France Cruising Guide

Customs and Immigration    General Information    Tides    Weather

France has two main coastlines and numerous off lying islands providing a great deal of cruising variety.  In the north and west the English Channel and Atlantic coasts offer natural harbours and estuaries, strong tides and many attractive ports and fishing harbours.  The Mediterranean coast is famous for the ritzy. glitzy Riviera but those who prefer simpler pleasures will find many charming destinations further west.  The island of Corsica is well known for its rugged beauty and stunning coastline as well as a fascinating history and culture.

France places a very high value on its yachting industry and facilities are generally of a very high standard. There are many marinas along the entire coastline and in the older ports, where there is no marina, special arrangements are made for leisure craft. However the downside to this enthusiasm is that it can be difficult to find a berth at peak holiday times when it seems that everyone in France has a boat.

Chandlery, water, fuel and repair facilities are widely available and minor repairs can be undertaken almost anywhere. For more major work or specialised jobs it is best to go to one of the larger ports, where there are established boatyards and specialist companies offering a full range of services.

The quality and range of food in France is excellent pretty much everywhere. Provisions are readily available from street markets, specialist bakers, butchers and greengrocers and from large supermarkets stocking every type of produce imaginable.

France Customs and Immigration

France is an EU Member country therefore the EU regulations apply including those concerning the temporary importation of vessels.

Vessels coming from another EU country do not have to clear customs but they may have to report to immigration.  Where passage is between EU countries that have adhered to the Schengen agreement you are not required to clear immigration again.

For non-EU boats or those with non-EU nationals on board, the captain should report at a port of entry with the ship's documents and passports.  The 'Capitaine' should be contacted immediately on arrival in a port or marina and he will call the appropriate authorities.  In some places customs may visit the boat on arrival and they also inspect yachts up to 12 miles off the coast from time to time.

Many foreign nationals are exempt from French visa requirements including citizens of the EU, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.  For further details of visa requirements for France and a full list of exemptions see France Diplomatie.

Vessels must carry their original registration document, insurance policy and ship's radio licence.  French authorities will accept the British SSR certificate.  They are very strict about registration certificates and some boats have been fined for not having a satisfactory document.  At least one member of the crew must have a radio operator's certificate of competence.  For EU boats, proof of VAT status is also required.

All vessels using the inland waterways and canals must also be in possession of a valid VNF sticker (Voies Navigable de France) which can be bought online from the VNF website.


France General Information

Time Zone
Summer Time (from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October) = UTC+2

Euro = 100 cents

SAMU (medical emergencies): 15
Police emergencies: 17
Fire Service emergencies: 18
European emergency line: 112

Tourist Information
France Guide
Official website of the French Government Tourist Office


France Tides

The northern and western coasts of France experience large tidal ranges and strong tidal streams, particularly around Brittany, and careful navigation is essential.  The tidal range along the Mediterranean coast of France is minimal and can largely be ignored.  The following websites provide good tidal information for French ports and harbours:

Admiralty Easy Tide
Tidal data for over 7,000 ports worldwide with predictions for the forthcoming week available free of charge

SHOM (Service Hydrographique et Oceanographique de la Marine)
Free web based tidal predictions for ports worldwide in French


France Weather

French weather, and therefore cruising conditions, differ significantly between the Atlantic or English Channel coasts and the warmer, more southerly Mediterranean coast.

The north and west coasts have a temperate climate with the strongest winds coming from the south west.  Cruising is enjoyable from late spring through to early autumn.

Winds in the Mediterranean areas tend to be more variable with the Mistral producing the strongest winds from the north.  The cruising season is a little longer here with good conditions generally from early spring to late autumn.  Warm settled weather may even be experienced in winter despite the locals being dressed for the arctic.

The following websites provide good weather forecast information for France:

Meteo France
Forecasts in French for inshore areas and offshore waters including the Atlantic
Wind and weather tools and Apps, including wind and weather forecasts for locations around the world


Quick Links

Cruising Guides

France Cruising Destinations

Boulogne-Sur-Mer Cruising Guide

Cherbourg Cruising Guide

Villefranche-Sur-Mer Cruising Guide