Our Paris Tips & Advice

Stress-Free Paris: Top Tips & Advice for First-Time Visitors

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Yes, there are a number of other websites that have published tips about Paris, but we have created the following list from our own personal experience(s). For those of you who have never been to Paris previously, some of these tips might seem unusual or perhaps "harsh", but we can definitely assure you that these things take place in Paris and you will have an even more enjoyable time in Paris if you take advantage of these tips & warnings!

  • Eiffel Tower: Be sure to reserve your tickets ahead of time online prior to your trip if you want to go up to the top. If you don’t book online and try to buy your tickets that day they may be completely booked. They do check ticket times and are pretty strict about not allowing you up to the top in until the time printed. You are allowed to go through security along the perimeter without tickets. The ticket office is behind the security. See the Official Eiffel Tower Website for more information.
  • Learn some French: A lot of Americans complain about the French being rude. We’ve found the opposite to be true. If you take a little time to learn some French and don’t expect everyone to speak english it’s appreciated. One waiter completely changed his attitude when I asked him to speak more slowly in French. He winked at me and the rest of the meal was perfect. Remember you are in their country, so don’t expect them to be American-like.
  • The French Rail System: The entire system is excellent, and the cost of an RER Train ticket from Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport to the Gare du Nord station is considerably less expensive than a taxi or Uber fare. Be careful of pickpockets on this rail line, they operate here just like everywhere else! You can purchase Metro tickets (or the Paris Visite ticket) at any Metro ticket machine or ticket window, anywhere in Paris, at CDG/Orly airports or at any of the major intercity train stations throughout Paris.
  • The Paris Metro System: Far less expensive than a taxi fare! A Paris Metro single day ticket is called the Ticket Mobilis which is good for unlimited rides on the Metro system during operating hours for the day it is used. (Not valid for airports) Physically it's a coupon of about the same size as the Paris Metro Ticket "t+". Ticket Mobilis is available in various fare zone coverage from 1-2 zones to 1-5 zones. If you’ll be traveling strictly within central Paris, zones 1 & 2 cover the entire Metro system, and a 1-2 zone Ticket Mobilis is the recommended ticket. Price as of January 1, 2022 is 7.50€. See the Paris Toolkit for a detailed description of Metro zones & prices.
  • Metro Tickets Warning: The Paris Police often check metro tickets inside Metro Stations; if you are using a single use ticket do not dispose of it until you depart the Station or the police (if you are stopped by them) will assume you have cheated and they will fine you.
  • Credit Cards: Don’t assume that your credit cards will always work in France. Even with the chip embedded there are times when a pin is required. This is especially true at some of the metro ticket machines.
  • Cell phones: Cell phones are important these days for maps usage and Uber, etc. Roaming can be expensive so have a plan and investigate your options before you go. For those of you using (or needing) cellular phone service, AT&T offers a $10 per day plan (unlimited data) for certain family subscription plans.
  • Points of Interest & Museum Hours: If you are not on a tour, be sure to check the places you plan to visit for days they are closed, and what their open hours are. Some of the Paris Museums are closed on not so intuitive days of the week! Just about every place you could possibly visit has a website where you can find that type of information.
  • Petition Signing Scams: Ignore anyone who ask you to read & sign their petitions! Most frequently, once you are distracted, one of their accomplices will attempt to pick your pocket! This type of scam is very common at or near the more iconic Paris landmarks, but you will see them on connecting streets or routes as well. Remember that you are not a citizen of France so your signature on a petition would be meaningless!
  • Pickpocket Safety: If you use a backpack, the best type to use are the types that have a chest strap that interconnects & locks the shoulder straps. Keeping that chest strap connected, precludes a pickpocket (or street thief) from yanking your backpack off your shoulders! It’s best to keep your credit cards and valuables in an inside pocket rather and an outside pocket that could be unzipped while you are in a crowd. Better yet, keep it around your neck under your shirt. Be aware of when people start crowding closer to you because a pickpocket has to be very close to you to be able to rob you.
  • Metro Ticket Machine Scam: We almost got ripped off by someone trying to “help” us at a metro ticket machine. He was trying to sell us a ticket for some ungodly amount of money when the metro price is very reasonable. Don’t fall for these scams. Go to the official ticket booth if you have questions - and note that most often, the booth will usually be staffed with a person that speaks english.
  • Consider Purchasing a Paris Pass: There are a number of companies who offer passes that provide you with various ways to save on Paris attractions & transportation. Here are links to a number of their web sites, where you will find a complete list of what they offer as well as price information; Paris Explorer Pass, Paris City Pass, and the The Paris Pass.

    If this is your first visit to Paris, then we recommend that you take a close look at these passes as they provide lower cost access to a wide variety of interesting things to do or see. Click on any of the links above to go to their site where you can read what each pass provides.
  • Paris Accommodations: Hotels in Paris can be expensive, you might consider using VRBO or AirBnB to find an apartment in a good location is one option to keep costs down. You can cook some of your own meals and keep drinks and snacks in your apartment. Eating in sometimes can save a lot of money and your waistline. We find that after a few days of eating out we are dying to just have something simple. Do your own due diligence and read the reviews when renting a place to make sure it will meet your needs. There are a number of reliable apartment rental companies available, you should make sure your selection will be in a good location and would meet your needs & budget. We suggest that you try to find accommodations near a metro station, as that will simplify your trips around the city and reduce your costs. Click here to view a Google Search Results list for Paris Apartment Rental Companies.
  • How To avoid Paris Metro Pickpockets: Paris pickpockets are found all over the city, but it is important to note that pickpockets really congregate at popular tourist destinations, Metro Stations, Metro Lines, and in crowds - at any time of the day or any day of the week, you will find pickpockets in action. We had an attempt made on the Metro escalator going into the Gare Montparnasse Rail Station from the Metro Station below - they are brazen!

    We recommend that you take a look at this Metro Safety article regarding Paris pickpocket Safety steps, it is very informative and could save you some grief. That article will provide you with a list of Metro Stations where caution is advised, as well as a list of Metro Lines where caution is necessary. Note further that pickpockets are not limited to the Paris Metro, the RER and SNCF Rail Systems have the same issue, see the article for a good description of where to be extra careful.
  • The Bir-Hakeim Metro station: Our experience has been that this station, just 2.5 blocks west of the Eiffel Tower is (and will probably always be) "pick pocket central" for all the local thieves. If you use this station, keep your valuables somewhere very safe & avoid allowing anyone to stand or sit next to you! (in other words, get up and change seats or change where you are standing).
  • Walking in Paris: You will find that Paris is a very walkable city, however, you will also find that there are locations where you will not find escalators or elevators. Just as an example, the Sacré Cœur Métro Abbesses Station (line # 12) is 118 feet below ground and you have to walk up a circular set of stairs to exit the station. There may be an elevator at that station, but we have never found it! Wear good shoes and be prepared to walk!

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