Paris is truly one of the most stunning places I have ever been to. The perfectly manicured streets, the Haussmannien architecture, the smell of fresh breads, the sight of boulangeries at every corner, the beautiful alleys and how sometimes, you could see the top of Eiffel tower perched from behind the buildings so beautifully. It is no secret as to why I love Paris so much. Even so, there are some things you should know before going to Paris and they aren’t always as pretty as the pictures you see.
#1 Learn a few words in French
They say, French people can be rude, perhaps so, but I am grateful that we have yet to encounter any despite being here for the second time. But to think of it again, aren’t everywhere else is the same?
Although, I cannot emphasise the importance of knowing a bit of French enough. Here’s a thing, imagine going to foreign places and expecting them to speak your language? That isn’t quite right. You don’t have to be fluent per se, but a simple “bonjour” “merci” and “Désolée/ (sorry)” “Pardon” “S’il vous plaît/ S-il-vu-plei (Please)” could go a long way! Even better, try to learn to order in French, and ask directions in French, they will happily speak in English if they see your struggle. Also, “Parlez-vous Anglais/pahg-lei-vu-ang-lei?” (Do you speak English?) can come in handy.
#2 Be generous with your “bonjour” and “merci”
Every time you enter a shop, (In fact, every time you enter ANY shop) it is important for you to greet them with a smile or say “Bonjour/Hello”. It’s rude not to. And say “merci” when you leave. Otherwise, you can’t blame them for throwing you “the look”.
#3 Beware of scams and pickpockets
I am sure you have heard of many many stories of someone you know, someone you know that knows someone, someone you know that knows someone that knows someone who had gotten pickpocketed or scammed in Paris. Unfortunately, it is not something unusual. This is the place where it is okay for you to not be that compassionate person you are. When people hand in something to you, like roses, or surveys, gold/silver rings or anything really, please keep your hands away from them and to yourself and just walk pass them as quickly as you can. Once the item is in your hand, they’ll ask for some money in return. My brother fell for the rose scam. He thought, for some twisted reason that the man was just being “nice”…………………In what world.
When you are in a crowded area, or public spaces, or in a train station or in a train, please be extra vigilant. Do not keep your wallet at the back of your jeans (You might as well just hand your wallet to them), do not use the handbag that has no zip and stay focused (which means, put away your phone). They are very professional thieves it’s terrifying. And often, they work in groups. Someone will try to distract you by pushing you, or blocking your way, or falling down in front of you like some telenovela scene going on and the next thing you know, your money pouch is gone. So please be aware of your surrounding and do not trust anybody.
Otherwise, don’t overthink so much! If possible, do not put all the cash you have in one place and leave some in your hotel room, or in your underwear, somewhere safe. Just in case. Hey, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
#4 The restaurants at the tourist areas can be really expensive
If you are travelling on a budget, the best way for you to keep yourself full in between meals is to buy their croissants and baguettes. Trust me, even if you’re not on a budget, it should be a crime to come to France and not eat their breads. It is the best! Don’t buy them from the supermarkets or any big chain stores, instead, go to their local boulangerie or patisserie for fresh goodness and you can have a picnic at one of their beautiful gardens or sit on any bench whilst relishing the view.
Tips : if you really want to cut some cost, bring maggi. Every time we dine out in Paris or anywhere else in Europe, it will cost us at least 45 euro and because I like to convert the money, it pains me every.single.time.
#5 Try to avoid travelling during the high seasons especially in the summer
It is not just about the crowd but it is about your bank account too. Travelling during high seasons means you will have to pay more for your accommodation, flight, etc. Also, it also means standing for hours in a line to enter the museums. The queue to enter Versailles or the Louvre could take up to three hours during the high seasons. It’s best to buy tickets early through their website to skip the line.
A little tip: If you have no choice and you’d like to avoid the crowd, try to go out a little after sunrise or a little before sunset. That is the best time for you to really get to know the city (and take pretty pictures) without the crowd.
#6 Take the metro
The metro is a pretty convenient and cheap way to get around. It is easy too once you get a hang of it. You can download “google map” to see which line you should be taking to get to your destination.
I am sure safety is a concern but as long as you are vigilant and you have taken safety precautions (praying really hard helps too), you’re good to go. Some days, I opted to just take long walks because that is how I stumbled into hidden gems. It is not entirely about getting from one destination to another, it’s about the journey itself. Taxis can be really expensive. On some occasions, we had taken Uber but from our experience, Uber can be expensive too!
