Are you traveling to Paris soon or you’re already there? How exciting is that! Honestly, I am a little bit jealous that you’re exploring or planning to visit one of the beautiful cities of Europe and I am just behind my desk writing or tucked in my bed re-watching “Friends”. Jokes aside, this is an exciting moment in your life and knowing the mistakes to avoid while traveling in Paris will even make your trip better.
Paris is undeniably a beautiful city that tops almost every traveler’s bucket list. From incredible landmarks, outstanding museums, to delicious french cuisines, there is so much to do and prepare for as you head to the city of love. With all it’s glitz and glamour, its not uncommon for visitors to find challenges especially those visiting for the first time.
So in this post, I will be sharing the best tips for traveling to Paris including all the travel mistakes to avoid while in the French capital.
Mistakes to avoid while traveling in Paris
1. Spending a lot of time in queues to popular tourist attractions
There is no doubt Paris has some of the most popular tourist attractions in the world from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre museum which means that some of these attractions receive thousands of tourists on a daily basis which translates to long queues.
If you decide to queue, you’re likely to spend hours in the line which time could easily be used to explore some of the other Paris beautiful places!
How to avoid this mistake?
The best way to escape the long lines is to buy the skip the lines tickets in advance. Buying these tickets online will save you hours of looking bored and pale to becoming anxious as you wait to enter that popular site.
You can buy this skip the line entry ticket to the Eiffel tower ( you’d want to buy this because the line can get crazy insane – after all, it’s the most visited European landmark in Paris)! If you plan on visiting the Louvre museum ( in which case you should, since it’s the largest and most visited art and antique museum in the world), then get yourself this skip the line entry ticket to the Louvre!
Other skip-the-line entry tickets to buy include; the Versailles palace skip the line ticket, the Catacomb ticket with an audio guide, Arc de Triomphe rooftop ticket, and so many others. You can use this link to purchase all the skip the line tickets of popular sites in Paris from getyourguide.
2. Not buying a Paris city Pass
The Paris city pass is quite important if you plan to visit a number of popular sites in this city of love. It will help you save money and time. The Paris pass will also guarantee you “free” and hustle free entry to the major tourist sites.
On top of gaining access to popular museums and monuments, this Paris city pass also includes unlimited access to public transportation from the Metro, bus, tram to RER within Paris. It also includes the incredible Seine boat cruise for amazing views of the city and a 1-day hop-on-hop-off bus pass. Now, this is a bargain you can’t afford to miss especially if it’s your first time in Paris.
To purchase the Paris City Pass, you can use this link and then decide on the pass duration you want – whether one for 2,3, 4 or 6 days!
Some of the Paris attractions you can access using the Paris city pass include, the Louvre museum, Orsay museum – (basically all the museums in Paris), Palace of Versailles, Arc de Triomphe, Chateau de Fontainebleau which is one of the best castles in France and so many other attractions that total up to 60.
Should you buy the Paris city pass?
Though it might be costly, it’s better to buy it, especially if you want to visit a number of attractions in Paris and don’t want the hustles of long queues. If you also want the extras of free transportation, the seine cruise, and the hop-on-hop-off bus trip, purchasing the Paris city pass is a great deal.
However, if you’re traveling to Paris on a budget, plan to spend a good amount of time in Paris or you just won’t be visiting a number of popular Paris attractions, then the Paris city Pass may not be for you. And in addition, travelers below the age of 25 years don’t need to purchase a Paris pass since it’s free for them to enter museums. But all in all, one of the best tips for traveling to Paris is to purchase a Paris city pass.
Please note that the Paris pass doesn’t include the Eiffel tower, so you’ll have to buy the Eiffel tower entry ticket separately.
3. Dining near popular Parisian attractions
This is one of the big mistakes to avoid while traveling in Paris. Restaurants or cafes near popular tourist attractions are quite expensive and by all means, don’t prepare the best meals in the city.
If you want to splurge, this might not be a challenge for you but if you want to explore Paris on the minimum budget possible, it’s better to stay away from dining at popular restaurants and cafes especially those near major tourist attractions.
4. Thinking that everything in Paris is expensive
I’m by no means saying that Paris is a cheap city – no, it’s actually one of the expensive cities in Europe but it doesn’t mean that everything is incredibly expensive.
In fact, you can find a number of free things to do in Paris, like watching the illuminated Eiffel tower every after one hour at night, visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral, strolling around the famous Champs Elysees street, visiting some of the beautiful Paris parks like the Luxembourg gardens and so many others.
