I would make the joke that La Poste put the snail into snail mail, but I actually find the French postal service surprisingly quick and reliable. You can send letters or packages, purchase books of stamps (you’ll need to ask to look at the fancy ones or you’ll get the generic “Marianne” stamps), or even pre-stamped mailing envelopes and boxes by weight, size and destination (for France, Europe, or “Monde” for international shipping). The post office also sells commemorative coins from the Paris Mint (Monnaie de Paris), UNICEF holiday cards in December, and mobile phones (along with mobile phone service packages).
Many of the operations can be conducted at the automated kiosks at the post offices with a credit card, but when in doubt do ask the friendly workers who are usually quite helpful. Note that a lot of the services can be done online now to help you avoid needing to go to the post office at all: buying and printing out your own stamps, sending registered letters, calculating and paying for package shipments, and even having envelopes, stamps and other packaging delivered to you. Unfortunately their website is only in French, so use a reliable auto-translator if needed.
To find a post office (usually designated by PTT on maps), look for the yellow La Poste signs. There’s one in every neighborhood. The Main Post Office (52 Rue du Louvre, 1st M° Louvre-Rivoli, Tel 01 40 28 20 00) is open Monday-Saturday 8am-midnight and Sunday 10am-midnight. The others are usually open weekdays anywhere from 8am to 10am and close 6pm to 7pm and Saturday mornings until 1pm, but this varies by location so do check the hours online: https://localiser.laposte.fr/paris.
In France the post office is also a bank (La Banque Postale), so make sure you go to the right window when visiting a physical post office, especially if there’s a line. Envoi De Lettres Et Paquets or Toutes Opérations. You can also get basic stamps (timbres) at Tabacs (tobacco shops or cafés with a red, diamond-shaped sign).
Choosing Your Stamps
Stamps are called timbres, and they are either the generic “Marianne” stamps with the symbolic face of the French Republic, or limited edition and collector’s stamps, poetically known as beaux timbres, that could have any number of themes, from French monuments and regional food specialties to special occasions like Valentine’s Day or the death of Queen Elisabeth II of England. Without specifying, you’ll likely get a Marianne stamp, so if you want something cute do ask to see which beaux timbres they have available at the counter or go online for the largest selection.
Postage for letters, documents, and small packages less than 3cm thick (as of 2022):
- From €1.14 for an Ecopli gray stamp for 20g, approximately 4 days for delivery within France
- From €1.16 for a lettre verte (green stamp) for 20g for 3-day delivery within France (€1.13 if printed at home)
- From €1.49 for a red lettre prioritaire stamp for 20g for one-day delivery within France (€1.39 if printed at home); e-letters sent online, which La Poste prints and delivers the next day in France are €1.49 for up to 3 pages.
- From €2.95 for a turquoise lettre service plus stamp for 20g for two-day delivery within France, which can be picked up in your mailbox and SMS notification when delivered.
- From €1.80 for the violet international priority stamps for 20g (€1.75 if printed at home) including post cards
These rates all go up progressively if your letter/package weighs 100g, 250g, 500 g, or 2 kilos, as long as it’s no more than 3cm thick; see the latest rates here.
Tip: If you have any old stamps that say “Internationale”, they are valid indefinitely if they don’t have the amount printed on them (and you will have saved a bunch of euros if you purchased them before the pandemic when they were still €1.40).
The rates for tracked (suivie) and/or registered (recommandée) letters start at €2.95 for delivery within France (the turquoise Services Plus stamp) and €4.55 for international delivery, with insurance possible for lost letters.
Sending Packages at La Poste
Colissimo is the least expensive parcel service for La Poste for any packages more than 3cm thick or weighing more than 3 kilos (2 kilos for international destinations). Within France, rates are from €4.25 for 250g up to €33.40 for 30 kilos, including tracking and proof of delivery with or without signature, taking about 2 days (not including Sundays/holidays). International shipping depends on the destinations, with a 2-kilo package costing €18.80 to the EU/UK or €45.20 to US/Canada. See Colissimo rates here.
The pre-paid Colissimo boxes (Prête à Envoyer) are quite a good deal if you can stuff enough things inside while keeping within the weight limit. You can send up to 3kg within France for €10, or within the EU for €21. For the US/Canada there are boxes for up to 7kg for €73. This isn’t the fastest service, with delivery “approximately” in 3-8 days (not including Sundays or holidays). If you need it to arrive the next day, you’re going to pay considerably more.
Next-Day International Shipping
Run by La Poste, send packages or documents overnight from any post office using special envelopes and boxes. The shipments can be tracked online.
23 Rue Feydeau, 2nd
Tel 01 55 35 30 30
63 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th
Tel 01 40 06 90 16
There are drop-off points all over Paris, but the only actual UPS boutiques are in the suburbs (St-Ouen and Charenton-le-Pont).
Tel 08 00 87 78 77
I have a friend who lives in France. I am in America. how can I buy him a gift of stamps to mail out letters or post cards? Or is there a gift card type option that I could buy him? Thanks Connie
As mentioned in the article, there’s an online boutique for La Poste selling stamps: https://www.laposte.fr/pp/c/beaux-timbres
I sent home two Colissimo packages from France to the US (California) last summer. The shipping process was easy – yes indeed, friendly and helpful postal workers! Both boxes arrived but wow, they were quite battered and I was surprised that they were still intact. I just sent home clothes and books that I did not need (two-month trip) and would do so again, but anything fragile will go home in my suitcase.
when mailing a letter, does the country/zip code go in front of the city?
In France, the zip code is usually before the city, but it will still arrive at its destination if you put the city first. 😉