Are you visiting Paris for the first time, and you don’t know what to expect? Here we have something for you! We will give you our 25 tips and tricks so that you can have a wonderful stay in the city. You will find everything you need, advice for public transport, links to book your tickets, and some other useful information to make your trip as easy and as comfortable as possible.
1. Buy a discovery Navigo pass
If you want to visit the city for a few days, it is always a good idea to buy a Discovery Navigo Pass. With this pass, you can use the RAPT network as many times as you want. Everybody can buy it at any RATP ticket office (there is one in each metro station), and it costs only €5. Once you have your pass, you can reload it with any of the packages offered by the RATP. Please bring a photo ID as you will need one to stick on your pass, and enjoy the Parisian public transportation system!
Pass price: €5
•Single journey (zones 1-2): €7.5
•Week (zones 1-5): €22.80
•Month (zones 1-5): €75.20
2. Check the weather
When in Paris, do like Parisians: always check the weather before going out if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises. In general, the weather forecast is quite accurate, so you can trust it and plan your journey according to what it says. Just be cautious and take everything you need to deal with bad weather.
Don’t forget to ckeck the forcast.
3. Buy your entrance tickets online
If you want to visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Versailles Palace and some other monuments that are normally crowded, avoid queuing and book your entrance tickets online. If you have bought them in advance, you can access the place easily after the security control. Sometimes, you can even use a less crowded entrance and save a lot of time.
To book your Louvre Museum entrance ticket, click here
To book your entrance ticket for the Eiffel Tower, click here
To book your entrance ticket for Versailles Palace, click here
4. Book a hotel downtown or near a metro station
There’s nothing better to enjoy your stay in Paris than being in the right place. Even if the capital has many different transport systems, the best one is the metro, so being in a hotel located in the downtown or near a metro station is a big plus. By doing so you will have the opportunity to enjoy the Parisian marvels till late at night (last metro trains leave around 00:30~00:45). Avoid hotels served only by transilien trains, because the last ones leave around 22:00~22:30.
5. Avoid Disney on weekends and Wednesdays
Disneyland, what a dream! It is smaller than Disney World in the United States, but it is worth a visit if you have some extra days in the capital. However, if you want to go, choose the date carefully. To begin with, avoid weekends because both parks are crowded; you will have to wait for ages to enter the rides, and entrance tickets are more expensive than on working days. Besides that, avoid Wednesdays because most public schools in France finish at noon, so some parents take advantage of the free afternoon to take their children to the parks. We suggest you go on work days, any day except Wednesday, and to book your tickets in advance because sometimes you can find good discounts.
To book your tickets, click here
6. Download the RAPT app on your mobile phone
The RATP is the company that manages the public transportation system in the Paris. If you want to visit the capital and its surroundings, we recommend you download the RATP app on your phone – it’s useful and free! In this app, you have up-to-date information about the different transportation systems of the network. With this app, not only will you have a plan of the network, but you can also look for the fastest way to get to your destination, get information about possible disruptions, closing times or scheduled and unscheduled changes. Simple and useful!
7. Learn some words in French
Of course, we understand that French is not the easiest language in the world, but learning some basic words before visiting the capital may be very useful. You don’t need to speak like a Parisian, but some polite words are really appreciated. Besides, there are many French people who don’t understand a single word in English, so if you ever need help, it will be easier to speak directly in French. Here we have some useful words for you:
• Good morning: Bonjour
• Good evening: Bonsoir
• Please: S’il vous plaît
• Thanks: Merci
• Where is the _____________?: Où se trouve _____________?
• How can I get to the _________, please?: Comment je fais pour arriver à ___________, s’il vous plaît ?
• To the right: A droite
• To the left: A gauche
• Straight: Tout droit
8. Choose your clothes according to the weather
The weather, once again! Yes, we pay particular attention to this point because it’s really important. To check the weather forecast is not enough ; you need to choose your clothes according to it. If you see the sun shining from your window, be cautious. Sometimes, the sun shines just before a big storm (in summer), or sometimes even if it shines it is cold outside, and yes sometimes it is sunny and the weather is perfect. So in order to avoid unpleasant experiences, check the weather before getting dressed. Last tip: never leave your hotel without an umbrella and a jacket, even in summer… you never know!
9. Never leave your personal belongings unattended
Yes…unfortunately in Paris, always keep your personal belongings with you and don’t leave them unattended. If you have a backpack, place it in front of you while on public transport or in crowded places. Be careful of crowds in tourist places as these are the perfect hiding places for thieves! Last tip: don’t be afraid, Paris is a quite safe city, but don’t trust everybody either.
