With summer right around the corner, and wedding season in full effect, I can usually count on getting several messages this time of year from friends and family who are considering a trip or honeymoon to Paris. Most sites will give generic advice like, “don’t dress like a tourist”, or “bring enough cash”. While these are helpful to keep in mind, they are not really specific to Paris. Today, I am sharing my 10 best tips for your trip to Paris in the hopes of you having the best vacation possible!
August is both the best and worst time to go to Paris
Thanks to the generous French vacation policies, most get an estimated 5 weeks paid vacation a year. Parisians alike use this vacation time at the end of summer, pouring out of Paris, leaving the city relatively empty for the month of August. While this certainly has its’ benefits (the city is less crowded), it can prove tricky to navigate. One of the cons of traveling to Paris during vacation month is that it’s not uncommon for stores or restaurants to completely lock up for the month.
Carry coins- not cash
Any vending machine you will need to access (whether it be for a quick coffee, metro tickets, or vending machine) will only accept coins up to €10. When travelling in Paris, be sure to carry coin money, just for this purpose!
Check out the name tags
Need help while shopping in Paris? Be sure to check out the name tags of the sales associates working. Many shops have their employee name tags include flags of countries, for the different languages they speak!
Avoid illegal street vendors
Buying French souvenirs can be tricky because you want to make sure you’re buying it from a legal vendor. See somebody selling items on bedsheets on the sidewalk? Those are illegal street vendors.
There is a good reason why their items are displayed on sheets. As soon police officers approach, these vendors grab the corners of the sheets, and take off to avoid arrest. A better alernative is to purchase from legitimate locations that have cash registers.
Make use of the metro
Looking at a map of Paris, it may appear that certain monuments are close together. And while some are, like the Eiffel Tower and the Torcadero, most are pretty spread over the city. If you are limited on your time in the city, Metro line 1 will be your best friend in hitting all the sites as quickly as possible!
You don’t have to speak French to enjoy Paris, but it certainly helps
Paris is quite friendly to non-French speakers. Most of the main sites and attractions have all vital information in English, and some places like Versailles that have audio tours offer English headsets as well.
Bonus tip: Most big companies, restaurants, hotels, and sites in Paris have an English version of their website. If you are not automatically redirected, check the top right hand corner of the page where the language options are usually placed.
Take note and download this app
Regardless of your cell phone plan, cell phone reception can be spotty in Paris. I have been there with several different carriers, and every single time I struggle. I suggest keeping notes in your phone of all important addresses and phone numbers. That way, in the event you’re unable to connect to the internet, you’re not left stranded unable to access the address of where you’re trying to get to.
Bonus tip: Download RATP, the app for Paris’ metro system. It allows you to plug-in your current location, your destination, and it gives you the best way to get there via the metro. Then, screenshot these directions so you have them regardless of your internet connection. I did this my last time in Paris and it was a lifesaver!
Pick your arrondissement according to your travel goals
Perhaps your main objective is to see all the main sites. Or perhaps your main goal is to not spend too much money on hotels while in Paris. Or, maybe the only thing you want is to have a terraced view of the Eiffel Tower to wake up to every day. Regardless of your primary objective, it’s important to figure out what your “goal” is, because this will dictate where you stay.
Bonus tip: Regardless of which arrondissement you stay in (my favorite is the 4th!), try to book your stay near a grocery store like Franprix. Being close to one will make your stay in Paris more convenient for last minute dashes for wine!
Keep your receipts
As in many big cities, Paris only allows patrons to use their bathrooms. In order to enforce this, they print the code to the bathroom on your receipt. After your purchase, you can find your code at the top or bottom of the receipt, and then key in that specific code to use the rest-room.
Bonus tip: Many places will have their wi-fi code printed on the receipt as well!
Fast food in Paris
Be prepared that certain familiar fast food chainsMcDonald’s in France does not taste the same as McDonald’s in America. I can only speak to “Le MacDo”, since that is the only fast food I have had in France, but just know going into it that it will taste different because they use different products for the same item. For example, perhaps unsurprisingly, they don’t use American cheese!
I hope you enjoyed these tips, and I would love to hear from you! If you have been to Paris, what’s one thing you wish you would have known prior to your trip?