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Shopping tips for day trippers and visitors to Calais, France – looking for supermarkets, chocolatiers, cheese shops, boulangeries, tobacco shops and Cité Europe –, the web magazine which saves you money when crossing the channel to Calais, to buy wine, beer, spirits and food, travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel.

what to buy in France


Shopping Tips and advice for Calais, France and other Channel port shoppers

The Summer sales start on 28th June 2017 until the 8th August 2017.

The Winter sales will start mid January 2018 and run until mid February 2018, in NORD (59), Pas de Calais (62) and Aube (10 – Troyes (Factory shopping centres)

However, many departments have different start and finish dates. More information (in French) –

Another link to French Government website concerning sale dates.

Six departments near the French border are free to set different dates, although often they conform to the National dates (Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle, Vosges, Landes and Pyrénées-Atlantiques.) Additionally, Departments in the South (Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur region) sometimes hold their sales later than the rest of France.

In Belgium the sales are held in January and July.

CREDIT CARDS – we suggest you ring your credit card company before shopping in France – increased fraud means they are turning down shoppers cards if their spending deviates from the norm. Take your mobile – you can often sort the problem out over the phone.

Trolleys – You need a 1 euro coin for supermarket trolleys in Calais. However if you ask for a token at the information desk you get to keep it (I keep mine in the ashtray). At Carrefour Mi-Voix you will need a 2 euro coin.

Credit card tips for shoppers and travellers

Food tips

Dairy Products – We have a good selection of milk available in the hypermarkets. Look out for semi skimmed (demi écrémee) or skimmed (écrémé). Butter is worth looking out for – we like the Beurre Deux which the French use for cooking. An excellent choice of salted, semi salted (salé) and plain butter is avalaible as well.

Dried food – pasta, rice and other grains (cous cous for example) are more widely available in French supermarkets. Being light and easily stored, we suggest you stock up with a variety to try and make a note of your favourites.

French bread is made with less preservatives compared with English bread. Try and buy it on the day it will be used, and keep it wrapped in a dry tea-towel. Otherwise it will go hard (crusty and stale).

Tinned food – the range seems so much wider in French Supermarkets. Lentils and spinach are always worth looking out for.

Water – There is a difference in the ranges available. Look out for "eau de source" which is much cheaper, but not the same as "eau minerale naturelle". All water is much cheaper in France.

TOP TIP – Keep a notebook handy to record you impressions when sampling food you have bought. Take it with you when shopping in France. You will be amazed how much you will rely on it

Before you go

Cool bags – cheese in particular does not travel well (unless you plan to eat it there and then) so always take a cool bag. Some of the supermarkets will let you have bags of ice – don't be afraid to ask.

Pre-order your alcohol before you go – it saves time. The ferry companies all offer this service. It's also a useful way to compare and find out about prices.

Don't assume anything – contact the local tourist offices for information or check this web site.

If buying more expensive items, check prices in the United Kingdom Before you go.

Motorways – there are a lot of roadworks on the routes into Dover, allow for this and check before you go for any other disruptions / closures which may affect your journey.

Check that you can use your mobile phone in France – sometimes this has to be done BEFORE arrival.

E111 Health Form – now known as the European Health Insurance Card (start 1st September 2005) – Be safe! It's free and you can get it from the Post Office or local DSS Office, where it must be stamped to be valid. You will need your National Insurance Number and Passport. I made a note of mine in my passport.

Driving – Make sure you have an up to date driving licence (preferably the new euro photo licence), that your insurance is up to date, you have your original vehicle registration documents and MOT (keep copies as a precaution), and a list of relevant telephone numbers in case of an emergency.

Don't overload! – Look in the cars handbook or check with the manufacturer to find the maximum load weight for your car and the correct tyre pressure.

Booking a crossing

Keep an eye open for newspaper offers – they can offer good deal, but not always. Always check the direct fare prices as well. Offers with wine for example, may not always be good value.

Be careful when booking – Eurotunnel appears to insist on one clear day before your travel time rather than the day before, when booking their promotional fares, In general you can book the promotion fares up to about 7.00pm for the next day.

Don't overload!

A case of beer weights 17kg, a case (12) of wine weighs 15 kg, and a case of champagne 22 kg. In France on the spot fines of £100 are levied for overloaded vehicles. In England the penalty is £40 plus 3 penalty points. In addition the Police will issue a PG9 notice which prohibits you from moving the vehicle until the excess weight is removed. You also must have a new MOT done before the PG9 is lifted. In addition, any warranty you have on the vehicle (if it's fairly new) will be null and void.

HM Revenue and Customs are now looking for other ways to frustrate shoppers. Since the Hoverspeed Court victory we have noticed they are stopping overweight vehicles much more.

Holiday Shopping – more information

The Xmas shopping page will appear again in November 2011. We now have a Holiday shopping page

Main Hypermarkets and Shops

AuchanCarrefour (Mi-voix)Carrefour (Cité Europe)Cite Europe

Money – how to pay

Cash – Make sure you have at least some French money. Whilst most Calais Shops accept Sterling not all do.

Euro cheques – no longer accepted much in France. Don't rely on them.

Public Holidays

Public Holidays see most shops closed. However as in Britain, many of the larger hypermarkets are now opening. More

Remember that French time is one hour ahead of British time. Summer time starts on the last Sunday in March at 2.00am, and ends on the last Sunday in October at 3.00am.

Sales – more about sales in France

If the item is marked Solde it means Sale. Dégriffé means marked-down. A discount is remise.

The timing of sales in France is decided by the Government.

Shoppers tip – from our message board

dixons eletrical – Dixons.


From a visitor. "If you want to buy computers / camcorders / cameras / hi-fi / DVD, etc., go into your local high street Dixon's, get a brochure, pick an item (with an alternative choice) and ring Dixon's at the Chunnel, quote the catalogue number and ask for a price (Tel: 01303 273 080), they can save you 15%, you get the same guarantee and you can have Dixon's finance! All you do is order it, drive down, collect (from this side of the channel, drive onto train, do your French shopping, come back. My mate saved £300 on a lap top pc."

Webmaster – we have been told that as they cannot sell at duty free prices to E.U. citizens, their prices (on a reduced range of goods) are 15% cheaper than the high street.

More on our Travelling Tips page

TV and Video Equipment

Although the prices may be good, don't be tempted! France uses the 'SECAM' TV and Video system, as opposed to 'PAL' used in the United Kingdom.

Shopping times

Monday to Friday – shops are open all day. Many shops close on Monday morning. Some shops still close during the lunch period (generally midday – 2.00pm).

Saturday – shops close at 1.00pm. Cite Europe is open until 8.00pm.

Sunday – Quiet – check before going that the shop you wish to visit is open.

Sizes – Clothes and Shoes

Sunday Shopping – full details click here

What to Buy – where to save money

Comprehensive general information / Best value items

Useful Outside links

food facts – Food Facts, Food information, and Tips! Good list of E-numbers.

say no to 0870 – Say NO to 0870.

shopping centres France – Conseil National des Centres Commerciaux. Find a French Centre Commercial (click the map of France).

French shopping brands – Site des Marques. Useful resource for French brand information.

boussole shop – Boussole. Useful directory for many shops and institutions in France.

– Que Choisir, the French equivalent of the Citizens Advice Bureau.

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