Paris is small, it’s easy to walk, and the Metro takes you almost everywhere. We were able to hoof it and never took cabs except to and from the airport.
But, be sure to watch out for pickpockets! Anah and LL were ALMOST pick-pocketed – despite both having their purses close!! In our case, the culprits were a group of teenage girls and the subway wasn’t even crowded. The girls were talking loudly and pushed themselves close to Anah and LL as we boarded. When they knew we had caught on, they quickly moved along through the cars.
I was too shocked by the situation to make my brain work fast enough to translate and shout, “Watch out! They are thieves!” Good-Samaritan fail.
So stay alert – especially after a long day of touring – and keep your bags close and zippered!
Somehow I escaped being one of their targets. We decided the girls were intimidated by my height.
Anyway, here’s a mish mash of tips and tricks we picked up:
- Metro subway tickets – purchasing 1-day, unlimited metro passes (called a Mobilis) was fantastic. It was worth it as long as we took four metro trips a day, which was easy to do because metro stops were near all major attractions. What was not so fantastic was figuring out how to purchase the tickets because the machines don’t explain what the ticket is. So unless you know to look for “Mobilis,” you can easily pass over it! When the machine asks for zone numbers, zones 1-2 cover the parts of Paris visitors usually go. More info here. Other suitable options were to buy one-way/single-use tickets, or a book of single-use tickets.
- Cabs – Require cash, so we stopped at an ATM in the airport to get euros upon arrival
- Credit cards – Not all credit card machines will take U.S. credit cards (Europeans have a “pin and chip” card) and of course those machines also do not take bills. So at a few machines (like at Versailles) we had to pay with coins. We never had issues using credit cards at restaurants.
- Restaurant reservations – Almost all good restaurants require them – even small cafes. It’s just the French food culture, and since we were on a tight schedule we didn’t want to risk a long wait or getting turned away. If staying in a hotel, the concierge can help make reservations. They’d probably even do so before you arrive. But we prefer to live locally and rent apartments, so no concierge means calling from the U.S. I typically called 3-5 days in advance. Google translate helps, and most people speak English (they usually switched over to English once they heard me attempt French!)
- Tipping – Is already included, even in cabs (which probably explains why service may not be super attentive); if you get exceptional service, maybe round up to the next euro
- Bread – Is served with no butter and with the meal, not before
- Eiffel Tower – if you plan on going up, get your tickets in advance online to be able to get in a shorter queue
- Longchamp bags – Much cheaper in Paris, even at the airport, than in the U.S. (~30% off). I know, totally random tip, but …
- A few more tips here
- Official Paris subway map app (RATP) – used it ALL the time; free and worked without an international data plan (NYC MTA could take a hint from across the pond)
- Google translate app
- WN French app – didn’t really use this that much, but had some useful French phrases
- David Lebovitz blog for restaurant and food recommendations. An American with a trustworthy palate who has lived in Paris for years.
- Rick Steves’ Paris and/or France book. Friends know I love me some Rick Steves and his awesome travel tips and audio tour app (check out the Paris walking tour). Only thing I don’t love – his food recommendations.
Have any additional tips for traveling Paris?