How to easily get a Tax Refund on your French souvenirs

Did you know that as a tourist in France you are entitled to claim back the Value Added Tax (VAT or TVA) on purchases over €175 made in a single store?

You didn’t know that?  Well, luckily for you this blog post will shed some light on how to simplify this in a country that loves paperwork and processes.

Firstly, here are some typical souvenirs you may see on the French Riviera:


  • Savon de Marseille soaps
  • Provençal fabrics
  • Biot glassware
  • Honey and conservessouv2.jpg
  • Olive oil
  • Santons
  • Faience pottery and Vallauris ceramics
  • Lavender sachets

Useful Tips for Tax Free Shopping in France

Years ago, to claim  your refund you would get the shop vendors to stamp your ‘Tax Refund Form’ and present it to a Customs Agent at the airport (when you left France with your goods) then mail the form to  receive your refund.

This method is still accepted today, however, I’ll share with you two insider tips on how to make tax free shopping in France and the refund process easier and quicker and save you time queuing at airports:

Tip #1:  Global Blue

Tip #2: PABLO

Confused yet?

What is Global Blue?

Global Blue is a network of more than 270,000 stores worldwide where you can shop tax free.

On the French Riviera, look for stores displaying Global Blue Tax Free Shopping signage in the window,  or for ease download  Global Blue’s iOS (for iPhone and iPad) app which lists participating stores.

The Global Blue signage will look like this (or similar):


Some participating stores include Galeries Lafayette (Cannes), Baldinini (Cannes) and Jaeger- LeCoultre (Nice).

Before you come to France, apply for a ‘SHOP TAX FREE Card’ via the Global Blue website and when you shop at the stores simply present your card to the shop assistant and your details are automatically filled out on the form.  Its worthwhile to do only if you intend to do lots of shopping.

What is PABLO?

PABLO is a system introduced by French Customs to speed up tax refunds for tourists.

Before you check in for your flight, look for the PABLO barcode reader, insert your Tax Free Form (Bordereau de vente a l’exportation électronique) and it will validate it  (In the event the machine is not working, you can still go to the Customs desk and present your completed Tax Free Form, passport, receipts and purchases to get a stamp on your form).

The PABLO machines look like this (blue with ‘Detaxe’ across the top):


Make sure any goods you carry with you are unused and in original packaging. Don’t pack them away in your check-in luggage as you may need to show them to the Customs Officer.

Now, rather than mail your Tax Free Form back to France from your home country and wait  indefinitely for a refund, you can just go to a Refund counter displaying a Global Blue logo.

Present your stamped, completed Tax Free Forms to receive the refund in cash or to credit card (cash refunds incur a small fee).

To summarise, remember these 3 Steps:

  1. Get a Global Blue ‘SHOP TAX FREE Card’ and use it at participating stores
  2. Validate your forms in the PABLO machines (keep all receipts)
  3. Go to the Global Blue Refund counters to claim your refund

Global Blue Refund counters on the French Riviera are located:

Change Miramar

Bureau de change (Downtown), 57 boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes

Opening Hours:  MON-FRI: 09:00 a.m – 12:30 p.m and 2:00 p.m – 5.30 pm

AMEX change office T1 airside
Nice Côte d’Azur airport, Terminal 1 Airside, 06200 Nice, France

Opening Hours:  MON-FRI: 07:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

SAT: 07:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

SUN: 07:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

AMEX change office T1 landside
Nice Côte d’Azur airport, Terminal 1, Arrivals gate A2/Landside, 06200 Nice, France

Opening Hours:  MON-FRI: 06:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

SAT: 06:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

SUN: 06:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

AMEX change office
Nice Côte d’Azur airport, Terminal 2 Airside, 06200 Nice

 Opening Hours:  MON-FRI: 06:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

SAT: 06:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

SUN: 06:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

AMEX change office
Nice Côte d’Azur airport, Terminal 2 Arrivals, Gate A4 Landside, 06200 Nice

Opening Hours:  MON-FRI: 07:00 a.m. – 08:00 p.m.

SAT: 07:00 a.m. – 08:00 p.m.

SUN: 07:00 a.m. – 08:00 p.m.

