Because visiting Paris can be quite confusing sometimes, especially when it's your first time around, I put together 10 tips that could come in handy!
Watch my video here where I explain everything:
TIP #1 GETTING AROUND IN PARIS (metro, uber, rush hours...)
Parisian metro is quite intuitive to use and very practical since there are so many metros stations covering the entire city and its closest suburban area (we call it "la petite couronne" - "the little crown"). You will always need to have a metro map, either in paper form or app form. Here are a few Paris Metro mobile phone apps:
NEXT STOP PARIS : http://apple.co/2mc12ID
METRO PARIS SUBWAY : http://apple.co/1j4fX33
MOOVIT : http://apple.co/2l9ZLUP
I would mostly recommend to use the metro over the bus, especially if you need to make several bus connections: quite often, there can be deviations on the itinerary and they might move the stations around because of construction sites…. Plus the traffic in Paris can get pretty bad!
When buying metro tickets, I don’t recommend to buy the one-day ticket that you can use all day as many times as you want, but rather buy 10 at once ("carnet de 10"), since you can share it with other people you travel with (the one-day ticket is for 1 person only). Also, you never know if you are going to walk instead of taking the metro! After all, Paris is a very pleasant city to walk around, and the interesting places are often from walking distance next to each other.
If you want to take a cab, Uber is very convenient in Paris as well, since you can pay buy phone - all cabs do not accept payment cards, so you would need to have cash with you. Also, avoid traffic jam hours: 8.30 to 10.30AM in the morning, and afterwork hours from 4.30 to 8pm in the evening, unless you are going for quite a short distance.
TIP #2 BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS
Always keep in mind that in Europe in general and especially in Paris too, there can be many pickpockets. Very often they target mostly carefree tourists. One of their techniques is to lure tourists into signing a sheet of paper which looks like some sort of a petition, and rob them when their attention is on the paper. Always keep your bags zipped and kept close to your body - so you can feel It if someone touches it - and have a firm grip on you mobile phone, especially in a crowded wagon, or place. Don’t be staring at your phone carelessly when you are in the metro; another of their techniques is to grab your phone and jump off the train at the moment the door closes, so you have no time to react!
TIP#3 WATCH OUT FOR DOG POOP
Paris is also known to be very pet-friendly! Many parisians like to have dogs as pets, but sometimes they don’t pick up their dog’s poop. So always keep an eye on where you are stepping your feet into... even if there are so many beautiful things and buildings to look at!
TIP#4 EATING IN PARIS
If you want to make the most of your French culinary experience, try to avoid going to any random cafes or brasserie that you may walk by: they are not always worth the price and there are many tourist traps.
You will need to do your research first on where to find the good places to eat in Paris:
THE MICHELIN RESTAURANTS GUIDE (French) : https://restaurant.michelin.com (the most famous French guide where you will find the finest French Gastronomy "Haute Cuisine" restaurants, but also "Big Gourmand"and "L'Assiette Michelin" which are certifications for good restaurants at more affordable prices...)
LE FOODING : http://www.lefooding.fr/ (a guide to Paris trendy spots to eat, they always know the next "place-to-be"!)
LAFOURCHETTE : https://www.lafourchette.com/ (more mainstream, online reservations, special offers)
When you've found where you want to eat, make reservations. Even at lunch time, the best places are often quite small, and therefore can be fully booked. During week-ends (from Friday night to Sunday), it is highly recommended to make reservations (some places even require one week and up to several weeks in advance...). Anyways, it is always safer to do it just in case - if you can’t go or you change your plans, you can still call back to cancel.
Be also aware of the opening hours of the vast majority of the restaurants (except for fast food, snacking food, and typical brasseries or cafés that would have a snacking menu) are opened during lunch time from 12.30 to 2.30PM and dinner time from 7 to 10.30PM, but not in-between those hours.
Also note that most of the fine places to eat are closed on Sundays and very often on Mondays, too.
TIP#5 OPENING HOURS FOR SHOPPING
In general, shopping places in Paris are opened from Monday to Sunday. Opening hours are between 9.30-10AM to 6.30- 7.30PM, most of the time. Big malls like Galeries Lafayette / Printemps Haussmann or shops on the Champs Elysées Avenue eventually close later, though (up until midnight for the latest opened stores).
If you want to go shopping on Sundays, you can still go to the Champs Elysées / Printemps Haussmann and "Le Marais" which is a very hipster and trendy area in Paris for shopping and also for having brunch or drinks with friends!
TIP#6 TIPPING IN FRANCE
Tipping in France is always optional. Service is already included on your bill, and the waiters already earn at least a minimum wage. So if you want to leave something, people usually put in 1 to 3 euros, or 5 to 10% of your bill is fine.
One exception, though: If you go to the Théâtre to see a play, you should tip the person who will take you to your seat because that’s his / her only salary. But if you "forget" to do so (as some French people might do...), they will never ask you either, because it is never mandatory to tip in France.
TIP#7 BE POLITE, SAY “BONJOUR” (“hello” in French)
French people have this habit to always address anyone by starting to say "Hello", or in French, « Bonjour ». This goes for everything and everybody, especially if you want to ask for some information. If you don’t say “Bonjour” first to French people, they might cut you off by saying “Bonjour” back, which means “I’m polite, I’m saying hello to you and I’m waiting for you to say "Hello" back before talking to me about anything”...
So if you've always wondered why so many Parisians seem to be so rude, maybe try a “Bonjour” first before speaking to them next time ;-) ?
TIP#8 PLAN YOUR TRIPS TO THE TOILETS
If you are someone who needs to go to the toilets quite often, know that public restrooms are not very clean. There are not so many toilets in the streets or in the shops; you will only find them in hotels, restaurants or cafes, big malls, museums…
So think about planning your trips to the toilets during your day if you don’t want to spend too much money on buying drinks in a café just to access their restrooms!
TIP#9 CHECK THE WEATHER
Check the weather forecast before heading out. Weather can be very capricious and changing throughout the day: you might experience rain, sunlight, even hail and thunder... within a few hours of the same day! Also, when you go into the metro you might get very hot, and then feel quite cold when you get outside; so my advice is to layer your clothes : a coat, a cardigan, a sweater or a light jacket, a T-shirt underneath, scarf, gloves,… wear clothes that you can layer up and take out as the temperature / weather is changing… Also never forget to bring an umbrella when you are in Paris, of course!
TIP#10 BIG RED BUSES (Les Cars Rouges) & RIVERBOATS (Les Bâteaux Mouches)
If you want to see the most of Paris major sites in a very short amount of time : the red double-decked buses and the Parisian riverboats “Bateaux Mouches” are a must! On the bus, when it's a sunny day, go to the upper level so you can admire a pretty view of Paris, and if you take the boat during colder months, be sure to bring warm clothes or even a blanket if you can… as it can get very windy and cold when you are cruising the river Seine, especially at night. But on a hot and sunny day, feeling the fresh breeze while admiring stunning views of Paris from the Seine is an absolutely delightful experience!
... BONUS TIP FOR GOING TO DISNEYLAND?
If you want to get a bonus tip about when to plan your trip to Disneyland, please check out my YouTube video!
Parisienne, française d'origine chinoise et jeune mariée, je vous propose de vous partager mes bons plans parisiens, mes idées maquillage / soins / beauté, mes expériences culinaires et mes conseils pour organiser votre mariage !