The departure date of your trip to Paris is not far away and you’re getting more and more excited. It will be your first time in Paris (or maybe not), and you obviously want to make the most of it. If it is your first time visiting this unforgettable city, you might feel overwhelmed. Keep calm and read these tips from Magali, our local Paris ambassador, to help you prepare for your trip.
1. Make a list
Paris can satisfy the needs of fashionistas, food lovers, culture addicts and people with all kinds of other interests. Taking the time to make a list of what you want to see and do means you’ll be less likely to miss the French restaurants you wanted to visit, or the exhibitions that would be a shame to miss. It’s important to ask yourself questions in advance about what you’re interested in.
For example, if you love eating and wish to enjoy delicious local food, you can make a list of spots near where you’re staying or attractions you plan on visiting. A really easy way to keep track of places you’d like to visit is to use the Like A Local app. Making a list of restaurants in advance can help you avoid dining in overpriced, poor-quality restaurants that you find at the last minute. If you live for culture, you can research museums based on what you like (modernism, French painters etc.), or find out what’s going on in the cultural scene. Paris hosts major exhibitions and events throughout the year, and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to see works by your favourite artists.
Photo credit: Markus Spiske
2. Get familiar with the metro map
Paris has 14 metro lines, eight tramlines and a suburban rail network. It can be challenging even for people who live here to find the most efficient way to get from point A to point B! Needless to say, your subway map will be your best friend. I recommend marking where you’re staying on the map and finding out the best ways to get to the places you want to visit. This way you’ll be less anxious, and it will save you time and hassle once you’re in the city. You can then simply relax, keeping in mind that taking the metro in the wrong direction happens to the majority of us.
A fun thing to try with friends: It can be amusing to guess the quickest way from point A to point B without looking at the metro map. Some Parisians are metro experts and are proud to show off their knowledge.
Photo credit: Blog Viajes
3. Get lost (but keep a paper or offline map with you)
I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last person to recommend getting lost in Paris. It can be fun to visit a specific attraction and then explore the surrounding area to discover its hidden gems. You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the area and embrace the local spirit. You’ll discover that you can spend hours walking through different districts, and that each has its own identity. Getting lost can be a very fun experience and is a great way to learn more about local life. It’s wise to bring along a map so you can easily find your way home once you’re done strolling around.
Photo credit: ParisSharing
4. Try to speak some French
The famous writer Mark Twain said: “In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language”. I assume you’ll have the same experience as Mark Twain. Learning how to speak French fluently is not an easy task, and you can’t learn French overnight. I don’t want to discourage you, though. It’s useful to learn some words so you can start conversations politely. Saying hello when entering a shop and goodbye when leaving are common civilities. When it becomes too difficult to continue in French, you can switch to English. Your audience will surely appreciate the effort (and the accent). It can help to break the ice and the person you’re speaking too will be more likely to help you.
Photo credit: Michele M. F.
5. Get around by bus
Riding the metro is easier than taking the bus, but the experience is completely different as you’re always underground. Taking the bus can be much more fun as it enables you to see changes in the urban landscape, discover new neighbourhoods and better know your surroundings. You’ll have an overall better experience if you get around by bus. I clearly remember the day when a friend and I got stuck in traffic at Place de l’Opéra when I moved to Paris after graduating. It was the first time I saw the majestic Opéra Garnier.
You can download the bus map from this website. Otherwise, you’ll see that very often all the stops of a line are listed in the bus or at the bus stop. A bus ticket costs the same as a metro ticket – €1.80. You’ll pay €14.10 if you buy 10 tickets.
Photo credit: faungg’s photos
6. Check the weather forecast & dress appropriately
The weather can be very nice and suddenly turn rude in Paris. It’s also very hard to predict what the weather will be like, even during a specific season. For instance, I’ve experienced summer temperatures of around 20 degrees, but this summer it has been very hot. I would strongly recommend having a look at the forecast before packing, and keeping in mind that the weather in Paris can change a lot over the course of a few hours. In spring and summer it’s great to wear trainers. If you walk long distances with flip-flops or sandals, your feet will probably be sore by the end of the day. Flat boots are perfect for fall and winter to combat the rain (or even the snow).
Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff
7. Beware of pickpockets
Unfortunately, like in every big city, pickpockets of all kinds proliferate around non-prudent visitors. My wallet was stolen when I lived in Milan, Italy, so I know how it feels and how complex it is as a foreigner who doesn’t speak the local language very well to deal with the loss of identification documents and credit cards.
I recommend being very careful if you use your smartphone while riding the metro. Pickpockets can easily snatch the device out of your hands and jump out of the metro just before the doors close, making it impossible to run after him/her. During rush hours the city gets really packed and you might find yourself stuck in a crowd. Be even more careful at these times because pickpockets take advantage of these situations. Of course the risk is higher if you go to touristic places like the Champs Elysées, but pickpockets operate everywhere and they’re very hard to spot as they look like you and me.
Photo credit: Roman Königshofer
Once you’re done preparing, dive into the city and enjoy the local Parisian way of life. Paris will expand your cultural horizons, make your taste buds more than happy and renew your wardrobe!
For more local recommendations read:
Special tip: For a more authentic Paris experience, get the Like A Local mobile app
Magali is a project manager in the luxury hospitality industry. She was born in Nice, France. She recently moved to San Francisco, California, after having worked in Paris for six years. The City of Light is still in her heart and she never misses the opportunity to wander its streets and discover new spots each time she returns to France. She also lived in Italy when she was a student. One of her dreams is to travel the entire country in a single month by car.