Eligibility for Tax Free Shopping Refunds       

● If you have a permanent residence in a non-EU country

● If you are older than 16 years

● If you spend more than 175.01 EUR in a single store

● Refunds are paid on all goods that are exported in the traveller’s personal luggage

● Maximum 50 pieces of the same (identical) item

● Non-refundable goods: Tobacco, Pharmaceuticals, Cars and car parts, Weapons, Cultural relics older than 50 years, Postage stamps

NOTE: If you have any delay receiving your refund, your first point of contact is the retailer, not French Customs.  If you are time challenged at the airport or queues are long and you miss getting your form/s stamped, its still possible to claim a refund in your home country via your local French Embassy, however it involves time and paperwork!

Image credits:, 9bytes, Pinterest

If you found this post informative, please share it. Thanks!




5 things Batman can teach you about family travel

1. Choose a Sidekick – something or someone to back you up in tough times

Batman has Robin to back him up in tough times.

Batman and his sidekick Robin (image: comicsalliance)

Here are Access Riviera’s tips for getting the best from your back-up plan:

Travel tech

Use a private window when booking flights online so airfare search engines don’t remember you and bump up prices.

If you forget your USB plug, charge devices through the USB on a television.

Try sites such as to locate hotspots, and services such as Tunnelbear, ComfortWay or Tep Wireless when travelling.

Useful apps

GateGuru is an awesome app that gives information on airport facilities, security line wait lines and flight delays.

(image: Gate Guru)

Use TripIt or TripCase to consolidate your itineraries..  I still take hard copes of my itineraries with me (I know!), but these apps are helpful so you can still access all your itinerary information when you are without internet.

TrailWallet for expense tracking and budgeting help with your travel costs.

I’d be lying if I said translation apps are a waste of time. I highly recommend TripLingo – it has basic survival phrases, flash card lessons for language learning, a slang tool, a tip calculator, currency convertor and cultural tips.

(image: TripLingo)

Another one of my favourites – Word Lens – for translating signs, has transitioned over to Google Translate. There’s still a few hiccups with the voice recognition translation, and also some formats (it doesn’t recognise handwritten text) but it’s still handy to have.

Offline tips

Turn your phone to airplane mode and turn off data to use GPS without internet. Load up your Google map before leaving your accommodation and you can use it to navigate at your destination. To use Google maps offline, type ‘OK Maps’ and the visible area will save for future reference.

Sometimes if you’re at a location (e.g a cafeteria) with free Wifi, they can be annoyed if you don’t purchase something. I usually buy a coffee at a minimum out of courtesy, but if you’re really on a budget sometimes a location’s Wifi password may be on FourSquare.

2.  Source advice – research all the information you need, or have someone available who knows already

Batman has Alfred Pennyworth for advice.

There are many options you can use yourself to source advice prior to a trip with your family:

  • Forums such as Virtual Tourist, Lonely Planet, Frommers and Fodors are helpful for destination advice
  • Internet reviews for specific companies using Trustpilot for reviews
  • Social media channels showcase cool new products and keep you updated with travel blogs
  • TripAdvisor is user-friendly for destination-specific reviews. I like TripAdvisor because you get a broad spectrum of reviewers from across the globe
  • Travel agents and tourist boards

Reference websites such as:

Wanderant is an easy-to-use trip planner for help creating custom itineraries and suggestions on things to do at each destination.

(image: Wanderant)

(image: Wanderant) is super useful if you’re travelling to Paris, south-eastern France or major cities in Italy. It gives good information about location of public toilets, supermarkets, post offices etc

WikiVoyage for directions and destination information

PlanMy.Travel and LocalFu use local experts and travellers who have ‘been there done that’ for customised itineraries (pay option)

Komoot is an Android app for cycling/hiking trails in Europe is a fun (and addictive!) website with drone-videos at global locations including French Riviera spots so you can check out your destination before you get there

3. Being anonymous is OK too

We all know Batman’s true identity is Bruce Wayne, his comfort zone for anonymity.

Don’t feel the need to put yourself on show to family and friends with constant photo posts to Instagram, or status updates and tweets about every moment of your trip.

Go offline from Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/Twitter/emails/Skype/technology and enjoy the experience of your destination.

4.  Be prepared for sticky situations

Batman’s ready for signs of trouble, and he gets prompted from the Bat signal when there’s a sticky situation.

The Bat signal lets Batman know when there's signs of trouble (image: comicsalliance)

Unfortunately, I don’t have a patent for a global Bat signal but I have more tips to prepare for sticky situations you may encounter:

Copy important travel documents

Make photocopies of your passport, itinerary, and any other important documents and store them in a different location than the originals in case the originals are stolen.   I have an extra hard copy in my luggage, and also a scanned copy of everything on a USB memory stick.



