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What do you wish someone had told you?

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Oregon
posts: 509
reviews: 15
What do you wish someone had told you?

My husband and I are about to take our first trip to Paris in a few weeks. We currently live in the Netherlands and are fairly frequent travelers. I've been doing all my "homework" by researching and reading various posts here and in on other forums, but there are some things that can fall through the cracks. Plus I'm just plain curious and I find TA forumites to be some of the most generous and interesting folks around.

My question is this: for those of you who have already experienced Paris, what did you discover you wished someone had told you before your first trip? Did someone give you advice that you found particularly helpful or useful that you'd be willing to pass on? Anything from communicating, how to deal with scammers, public transport, public toilets, supermarket etiquette, restaurant behaviour, cultural "quirks" particular to Paris, how to generally not annoy the locals and be a good visitor etc. etc. etc.

My thanks to anyone who shares their thoughts on any of the above.

1,382 replies to this topic
Paris, France
posts: 4,735
reviews: 111
881. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

Just a reminder about the importance of carrying some form of personal identity...

Leaving passports and other important papers in the hotel safe or in a secure location in an apartment is an excellent idea. However, being out on the streets with no ID is not at all advisable. Accidents and crimes do occur, and if you have to run back to your lodging to get ID and/or insurance info, then rush back to hospital or police station - or find someone who can do this for you - it's a nightmare.

A copy of your passport's ID page and last dated entry to Paris should be carried at all times. A copy of your insurance info is also a very good idea. If you have any medical conditions, you should list those, as well as any medications you take. All of these can be miniaturized using a regular home printer, so they will fit conveniently in your wallet. Don't leave home without them.

We just went through this experience with a relative who fell ill on the Metro and had to be taken to hospital. He had no papers with him, and it was a nightmare that could have easily been avoided.

London, United...
posts: 1
reviews: 100
882. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

Go to the Paris Tourist/RATP booths at Gard du Nord to buy your French metro tickets or Paris Carte de Visite pass. They speak English and will tell you the best deals. Don't buy online they will charge you ten times as much. Comfortable shoes are the most important thing but try to dress conservatively on top, for example not the shortest shorts as in churches this would be disrespectful. See lots of stuff for free, the Seine is for walking along, you can see the Eiffel tower without going up. Go up Montparnasse tower and take photos of the Eiffel tower.

Paris, France
posts: 16
883. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

ALWAYS start any interaction by saying "Bonjour ...(days) or Bonsoir ...(evenings)". If they see you're making the effort, they'll go a long way towards helping you... :)

Idyllwild...
posts: 25
reviews: 3
884. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

What I needed to know was about metro tickets. If you get them near magnets they become de-magnetized and won't let you through the turnstile.

Amsterdam
posts: 2
reviews: 16
885. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

Dress nicely, and conservatively, especially the shoes. Learn a few phrases in French and some vocabulary to get by, to read a French menu and to communicate in a restaurant setting. Never address a person in English when you approach them on the street to ask for directions. It's the equivalent of someone stopping you in New York and speak to you in French. Get a Metro card. The Metro in Paris is very easy to use and the best way to get anywhere. Most places indicate which is the closest stop. Go to Les Halles for regular shopping. Buy Louvre tickets at an Fnac. If it's not too hot, get a foulard (scarf). Try not to be in a hurry, be ready to try new things, and value the fact that this is a different culture. Bon voyage!

Manchester, United...
posts: 4
reviews: 95
886. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

To be careful whilst visiting Pere-Lachise cemetery!!!

On Saturday I revisited the cemetery, but this time with a with a female friend, and when we were meandering through the older section of the graveyard were the graves are crowded together we got more than we bargained for. A man was preforming a lewd act (I do not think I need to go into greater detail here) whilst watching us. We later seen him again near the main entrance and watched as he "hid" on us, luckily we noticed him trying to hide and were able to go a different direction and warm a family with young daughters from watching near him.

I do not want to put you off visiting this beautiful place but I just want women to be cautious as parts of the cemetery are very secluded and isolated from the crowds of visitors.