10. In escalators and moving sidewalks, always keep to the right
It might sound a little bit strange, but if you don’t want to be stepped on by the crowd, place yourself to the right when you take the escalators. In Paris and in some other cities in France, the right is for people who are not in hurry and the left for those who want to move forward quickly. So people in the left line will not wait till the escalator gets to the top, they will try to climb the steps as fast as possible; so if you place yourself on the left side, you have two possibilities: either you climb at the same rate or you are stepped on by those who want to pass. Last tip: pay special attention in the metro during rush hours. At that time everybody is in a rush, except (perhaps) tourists!
11. Avoid restaurants near tourist places
If you want to live a real gastronomic experience, avoid at all costs restaurants near tourist places, conceived for tourists. You are going to pay two times the normal price for an ordinary or even mediocre dish and you won’t see any French in the surroundings, because most of them know that the real culinary expertise is elsewhere. For example, having dinner in the Champs Elysées is not a good idea; most of the dishes come from international cuisine and are really expensive. To have a good dinner, go to less touristy and more traditional quarters especially in the 6th, 11th and 12th districts. Choose small cafes and restaurants rather than big ones ; they can surprise you. Tip: If you see the menu translated in many languages, it’s a bad sign.
12. Check your arrival and departure airport before your trip
The French capital is served by three airports, all of them outside the city. These are Roissy Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly and Beauvais-Tillé. We suggest you check in advance your arrival and departure airports and terminals because, depending on their location, the distance from and to the downtown and the transportation may mean that you need to change.
If you leave from Charles de Gaulle, bear in mind that it is located 25 km to the north of Paris, and depending on the transportation means you have chosen it will take you between 30 and 90 minutes to get there. For further information about how to get to this airport, click here.
If your flight leaves from Paris-Orly airport, located 20 km to the south of the capital, it will take you between 30 and 90 minutes to get there, depending on the transportation means that you have chosen. For further information about how to get to this airport, click here.
However, if you leave from Beauvais-Tillé, bear in mind that it is the furthest from Paris and the least served too. To get there, you will have to take the Beauvais airport shuttle, and it takes at least 90 minutes to arrive, so leave very very early if you don’t want to miss your flight. Be careful: the airport is closed at night, so it is impossible to stay there. For further information about shuttle prices and schedules, click here.
13. Check restaurants opening hours
Like in many other cities in France, many restaurants close between 15:00 and 19:00, so if you want to eat something after 15:00 and before dinner time, check if the place you want to visit is open before actually going there. If it is Sunday, Monday or a holiday, please double check because there are many restaurants that open on weekends, but close on Monday or are open on Monday but are closed on Sunday and holidays. If you have planned to visit the city in August, it is even more important to check because it is holiday period in France and a lot of restaurants and stores are closed for the whole month.
14. Check metro opening and closing hours
Metro opening hours may change according to the day of the week, so it is important to check before it is too late. Normally, the first trains leave at 5:30 everyday. From Monday to Thursday, the metro provides a continuous service till 00:30, and the last train arrives at its terminus at 1:15 at the latest. On Fridays, Saturdays and holiday eves, the service is until 1:15, and the last train arrives at its terminus around 02:15.
However, if you need to take the RER, remember that the service finishes everyday at 00:30 (it doesn’t matter if it is on weekend or working days) and it begins between 5:15 and 5:30 depending on the line. Tip: use the RATP app to check if there is any exceptional closing in the metro and RER lines, especially during summer periods because maintenance works are common during this season and the train timetables may change.
15. Don’t buy souvenirs from street vendors located near tourist places
We have seen them at least once, those street vendors that offer you mini Eiffel towers for €1, bad quality and sometimes even more expensive than in a souvenir shop. Their working area is just next to the most touristy places such as the Eiffel tower, Montmartre, Notre Dame, and so on, and if you ask for the price of something, be prepared to be harassed and followed by them, at least for some meters, to make you buy their merchandise and pay three times the real price. So if you want to buy souvenirs, choose the vendors or shops along the banks of the Seine.
16. Enjoy the free walking tours
Yes, it is not a joke! We’re talking about free tours! Like in many cities in Europe, you can find some small companies that offer you free or almost-free walking tours. It’s a tip-based tour, made by independent guides who show you the main places of the city. The route changes depending on the company for which they work, but you are going to discover the city, its history and secrets in a funny way and just for a few euros. They know the capital very well and can recommend some restaurants, museums, and shops. Don’t think too much and come participate! You will enjoy a two-hour walk that will give you a great glimpse of the city.
Remember that this type of tour is not advised for young children and persons with reduced mobility.
For further information about the free walking tour, click here
17. Avoid public transport during rush hours
Yes, public transport can be quite chaotic sometimes: people running everywhere, long lines to buy tickets, and overcrowded buses and metros. So if you want to have a fairly quiet journey, and a quite good experience in the RATP system, avoid using public transport from 8:00 to 9:30 and from 18:00 to 20:00. If you cannot escape, be prepared to see Parisian daily life in all its glory.
