Like many of you out there, my first time to France was a trip to Paris and I could have used this list of Paris travel tips. The nation’s capital city is a must-see and is like nowhere else in the world. But it’s still a bustling city that can take advantage of unsuspecting tourists who don’t know how to get the most out of the City of Light. In addition to knowing what to do in restaurants and at the French marché, here’s a quick list of Paris travel tips if you’re traveling to Paris for the first time. Let’s make your trip memorable for all the right reasons.
Paris travel tips & what to know before you go
Paris is one of the most stunning cities in the world and is known for its charm, sights, food, museums, the rude French (just kidding) and so much more. Whether your budget is massive or you’re trying to save some cash, there’s something for you… not to mention many affordable hotels in Paris as well as apartment rentals. Paris is the top tourist destination in the world for a reason.
So to get the most out of your trip, here are my 8 Paris travel tips:
1. Keep your passport safe
How many times have we heard stories of tourists’ passports being stolen? To avoid the hassle of getting yours replaced, keep your actual passport in the safe at your hotel. Then, just keep a photocopy of it on you at all times (or on your phone) in case you need to show it to an official while exploring the city. I’ve never been asked to show my passport to anyone, but it’s a good best practice.
Along with this, keep your phone and other valuables tucked away and out of reach. Thieves are crafty and can get in and out of a zippered bag in seconds without you even realizing it, so take extra precautions to keep your things safe. My top backpack pick is from Pacsafe and has slash-proof material and other safe guards to prevent you from being a victim of theft. Use your street smarts and avoid standing in the middle of the street with a map at top tourists attractions.
2. Pick the right time to travel
Before moving to France, I had visited Paris in the dead of winter and during the summer. There is no bad time to visit Paris, but if you can’t stand the heat, you may want to avoid the summer. Air conditioning is not the norm! On the other hand, if you hate the cold and rain, the summer may be your best bet. Also, many Parisians vacation during the summer months. If you’re flexible with timing, consider the off-season to snag a deal. You’ll benefit from cheaper accommodations and fewer lines at popular tourist destinations. If you’re into shopping, the twice-yearly sales are January and July. Really though, you can’t go wrong with timing. Paris is always a good idea!
3. Eat well and experience France via your palate
Out of all my travel tips for Paris, this one takes the cake. I have one France is known for its cuisine, so why not indulge a little bit. Try things that are new to you that you’d probably never experience in the same way at home. The cheese, the wine, the desserts…. There’s no shame in eating at places that are familiar to you, but when in Paris, promise me you’ll at least have one excellent French meal. And let’s not forget the pastries and macarons! Tip? Ask the locals where they eat (you can start with the concierge at your hotel).
4. Arrive with an open mind
Sometimes travel is weird, uncomfortable, awkward and even frustrating. But if you’re able to keep an open mind about Paris and take any hiccups along the way in stride, you’ll have a much better experience. Things don’t always go as planned — it’s a fact. Don’t let one bad experience with a person or place color your whole trip or an entire country. Things will seem weird and different. It’s a different country. Observe, take it all in (remembering my Paris travel tips). And don’t forget your manners!
5. Wear comfortable shoes
Although I see French women walking around in what I’d call unwalkable shoes (5-inch heels? really?), as a tourist you’ll want a comfortable shoe for all the walking you’ll be doing when sightseeing. That doesn’t mean something old fashioned and ugly. Plenty of French women rock flats and even Converse sneakers. The cobblestone streets in some areas aren’t kind to heels, so wear a practical shoe. Deal?
Guide books are fabulous and offer excellent Paris travel tips on what to see and do. But sometimes the best parts of your trip will be unscripted and off the beaten path. Make sure you set aside some time to just wander. In French, the verb for that is flâner. Lazily strolling around is fun and you may create your best memories by just aimlessly taking in all Paris has to offer. Head to Montmartre or Ile Saint-Louis and see where the afternoon takes you.
7. Do an open-top bus tour
In addition to learning about the sights and chauffeuring you around, a bus tour pass doubles as a scenic form of transportation to get you from point A to point B without having to go underground. Most are hop-on, hop-off and cover the entire city, so use your bus tour to see the city and to get around while learning along the way. You can rest your legs for a little bit if you’re tired of walking or it starts to rain.
8. Attempt to speak French
No one expects tourists to speak perfect French, but we are all capable of learning a handful of words en français. Be polite and at least attempt a little French even if you only know 5 words. It makes a major difference in how you’re perceived and treated. It also shows you respect the culture. I wrote an entire article about France and Paris tourist mistakes here.
Finally, when it comes to things to know before going to Paris, there’s one very important thing to note. The emergency number is 112, so commit that to memory!