French postal service La Poste
While La Poste
provides anciliary services like banking and insurance, the primary function of the French Post Office remains to distribute mail. Letters for destinations within France usually arrive the next day provided they are posted by the cut-off time posted on the mailbox.
In many larger post offices - less likely in small village ones - you will find automatic stamp machines, telephone booths, pre-stamped envelopes and photocopiers.
The cost of sending a letter depends on its weight and destination. For destinations within France it costs EUR 0.63 to send a letter weighing up to 20 grams. For countries outside the EEA, there are different prices for each geographical region. A letter weighing more than 20 grams must be marked Lettre (all post offices have weighing scales and label dispensers).
Good to know:
To give your mail the best chances of reaching its destination correctly, follow these tips from your postman:
Try to use envelopes with an address box for your handwritten letters.
Use 6 lines maximum to write your address.
Never put a comma, full stop, apostrophe, underline or dash after the street number.
Write the 5 numbers of the postcode very distinctly. If you are not sure what the postcode is then ask at your local post office or click here to find a postcode.
Write the last line, and if possible the whole of the address, in capitals.
Write your sender address on the back.
If you are writing to a company then don’t forget to write the PO box and CEDEX (it means Courrier d'Entreprise à Distribution Exceptionnelle and signals that the location is a business as opposed to a commune and is routed accordingly) indication in capitals.
An essential part of all postal addresses in France is the five-digit postcode that identifies the commune. The postcode immediately precedes the name of the town or village, on the last line of the address for all mail within France.
The first two digits of the postcode indicate the number of the département; and the last three digits identify the commune. For large cities with arrondissements (Paris, Lyon and Marseille), the last two digits of the postcode indicate the arrondissement; for example: 75006 PARIS means "Paris, 6ème arrondissement".
You can find a handy guide in English at www.laposte.com/Visiting-France
Never miss a letter: If you missed the postman with a registered letter you can call to reschedule the delivery for the next day or sign up online for a procuration so that someone else can accept and sign for you.
La Poste also offers visitors a fascinating museum that takes you back through the history of the postal services and how they are interlinked with the history of France. It's located across from the Montparnasse station in Paris, hosting a permanent collection as well as high-quality temporary art exhibitions.
•Sylvia Davis, Property & Living Editor - updated October 2013
Image by lemezza via flickr
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