Before I go anywhere, I always look up travel tips. I believe it’s important to avoid certain cultural faux pas if possible. Also, by learning travel tips, you are ensuring your trip will go much smoother. After spending the week in Paris, here is what I learned:
ESSENTIAL PARIS TRAVEL TIPS
- If you plan on taking the metro many times (over 10x), purchase a Navigo Easy card (€2). It is a reloadable MetroCard that can be used in place of the paper ticket kind.
- If you plan on taking the metro only a handful of times, purchase a carnet, or 10 metro tickets (€14.90)
- Keep your metro ticket until you’ve exited the metro system at your final destination because the police might be checking your tickets inside the station.
- On many metro lines, the doors to the train do not open unless you press a button or lift a handle.
- Paris is best seen on foot, so when planning out your trip, try to group activities that are close together or within walking distance on the same day.
- To cover more ground, consider downloading a scooter app, such as Lime, to help you get around.
- France’s 911 is 112
- Beware of pickpockets in crowded areas or areas where tourists frequent – Louvre, Montmartre, Eiffel Tower, etc.
- Ignore young people trying to get you to sign petitions, look at their rings, etc. Just smile, politely decline, and walk away if they try to engage you in a conversation.
- The best bag to use is one that has a zipper and that you can keep under your arms (tote). If you choose to wear a backpack, just make sure to keep it in front of you in crowded areas.
- Avoid areas with protests
Exploring, Dining, and Shopping
- Book all tickets well in advance so you can “skip-the-line”. They have timed tickets so you have to show up within a time slot. It does require a bit of planning but will save you a lot of time not waiting in a queue.
- Parisians tend to eat dinner around 8 or 9:00 PM. Many good restaurants won’t be open until 7:30ish PM, as they close between lunchtime and dinnertime.
- Tipping is not necessary, 5-10% for exceptional service
- Expect Sunday closures
- If you make a purchase of over €175.01, you qualify for a VAT (tax) refund. Make sure you have your passport on you so you can fill out the form properly at the store.
- There are many free walking tours in Paris that have a tip option at the end of the tour. It’s a great way to explore an area if you haven’t done a lot of research on it.
- Plan your bathroom breaks around your activities. Free restrooms are practically nonexistent. Plan on going to the restroom every time you visit a museum, gallery, restaurant, etc.
- There are crepe carts stationed around the city. They typically run about €5. It’s a really fast and tasty grab and go snack.
Another thing I learned is that there is a common misconception that Parisians are snooty or don’t like it when foreigners attempt to speak French. During my week there, I found that to be simply not true. I just learned a handful of sentences that can get me what I want or where I’m going, and when all fails, I ask “Parlez-vous Anglais (do you speak English)”?
Also, this goes without saying, but just being polite and saying “bonjour” to shopkeepers or employees when you enter a store and add “S’il vous plaît” to the end of requests will get you very far in terms of superior customer service. Be kind, and try to meet them partway.
ESSENTIAL FRENCH PHRASES
|Bonjour / Bonsoir||Hello / Good evening|
|Comment allez-vous?||How are you?|
|S’il vous plaît||Please|
|Merci beaucoup||Thanks a lot|
|Parlez-vous Anglais||Do you speak English?|
|Je ne comprends pas||I don’t understand|
|Où est ____?||Where is ____?|
|Je voudrais un billet aller simple/retour pour ______||I would like a one-way/roundtrip ticket for _____|
|C’est combien?||How much is it?|
|La carte||The menu|
|Une table pour deux||Table for two|
|Une carafe d’eau||A carafe of water|
|Puis-je avoir celui-ci||Can I have this one|