Here’s some of frequently asked questions, I asked the following questions when I was getting ready to go to Aix and assume you will be asking the same when you plan to study in Aix.
- Bank account in France
- Access to Money
- Groceries and Shopping
- Dining and Restaurants
- Tax Refunds
- Cell Phone, SIM Card and Data Plan – France
- SIM Card and Data Plan – Other Countries
- Nigh Life in Aix
1. Bank Account in France
Should you open a bank account in France?
I opened one, bu tit was an hassle and I wouldn’t recommend opening a bank account.
I opened a bank account, expecting the scholarship money would be deposited faster and bank said it would just take few seconds of work to close the account.
I’m back in USA and just received the scholarship in my bank account in France.
Closing the account is not few seconds work. Looks like I have to mail a letter, back pass book, ATM Card, and check book to close the account.
I will know know more when I actually close the account 🙂
So, I don’t recommend opening a bank account. I never had any use for a local bank account.
2. Access to Money
I had international credit card without foreign transaction fee with chip and pin.
Every mom n pop store in Europe used Chip in the credit card for payment processing. So, make sure to get a card with Chip.
When I was in need of Euro’s I used my ATM Debit card to withdraw money form my U.S. Based bank account. I had to withdraw 3 times in 4 months in Europe.
3. Groceries and Shopping
There’s several places to show for Groceries. Here’s few places
- CarreFour ( similar to Walmart)
- Huit to 8
I was used to driving a car to Walmart, Harris Teeter or an Indian Grocery store, park in the parking right in-front of the store and buy a shopping cart full of items, load them in the car and drive home.
But, here’s in France, it took me a while to get used to buying items that I can carry in hand.
- 1 Gallon of milk (4.5 liters) became 0.5 liters of milk.
- 20 lbs of rice became 0.5 to 1 kg of rice
Shopping in Aix was fun. As expensive as it sounds, compared to U.S.A. the atmosphere is unique and I enjoyed strolling through the streets for window shopping to actual shopping.
Most of the shops closes at 7 PM.
Sunday’s is not the good day. Pretty much all the shops are closed.
I still can’t figure out why the city shuts down at 7 PM.
Some grocery stores closed at 8 PM.
4. Dining and Restaurants
Dining at restaurants is an experience. Don’t expect the same level of cerise that you are used to in America.
It can take 2 to 3 hours for a dinner service.
We are used to fast and friendly customer service.
There were times where water was served after 20 minutes of taking the seat.
You don’t have to tip the waiter after the meal in most European countries.
Also, keep checking your credit card statements for any fraudulent activities.
There was one restaurant where one of my friend’s credit card was used for an unauthorized purchase after we had dinner there. This restaurant was located on Cours Mirabeau (main shopping road from the water fountain).
5. Tax Refunds
If you buy anything above €170, you can get a tax refund from from the vendor. Then get it stamped at airports tax refund counters in any Schengen countries before you leave Europe.
We got a swiss clock in Switzerland and the store gave us a form to complete and mail it back. Unfortunately, we left Switzerland by train to Italy and couldn’t find a place to get the form stamped. In such case, the store will charge our credit card after 90 days for the amount of tax that was not paid.
6. Cell Phone, SIM Card and Data Plan
I purchased Orange SIM card with data plan on day 2. There are other cheaper options compared to Orange.
There are several mobile service providers : Orange, Bouygues, Free and SFR.
You can visit an Orange store to buy a SIM card. Take your passport with you.
There are several Orange store in the city center. Your phones should be unlocked if you want to use it in France.
I used an Orange prepaid plan.
- SIM Card – €10
- Plan – €30
- Total – €40
It comes with following options
- Unlimited calling within France
- Unlimited texts within France
- 1GB of data (3G network)
I would then Recharge for €30 at end of the month.
Some of my friends used Bouygues and they paid €35 total for the same plan but for 2GB of data.
Cheaper option would be Free Mobile, €20/month. The problem with Free Mobile is that you have to order the SIM card online or buy it from Free Mobile Vending Machines, which I don’t think is located in Aix-en-Provence area. If you order it online, it may take up to 10 days to deliver to local your address.
If you happen to have stopover in Paris, see if you can buy a Free Mobile SIM card there, if not you can go with other providers.
Another cheap option for mobile phones would be buying a Lyca Movile. It would cost €5 for SIM at Tabac’s
Tabac – A Tabac is a shop licensed to sell tobacco products in France. Tabac’s are identified by a distinctive elongated diamond sign. Tabacs also sell newspapers, telephone cards and postage stamps. (Wiki)
You can find a Tabac store near the ROTONDE (a fountain in the city center) and one near MONOPRIX in Cour Mirabeau (one of the road from the fountain).
Once you buy the SIM, you activate it online, upload the required documents, select your plan of choice and your SIM gets activated.
- Liberty 5 is the plan that has unlimited texts and calling within France, and comes with 5GB data for €15/month.
Although it is OK to get lost, I would definitely recommend getting a a phone connection with data plan once you reach AIX, as it makes navigation so much easier.
This Wikia Pre-Paid Data is a good place to learn more about Data Plans available in France.
The first day we were navigating with a physical map and it felt like the world had gone back 10 years. With streets so narrow, it’s so tough to navigate with a physical map.
7. Data Plan : Travel within Europe
When we traveled to other countries ( Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and Spain) we got SIM cards with data plan at Train Stations or at the Airports.
- Switzerland – Orange (Geneva Train Station)
- Italy – Wind ( Milan Train Station)
- Belgium – Base ( Brussels City)
- Spain – Lebara ( Barcelona Airport)
We paid about €10 to €20 with 1 GB to 3 GB data and few minutes of talk time.
8. Night Life in Aix
There are several pubs and clubs within walking distance of Aix city center.
One thing I found strange is why clubs open at 11 PM not earlier. I’m not a late nigh person, but living in Aix changed my sleeping habits a lot
Let me know if you have other questions in the comments section below. I can update this page based on your questions.
Study in France – Series
- MGIM : Application and Admission
- How to apply for France Student Visa?
- How to Find a place to rent and Where to Stay in Aix-en-Provence?
- What to buy and pack for your trip to France?
- Traveling to Aix-en-Provence – Flights, Train, Taxi and Bus
- Getting around Aix en Provence in Bus
- FAQ’s about Living in Aix-en-Provence