Finances/post telephones & internet


Credit and Debit cards are widely accepted throughout France, even in smaller, out of the way places but it is a good idea to keep plenty of cash to hand as you may occasionally find somewhere that will not accept them, e.g. the attendant at a small mooring point.

Many people use the address of the port where they lay up their boat, even if non-resident, in order to open a French bank account (ask their permission first). They will also usually hold mail for you.

We find it unnecessary to have a French bank account, instead we use the services of the Nationwide Building Society www.nationwide.co.uk who do not make any extra charges for using the credit card in France, or for converting our money from euros to sterling as other banks do. They do however make a charge for withdrawing money. We transfer from our joint account enough money to last us through the trip, and a bit extra for emergencies, into a Nationwide Flexaccount. We then use their debit card to draw money at an ATM and to pay for our groceries and general purchases. It is possible to manage your finances on line.

All our bills at home are paid by direct debit, e.g. gas and electricity, whilst we are away, and we have arranged for other regularly occurring bills to be presented during the winter when we are home. We have planned for our MOT and other annual events to fall during the winter months.

If you wish to use traveller’s cheques or to change English money to French be aware that most banks will make a charge for the service. The exception is the Credit Agricole and the Post Office.


This can be delivered to the port where you spend the winter, or you could arrange for it to be forwarded to the local post office (Poste Restante) by someone at home. The Poste Restante service is very efficient. You would need to have the name and postcode of the town to which the post is to be delivered, and be aware that larger towns will have more than one Bureau de Grande Poste.

It has been our experience that public servants in France go out of their way to assist their customers, particularly if you are prepared to shake hands and attempt a little of the language.

Stamps can be bought at the post office and also at the tabac. Post offices are generally known as La Poste or the PTT, and are recognisable by their yellow signs. In smaller towns and villages a part-time post office usually operates from the Mairie.

Telephones and internet

A mobile phone is a valuable tool whilst cruising. On the Somme it is a necessity as all the lock keepers are called by phone. On other canals you may have to phone to arrange your first lock the next day.

We take our English phone with us as most of our friends have that number programmed into their phones. This has been an expensive way of receiving calls as we pay for the call from the British end and our caller only pays English rates. If you use it to call France you pay for a call to Britain and another back to France.

In the past we bought another cheap mobile phone into which we put a French pay-as-you go SIM card. Top ups were bought at mobile phone shops and at the local Tabac and the assistant, if asked, will make the call to top up the credit for us. Failing that we have found the Tourist Office to be very useful with these little language problems. Using the French SIM card means that we do not pay for incoming calls and our calls within France are cheaper. However we find that if we are away from France long enough for the credit to run out (3 months)we lose our number and have to buy a new SIM card with a new number on our return. Last year we experimented with an International SIM card (Truphone). The calls are not as expensive as using the English-based phone but there is a service charge each day the phone is used. But it can be recharged on line and we never lose the number.

Technology is changing so fast and prices are coming down so I hesitate to include any further advice here about mobile Internet usage. You will probably get better advice from a computer and/or mobile phone stockist.

For the number of emails we receive we find it sufficient to use an Internet café and even small towns have these. Wi-fi points are also on the increase in France and for the last two years we have been able to use Skype for phone calls on the computer at something like 0.01p per minute.

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