17 Things I can do in France that I can’t in the USA

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

Things I can do in France that I can't in the USA

Everyone says that the USA is the land of opportunity… but not for everything! Here’s a list of things I can do in France that I can’t in the USA.

GO!

 

Things I can do in France that I can’t in the USA:

  1. Walk my small and well-behaved dog into a restaurant and dine with her under the table without anyone batting an eye. In many cases, the waiter will even bring her a bowl of water! (If waitstaff goes out of their way for your dog, definitely leave a small tip!) Dagny has eaten at outdoor cafes as well as Michelin-starred restaurants, and as long as your dog is quiet and calm, it’s rarely a problem.
  2. Go to an emergency veterinarian on a Sunday and leave with a bill that was only in the low 3 digits (for something that would be well over $1000 back home).
  3. Drink an open container of alcohol in plain view walking down the street without the fear of getting arrested. I have never attempted this since I like to get tipsy when I have the security of a chair and table to prop me up, but it’s 100% legal to drink on the street as long as you’re not sloppy, fall-down drunk.
  4. Get a perfectly decent bottle of wine at the grocery store for 3 euros. And get a wedge of Brie and a baguette for about the same amount.
  5. Join a gym without signing a lengthy legal waiver to protect them against lawsuits. Signing up for a gym membership was a quick and painless process. If I slip on the floor, it’s my problem — not theirs.
  6. Go to the doctor without filling out a clipboard full of paperwork beforehand. Healthcare in France is nothing like our system in the USA.
  7. Along with that, the ability to see a doctor without worrying about the bill. And have the doctor make a house call if you can’t get out of bed.
  8. Order a glass of wine at a work lunch without anyone batting an eye.
  9. Take off work for 3 weeks in the summer for vacation and still have a job to return to when you come back!
  10. Buy a Kinder Surprise Egg in the grocery store (they’re banned in the USA because they’re a choking hazard).
  11. Travel internationally by high-speed train.
  12. Drive on highways that don’t have potholes every 10 feet.
  13. Know the total price of your purchase upfront without having to do any math (the price you see on the ticket or menu is the price you pay).
  14. Go to Picard!
  15. Find mostly non-GMO produce in the supermarket.
  16. Find amazing baguettes everywhere!
  17. Graduate from university with no debt!

***

There are loads more. I’d love to hear your additions to my list!

Lou Messugo
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Comments (61)

    • Diane

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      Is that legal on every beach in France? I know in the US it’ll get you in trouble but in France I have to say I’ve only seen naked folks at a specific beach for the naturistes on the Atlantic Coast. Can you go topless anywhere?

      Reply

      • Lionel~

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        I don’t know if it’s legal or not, but i’ve seen often people doing it in different ‘normal’ beach.

        As long as you don’t show off to everyone, you will not get into troubles.
        Some parents or ‘oldschool’ person may do some protest from time to time ^^

        If you do it only for sunbathe while laying down, it will always be ok i think

        Reply

      • Mathieu

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        Hello !

        I’m a young French who just moved to the US. I’m trying to understand the “cultural gap” between our countries and I think your website more interesting for me than a French-expat one – and it’s written in English.

        Just to introduce myself. By the way your website is awesome !

        Answer of your funny question : you can go topless everywhere (at a beach only, not in a cemetry). However you have to be at naked beach areas if you want to be naked, and “vice-versa” (forbidden to get ANY clothes).

        Reply

        • Diane

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          Hi Mathieu, really appreciate the nice comment. I find it so interesting that French people like the site as well. I don’t know why I assumed it wouldn’t appeal to French people but am so glad it does!
          Where do you live in the USA? Everything going OK so far? And thank you for the info about going topless. That makes sense!

          Reply

          • Mathieu

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            I don’t know neither : thanks to this article, I learn 17 things I won’t be able to do in the US (3rd point will avoid me from troubles).

