Even though I’ve been to Paris too many times to count and have lived there for months on end, there are always things I need to relearn or remind myself of. These are my current top tips for Paris travelers so that you’ll have a safe, hassle-free trip and can focus on seeing, doing and eating all that you want rather than complaining about the little things that went wrong.
1. Ride the metro or the bus. Cabs are expensive and hard to find. If you must take one (i.e., it’s raining), then use the taxi stand list or the taxi stand app (see links below) to find the taxi stands in your neighborhood. Or call Les Taxis Bleus and order a taxi for an extra charge.
2. Watch your purse and your iPhone on the metro. Sadly, a recent rash of thefts on the metro by groups of young kids has folks clutching their bags a little tighter and using their iPhones with added caution. Word has it that the thefts have decreased in recent months.
3. If you rent an apartment, make sure you are not facing a busy street and that the unit is not a walk-up—unless it’s on the second floor or below. Dragging that big suitcase up can be a huge headache.
4. Always say “bonjour” and “au revoir” when entering and exiting a store, and before asking a question. Doing so is polite, it’s the French way and it will garner you a smile.
5. You don’t have to speak French to come here, but be sure to apologize first or try a few words in French before launching into English: “Excusez-moi, mon français est terrible. Parlez-vous anglais?” Do not assume that everyone speaks English.
6. Buy a proper map. I feel awful for folks who are walking around with those maps that are given away by Galeries Lafayette. They don’t include half the streets in Paris, and the print of the street names is very small and hard to read. Or make sure you have GPS map service on your iPhone. A good website to use when planning a journey within Paris is Mappy.com.
7. Reserve ahead if you want to eat well. For some reason, visitors do not believe that they have to reserve in advance. They think they can just wander in anywhere and find something fabulous. This is not true.
There are many average-to-subpar cafés, bistros and restaurants in Paris. Please consult our dining pages and our Foodie Fave blog, and book your dinners ahead of time so you can really enjoy your meals! Some of the best places need to be reserved a month in advance. If you are uncomfortable calling because of your French-language skills, ask your hotel or apartment rental company to do it for you.
8. Don’t hesitate to demand good service. Because of our language issues, often us Anglophones will be overly polite. Sometimes the waiters are rude, and sometimes they wait too long to come to your table. Flag them down and ask for what you want. I’ve seen many of my French friends do this, so empower yourself, but do so with grace. It’s infectious.
Editor’s note: Did you know that we’ve just released two new iPhone apps? Check out Paris Foodie Walks, a package of three gourmet tours; and Shopping and Sightseeing, a package of five different tours around Paris. Both are great deals at only $4.99 for each package of tours!