In this guide we describe how to mail a letter in France, the types of letters and mailing a letter from your computer.
Types of letters
There are different stamps (“timbres”) available for mail service in France. Officially called Marianne stamps (“timbres Marianne”). You can either purchase the stamp and place it on the front of any envelope you have, or buy an envelope that has the stamp already printed on the face (more expensive). For a list of stamp prices you can refer to La Poste directly.
Red stamp (“timbre rouge”) – First class
If you need a letter to arrive within one to two days and weighs less than 20g.
Green stamp (“timbre vert”) – Second class
If you don’t have a letter with time sensitivity and are ok with it arriving in two to three days. It must also weigh less than 20g
Blue stamp (“timbre bleu”) – Countries in the EU outside France
If you wish to mail a letter to another country in the EU and Switzerland.
Purple stamp (“timbre Violet “) – Countries in the EU outside France
If you wish to mail a letter to another country outside of Europe.
At the post office
At the post office, you can buy stamps or envelopes from an employee or use a self-service coin-operated machine which weighs letters and issues postage labels (vignettes d’affranchissement) which can be used instead of stamps. The machines offer an English-language interface also.
From your computer
You can also send a letter from your computer using La Poste’s online service “Envoyer une lettre en ligne”. You can use the Post Office’s letter templates or upload your own document. The Post Office will send the letter on your behalf. This can be helpful if a company has requested you mail them a document and you are not able to access a printer or post office.
By registered mail
Different kinds of registered letters
There are two types of registered letters (“lettres recommandées”) in France: with or without acknowledgement of receipt.
Acknowledgement of receipt (“avec accusé de réception”)
This form of registered mail gives the sender proof that the recipient has received the letter – as they must sign for it. This proof of acknowledgement of receipt is then mailed to the original sender, and it is yellow in color. This option is a little bit more expensive.
Without acknowledgement of receipt (sans accusé de réception)
Registered mail without acknowledgement of receipt is blue in color, and it gives the same guarantee that a letter has been sent as one “with reception” but it does not give the sender an “acknowledgement of receipt” in turn. The recipient still must sign for it.