            I’ll work exactly in Rochester, NH (few non metric units North of Boston). I JUST moved to the US so it’s really too early to answer your question, I’ll start to work on Monday. I’m not worry about living here but I’m currently filling papers and looking for a home and a car… My experience won’t be very interesting before a few weeks.

            Reply

          • Diane

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            Very cool, well good luck on the new job and bon courage for your first day of work and finding an apartment and car. If you have/decide to start a blog, let me know the link. Thanks again for stopping by! 😉

            Reply

      • Susie

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        The answer to sunbathing topless is the same as England and Italy – of course you can- love USA but they have strange ideas!

        Reply

        • Diane

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          It’s only strange if it’s not what you’re used to!

          Reply

    • Mary Zech

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      I don’t know if they do it on every beach, but I did see topless people on beaches in Nice and Biarritz, and I did it in Biarritz! I just closed my eyes and took my top off, but it did feel strange!

      Reply

      • Diane

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        But we may end up spending more on sunscreen to lather up that exposed skin!

        Reply

  • Taste of France

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    Yes to those. Though on the gym membership–you have to go to the doctor for a certifcate medicale, which is a different kind of hassle.
    As for the beaches, I’ve seen topless women all over the place. Including at resort swimming pools. Naturist beaches are for taking off bottoms–for men and women. But at the Mediterranean beaches I’ve been to, and that’s lots of them as we’re in the region, there are topless women, young to quite old and sagging, lying around, walking around, and nobody bats an eye.
    Taste of France recently posted…In the woodsMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Your gym required a medical certificate? Oh man, they are serious! Nothing like that out here at my gym! You just sign something that says you’re physically able to hold a membership and that was that!
      Love the beaches!! I gawk as much as the pervy guys!

      Reply

  • Melissa Bauernfeind

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    Yes to ALLl of these.. I miss France, even more so when I just opened up my doctor bill & I haven’t met my deductible yet. It was a specialty visit – my bill is $1230. I must pay it all until I meet my $3000 deductible. Ugh.

    Reply

    • Ella Dyer

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      Where to begin….enjoy hearing and trying to speak the beautiful French language!

      Reply

      • Diane

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        Well yes, hearing French every day, that’s a given! 😉 Thx for checking out the post!

        Reply

    • Diane

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      The deductible nonsense is a real pain in the ass and I don’t miss that for a bit. Lucky that yours is *only* $3k. A friend’s was $6k and he had emergency tonsil surgery after getting a horrible infection and the surgery was over 20K. He had to come up with $6k (and still they only paid 80% of the remaining cost) before they’d pay anything and it killed him financially. I’m so sorry for the huge bill. ;-( France’s medical system is far from perfect but at least no one has to choose between putting food on the table and their healthcare costs. Ughhhhhh

      Reply

  • M. Haley

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    17. Graduate from university with no debt!

    Wow. Grown-ups understand that one gets what one pays for…

    But it is probably “good” that university educations in FR cost nothing– because there are no jobs waiting for those who finally do graduate.

    My comments are excepted for those who attend the Grandes Ecoles however– their roads after graduation are paved with gold; which raises a whole different set of questions regarding the elitist nature of French culture in general.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      That’s an interesting comment. You think that education in the USA is far superior — across the board — to education in France? And that tuition of 40k/year for a private college in the USA is worth it and normal? I have a friend who went to a Grande Ecole for pretty much no money (full scholarship based on his smarts) and he works for a top bank now — worked extremely hard to get where he is. Which brings me to the point of how a lot of factors influence one’s overall experience in higher education. The school choice, the course of study, professors and one’s personal drive and effort in being a good student contribute to the end result. Paying a lot of money doesn’t automatically equal a great education. Similarly, a free education doesn’t equal a great one either. But what doesn’t help anyone is being a 22-year-old with debt that will take you 20 years to pay off!

      Anyway, I would love to get your insight into education if you went to school in both countries. Genuinely curious… and also I don’t think the job market is doing particularly great in either country right now.