Hertfordshire
posts: 1
reviews: 113
887. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

There are a couple of things I wish I had been told or knew before I went:

1. If you buy a single or batch of single tickets on the Metro, they are only valid for 1 hour from the time you put them in the machine. We got fined 30 Euros each from the ticket inspectors despite our journey taking less than 1 hour. The ticket inspectors are aggressive, rude and do not like their photo being taken! If you find yourself in this situation go to an Information Desk immediately! The tickets de-magnetize very easily and this is usually the problem!

2. Some places are not open Mondays like Musee d'orsay

3. Get to the Louvre early. The queues are huge!

4. Drinks are expensive! You can pay anywhere between 8 to 12 Euros for a pint.

5. If you are under 25 you can get in free to a lot of places.

Swindon, United...
posts: 1
reviews: 5
888. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

- Buy the museum pass (from the Tourist Information at the airport) it will save you standing in the sweltering heat (we went to Paris in July) outside the Louvre.

- Always try and speak French even if it is just Bonjour, with a smile, people appreciate it.

- The toilets in the Louvre are not nice.

- Instead of struggling up the stairs in Musee d' Orsay, there is a lift - as you walk in, round to the left behind the staircase through the 2nd door. (sneaky!)

- The RER is cheap and fine to use from the airport, buy your ticket at the Tourist Information desk and follow the instructions given to you by the lovely lady behind the desk.

- Buy a book of 10 tickets for the Metro from the Tourist Information desk (make your life so much easier)

- Stop in Starbucks for a quick drink and toilet break, as its easy. (don't tell yourself off for this!)

- Walk around the streets of Paris instead of just rushing to 'The Sights'.

- Sit on a seat anywhere in Jardindes Tuileries and people watch.

- You will get lost in the Louvre, ask directions! The staff around the museum are kind.

- For lunch we often stopped in small bakeries and brought pizza, cakes, quiche etc and water and sat in parks on the grass with everyone else relaxing and being smug that the lunch cost so little, but was so nice! ( If you are scarred of trying the French bakeries there is a Marks and Spencers on the Champs Elysees which has a food hall! Then walk down the end of the Champs Elysees and you reach a lovely park)

- In the evening get together a picnic and walk/metro to the stretch of the Seine from Pont Alexandre III along to Musee d'Orsay, sit and picnic with the locals. There are railway planks set up as seats and pop up bars and pop up restaurants scattered all along, also public toilets. Everything you need!

London, United...
posts: 1
reviews: 2
889. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

Beware in tourist areas (Trocadero, Louvre, Eiffel Tower etc) and also in Gare du Nord station ticket halls of people asking if you speak English and wanting you to sign a paper.

These are distraction pickpockets gangs and will look for an opportunity to rob you. Just say 'Non' and ignore them.

Beware of pickpockets on the metro - keep your wallet / valuables safe.

Walk around Paris, you will see so much more of the city.

Have a picnic in one of the beautiful parks.

Pensacola, Florida
posts: 3
reviews: 1
890. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

Previous suggestions are very helpful and will certainly adhere to some on our visit to Paris again next month. BUT the one piece of advise I wish I had ignored was that tennis shoes were a no no. Visit was 3 years back and I agree that most French women did not wear tennis shoes and I saw dozens sitting on stairs changing their band aids on their heels. I had to do the same ONCE and then I headed to the nearest Monoprix and bought a pair of tennis shoes! Dress comfortable and conservative and you will be fine. Since I'm visiting in Sept/Oct and will be wearing a lot of black pants so I will take some black tennis this time. Keep some band aids with you just in case :-) If you have blisters on your feet you will only be thinking of getting off of them. NO way to see Paris. I also recommend the following apps for Paris: public toilet locations, free public Wi-Fi, metro maps (Paris by Metro-RATP-Has teal background with Eiffel and train)It will tell which trains, walking directions, and time to get from point A to B, and a GOOD language translation app. And remember, some functions on the apps will not work without Wi-Fi. So,check the public wifi app map before you leave hotel and snap a copy of it. I can do this with iphone but don't know if all smartphones do this. If anyone else has a must have app idea please let me know. They really do help!

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