18. Keep no scissors, fork or any other sharp object in your bag
Yes, it seems quite obvious but we never know! If you are the type of person who always has scissors in your bag, or a fork and a knife to eat at noon – in Paris, forget it! With the vigipirate plan, set up after the terrorist attacks in 2015, there are security controls in every tourist place of the city and even on public transport, so if during a security control a sharp object is found in your belongings, it will be confiscated, and in most cases you cannot get it back. We are sorry, but it’s a matter of security.
19. Enjoy the happy hours
Sometimes, having a good cocktail in Paris may be quite expensive; fortunately there is something called Happy Hour to enjoy a good drink at an affordable price. Most bars and restaurants in Paris have Happy Hour, which means that you pay for your drink at half price. To take advantage of this offer, visit one of the two main bar areas of the city, the Lappe Street in the 11th district or the Mouffetard Street in the 5th. Walk along the street and choose the offer that you like the most. Just don’t forget that Happy Hours begin normally at 17:00 and end around 21:00!
20. Buy food in supermarkets rather than in grocery shops
If you ever need to buy something, go directly to the supermarket. Avoid small grocery shops because even if they are open until late at night, you will be asked to pay three times the normal price. In general, supermarkets are not really expensive in France, so you can find everything you need at an affordable price. However, they close around 21:00 or 22:00. Besides, among the supermarkets, you have different possibilities, some more expensive than others – just go to have a look and choose the one you prefer.
21. Always validate your metro ticket
If you have decided to buy metro tickets instead of a Navigo pass, never forget to validate and keep your ticket till the end of your journey. Even if it is a connection and you have already validated it, do it again when you change from one transport to another. If you don’t do so and you get caught, you will have to pay a €50 fine. And if you have validated, you need a proof of it; that’s why you must not throw away your ticket till the end of your journey. In case of a check, you will be asked to present it to a RAPT agent. If you’re not able to do so, you will have to pay €50 too. If you have a Navigo pass, the situation is almost the same. You have to validate, and if not you will receive a €5 fine.
22. Be careful with “no entry” halls in the metro
Once again the metro! Yes, we insist on this because even Parisians don’t know it! Always pay attention to the “No entry” halls in the metro. Normally, it is indicated at the hall entrance, but sometimes, especially during rush hours, there are so many people that you cannot see them and you just walk into the hall. If you’re lucky, nothing will happen, but if it is not your lucky day, you can find one of the RATP agents waiting for you at the end of the hall to give you a fine, and you will have to pay at least €25. So don’t push your luck, avoid problems and read carefully all the signs before walking into a hall, especially in big stations such as Chatelet and République.
23. Be careful with cash machines on the street
You can find a cash machine almost everywhere in Paris, but most of them are on the street, outside the bank… So if you need cash, look for a cash machine away from prying eyes, if possible outside the downtown in a 24h 7/7 client service zone. If you cannot find it or you just don’t have time to look for it, pay attention to people around you. It seems quite obvious, but the new strategy used by thieves is to place themselves just behind you, wait for you to insert the card, and when you want to take your money, they’re going to shove you or throw dirty water at you so as to catch your attention, while another accomplice takes the money and runs. Be careful, they are always in groups of 4 or 5, so it is difficult to escape.
24. When walking in Paris, never stop on the streets
If someone asks you to sign a petition for a work of charity or offers you a bracelet, a rose or something else for free, run and quickly! In fact, those are some of the most common scams and swindles in Paris, and those people are only looking for your money, so don’t fall into the trap, look straight ahead and continue walking. Those people know that you’re a tourist; they are always in crowded places where, thanks to the crowd, their “work” becomes easier. For further information about the most common scams and swindles in Paris, click here.
25. Be careful with your connections
When you take the metro, you have a great variety of possible connections between the different lines. However, if you want to make a connection between two different transportation means, it might be more complicated. Here you have a summary of the possible connections:
-Metro/metro during the two hours since the first validation (without leaving the network).
-Metro/RER and RER/RER in Paris during the two hours between the first and the last validation.
-Bus/bus during the 90 minutes between the first and the last validation.
-Bus/tram and tram/tram during the 90 minutes between the first and the last validation.
Remember that there is no possible connection between the Noctiliens, so if you have to take two buses, you need two different tickets, one for each ride.
Don’t forget that there is an extra-cost for the RER outside Paris, so you will need a special ticket if you want to visit the surroundings of the capital.
Advice, best plans, great places; I will help you in your search for trips, activities, hotels and restaurants. Whether it’s for a walk, a weekend, an afternoon or merely to find a trendy place to eat, I can give you all the pointers you need for your endeavor. Just follow the guide!