      Reply

      • Earl Birdy

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        Yes, Diane! Thank you for your answer, it’s perfect, I have nothing to add!

        Reply

    • Earl Birdy

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      Ah, yes, I see. If there are no jobs there is no point getting an education.
      :-O

      Reply

  • MaryZ

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    What about smoking wherever you want? Do they still do that? In restaurants, etc. It’s banned almost everywhere in the U.S. I’m not a smoker, so it doesn’t bother me, and I enjoy not breathing so much smoke in clubs and restaurants and not going home smelling like an ashtray.

    Reply

    • Karine

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      It’s banned to smoke in restaurants and clubs in France also (except outside).

      I love all that points! I will be soon in France 😀 😀
      We called our health insurance a day in the US, we asked if a care (normal care not for dental or optic or “exotic care”) is reimburse or not (we had the “health code” related to this care), they answered “we don’t know”… ok so if my health insurance doesn’t know if I will be covered or not, how can I know???
      Karine recently posted…Match de Hockey sur glace en NFL : les Sharks!My Profile

      Reply

      • Diane

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        That’s the problem! There are so many plans with so many rules that even the companies who manage the plans can never be sure of the answer. I always got everything in writing so that if they denied a claim they previously OK’d for me on the phone, I’d have proof. So confusing! I hope they figured out an answer for you!

        Reply

    • Diane

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      Smoking isn’t allowed in restaurants or indoors really anywhere. Amen for that. Can’t stand the ashtray smell either so very happy about that legislation. Outside at cafes though you can smoke and even though it’s outdoors, the tables are often close enough where if the person next to you is smoking, you’ll be breathing it in too.

      Reply

  • Emily

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    Swear and not get in trouble. The equivalent english swear words just wouldn’t pass in business situations or in front of family/friends with a Christian upbringing. Even our aunt who is a nun says “on mon Dieu” all the time. I could never say “oh my God” – imagine if I was a nun saying it! People say merde on the phone in business context. Even the lady today at Pole Emploi said it in front of me. I really don’t think that would pass in a US office.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yeah, I must agree that swearing is much more relaxed in France. I won’t say it’s more common because people curse everywhere — but I hear merde and putain in situations where that would NOT be cool in the USA. Like instructors at the gym, in professional contexts, on news programs, etc. I wrote more about French swears in casual speech here: http://ouiinfrance.com/2015/08/31/do-or-dont-the-use-of-putain-in-casual-speech/

      Reply

  • Laura@ladolcevitaculinary.com

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    I love France and have been many times. But when you say graduate with no debt and go to the doctor without worring about the bill, remember that you ARE paying. The taxes in France and Canada are killer. We get a lot of people immigragting from Canada because the cost of living is so so high. My husband had his retina detach while we were in Canada and they would not accept his U.S. insurance and they would not treat him nor see him without him paying up front. They would not do that in the U.S. I am a realist when it comes to socialized medicine, and although ours could be better, nothing is free.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Laura, yes absolutely you’re 100% correct. You’ll notice I was careful to not say the word “free.” Because as you said, we are paying. But if you’re making a normal salary by French standards, the taxes actually aren’t that much. It’s the social charges that are high. In the USA, we pay taxes and charges as well and then have to seek out health insurance on top of that (which can be quite expensive) so of course there are pros and cons to both systems and nothing is perfect. C’est la vie. I guess the most important thing is to weigh the pros and cons and then live somewhere that makes sense to you and is in accordance with what’s important in your life. Thanks so much for commenting — and I hope your husband was able to get the treatment he needed and that his eye is OK now! 😉

      Reply

      • AngloinFrance

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        I agree with your comments here. I’d heard about how crazy high French taxes are, but once I backed out my payments for health insurance, the amount I save every month to ensure I can meet my “max out of pocket” without going bankrupt, US social taxes, the extra amount to my 401k since US social security is basically poverty level . . . I was surprised to find that it really wasn’t as big of a difference as I’d expected. I’ll take slightly less net pay for the huge amount of paid holiday I get as well!