What to do then?
Other than just visiting the popular sites that will run your wallet dry, consider going to some of the free places mentioned above.
You can also look out for offers and discounts. For example, some of the popular Paris museums like the Louvre, Orsay, and Centre Pompidou are absolutely free every first Sunday of the month. And also take advantage of the free city walking tours. Who knew you could visit these sites for free? It’s not only dollar signs everywhere in Paris, you just need to know where and when to go!
5. Visiting only popular sites in Paris.
Paris has a number of incredible and popular landmarks that should not be missed by all means. I mean a trip to Paris is not complete if you don’t visit popular sites like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre museum, and so many others – but Paris goes beyond these popular sites!
There are a number of hidden gems in Paris that are often overlooked but are equally beautiful! So instead of sticking to just the popular sites, add some hidden gems to your Paris itinerary!
Some of these places include the Paris Statue of Liberty – yes Paris also has its own version, Parc de la Villette – a 55-hectare urban cultural park or Buttes Chaumont if you’re looking for a short romantic getaway out of the city.
6. Renting a car or using taxis in Paris
One of the best tips for visiting Paris is to not rent a car. Traffic in Paris is incredibly crazy and renting a car will just delay you by sitting in traffic for a good of amount of time which you would instead use for exploring the city of lights
In regards to that, don’t take a taxi as well – the results will be the same as when you rent a car.
What to do instead?
Use the Paris metro. It is easy to use, very efficient and connects well to some of the popular Paris tourist attractions. And if you buy the Paris city pass as I suggested earlier, you’ll have access to public transportation for free.
But if you really want to enjoy Paris to the dot, like the locals, the best way to do it is on foot. You’ll get to see all the corners and pretty streets you’d rather have not seen while in a car or train.
7. Packing too many activities in one trip
One of the other big mistakes to avoid while traveling in Paris is packing too many activities in one trip. This might be inevitable especially for first-time visitors who have had Paris on their bucket list for quite some time.
With hundreds of beautiful places to visit in Paris, it becomes quite impossible to see everything. And there is no point in just running from one attraction to another without actually enjoying and spending some time there.
How to avoid this mistake?
Come up with a realistic Paris itinerary of the places you want to visit before your trip and allocate time depending on the number of days you have in the city. It’s better to start with the major attractions that you’ve always wanted to see.
8. Missing the Seine boat cruise
Cruising on the Seine is one of the must-do things in Paris, so missing it shouldn’t even be an option. This popular cruise helps you take in the breathtaking views of all the major Paris landmarks – from the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Louvre museum to the Musse d’Orsay.
Though the cruise routes are almost the same for all the cruising companies, the activity differs in terms of the accompaniments on board – whether dinner being inclusive or not.
Though you can easily pay for your ticket at the time of boarding, it’s always better and some times cheaper to buy your seine cruise ticket online. Book this seine cruise if you want dinner inclusive (it is also wheelchair accessible) or this sunset seine cruise if you want to forego dinner.
9. Thinking that the Eiffel Tower gives the best views of the city
This is by far one of the commonest misconceptions when it comes to visiting Paris. Other than admiring the architectural wonder of the tower, the other reason why people visit the Eiffel is to have amazing views of Paris.
There is no doubt the Eiffel tower gives spectacular views of the city but it’s not the place to get the absolute best.
Where to go instead?
To get the absolute best views of Paris, head to Arc de Triomphe. From the top of the Arc de Triomphe, you’ll be able to see the Champs-Elysees, the Louvre, and spectacular views of the Eiffel tower.
There’s just something about looking down the Champs-Elysees to the Louvre, out to La Defense, and of course, having one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower. The day time views and amazing but the night views are simply incredible.
Other places where you’re guaranteed incredible views of the city of lights include the Pompidou center, Le Printemps, La Grande Arche de La Defense, and so many others.
10. Falling for Popular Paris tourists traps and scams
Paris is generally a safe city to travel in but like any big and tourist city, tourist scams also exist in this French capital. Scammers always target tourists, so if your body language “screams” tourists, you’re most likely to be the next target.
On top of the scams, pickpockets are many in Paris which means that you should always be on a look out for your belongings at all times. Pickpockets are very common in crowded places like the metro and at popular tourist attractions.
Popular scams to look out for in Paris?
