Pharmacies in France are much more specialized than drugstores in North America. You won’t find chips and sodas, nor coloring books and wrapping paper. What you will find are qualified health care professionals, capable of filling a prescription or even a preliminary assessment of your medical problem. If your problem is serious and beyond their expertise, they can often refer you to an appropriate physician. Be forewarned, however, that if you go in with a head cold or a mild flu, you’re probably going to come out with at least four products. It’s not a sales pitch; it’s just how they roll.
When the neon sign is illuminated, that means the pharmacie is open. If it’s blue as well as green, that means that it serves animals as well as humans. If the neon is not on, check the sign on the door which will direct you to the nearest open pharmacy.
Many medications that Americans are used to being able to purchase over the counter medications in relatively large quantities (ibuprofen, for example) are only available by asking directly and then usually only in a quantity for your complaint. On the other hand, most medications (prescription and non) are typically much cheaper than you would find in the U.S. And if you have kids and they need shots, you will get a prescription from your family doctor or pediatrician for the vaccine. Go to the pharmacie, pick it up, and return to your doctor for it to be administered.
If you’re in desperate need of a location where English is spoken or for a location open 24 hours a day (24/24 in French parlance), check out the listings on Heather Stimmler-Hall’s post on this topic on her blog, Secrets of Paris.