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Tips from my trip

Boca Raton, Florida
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712 posts
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Tips from my trip

Shopping Tips - Always say "bonjour" when you enter a business and "merci and "au revoir" when you leave. The bonjour was sometimes hard to remember when my eyes were falling out of my head when there was food involved. Stores had a 12-15e minimum on credit cards and most did not accept American Express. I definitely recommend shopping for some food "like the Parisians" do by picking up a loaf of bread or purchasing some fruit. You don't pick the fruit out yourself but tell them what you want and when you plan to eat it. It was the best. And don't forget they start counting with the thumb, so if you want one of something, it's thumbs up.

Restaurant Tips - Where have all the rude waiters gone? We didn't meet any. Most of ours were as sweet as could be. We ordered from the fixed price menu whenever possible, which was most nights. If it wasn't for the exchange rate this would have been a bargain. Only a couple of restaurants served butter. We saw only a few salt and pepper shakers. Coffee is served after dessert. Bread is placed on the table next to your plate. The entrée is the appetizer. The waiter will not come back to ask you how your meal is. They will never offer you the check. You must ask for it. There were American tourists and French wherever we ate. Sometimes we had the best table in the front by the window and sometimes we sat in the back. I occasionally thought this might have to do with our nonsmoking table request. If we liked the service, the food and the ambiance, we liked the restaurant. We liked them all. We had reservations every night that were made weeks in advance by our apartment rental agency. I had read about all the restaurants on the internet and TA and all were recommended by our rental agency except one. They gave us tipping guidelines depending on the type of restaurant and meal if we wanted to leave a little extra. We would always tip extra but didn't really see anyone else doing so. We have been spoiled by the restaurants and will not want to eat out at home.

Money Tips - We did an exchange at our bank before leaving and brought 300e with us. About 1/4 of this was used for the driver from the airport. We charged everything possible and needed to take money out from ATMs twice. Once at a BNP Paribus bank since I had been lead to believe that we would not incur charges since we had accounts with Bank of America; once at another bank (reason to be explained later in trip report). We incurred a $5 fee for each and another nominal fee for each (amount differed according to amount withdrawn). This I did not understand.

Preventing Jet Lag - I feel that it is necessary to get at least 4 hours of sleep on the plane going over. We take medication to make sure we sleep. When we get there, we do not go to bed until the normal bedtime, no naps. Also, we never drink alcohol on the plane. So far, so good.

Transportation Tips - As everyone has said, you do a lot of walking. I am used to being on my feet for 12 hours a day but my husband's calves and knees were killing him. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in February and ended up taking a couple of Percocet which he hadn't done since about a week after the surgery. I hadn't intended to take the metro much, wanting to stroll or take the batobus and take in the views We should have bought a carnet of tickets but just kept buying individual tickets each time. We bought a 5 day pass on the batobus and only used it for I think 3 days. The first pick-up at our stop wasn't until 10:20am. It takes too long to get anywhere and unless you're going somewhere near the river, it doesn't drop you close enough. I would say once or twice on the batobus to enjoy the view would have been enough. We ended up using the metro more then anticipated but I would use it even more the next time. After my initial panic, a light came on and it was pretty easy to figure out. It's just like everybody has said; the name of the train is the last stop on it's route. I had looked up pedestrian directions to all the restaurants and these came in handy even though we ate most nights on the Ile Saint Louis. They even told you how long it would take to get there.

Taking Pictures - Make sure you hold camera straight. The Eiffel Tower looks like the leaning tower of Pisa in a lot of our pictures.

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Tips from my trip

Thanks for the tips, iaatf! I hope you had a good trip.

Tallahassee, Florida
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578 posts
8 reviews
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2. Re: Tips from my trip

Thanks for your trip reports and tips. I have enjoyed them. Can you elaborate more on the banking situation with B of A? We will be leaving in 18 days and have a B of A debit/check card. I used my B of A credit card to purchase train tickets and ferry tickets on-line and they charged me the 1% and the extra 2% fee that others had talked about on the forum and some had said they only get charged the 1%. I don't plan to use it over there now that I got a credit card from my credit union and have a credit card from Capitol One. Both of them only charge the 1% but will have to use the B of A debit/check card for cash. Any advice you can give me would be appreciated.