The petition scam at Popular attractions: With this scam, a woman (or women) will approach you with a supposedly important petition they want you to sign as a way of showing support to whatever cause they’re involved in. Do not sign it because as soon as you do, they will demand for money and in an aggressive way that you might end up feeling compelled to give them something just so they leave you alone.
The bracelet scam: No, those bracelets are not free and they’re not just being friendly by giving you “gifts”, they’re trying to scam you. So boldly say no and move on.
With this scam, someone will cunningly wrap a bracelet on your wrist, start telling you how nice it looks on you. Don’t feel guilty about taking it off if you don’t want to buy it. However aggressive they might get, stand your ground and say NO.
11. Paying for water at the restaurant or anywhere in the city.
Tap water is perfectly safe to drink in Paris, so instead of spending money on bottled water at a restaurant, simply ask the waiting staff to refill your glass whenever you run out – just remember to ask politely.
In the same way, even when you’re just running about in the city, you can forego buying bottled water at supermarkets by taking advantage of the Fuente Wallace (Wallace fountains) spread around the city. All you have to do is carry a collapsible water bottle to keep refiling as the need arises.
12. Over tipping at restaurants
While still on the subject of restaurants, it’s important to know that you don’t have to over tip after your meal while in Paris. You actually don’t even have to tip at all since the Paris menu prices are already inclusive of the service fee of 10%- 15% which includes the tip.
But if you feel like appreciating the service, you can still tip but definitely no pressure at all.
13. Not learning a few Fench words
Though almost the entire world seems to think that Fench people especially Parisian are rude (which btw I think is a bit of a misconception), learning a few Fench words can warm their hearts into opening up to you more.
You don’t even need to speak the French words perfectly well but your effort will be recognized as the locals will be more willing to help or even give you their time – just a few of them are ok.
French word to learn?
- Bonjour to mean Hello
- Merci to mean thank you
- S’il Vous plaît to mean Please
You can also carry a simple French phrasebook if you want to learn some other Fench words. This is not to mean that if you don’t know any French words your trip will not go well – on the contrary, since most of the people in the service places can communicate well in English – but knowing a few words can go along way while exploring Paris.
14. Losing or trashing your metro ticket as soon you board
This is one of the big mistakes to avoid while traveling in Paris. It might sound like a minor mistake but it is actually a big one that can get you fined a large unnecessary amount of money which can be anywhere around 30 Euros.
So make sure you keep your metro ticket unit you leave the metro in case someone does a random check of it. This should actually be taken seriously as there is no way around it. You either have the ticket or you pay a fine.
And also, before you board the train, make sure that your ticket is valid or else a huge fine will be coming your way pretty fast.
15. Wearing uncomfortable shoes
Paris is a city best explored on foot – this means that you’ll spend a share amount of time walking from one attraction to another. As you explore the city of lights, don’t do a disservice to your feet by wearing uncomfortable shoes.
Instead, wear shoes that you can easily walk-in – sneakers or running shoes are a perfect choice to take.
16. Not making restaurant reservations in advance
Some of the popular places in Paris easily get booked out especially on special days or weekends. To avoid waiting or bouncing back, make your table reservations a few hours in advance.
However, some smaller eateries don’t require advance reservations.
17. Staying at the wrong side of the city
It can actually be tricky to find out the best side of the city to book your accommodation. Some people opt to stay near popular sites which is a bit costly and others choose to stay away from the tourist attractions to get better deals.
There is always a trade-off in this scenario. You either spend more money at hotels in the city and reduce the costs of commute and time wasted or spend less on hotels by staying outside the city but spend extra on transportation.
Where should you stay then?
In my opinion, it would be better to stay within the city especially if you just have a few sightseeing days in Paris but if you’re staying for longer, a hotel just out of the city center won’t be a bad option as Paris’ public transportation is well connected.
18. Don’t forget your manners
Parisians and French people, in general, pay utmost attention to manners. Saying Bonjour (hello) to waitstaff or a shop keeper will earn you friendliness but failure to do so might bring out the “French rudeness” everyone seems to talk about.
This goes to show how the French people take manners seriously and you not saying hi is considered being extremely rude. In the same way, try not to force your way in the metro when some people are still moving out.
Whoah! that was a lot to take in especially if you’re traveling to Paris for the first time. I hope these travel tips in Paris help you have an amazing time in the city of lights with minimal to no mistakes.
Do you know of any other mistakes that people traveling to Paris should know? Share them below so that others can also know how to avoid them.
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