France, Italy and Spain are on Central European Time (CET), which means during most of the year they are 9 hours ahead of the Pacific Time Zone. When it is 8:00 pm in San Francisco it is 5 a.m. the next morning in France, Italy and Spain. There is a slight difference in days when Europe and the US change between Standard and Summer (Daylight Savings) time.
Shops in Europe normally open at 9:00 am or 10:00 am and close between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm. Some businesses, especially in Spain and Italy, close for lunch. Business days are Monday - Saturday (except public holidays). Most shops are closed on Sunday and many museums are closed on Monday or Tuesday.
In recent years most European countries introduced some sort of tourist tax, such as 'Tassa di soggiorno' in Italy, 'Taxe de Sejour' in France or 'Tasa Turistica' in Spain. In some cases, especially in Italy, hotel guests are required to pay this tax directly to the hotel. The charges must be paid directly by each guest, and cannot be covered or prepaid by a tour operator. Tax does not apply to children 2 years old and younger.
A valid passport is required of all U.S. citizens and foreign nationals entering Europe. No visa is needed for American visitors staying less than 90 days. Other nationalities may need to apply for a visit or tourist visa. The following links provide useful information about the visa requirements and application process:
In Italy and Spain it is mandatory to have an international driver's permit in order to rent a car. In France it is strongly recommended to have one. To apply for the international driver's permit you need to fill out an application form and submit it either at your local AAA office or mail it to the address mentioned on the application form.
The minimum driving age in France, Italy and Spain is 18 years old. To rent a car, you must be at least 21 years old (age may vary by car category) and have held your license for 1 year. Drivers under the age of 25 may incur a young driver surcharge. To lease a car for 21+ days, you must be at least 18 years old (age may vary by car category) and have held your license for 1 year.
We recommend that you carry an active cell phone with you at all times. If using a US SIM card, make sure you sign up for the international roaming service before you leave the country. Alternatively, you can purchase a local SIM card in Europe, although such card will only work, if you have an unblocked phone device.
The European power system is designed to run on 220V and 50Hz. The standard wall sockets are 2-pin, CEE 7/7 type sockets. Therefore, in order to charge or run your electronic devices purchased in the US, you will need to use a voltage converter that transforms 220V to 110V power. Some exceptions apply for devices, such as computers and cameras, which can run on 220V. In this case you will only need a plug adapter.