Alabama
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3. Re: Tips from my trip

Many thanks for your travel tips! I have found them to be very helpful in planning for my mid-July trip. Were dining reservations a necessity or do you think you could have gotten a table without them? I am trying to decide about restaurants for my family of five, wondering about the need for reservations.

Roanoke
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30 posts
8 reviews
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4. Re: Tips from my trip

To Mediamama, I used my credit union visa check card to get money from ATM's in Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. I got the official rate for the day and a 1 dollar fee. That was cheap. If you can get an checking account at a credit union, it's probably as good as B of A if not better.

Clearwater
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316 posts
1 review
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5. Re: Tips from my trip

Mediamama...

I am leaving in a few weeks and i called all my banks including BOA

They said that if you go to a participating bank in France (BNP Paribais - Which are everywhere) it is only a $5 transaction fee for exchanging the $$$ no precentages. So, they recommended to go to the ATM and take out as much as you would need (say you are staying 3 days and you will only need 1000 euros take them at once). it is per transaction not per $ etc...

Also, they mentioned that i should call them back 24-48 before leaving so they can let their fraud protection know that i will be purchasing items in France. There is a potential for your cards to be shut down if you do not call and give them your travel dates...there has been a lot of overseas fraud lately.

hope this helps!

Carmel, California
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553 posts
101 reviews
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6. Re: Tips from my trip

Great, practical tips, thank you for sharing them.

I agree that a little manner goes a long way,,,even if it's just bonjour, merci and au revoir.. the French are much more patient with non-speakers than given credit.

I ended up contorting my body in repeated attempts to get decent shots of THE Tower. That provided great moments of humor for my husband who kept laughing at me.

You were lucky with the restaurants... one tip that I add based on our recent experience with dining in Paris is to pay for food in cash, whenever and wherever possible... that will eliminate any and all possibilities for overcharging (which happened to us).

Calgary, Canada
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5,617 posts
34 reviews
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7. Re: Tips from my trip

Great tips. I didn't know about the counting thing before. Or that they choose your fruit.

Melbourne Australia
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8. Re: Tips from my trip

Thank you iaatf for most helpful advice.

I was wondering about your comments on BNP Paribas.

My bank, Westpac in Australia, tells me that they have an agreement with that French bank and won't charge any fee for withdrawals at an ATM with a 'Cirrus' card

There is also an agreement with Barclays so I was told.

From what you say this didn't apply to you.

Can you tell me more please.

Rila

Chapel Hill, North...
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310 posts
15 reviews
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9. Re: Tips from my trip

When I was in Paris and Londin in 2004, BOA ATM cards could be used in Barclay sand Paribas machines with no fees. According to the BOA website (accessed today and quoted below) it still seems to be true -- don't know where the $5 fee is coming from...

"Traveling Internationally?

Use your ATM card or Check Card within our Global ATM Alliance in the countries shown with no fees.

Barclays (United Kingdom)

BNP Paribas (France)

China Construction Bank (China)

Deutsche Bank (Germany)

Santander Serfin (Mexico)

Scotiabank (Canada)

Westpac (Australia and

New Zealand) "

Boca Raton, Florida
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712 posts
65 reviews
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10. Re: Tips from my trip

I used a Bank of America ATM card, not a credit card or debit card. I had been lead to believe by what I had read that I would not incur charges at the BNP Bank. I should probably call B of A and ask them about this, since I had the same two charges using the BNP Bank as I did using the other bank.

To Destin39 - I would say that all the places we ate at required reservations. (see trip reports for restaurants) Basically all the tables were taken. It seems as though they would only book a table once for the night. We had reservations at one restaurant at 7pm (earliest time possible) since we were going to the cabaret that night. We saw them turning away people saying they were booked full shortly after we got there but they still weren't quite full when we left at 9pm. Most nights we ate at 8:30pm and were the first ones using the table that night. Dinners are meant to last 2+ hours.