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La Poste is The French national postal service. It has a comprehensive English-language website for people moving to or living in France which includes information on mailing letters and parcels, banking with La Poste, mail forwarding, mail holding and online services.
A French postcode is a five digit number. The first two numbers indicate the département number and the last three the area. In Paris, the final two digits indicate the arrondissement number. La Poste website has a postal code finder for all French addresses making it possible to find a town's postcode or cedex, or a town name from a postcode
The address should never be more than six lines long. If possible, write the entire address in capital letters. “Saint” and “Sainte” may be shortened to “ST” and “STE”, respectively.
There are two different stamps (timbres) available for regular mail service within France. Officially called Marianne stamps (timbres Marianne) the stamps are printed with the face of Marianne, the personification of the Republic of France.
The Marianne stamps can be bought in books of 12 (carnet) from post offices, newsagents (tabacs) and La Poste website. Rolls of 500 stamps are also available at post offices and from La Poste website.
Many post offices have a self-service coin-operated machine which weighs letters and issues postage labels (vignettes d'affranchissement) which can be used instead of stamps. The machines usually have an English-language format.
The letter rate can only be used for documents, correspondence and documentation-related items (CDs, diskettes) under three kilograms in weight. Anything else is mailed at the package rate.
Used for sending a non-priority letter. Delivery time is generally three to five days. The service is slightly less expensive than using the red or green stamps.
The blue stamp (timbre bleu) is used to send letters within the EU and to Switzerland. It is possible to send letters of up to 20g with one blue stamp.
Chronopost (tracked letters) and Colissimo (tracked parcels) can be followed in France and internationally.
Recorded delivery service is possible for delivery in Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. Envelopes are pre-paid, with weight limits of either 100g or 500g.
This is a recorded delivery service. A confirmation receipt will be received by the sender, or confirmation of delivery can be obtained online. General delivery time is one to two days. This service can be used for letters weighing up to 3kg and 22 by 11cm in size.
When mailing a lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception, fill out the required forms at the post office. The postal clerk will attach the forms (minus a receipt for the sender/preuve de dépôt) to the envelope. When the letter is received, the recipient will sign for it and the signed receipt (avis de réception) will be returned to the sender. Pricing is dependent on the weight and reimbursement value of the sent item. Insurance is optional.
This service is similar to the lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception (with an optional receipt of reception) but is used for sending electronic documents in various formats (Word, PDF and similar). Through La Poste website, these documents can be sent with an official record of when it was sent and when it was received.
Though an electronic document is sent via the website, the recipient will receive a printed, hard copy of the document delivered by the postal service. A confirmation receipt can be received by the sender via regular post or electronically. Documents sent via the Lettre Recommandée Electronique service will be postmarked at the moment it is electronically sent to La Poste. Documents can be sent from anywhere in the world and will be considered sent within France (as the document will actually be printed in France).
Pricing is based on the number of pages sent and payment is made using a bank card. General delivery time is one to two days.
This is an integrated letter and envelope with pre-paid recorded delivery service and tracking service. A recipient cannot claim an empty envelope was received when this service is utilised as the letter and envelope are one.
This service is for recording when an item was sent. There is no record of delivery or guaranteed time of delivery. Distingo Suivi envelopes are made of Tyvec and are therefore waterproof and tear-resistant. An optional bubble-wrap lined envelope is available. It is possible to buy pre-paid Distingo Suivi envelopes from La Poste.
Several methods are available to monitor a Distingo Suivi letter.
The La Poste website has an English-language guide for sending parcels, including links to information about Customs formalities.
The post office provides a number of services:
Post can be forwarded to a new address for a fee. At least five days before leaving an address, request a change-of-address form (faire-suivre) to forward mail to the new address.
Alternatively, subscribe online to the Pack Ma Nouvelle Adresse. This service will notify individuals and businesses of the change of address via postcard, text message or e-mail.
Mail can be forwarded to a new address in France for up to six months and to an address outside of France for three or six months. It can also be forwarded on a temporary basis. To request mail forwarding it is necessary to provide:
There is a charge for the mail-forwarding service.
The post office can hold mail for a fixed period on instruction. This is called Garde du courrier. Make the request at least five days before departure. The request and payment can be made online (in French). Note that there will be no reimbursement if you return early and do not need the service for the full duration reserved. This service is available to businesses and private homes.