Research a country’s prohibited items rules prior to travel, and take a copy of your doctor’s prescription if you travel with medications (I’m asthmatic and while preventative inhalers are usually permitted as a drug at most airports, don’t assume your own medication will be accepted as legal in another country).

If you have any food allergies or intolerances, print out translations of foods to give to local restaurants or research companies that sell dining cards online. If you have a dairy intolerance and are visiting France, print out this handy translation in French

Triumph Dining has dining cards for gluten-free travellers that have translations in 10 languages.

Travel insurance

Always buy travel insurance. Look at benefits, and policy inclusions and exclusions, not just the initial cost.

Working in the travel industry for over 10 years, I have heard good and bad stories of choosing to buy travel insurance or not.

Good = A colleague purchased travel insurance and ended up with altitude sickness in Kathmandu, medical costs were well over $100K. Bad = A family went on an island holiday to Fiji, one of the children received a nasty coral cut which resulted in infection and eventuated in surgery and a lengthy hospital stay costing them thousands of dollars in medical treatment. Cost of a policy that would have prevented this: $120

Change of clothes and basic essentials

Ever since I lost a large suitcase after an international flight, I now carry a spare change of clothes and basic essentials (toothbrush & paste, deodorant, moisturiser) in my carry-on bag so at least I can feel human until my stuff is found (P.S. my suitcase was returned to me within 3 hours, thank you Air France).

A backpack is handy for hands-free travelling (image: Amazon)

If you’re traveling with kids, carry extra food and diapers to allow for delays and a change of clothes for your kids and yourself – I’ll never forget the poor man who half an hour into a 13-hour flight was covered in his baby’s vomit….the smell lingered that’s for sure.

I usually travel with my carry-on as a backpack if I travel with my son so I have my hands free.

Extra food

Taking extra snacks or food can counteract the limited variety in train station vending machines, or overpriced airport food.

I’ve fallen into the ‘no food’ trap before and paid the princely sum of €90 for 2 lunches and snacks at Singapore Airport.

I have beaten off my son’s hunger many times by taking extra food on my travels – snacks such as nuts, pretzels, cereal bars.  Avoid bananas (squishy), chocolate (it melts) or dried fruit (it acts like a laxative).  Parents need to be aware there may not be any options to heat food or baby bottles on delays.

Cereal bars are great for snacks on flights

Also, be aware of customs regulations for food when entering different countries – France doesn’t permit you taking any meat from wild animals on-board so leave that deer carpaccio at home. Every country has different rules – Did you know you can’t take fresh fruit or raw unroasted nuts into Australia (without an Import Permit)?

Variety of payment methods

It pays (excuse the pun) to have a variety of options to pay for items when you travel. Credit and debit cards, cash, travellers cheques, money cards.

In France, I have found many tourists have had problems with ticket machines not reading their foreign-issued credit cards so take coins for ticket machines. Most towns (and certainly the main cities) all have banks and ATM’s, though currency exchange providers are usually only found in more populated areas.

Don’t wear a visible money belt (fanny pack) when you travel – that is a sure-fire advertisement for theft ‘Hey look at my bag containing money, passport and other valuables!’.

Local delays

If you are travelling in France, check out Bisonfute for road traffic delays, for transport strikes, and ViaMichelin for traffic conditions and toll costs.

Learn a few phrases in the local language

It’s not essential, but it’s helpful to learn a few polite greetings or relevant phrases to your situation (car hire, child-related terms, transport and accommodation queries).


5.  Use what you have to your best advantage

Batman is well versed in utilising the Batmobile and his bat tools to best advantage.

Family travel is no different – there are ways you can use what you already have to maximise your holiday experience.

Family discounts

Take advantage of group or family discounts on entry admissions for attractions, restaurant deals (buy one adult meal, get one kids meal free) and transport tickets.

A useful one to know for the French Riviera is the ‘Pass Isabelle Famille’ that costs €35 for one days unlimited train travel along the French Riviera for 2 adults and 2 children under 16 years of age; you purchase them at the train station counters or online via TER SNCF website under ’Loisirs & Tourisme’ then ‘Offres loisirs’.

Flying with kids has a great list of family-friendly information at lots of global airports,  read more in their link here

Also, check out my previous blog post for more tips about Flying with Kids

Not keen on paying for expensive Wifi at airports? Get free Wifi at airports but adding /?.jpg or &.jpg to the end of any URL (for networks that allow images to download without redirecting).

