14 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR FIRST PARIS ADVENTURE
Paris is in almost everybody’s bucket list. That might include you! Why else would you click, right? A wanderlust, a backpacker, a recent high school graduate, a die-hard romantic. No matter what you are, if you desire the ultimate Parisian experience, continue scrolling and reading. These are tips and guidelines that will surely be useful to you before boarding the train or airplane to Paris, France.
1. How To Get Around Town
Paris has different modes of transportation to get around, namely, Great Public Transit, via bike, a scooter, or get an Uber. Their public transportation or subway is what they call the Metro, suitable for short distances but has a lot of stops. The what they call the RER, on the other hand, has fewer stops but is useful for longer distances.
Paris also has public bikes and scooters you can get from one point within the city, after paying and then return to another designated point within the city. These bikes are found almost in every major intersection in Paris. Parisians offer and make use of these options because bikes and scooters don’t have to compete with other cars with all the traffic going on.
Uber is not cheap but if you are a tourist and you’ve been walking around town the whole day, sometimes you just want to sit in a car and be taken to your next destination.
2. Footwear Matters
Although you need some kind of vehicle to get you from one place to another, the best way to really see and feel Paris is by walking on foot. With this said, you have to wear comfortable shoes. I recommend wearing slip-on, fashionable enough sneakers, ankle boots or if you really want shoes that give height, wear wedges.
As you try to absorb the Parisian experience, try to just sit in a cafe and just observe the people and the streets. Paris is home to a lot of good cafes. Make time to just relax and see the view by yourself or even with whoever you are with. I assure you Paris streets and people would not bore you.
4. Outfit Matters, Too
Your outfit matters! As you know, Paris bears the reputation of being a place of fashion but I’m not saying you wear the fanciest clothes in your wardrobe but it matters to Parisians how you dress on the streets, or even just inside your home. The goal is to dress in a way that is not too casual but not too touristy, either.
You’ll avoid the minorly judgy “look” when you try to dress appropriately. Don’t wear gym clothes from head to toe, flip-flops and baseball caps with your favorite team on it. This could also help you to avoid incidents when fancy restaurants and establishments may turn you away for how you look and to not attract scammers and pickpocket incidents your way, which brings me to tip #4.
5. Stay Alert
Paris is known for scammers and pickpocketers victimizing tourists and even locals. The city is fairly safe to go to but just like any metro city, you are susceptible to people on the streets trying to snatch your belongings. I recommend you to keep an eye on where your bag zipper faces especially when you’re in the Metro (subway).
In restaurants, don’t ask for a menu in English because chances are some of the restaurants would charge higher for an “English” menu.
When you’re in the tourist spots in Paris, there are what we call “ring scammers” where a woman would yell “I found the ring!” and then she would a tourist the ring and when you take it, she would persist for something in return, giving you all sorts of reasons why you should give her money.
Beware of taking the wrong taxis. There are illegitimate taxis in train stations that would charge 8-10 times the metered price and if you are a first-timer, you are not familiar on how to differentiate the registered taxis from the scammer ones. Try to look for the queues of people. That would most likely be the line for taxis.
6. Even Your Bag Matters
The bag of choice for going out and about in Paris is a small cross-body bag. Avoid wearing backpacks. Aside from being a fashionable piece, cross-body bags can be situated in front of your body where you can constantly see it, unlike backpacks, thus avoiding an unfortunate theft.
7. So When?
The best time to book a trip to Paris is around spring and autumn. Do not go in June, July or August. These are the busiest months for Paris as it is packed with tourists. In August, almost everything is closed for the whole month because this is the time for the employees and students to have their vacation. They are normally off to Greece, Portugal or beaches. Even on Sundays, almost every restaurant and grocery shops are closed or operating for just a few hours, so make sure to do your groceries or shopping beforehand.
When you enter any shop, make sure to greet the owner or the shopkeeper “Bonjour/Bonsoir”. Otherwise, you may come off to them as rude and believe me, they will treat you differently.
9. Don’t Be Too Tourist
Whenever you try to have a conversation with a local, whether be in a store, a restaurant or on the streets to ask for help, start with a French greeting or phrase even if you don’t really speak conversational French. Just like with greeting the owner of the shop tip, you will have a polite impression to them and it’s just easy to help someone you seem to like, right? Most of these people know how to speak English, anyway and would eventually speak to you in English. Just be honest that you don’t really speak French.
10. French Basics
So what are these French words and phrases that might be helpful in starting a conversation? Let me supply you with the basics:
Bonjour/Bonsoir means Good day or Hello/Good evening
Merci means Thank you
Oui means Yes
Non means No
S’il vous plaît means Please
Excusez-moi means Excuse me (Can I get past?)
Pardon also means Excuse Me (Sorry)
Au Revoir means Bye
De Rien means You’re welcome
D’accord means Okay
Combien ça coûte? means How much does it cost?
Parlez vous anglais? means Do you speak English?
Je ne parle pas francais means I don’t speak French (at all)
11. Late Supper
You might be surprised at how late French people eat dinner. It is not uncommon for them to have their dinner at 8 P.M. and so the restaurants are open for serving dinner at around 7 to 7:30 P.M. If you are already starving before that, you can grab quick and light snacks at their grocery stores.
If you travel a lot, you might already be familiar with this tip. It’s important to note that not every country has the same plug type. In Paris, they use the plug types C & E. It would be very helpful to you if you just purchase a universal adaptor. This may just be a good investment especially if you plan to travel a lot.
13. Think Ahead
Paris is home to so many museums and architectural tourist spots. Purchasing your ticket for these places in advance will save you money and time. As tourist spots, the queue can be overwhelming and time spent lining up could have been alotted for some other activities on your itinerary. This also goes for the train tickets going to Paris. Prices for these tickets change constantly so it’s better to purchase them beforehand.
14. Best Instagram Photo
Lastly, it is obligatory to have a picture with the Eiffel Tower as your backdrop but actually going up to the Eiffel tower does not really give you the best view of central Paris. Having a nice picnic at the foot of the Eiffel Tower would be the best way to hang around the famous structure. Plus, it is way too crowded there above with all the tourists wanting the experience of being atop overlooking the city. Instead, head on to Trocadero to satisfy your picturesque Paris photos cravings.