Toolkit: La Poste
The postal service in France is called La Poste. It is the most important postal network in Europe. And that certainly does not make it any easier to navigate for us Anglo-Saxons. Ever decided against posting a letter because it is simply too complicated? The queue is too long? Scared someone will make you use one of those horrible machines? Worried about doing it wrong and your letter ending up in completely the wrong place? We have all been there! This article will give you some advice so that you can work the French postal system like a true professional. Once you get the hand of it you will realise that La Poste is actually an efficient system.
Firstly, La Poste has three different rates for sending mail in France: first-class, second-class and green letter. Green letter is an ecological alternative to the regular rates and, in fact, sending a letter by green letter emits 15% less CO2 than first-class letters. First-class stamps (usually the red ones) are used for quicker delivery meaning postage will take between one and three days to arrive. Second-class (usually green) offers a slower service, between two and three days. A little tip is that you do not have to buy a book of stamps in La Poste. Stamps can be bought in a number of places such as newsagents (Tabac). So go to the Tabac and buy your stamps in advance to avoid the queue at La Poste!
To send a letter in this way you can either go to a cashier or to the self-service machines. These machines will weigh your items and give you a postage label instead of a stamp. Although these may seem daunting they do in fact have an English language option, which makes the whole process a lot easier. If you are still struggling do not hesitate to ask someone. They will most definitely take pity on you as it is not an easy thing to master! Items that are over 3kg in weight must be sent as packages.
The Ecopli service takes between three and five days but is very cheap. For letters being sent abroad you will have to use a different stamp, while letters sent within the EU are usually a blue stamp. However, if you ask at the desk sometimes they give you a choice of some very pretty designs at all the same price.
Tracking a letter is sometimes a good idea. For a tracked letter use the Chronopost service and for a tracked parcel use Colissimo service. There is a variety of options when it comes to sending parcels are letters in this way including recorded delivery and varying rates.
Remember to take some proof of identification to La Poste. While this may not seem necessary, often you will be asked to provide it when sending a letter!
Another little word of advice is that the opening hours of La Poste vary substantially. It is often the case that some can only been open for two hours a day despite being in a large city. So make sure you check this before you make the trip!
Bon courage !