In Paris, the post office, the ‘bureau de poste’ or ‘La Poste’ is also referred to as the PTT. The mailboxes are bright yellow. If you are dropping envelopes in a mailbox, there will often be a slot for local Paris mail and another slot for ‘everywhere else’.
A stamp is called ‘un timbre’.
If you go to the post office, be prepared to wait in a line. You also have the option of looking for the self service machine which is pretty easy to use. You place your envelope on the scale and then follow the options for whether you’re mailing the envelope within France or as an international delivery. The computer will calculate the price according to weight. Feed in your Euros and the machine will spew out your postage. The only negative about this system is that you don’t get to use a postage stamp, but who wants to waste a lot of time waiting in line?
Your other option is to go to a ‘tabac’ or a cafe-tabac that sells postage stamps. Nowadays even some of the souvenir shops will sell stamps to go with your postcards. Just make sure that you purchase a stamp that is good for overseas deliveries. Normally an overseas postcard costs almost as much as sending a letter.
Mail sent in France also has a zip code. The first two numbers represent the ‘departement’. In Paris’s case that would be 75. The last numbers represent the arrondissement.
If you are wondering why you’re waiting so long to buy a stamp at the post office, there are a number of reasons. First of all, people do many things aside from buying stamps at the post office. They do their banking. They pick up packages of course and they take out loans.
You will need the patience of Job to go to the post office, but do it at least once to practice your French in a bureaucratic situation.
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In spite of my great admiration for La Poste as an institution (see La Poste Culturally Speaking), this is not one of my favorite places to while away the day). If you’re just mailing postcards back home, do whatever you can to purchase your stamps either in a tabac, at your hotel, or at the souvenir shop rather than waste your time standing in line!
Post Office hours are generally from 9 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday and 9 am to noon on Saturday. However, due to a current strike in Paris (August 20, 2007) you may find post office services to be reduced on Mondays.
Post Offices are listed in the Paris telephone book
as Administration des PTT (Yellow Pages)
La Poste (White Pages)
Try to narrow your search down to a specific arrondissement because there are over 130 listings for post offices throughout Paris.) I’ve included a sample search link for you here.
Aside from mailing letters, in some post offices, you can also find photocopy machines, Minitels or internet access, and you can make change. (However as far as I know, you can’t exchange currencies).
If you choose to have mail sent to you under General Delivery or ‘poste restante’, be sure to have mail delivered with surname first in block letters. List the name of the town, i.e. Paris, and the postal code which should be the arrondissement where you plan on picking up your mail. You will need passport identification to pick up your mail. (I have never in my life used General Delivery mail service – so I don’t know how this actually works in actual practice.
Some Post offices in Paris:
PTT, 68,Rue Daguerre
PTT, 140,Blvd. Montparnasse
PTT, Rue de Rennes (across from FNAC)
PTT, Tour Montparnasse (2nd level across from the 2nd floor of Galeries Lafayette)
PTT, 52 rue du Louvre, 75001
Phone: 01.40.28.20.00; Métro: Louvre
PTT Paris Archives — 67, rue des Archives, 75003
PTT Hôtel de Ville — 9, place de l’Hôtel de Ville, 75004
PTT Paris Bastille — 12, rue Castex, 75004
PTT Paris Sorbonne — 13, rue Cujas, 75005
PTT Paris St-Germain-des-Prés — 53, rue de Rennes, 75006
PTT Paris Pigalle — 47, boulevard de Clichy, 75009
PTT Paris Champs-Elysées, 75008