        Reply

    • emma

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      thanks for highlighting this. income tax and tax on things you buy are very low in the US. When a friend came over he bought lots of electronic equipment, such as hardware, because they are so cheap.
      even grocery is so much cheaper.
      all public libraries are free (the card is paid by your taxes), you can check out TONS of things, they offer amazing choice, plus you can download ebooks, audiobooks, movies from your library website online. I am appalled by the small sizes of many public libraries in France, and what little they can offer.
      I also like that staff in shops are very friendly (I’m in the Midwest, it may be different in other areas of the US), so different from the experience I used to have in France, as a French person. I always felt I was bothering sellers.
      And also that people I don’t know still say hello on the street – I had not experienced this in France for a long time
      emma recently posted…Book review: The Rare Earth ExchangeMy Profile

      Reply

  • Jo-Anne

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    You can do, 6,7,8,8,10, 12 & 13 here in Aus as well, although all countries have good and bad points.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yup, very true. Nowhere is perfect!

      Reply

  • Isa

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    Hi Diane!
    It’s not legal to drink alcohol in all public places though. You definitely can’t in public parks or certain places. It depends on the municipalities. Most of the time, you won’t get any problems apart from having to put away your bottle if asked, but it did happen to me.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh ok, good to know, thank you! I know that in most public places you don’t have to conceal your beer. Or cops just ignore it as long as you’re not sloppy drunk.

      Reply

  • Lillian @ The Smalls Abroad

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    I did not know Kinder Surprise was banned in the US. I’ll have to google that.

    Also I’d add, having a doctor come to your house on a Sunday night (SOS Medicin) for a measly 60 euros.

    About the waiver, I do appreciate that. But I don’t appreciate having to get a doctor’s note every time I was to run in a race or do some kind of physical activity.
    Lillian @ The Smalls Abroad recently posted…See My Paris: rue CrémieuxMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yes, house calls are great! Are you saying that events in France — or back home in Canada — have requested a doctor’s note? That’s annoying!

      Reply

  • Cao

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    So true Diane. Since I’ve been in the US, I came to a personal conclusion.

    In France time is maybe more valued there compared to money (more vacations). Health is more considered as a common right and it’s not a service like any other. It has a cost but I think the burden is shared with the healthy, the wealthy and the young. Education is less expensive to the students. Maybe it is more subsidised by the people and the companies?
    Maybe the one I did not see in your list is retirement. Today’s workers pay for today’s retirees. It’s not without a problem when young people cannot find a job and retirees live longer. It is probably not sustainable if nothing changes. I guess that’s why we have to work longer.

    I feel that in France you may earn less and pay more taxes than in the US, especially if you make more money, but then I feel that you are more covered and you worry less about health, education and retirement. In the US, you earn more and you are more free to use your money the way you want but if you care about these 3 topics, it’possible that it costs you more than in France. It is true that having these 3 topics handled by the goverment (or central unique agencies) come with some bureaucracy inefficiency but it can also come to an overall cheaper cost because there is less marketting cost, no capital to retribute, economy of scale…

    Now, I made the choice to stay in the US for now so you can tell that there are things that I prefer in the us, for now. But I write already too much on your site.

    Thanks for another great post Diane

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hello! After living in France for a bit, I have to say I agree with your personal conclusion — that in France time is more valued than money, and healthcare is a common right, as it should be. But this is a huge topic and extremely controversial, especially with the US elections coming up. I wonder if you’ve gotten into any arguments with Americans about this?
      I don’t think there’s any one perfect system but I have to say that not worrying about medical bills is a definite perk! There’s a lot to say on this topic and I don’t want to write a book in the reply to your comment, but I always appreciate your point of view, so thank you again!

