TravelSafe teamed up with Your Local Cousin to bring you some of the best advice we could find on visiting Paris. What better way to hear it than from the locals themselves?
One American’s Guide to Visiting Paris, France
I’ve been coming to Paris since 2001 and the city never ceases to surprise me. Though the city hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years or so, there have been some other changes in the world that have made getting around so much easier! Most notably, perhaps, are the various ways we can stay connected.
Here are a few things I wish everyone would know before they arrive in Paris:
Download the free RATP app to map your commutes
Let's face it – Paris is a city. Getting around can be tough, espcially if it's your first time visiting. This little app, run by state-owned transportation system Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) is incredibly useful. It uses the Metro, Tram and Bus routes to get you the fastest commute around Paris.
Get a Map of Paris
Almost all of the bookstores have different versions of a Paris Pocket Map. This is a nice backup to carry around in case your phone runs out of battery or you can’t hook up to wifi. After two years, I still use my map often!
Download an Online Translator
This can be a lifesaver, particularly if you’re traveling outside of Paris where there are far fewer English speakers. Apps like Google Translate can help you not only talk to people, but decipher confusing instructions and menus.
Stay away from the monuments
As dreamy as it can be to book a hotel or Airbnb around the Eiffel Tower, check out some of Paris’s more residential quarters to get a feel for how Parisians really live.
Head to the 15th arrondissement. It's kid-friendly and filled with parks and great shopping.
Looking for something a little more chic? Head to the Marais neighborhood in the 4th. You won't be dissapointed with the hip bars and restaurants tucked in every corner.
Get Travel Insurance
When I moved out of the US, I had almost all of my worldly belongings packed into two check-in bags, which of course, got lost. There are a lot of travel insurance companies, who could have saved me time, hassle and money.
Many Americans assume medical coverage is free in France because medicine is socialized. That's not the case. If you come here without medical coverage and need care, expect to be stuck with a bill. Don't believe me? Check out this story here.
Don't assume Parisians hate Americans
Depending on who you talk to, the French are either extremely friendly or somewhat impatient when dealing with Americans. A good rule of thumb: your experience with the French probably says a lot more about you than it does about them.
For the most part, Parisians are friendly and incredible helpful. Like most big cities in the U.S., people may be in a rush to get where they need to go, but if you stop areal Parisian on the street to ask for directions, they'll most likely be happy to point you in the right direction.
A little attempt to speak French can go a long way
Even a simple “bonjour” shows initiative. They’re even patient with my bad French, though most of them will want to practice their English because they don’t often have the chance.
Budget for a taxi from the airport
Some people try to scrimp and take the train or Metro to get into Paris, but this is where most people get pickpocketed or have their bags stolen. Instead of navigating a new city with all your bags in tow, spend the extra few Euros and take a taxi straight to your accommodation. Uber and/or standard taxis are available at the exit of the airport. Afterwards, you can explore the city at ease.
Don’t talk about money
There are a few things that are considered “impolite” you should be aware of. The French rarely talk about money and, even then, only with their closest friends and family. It’s a bit of a taboo topic whereas, say, politics is something that is talked about as openly as the latest soccer match. In fact, some consider if the second sport of France.
The French are also adept at greeting with a kiss on the cheek (known as the “bisous”) though let the French person initiate the cheek kiss as sometimes a bisous can be considered impolite or a bit forward, depending on the social context.