10 little things to know before you visit Paris

Planning a trip to Paris? First things first, you're gonna love it! However, as with any new place, knowing a few little things before you depart will always make the journey that little better.

Here are ten little things we think yo should know before you visit Paris.


Everybody smokes

If you're travelling form the US, Canada, Australia or even some other stricter European countries, the sheer number of smokers in Paris is going to come as quite a shock. Whilst under EU law it is illegal to smoke inside a restaurant or bar, providing there is at least one wall that isn't fully closed in, this interpretation is pushed to the limit in the City of Light(ers) - even in 'inside' restaurants. 

Cool dude, Paris, France

If being around cigarette smoke really bothers you, even on a sunny day, you're going to have to sit inside.

 

You will feel fat...

The Parisian woman has a bit of a reputation - painfully skinny, permanently chic and clad head-to-toe in black. For those of us that have been carrying around extra kilograms of Christmas weight (from 2011!), it is inevitable that you may feel a little frumpy. 

Paris, France

Sure, you could beat yourself up about this fact but, since you've come to the land of crepes, baguettes, macaroons and frites, this seems a little dumb! Ladies, go forth and eat.

 

.....But make sure you're still stylish

Depending where we travel, it is not unusual for us to wear the same pair of shorts for several days matched with bare feet and faded t-shirts. In Paris however, this simply won't cut it.

Whilst you may feel comfortable modelling a bum-bag and hiking boots to some of the tourist hot-spots, the same outfit may well draw the odd look of disgust from wannabe fashionistas in a fancy bistro, designer store or achingly cool coffee shop.

We're not saying you have to pack an entirely different wardrobe purely for Paris, but definitely think twice before putting on those fabulous zip off-around-the-knee trousers or sportswear! 

 

Even if you speak french, most people won't let you

After a rather odd AirBnB experience in Toulouse involving a dodgy estate and a last minute cancellation, team Along Dusty Roads learnt a couple of things. Firstly, that everything usually works out in the end, and secondly that Andrew's grasp of the French language is far better than either of us ever realised. 

Parisians however seem not to agree. 

Parisian fruit stall, France

This city of international inhabitants and travellers really do not appreciate butchery of their mother-tongue. In fact, dare to speak in anything other than perfectly accented french, and you will be met with a blank stares, the occasional look of disdain and more often than not, English.

But please, don't fret. Just maybe head out of the city limits (or go anywhere else in France) si vouz voulez parler français.

 

beware of scammers

Paris is not just a popular tourist destination; attracting around 33 million visitors per year, it's the world's most popular destination. Unfortunately, for anybody with dreams of seeing the Eiffel Tower, this also means that it's a great place for scammers that know every trick in the book!

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

The bulk of them involve some sort of distraction technique (like taking a survey), with the aim of getting a hold of your phone/wallet before you notice it's gone. Check out this article for a comprehensive look at Paris' most common scams.

Pickpocketing is also on the rise on the metro! 

Now, don't get paranoid and scrub Paris of your to-do list - the bulk of these can be avoided by exercising common sense and protecting you valuables. Andrew lived in Paris for a year and we stayed here for three weeks last summer - we had absolutely no issues. Of course, we encountered these people, but being aware of what they were doing meant that we wouldn't fall for their tricks.

 

eating in is cheaper, but not cheap

Nobody goes to Paris to save money, but if like us, you're here for a while and intend to cook at home or in your hostel/Airbnb, you must consider that groceries are pretty pricey - even if you're not converting pounds to euros (cheers Brexiteers!).

Delicious street food, Paris, France

We were absolutely fine once we'd realised what was overpriced, but our first few supermarket outings cost us a little more than we would have liked.

And. most importantly, remember that in France most shops are completely shut on Sunday - a few supermarkets are starting to change, but don't leave yourself short for your Sunday adventures!

 

there is dog poop EVERYWHERE!

Despite the absence of private back gardens and oversized apartments, Paris is a city of pampered pooches and doting owners. Unfortunately however, it is not a city of people who know how to poop-a-scoop, meaning that to dash down a side-street with any sort of speed requires a great deal of skill, balance and hop-scotching between turds!

 

understand the metro

Paris' metro system is huge. Even if you're a steadfast step-collector, you'll probably find yourself catching it at least a couple of times during your time in the city. 

There are several ways to pay for your fare, but the most practical for the majority of short-term visitors is in a carnet (a 'book' of 10 single tickets). A book of 10 for zone 1-2 is €12.70, and is valid on the metro, bus, tram, the Montmartre funicular, and RER (within zone 1).

Pairs Metro, France

This is an incredibly walkable city, and you may find yourself walking miles every day, however, should you think that you may use public transport frequently (for example, if you are injured or disabled - or if the weather is horrendous!), you can also buy unlimited, 1, 2, 3 and 5 day passes. See the RATP website for more information.

You can buy tickets at any station, whether from an employee within an office or from the machines (you can change the language on the machines, so if your French isn't great you'll still be able to buy one) and from any tabac. But remember, your best way to understand and see a city is not by staying underneath it - so think about taking the bus sometimes.

 

table service is the norm

After waiting a spectacularly long time for the bill one evening, we gave up on our waitress and headed over to the till ourselves.

Big mistake.

Met with the steely eye of a grumpy Parisian bar keep, we were promptly sent back to the restaurant area like naughty children - instructed that we must await our overworked waitress.

Table service, Paris, France

It seems that table service is not simply a luxury here; it's a requirement and definitely something to remember if you're spending any time hanging out on pavement cafés - and after all, this is Paris, if you're not doing that, then you're doing the city all wrong!

If you want a very cheap espresso or beer though, then head straight to the bar and drink it there - the price is considerably less than having it at a table, which is why you'll always see a few locals crowded around it. 

 

tourist spots, tourist prices

During our three weeks housesit in France's capital, we lived on a particularly fancy street, within throwing distance of its most iconic structure - the Eiffel Tower. Great for days out exploring the sights, posting jealousy inducing Facebook pics and generally feeling a little like we'd won the lottery. The only problem with this dream location? Simply nipping out in the evening to enjoy a glass of good French wine under a setting sun could cost us a fortune.

Paris, France

That's the problem with hanging out in areas frequented by tourists - you simply have to pay a lot more.

Of course, there are some experiences you want to have; an overpriced crepe from colourful Montmartre, a carafe of wine with views of the Trocadero or moules marinière from a quintessential Parisian brasserie. But just be warned, that these experiences won't come cheap.

To keep costs down, take the time to discover more local areas and avoid the tourist haunts, have a homemade picnic in one of the many beautiful gardens or on the banks of the Seine or simply rent a bicycle and get lost. This city is full of so many secrets and stories just waiting for you to uncover them - and they don't all cost a lot to discover. 

And, absolutely, what ever you do, don't forget to indulge in one of the huge falafel wraps in the Marais. You will not regret it. 


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