If you’re planning your first trip to Paris, it could be for many reasons. Many see Paris as the romantic capital of the world while others want to go there to soak up the history and enjoy the culture. Whatever your reason, here are 7 things that are really worth knowing and that will make your experience that much more fulfilling.
1. Riding the Metro During Your First Time in Paris
It’s more than likely that you’ll be flying into one of the larger airports in Paris, possibly Paris-Orly International or Charles de Gaulle International. So you’ll need to allow yourself at least one hour’s journey from the airport, to commute to the hotel or BnB where you’ll be staying. It won’t matter whether you’re catching an Uber ride or using the Paris metro – it will take about the same amount of time. But the Uber ride will be much more expensive than riding the metro.
While you’re wandering through whichever airport you’ve landed in, you’ll find ticket kiosks where you can easily purchase metro ticket. If you’re having trouble, or have questions, there are also some very helpful attendants at the kiosks, who will be happy to help get just the right ticket for your final destination.
But here’s where you might need a little planning – you’ll find it much easier to ride public transport when your luggage is on wheels, with a handle. It’s even better if those wheels are spinner wheels – i.e. they not only roll along, but spin around as well, much like shopping trolley wheels do. This will help you to easily navigate your way onto the metro – and at a much cheaper cost than taxi or Uber.
Now when it comes to purchasing metro tickets, you can of course, purchase single tickets, but there’s also the option of getting a booklet of tickets instead. This will not only allow you to get around the city easily and whenever you feel like it, but it’s a cheaper “per trip” cost as well. So if your first time in Paris is for the purpose of seeing lots of attractions, the booklet should be your preferred choice.
One thing worth noting is, that if you’re disabled, or traveling with someone who is, the Paris metro system is not that user-friendly. You’ll find yourself climbing up and down stairs a lot, so if this will be a problem for you, then you should probably consider other modes of transport.
2. Book Your Accommodation in a Preferred District in Paris
Paris is divided into a number of districts, which they call arrondissements. There are 20 in all – and each have their own unique character. So you should think about the reason why you’re taking your first trip to Paris and plan accordingly. For example, if you want to see the Eiffel Tower and major Parisian attractions such as the Louvre Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral, then staying in the seventh district will put you in close proximity to them all.
The 7th District is a quaint neighborhood and especially appeals to joggers, who love to run along the river Seine. You’ll also find easy access to metro transport which can take you to places like the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees.
If your first time in Paris is for the arts, then you might think about District 18, called Montmartre. The Moulin Rouge is there, as well as the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, which are both worth a look. Not only this, but Montmartre boasts the best views in Paris and their souvenir shops and restaurants are more affordable. In summary, first decide what your goals are for your first time Paris visit and then research the arrondissements to find one that best suits you.
3. Other Ways to Get Around in Paris
So now that you’ve found your accommodation in your preferred district, it’s time to go exploring. While the Paris metro is definitely the cheapest mode of transport, you may not be the type who wants to be waiting for scheduled arrival and departure times. So taxis or Uber drivers may offer a convenience that the public transport system does not.
However, you might like to look out for a number of little green electric scooters that you’ll find randomly left all over the city. These scooters, left on sidewalks and the like, are for rent from a few different companies. You can download the rental company’s app to your smart phone, enter your credit card information and they will unlock the scooter for you. On main thoroughfares, you’ll see dedicated scooter/bicycle lanes, but these things zip along, so in the back streets you can join the traffic.
These scooters are GPS enabled, so your app will help you find the nearest one. Once you arrive at where you’re going to, just leave the scooter there and sign out from the app. Your credit card will then be charged the appropriate fee. The only requirement is, that you don’t leave the scooter in a place where it might be damaged – like too close to the street, for example.
If you’re able-bodied, these things are great fun to ride. They’re also more enjoyable in the warmer months, so if you’re planning to spend your first time in Paris during winter, you might want to include warm jackets in your luggage, because it gets quite chilly there. If the traffic bothers you, just rent one out of peak times and you’ll be fine. Parisian drivers are quite courteous to bicycle and scooter riders.
Another option for getting around is to rent a bicycle – a bit more demanding on the leg muscles, but good for fitness. There are plenty of bike stations around the city. Same deal – download the bike company’s app and off you go. Unlike the scooters, you’ll need to return the bike to a bike station though.
If none of the above is your thing, then walking is another great option. In fact, we have a page especially about a self guided walking tour of Paris that you might enjoy, if you want to explore a section of Paris on foot.
4. Want Tickets to the Attractions? Buy Them Online
Apart from the fact that it’s less expensive to purchase tickets online than “at the gate”, you’ll also find the convenience appealing. Entry to places like the Louvre Art Museum, the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Basilica, cost money, so buying them online will help you avoid wasting time in the long queues and give you more time to experience a greater number of the best attractions in Paris.
Another handy hint for getting around Paris for the first time, is to stay hydrated. So grab yourself a reusable water bottle. If it’s comprised of collapsible material then you can stash it away when not needed. Very convenient – and eco-friendly too!
5. Save Money by Buying Your Own Groceries
First time in Paris visitors should know that while it’s great to enjoy the delights of French cafes and the wonderful food in Parisian eating establishments, if you’re running on a budget then you might want to pace yourself. Eating out in Paris can be very expensive.
So if you type of accommodation allows for it, then you should consider purchasing snacks and other supplies at a local grocery store. Among the best known in Paris, are the Fran Prix grocery stores. They seem to be everywhere so you’ll find them conveniently located. Here you can stock up on fresh fruit, snacks, pastries, french bread and drinks. These are very budget-friendly and will enable you to grab a quick breakfast or lunch before heading out, or take along with you.
All that sightseeing can make you hungry – especially if you’re walking or bike riding!
Paris also has a number of outdoor markets for all your fresh produce needs – and they are very affordable.
6. Don’t Be a Target for Pickpocketers
Be on the lookout! Pickpocketing in Paris is not a rumour – it’s very real. Scam artists and pickpocketers are quite a common occurrence, so much so that the police are not very helpful. To them, these violations of personal property are “just another day”. One of the typical “distractions” that you might come across, that provide an ideal setting for pickpocketers, is street exhibitions or games.
Having your wallet or purse stolen is not only inconvenent, but in a foreign country where you need identification, can also be quite disturbing. So you might want to do some research on things like “RFID blocking sleeves” which protect you from “electronic pickpocketers” who steal your credit card info, using special devices. And don’t be fooled! Many of these pickpocketers are well dressed; they don’t all look like Oliver Twist.
So if you’re backpacking in France, please ensure that for your first time in Paris, that you have an anti-theft one with locking zippers and RFID protection. Again, do a little research. If you’re able to travel with company and not on your own, be sure to look out for each other. Many a pickpocketer has been caught red-handed by a vigilant travel companion.
7. Enjoy Eating Out – French Restaurants Cater for All Dietary Preferences
Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, have food allergies or just love a good steak, Parisian eating establishments are very accommodating for special requirements. If you don’t speak French, they will provide you with a menu written in English and are happy to explain it all to you. Even McDonalds in Paris includes vegan options.
But take your time. Take a look around before deciding where you would like to eat out in Paris. You don’t have to go for the fine dining experience to get great food in Paris. Even the fast food outlets will delight you.
Finally … the language barrier. If you don’t speak French, or only know a few French words, you’ll find that the French population know enough English to successfully communicate with you. You can even download translation apps to your smart phone that are helpful.