      Reply

      • Cao

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        When I talk about the healthcare system in France, I usually have 2 types of reactions.
        They wonder if you get good care in France and if you don’t wait too long for an appointment. They usually don’t know that life expectancy is longer in France. They don’t know you can have a doctor coming to your house the day you call. But it’s true that with some specialists, you sometime have to take an appointment several month in advance.
        The other comment I usually have is that they don’t want to pay for people who make bad health choice. It’s the question of the accountability which I think is important for the American people.
        Sanders is often refering to the healthcare system in Europe. Since I lived most of my life in France, I don’t think it’s such a radical idea. I’d be happy if it could get closer to that system here in the US. I would worry less for the health of my family. And overall, I have the feeling that it would cost less for the entire society. But it would probably cost more for some. Big debate!

        Reply

  • fiona

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    Some of these are why I love France so much!
    I didn’t know Kinder Eggs were banned in the US…crikey another Nanny State like the UK. (although they are not banned here…yet!)

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yes, there’s conflicting info on the internet about if they were banned but now are not or if they are still banned. I don’t know how strict US customs is about it but probably not going to risk it by trying to bring one to the US. Seems silly though for a little chocolate candy/toy!

      Reply

  • Geri Metz

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    Great article and comments. Thanks for what you do.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thank you for taking the time to read the post! 😉

      Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks Marina! Is tipping in Canada like it is in the US? 20% on a restaurant bill? It sure is easier in France. So glad you liked the post 😉

      Reply

    • Diane

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      I really, really love that place. My favorites change all the time. Right now they have these really good fish sticks I’m craving… I find the quality to be great overall. I’m there once a week!

      Reply

  • Katherine

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    Brilliant comparisons! I’m from the UK, now live in France, but one day hope to live in the US! Found you via #AllAboutFrance
    Katherine recently posted…Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)My Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks so much!

      Reply

  • Girl Gone Gallic

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    I was told that Kinder Eggs were banned because of the toy inside not being suitable for small children. However, the ban has been lifted much to the delight of my (teenage) son who loves them! Brought some back on my last trip…

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yup, that’s exactly right. The “surprise” inside the egg is a choking hazard and violated section 402(d) of the Federal, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.. I had no idea the ban was lifted and didn’t find any information to that effect when I was researching for this piece. Articles from several months ago still spoke of the ban so thank you for the update!

      Reply

  • Becky Brown

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    That’s funny because I think there is so much more paperwork here in France than where we used to live in the UK. But I guess all systems are different and I’m glad it seems easier and more relaxed for you here! #allaboutfrance
    Becky Brown recently posted…Book A Month – January/FebruaryMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh there’s a ton of paperwork in France for things like the carte de sejour and anything bureaucracy related. So. Many. Photocopies. But for doctors’ visits and the gym? That was easy. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

  • gigi

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    Hi! I’m an expat in France too, but with an American husband. Although I have no idea what a Kinder Surprise Egg is and have never been in a Picard, I do agree with everything else you wrote! True enough! Great post– I enjoyed it! Merci-
    gigi recently posted…Have a Lovely Sunday! 8-28-16My Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      You have to go to Picard! Best place ever!

      Reply

  • Yvonne

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    Eat at McDonald’s 3 + times a week and STILL LOSE WEIGHT !!!! I lived there a year and dropped 30 + lbs eating pizza, Chinese buffet, wine, beer ,bread, croissants, cheese, pastries and McDoo’s . No, I did not change my diet, exercise, or anything. French food-even fast food- is not made of chemicals, fat, and other crap. It is just better -purer food. Also, they still use cane sugar not corn syrup or fructose like the US does to sweeten things like cookies candies and sodas. Maybe it’s just me-but I have put those pounds back on and then some since returning.

    Reply

  • Shirlee Fassell

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    Will be going to Paris this year and always looking for different places to visit

    Reply

  • Connie

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    To go between Paris and Rennes the toll is more than 25euros because I used to take blablacar every other weekend. So apparently the tolls are crazy expensive everywhere haha. I’m from Kentucky and have only ever paid a toll on the US is when I drove through Kansas on my way to Colorado.

    Reply

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