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Can I open a boîte postale from outside France?

We would like to open a boîte postale in France as a temporary forwarding address to give to the Royal Mail in the UK as part of our move to France.  We know the town we want to be in but will be renting while we house-hunt in the area.  Do you have to actually visit a French post office to sign up for this? I tried to find out on the La Poste website but no luck.  R.L.

Opening a boîte postale does require you to have a French address. You have to open the boîte service at the local post office for the area where the home is situated and sign a contract for a subscription so this may not be well-suited to what you need.

Fortunately there is an alternative called poste restante which could work for you.

A boîte allows you to go and collect your mail at the post office when open and gives you a BP address that you can give to people, including for letters that have to be signed for and parcels.

You cannot have part of your mail sent to it and part to a physical address. It is one or the other, so if you open a boîte, mail addressed to your physical address will also go there.

As boîtes postales are particularly used by businesses, post offices reserve the right to refuse to open one for a member of the public. They also have the right to close a boîte postale that receives only a small amount of mail.

A La Poste spokeswoman said in reality boîtes postales are not widely used in France and are mostly for small businesses.

French people make much more use of poste restante, she said.

This is easy to use and does not require you to visit a French post office to set up. You simply establish a mail forwarding service in the UK with Royal Mail and give the destination address as Poste Restante and the address of the local post office you want to use.

If the post office receives mail it keeps it for 15 days and you can  collect it by presenting ID in the same name as the letters.

You pay per item collected: €1.05 for letters, 53 centimes for press and €4.20 for parcels.

There is no need to sign a contract to use this service.

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