For members


Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier

Moving to a new country is always challenging and France - with its love of bureaucracy and slight tendency to expect you to already know everything - is no different. So here are some apps that might make life just a bit easier.

Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier
What should you add to your smartphone to make life in France easier? Photo: AFP

Hopefully our readers also have helpful and supportive friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues who will help smooth them into life in France. But sometimes one can also benefit from a little technical help.

1. CityMapper

Yes, you can use any mapping app – or even a paper map, heaven forfend – but in the big cities the mapping app will also work out a public transport route for you if it's too far to walk and tell you about any delays or disruption on the line. A couple of helpful little snippets in Paris include telling you which Metro station exit to use (in the bigger stations coming out at the wrong exit can add 0.5km to your journey) and which end of the train to get on to ensure you do less walking.

As the name suggests, however, it only works in cities.

2. ViaNavigo

Speaking of public transport, if you're in Paris and don't want to spend time faffing about with cardboard tickets, the city transport authorities recently launched this app which allows you to load up your smartphone with Metro, bus or tram tickets and swipe it at the barrier. Bad news for iPhone users though, Apple refused to take part in the project so it only works with Androids. 

3. BlaBlaCar

If you're travelling further afield and want to save some cash, check out ride sharing app BlaBlaCar. Drivers advertise a trip they are taking and invite passengers along in exchange for a small charge to help out with petrol costs.

It's basically a high tech version of hitchiking, but for foreigners it has the added benefit that being stuck in a car with someone for several hours will give you lots of practice at speaking French. (The BlaBla in the name refers to the fact you can specify how chatty you want to be during the trip).

4. Doctolib

Having conversations with a doctor's receptionist is generally excruciating in any language, so this handy app allows you to book your appointment without speaking to anyone. You can search doctors (and dentists) by area or by speciality before picking an appointment.

Among the helpful information the app offers you about the doctor you selected is what languages they speak, so if you're not sure your French is up to the job you can find a English-speaking medic.

5. C'est la grève

A particularly French one this, the app lists all the strikes in France that are either ongoing or planned. A word of caution though, not all strikes in France cause widespread disruption. If a strike involves only one union that doesn't have many members, it is unlikely to cause real problems.

It's when the unions work together that they can really have an impact, as we saw during the mass transportation strikes in December and early January. Also, some things are listed as strikes when they are really more like a protest or a work-to-rule, for example among firefighters or emergency workers who are forbidden by law to walk off the job. Basically, don't freak out when you see how many strikes are listed.

6. La Fourchette

La Fourchette (the fork) is a restaurant booking app that lists thousands of nice places to eat, allowing you to search by either location or restaurant type. If you're not confident of your French it can save you a phone call and ensure that you get exactly the right time and number of people in your booking.

7. TUP

Trouver un Préservatif is one for the lovers. If you're in an urgent romantic situation the app scans your location and tells you the nearest place you can buy condoms. Pharmacies, supermarkets and vending machines are all indicated on the map, and it also tells you how long it will take you to walk there. So there's no excuse for not having safe sex.

READ ALSO From ONS to JTM: Our guide to French online dating

Most people also have a language app to help out with translation if your French comes a bit unstuck, there are loads and we've dedicated an entire article to the subject here.

8. And don't forget The Local! We don't like to brag but we also have an app. It's free on both iPhone (iOS) and Android and you can download it HERE.



Member comments

  1. I live in the USA. How can I get The Doctolib app on my android phone? I could not find it in the google play store.

  2. Go to
    Full marks to ViaNavigo for NOT supporting Apple IOS, the bane of society!
    Where gullible lemmings keep advertising “Sent from my POS phone”. 🙂

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For members


‘Section internationales’: How do France’s bilingual secondary schools work?

For foreign parents in France looking at secondary school options for their children one option to consider is the bilingual 'international sections' in certain state schools. But how do they work?

'Section internationales': How do France's bilingual secondary schools work?

What is an ‘international section’

Essentially international sections in French secondary schools allow students to learn a modern foreign language, such as English or German in much more depth than a standard state secondary. These sections also facilitate the integration of foreign students into the French school system.

There are about 200 ‘International’ establishments (primary schools, colleges and high schools) around France offering international sections in 16 languages.

Most are state run, so for many foreign families they are a much cheaper alternative to private schools, though it should be noted that some of the international sections are fee-paying.


Even state establishments can charge for enrolment into their international sections. Fees are usually in the region of €1,000 to €2,000 per year (although that’s still cheap compared to somewhere like the American school of Paris which charges between €20,000 and €35,000 a year)

American and British sections are particularly popular – and, as a result are usually the most expensive, while less-popular German sections are less costly. 

Why do they exist?

These sections are ideal for the children of immigrant families, as well as those where one parent is of foreign origin. Syllabuses are set up and developed by French educational authorities and those of the partner country.

In addition to lessons dedicated to modern languages, students benefit from lessons in another subject given in a foreign language. The international sections promote the discovery of the culture and civilisation of the countries associated with the section.

Top tips for raising a bilingual child in France

What languages are available?

According to the government website, 19 languages are available. But that’s not strictly accurate as it then lists American, British and Australian as separate ‘languages’, along with Portuguese and Brazilian. It’s more accurate to say these establishments offer education in 16 languages.

It’s more accurate to say that there are 19 “sections”, dedicated to learning with a linguistic and cultural education slant in favour of the following nations/languages:

American, Arabic, Australian, Brazilian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Franco-Moroccan, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Russian.

In total, there are two Australian schools, 20 American ones, over 50 British schools – most in Paris and the Ile-de-France (Versailles is very popular)

So, what’s studied – and what qualifications do you get?

As well as usual collège-level classes in core subjects, such as maths, history and the sciences, students have four hours of classes in the language, including literary studies, of their choice.

From troisième (age 14), an additional two hours of classes per week cover that country’s history and geography and moral and civic education – the latter is replaced by maths for those studying in Chinese sections.

They can obtain the diplôme national du brevet with the mention “série collège, option internationale”. The dedicated brevet includes two specific tests: history-geography and foreign language.

At lycée, students study four hours of foreign literature per week, as well as two hours of history-geography in the language of the section (maths for the Chinese section) as well as two hours of French as they study towards an OIB (option internationale du bac), often at the same time as a standard French bac.

How to enrol

The first step is to contact the collège you wish your child to attend. This should take place no later than January before the September rentree you want your child to go to the collège.

If you live in France, and your child is attending an école primaire or élémentaire, you should do this in the January of the year they would move up to collège.

Be aware, that some schools require potential students to pass a language test – written and oral – before they can enter an international section. A child wishing to enter sixth grade must be able to read books of the level of Harry Potter in English, to enter the international school of Sèvres’ British section, while another has said that only 20 percent of candidates achieve the grade that would allow them entry into an international section.

Find a school

You will find sections internationales de collège at educational academies across the country. For a full list, with contact details, click here.