Whoever thought of fast-track queues for families for airport processing is a genius. G-E-N-I-U-S. The last thing you want is to queue behind 500 people at security/immigration with an over- tired toddler who’s barely slept on a 12-hour long-haul flight. Didn’t happen to me, honest 🙂

What are your best tips for family travel?   Please comment, or share this post on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks

NICE AIRPORT (Aeroport Nice Cote d’Azur)

Traveling with children can be stress-free with planning (and a bit of good luck that they won’t have a meltdown in a queue!).  Often, after a long journey it can be tiring to find toilet facilities that have baby changing tables, restaurants that offer child-friendly meals or a play area.   Add to that language barriers and you can feel lost and overwhelmed.

Family-friendly facilities at Nice Airport

Nice Airport is the first airport in France to hold the ‘Famille Plus’ label, guaranteeing their commitment to providing a family-friendly welcome.  In addition, assistance with passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility is provided in line with European regulations. Please read on below….

Security control points

There are now special family-friendly security control points during the French school holidays where ‘ALFA’ the blue mascot guides families through the compulsory security checks with an element of fun to entertain the kids.  Hostesses hand out colouring pencils and paper to alleviate boredom until boarding time.

Play areas

Nice Airport has 2 Terminals and both have play areas specifically for young children to play safely.  In the boarding lounges, the play areas have cartoons, early-learning games, rockers and wall games.  At Terminal 2, there is also an open-air play area outside the terminal with ride-on rockers.  ‘Quick’ burger restaurant has a small play area with ball pit.



Baby-changing facilities

Most toilet facilities have unisex baby-changing rooms with a changing table (all others have baby-changing facilities in the women’s toilets).  Toilets and washbasins for young children have also been installed.  The baby-change room locations are:

Terminal 1 – Public area

  • Toilets beyond security at P2 / T1
  • Toilets at public arrival exit Gate O / GR

Terminal 1 – Restricted area

  • Toilets in Lounges A and B
  • Toilets in baggage claim area (as at today 26 June 2012 these are under refurbishment)

Terminal 2 – Public area (in the women’s toilets)

  • Toilets located near to the Welcome Area (ground floor)
  • Opposite the information desk near the car hire companies
  • Opposite the bookshop
  • By Gate D4 (near to the regional produce shop)

Terminal 2 – Restricted area (in the women’s toilets)

  • Halls A and B
  • Opposite boarding gates A11 and A12
  • Baggage claim areas – both Schengen and International sides

Club Lounges

  • All club lounges have baby-changing facilities.

There is also a baby-changing room at Terminal 1, in the Cap Ferrat Lounge.


The airport’s restaurants are family-friendly and offer children’s menus, colouring sets and high chairs.

Try La Niçarda (Terminal 1) or Le Badiane (Terminal 2).

La Niçarda, Terminal 1, Nice Airport (image:

La Niçarda, Terminal 1, Nice Airport (image:

There is also Quick onsite, a burger chain who offer play areas, but no special children’s menus.

Nice Airport is undergoing major renovations so I will update this post as I trial the restaurants.


Baggage trolleys at Nice Airport are coin-accessible – you will need a 1€ coin to unlock them (refundable when you return them).

Please note:  There are change machines at the baggage claim area of Terminal 1, and at the arrivals and departures level at Terminal 2 HOWEVER there is no money change machine for notes in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2 so you will need a 1€ coin!

A porter service with Azur Porters is available (you can request a luggage porter at the Information desk, or find one in the check-in or baggage claim zones).  They charge 3€ per piece of luggage.

Information for passengers with reduced mobility

To ensure you receive the assistance you need, inform your travel agent or airline your requirements at least 48 hours before departure.  When you are at Nice Airport, go to an Information desk at the terminal, or call for assistance from the blue kiosks outside.  Note: You must arrive at least 2 hours early if you require assistance from the kiosks outside to inside the terminal.

  • Reserved carparking spaces are in the carpark areas, with elevator access to the terminals.
  • The free shuttles operating between terminals have automated ramps to allow wheelchair access.
  • Almost all of the toilet facilities at Nice Airport are wheelchair accessible.
  • In Terminal 1, low-level telephones are located in the arrivals and departures areas, and international boarding lounge.  In Terminal 2, these phone booths are at the arrival hall, departure hall, international boarding lounge and check-in area.