Travel is definitely a learning experience. Over my last few visits to France, I’ve picked up a few pointers along the way. Before making a trip Paris, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Buy Your Tickets Online: Who wants to waste time waiting in line? Save time by purchasing tickets online before hand. This one applies to other cities too, but it’s a must in Paris, given the amount of visitors it sees every year. Major attractions like the Eiffel Tower may sell out weeks and sometimes even months in advance, so locking in tickets ahead of time is always a smart choice.
Skip the Metro: Sure, the Paris train system is efficient and economical. But instead of only using the metro to get around, try one of the city’s many hop-on, hop-off boats. They conveniently stop throughout the city AND offer amazing views. There are many tour operators offering everything from all day passes to dinners to champagne cruises. I recently used Batobus and at 16 euros a person, it’s an economical way to get around. I was a little disappointed that our boat was enclosed with windows, so opt for an open air one if you’d like to feel the breezes from the Seine.
Be Courteous: It may seem like a common courtesy, but it’s expected and highly valued in France to say bonjour or bonsoir when walking into a shop or entering a cafe. It seems to me that proper manners are valued more in Europe than in the United States. Even with my (very) minimal French, I’ve never had a negative experience in the city, and I think that has to do with the friendly greeting.
Be Prepared: In my experience, it seems as though very few taxi drivers in Paris speak English. You’ll want to be prepared when hopping in a taxi to go to your hotel, a certain restaurant or lesser-known street. Be prepared by having your hotel’s name and address printed out. Know what arrondissement you need to be in. Street signs will list the arrondissement, so keep your eyes open to confirm you’re going the right way.
Visit the Eiffel Tower at Night: The Eiffel Tower is a sight to behold at any time of the day, but at night it’s magical. Starting at sundown, the tower twinkles every hour on the hour. It’s truly the best time to take in Paris’ most famous attraction.
Don’t Pay for Water!: It’s common for restaurants to give tourists bottled water, often for exaggerated prices. I recently learned that there’s a law in France that requires restaurants to provide tap water to those who ask. Save yourself from paying for expensive bottles of Evian and ask for une carafe d’eau.