Paris, Before You Get There
Ah, Paris – a location that so many dream of visiting (me, included for the last 20 years!). This is the land of fashion, of beautiful architecture, of art museums, of amazing food and pastries, and of course, of the lovely landmarks including the lovely Eiffel Tower. Everything here is so picturesque that it’s easy to get rosy-eyed and gloss over the little details of how to make your stay in Paris easy. I know I did.
So here are a few tips that will make your stay in Paris less bumpy.
Getting From the Airport
There are buses that go straight from the airport to the center of Paris, but the prices are around 17 euros. If you’re traveling solo, this is definitely a great budget way to get to your hotel.
Another option is the taxi, where you can get a flat rate of 50 – 60 euros from the airport to Paris. It should not cost any more than 60 euros, as the flat rate is the law. If the taxi driver charges you more, you are being scammed – you should take a photo of their license and report them to the authorities.
As a city, Paris’ underground public transportation system is on point. People can go to all of the landmarks by walking just a block or two from metro stations, which is so handy. We were quite lucky in that our hotel ended up being right on top of a train station, so getting places was even easier.
There are three types of trains in Paris – Metro, RER, and Trams, but you’ll mostly be using the Metro or the RER. Metro makes shorter and quicker stops within the city, whereas RERs don’t make as frequent stops and they go beyond Paris (we took the RER to get from Paris to Versailles). They go through the same train stations, so it’s easy to access both. Both cost the same, as long as you remain within zones 1 – 3 in Paris.
If you plan on staying for the week, we suggest you purchase the weekly Metro pass with the ticket attendant.
Scams to Watch Out For
Joseph had mentioned that Paris has high amounts of scams. I thought he was overreacting. But not a second after I stepped onto my first train ride, I was pickpocketed. I was wearing a burgundy cross-body bag with a magnetic flap, and mindlessly walked into a tight crowd of pedestrians coming in and out of the train. Immediately, I realized I had made a mistake by not protecting my bag. As soon as I reached clear space, I looked in my bag and my wallet was gone.
Since then, I’ve clutched my bag whenever I move in and out of public transportation, as well as in any tourist hotspots. Or to be safe than sorry, keep your bags protected, your wallets and phones out of easily-accessed pockets, and, as Mad-Eye Moody from Harry Potter constantly reminds Harry: “constant vigilance.”
Another scam you will encounter many times are ladies who will come up to you and ask “Do you speak English?” Say no and walk away. Otherwise, they’ll try to distract you while pickpocketing.
While we were with a friend, someone came up to our friend and handed her a rose. It seemed like he handed the rose to her out of sheer kindness. But alas, nothing is ever free. Five seconds later, he hounded her date, demanding that he pay for the rose. We were able to return the rose and shoo him away, but not everyone is that easy to get rid of.
There are still plenty of scam tactics that happen all around Paris, and I hope that at least a few of these tips leave you aware of it even happening.
France is all about the food, we all know that.
Tipping – it isn’t customary to tip in France, so what you see on your bill is all you have to pay. Of course, if your server goes above and beyond, feel free to tip.
Free Water – If you ask for water, they will ask “still or gas?”. Either of those choices will leave you with an overpriced bottle of water. However, if all you want is free tap water, tell the server “une carafe d’eau” and they will bring a carafe of tap water. It is the law in France that restaurants provide tap water when requested.
Affordable eatery – There are plenty of restaurants that are delicious in Paris, most of them are pretty pricey, and those prices start adding up – quick. Some options for budget friendly options are sandwich places, boulangeries, or if you look hard enough, you’ll find affordable and wallet-friendly restaurants, even in tourist spots.
In fact, right by Notre Dame, we went to a restaurant that charged 14 euros for a starter, an entree, dessert AND wine. WHAT?! And by golly, the place was delicious!
Shopping in Paris has been more affordable than in the US. The great thing is, the price we see on the price tag is the price we pay because the tax is already included. Even then, most of the time, it is cheaper than in the States. PLUS, in popular tourist shopping locations like Galleri La Fayette or any of the designer stores, if you spend more than $175 in a given location, they will also give you a 12% VAT refund when you head back to the airport.
These are just some of the tips that I found was useful during my trip to Paris. What are some tips that you can share?