I wasn’t sure if it was a scam but we had taken an Uber from our place (Rue Chambiges) to Notre Dame for about 17.80 Euro. We thought, we could cut the cost by cutting the distance by walking only to be surprised that instead, we were charged 28 Euro to return. Avoid Uber and taxi, and stick to metros.
#7 Don’t throw away your metro ticket!
When using the metro, you will most likely need to switch trains and one ticket is all you need to get you to your destination and you are allowed to switch to as many lines as possible within a certain time frame. It is important to keep the ticket until you exit the station, otherwise, you’ll get fined. However, if you happened to exit the metro, you will have to purchase a new ticket and there is no way you could reenter with the original ticket. One ticket T+, which allows you to use not only every subway line but also RER lines in Zone 1, bus lines, tramway and the funicular in Montmartre, costs you 1.90 Euro. The “SORTIR” sign means “EXIT” so do not exit until you have reached your destination.
To save money, you can purchase a “Carnet” ( a book of 10 tickets) instead of single journey tickets that will cost you 16 Euro. You can purchase the tickets from the machines at the station.
#8 Avoid going in August
This is the time where Parisians would go on vacation so most of the shops and restaurants will be closed. My driver said, “This is the time where we say BYE BYE TOURISTS!”
#9 Wear comfy shoes.
You will be doing a lot of walking so protect your feet at all cost! Paris is best to explore on foot.
#10 Public toilets are hard to find. Only restaurants/shops have it.
That’s a thing about France. In order for you to pee, you might have to buy a cup of coffee to use their toilets or pay 0.50 euro for their public toilets (Which is hard to find and often, incredible unhygienic)
#11 The best view isn’t from the Eiffel tower
Truthfully, i don’t see the point of paying so much to go all the way up just to get a view of Paris. The Eiffel tower is the view of Paris. But if you are willing to queue and pay for it, then by all means. If that’s the case, purchase online before you go to avoid the queue.
#12 If you are in no hurry stay on your right.
People are always in hurry in Paris, catching from one train to another, it’s like the kind of pace that you’d see in movies. Men in suits, stylish women with coffee in their hands — so if you are in no rush, stay on your right side when you are standing on the escalator, when you’re walking, etc.
#13 Ask for the bill or it won’t come
It is unsurprising to see locals taking their own sweet time in a coffee shop for hours even after they’ve finished their meals. French waiters won’t give you the bill to hustle you out of the door once you’ve finished. So, when you need the bill, simply say “L’addition, s’il vous plaît / La-di-si-ong, s-il-vu-plei”.
#14 Stay in central location
Paris is best to be explored on foot. So find the right location. Otherwise, you will be spending so much on the transportation and the fact that much time are being squandered. When travelling, every second counts. I had a wonderful opportunity to stay in Rue Chambiges, situated just behind the famous Plaza Athénee which is perfect for me to take a walk to the Eiffel, to Pont Alexandre III, to Champs Elysées.
#15 Buy your tickets online before your trip to save time
During high seasons, the line could stretch for hours and i am not kidding. As mentioned before, the lines to enter the Versailles could take up to three hours. It is important to buy the ticket online to save some time.
#16 Go out early in the morning
Paris is best seen when the crowd is little to none. I hated going to Trocadero or anywhere near Eiffel because of the amount of people there. It is impossible to enjoy Paris when you constantly have to squeeze yourself in between people. Wake up during or a little after sunrise to explore the city and believe me, it is worth it!
#17 The weather in Paris can be unpredictable
We thought it was going to be hot since it is summer only to be proven wrong once once we walked out of the airport and felt the cool breeze. When it rains, the temperature will drop too even in the summer. At night, it could drop to 13 Celsius and while it was lovely, i was so glad i had my sweater to keep me warm. So pack yourself a light jacket even when you are travelling in the summer.
#18 Travel light
It is almost impossible for me to travel light but i must admit, travelling with a huge bag can be a nuisance if you are planning to use the metro. The stations don’t usually have escalators, only stairs and therefore, you might have to carry your luggage up and down the stairs. If you could spare some money for the cab/uber when you have your luggage with you, it’s best to do so. Otherwise, get a boyfriend with six packs and huge muscles. To think of it, just get one anyway.