hot areas and during periods of cold weather. Always be prepared and pack suitable clothes, as well as any medicine you may need.
- When you're following a course of treatment, it's best to bring your prescriptions with you, and ask your doctor for enough medicine for the whole trip, to avoid running out.
Pace of travel
Regardless of their age, a senior citizen should learn to pace themselves if they want to make the most of their break. It's hard to enjoy a trip if you're tired all the time.
- Quiet hotels are best if you want a good night's sleep. If necessary, contact the hotel beforehand and ask if there's a lift, on-site parking, or any specific equipment you need.
- A lack of time is not often a problem for retired people. Days with plenty of spare time and one or two visits are enjoyable for most. You have to savour the moment.
- If you're planning to go on mountain hikes or take part in sports activities, it's best to ask for your doctor's opinion before setting off. You may be advised to have a full check-up to make sure you're in good health.
In France, discounts on public transport and activities are not a legal requirement and depend on the goodwill of the people or companies in charge of them. Therefore you need to ask about senior citizens' discounts on a case by case basis. You just need to display proof of ID to benefit from them.
- SNCF has discount cards offering 25% to 50% discounts on train journeys. If you don't travel frequently, you won't need the card, but you can take advantage of the “discovery” fare (tarif découverte) when you're over 60, with 25% off journeys in off-peak times.
- RATP in Île-de-France also has discount cards for seniors. Seniors aged over 65 can pay a small contribution and travel on the whole network.
- Most big cities in France offer concessions on their public transport networks. Ask the tourist offices about it before visiting.
- Some airlines offer concessions for people over 60, as do car hire firms. When you're a senior, you can benefit from preferential rates and services tailored to your needs.
- Several big cinema chains offer concessions for over-60s upon presentation of proof of ID. These discounts are also available at theatres that offer preferential rates with or without a season ticket.
- National or private museums often have discounts for seniors, as do many tourist attractions.