General Tips

I'm sure you wouldn't want to be that girl in the picture, staring at a map, completely lost! Don't worry - the best thing about discovering Paris IS being lost! Paris is at her best when you let the surprises come to you.

However, there are a few key things to know to make your stay more enjoyable:

Practical Information about Paris

 

Paris overview

 

Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (sections).  The lower the number, the closer you are to the center. Each have their own vibrant character and differences, and the sights are scattered throughout.

 

I would suggest that you research online for overviews of each of the neighborhoods.

Sometimes the best plan in Paris is to not have a plan.

Wander through arrondissements 1-6 and see what you find - or what finds you!

General

  • For money exchange, be very careful as many charge very high fees and won't let you get your money back once you complete the exchange with them. As of this moment, I like the Multi-change at 8 boulevard de la Madeleine, Line 8, stop Madeleine.

  • Always have at least one empty bag with you if you plan on going to a market, whether indoor or outdoor, because often they will not give you a bag. You can pay for one, but it will be a flimsy paper one, so better to have the cloth. You can buy one at the organic market, for example, to use and for a souvenir, or get one of those bags that folds into a bag that you can clip onto your purse or pants.

  • Learn as much French as you can before you go, for they really appreciate when you try.

  • Pay attention to the signs and posters in the métro because they will announce anything current going on in the city or near to the city.

  • A word about the homeless…You will see many, but they are generally very nice and well-mannered, and food is appreciated.

  • Pickpockets. Be aware, but not worried. If you keep all your bags zippered and over your shoulder crossed over your body with the bag in front, you will be absolutely fine. If you're a guy, put your valuables in pockets that zipper.

  • To be aware: Around tourist areas, especially near the Louvre, Tuileries, and Notre Dame, there are young girls that will approach you with a clipboard for something to sign. Wave them away immediately, and don’t even let them get close to you.

  • If a girl comes up to you with a ring, asking you if you’ve dropped it, wave her away and keep walking.

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Restaurants

When you enter, you need to specify two things:

  1. How many of you there are

  2. Are you there for eating or drinking 

 

  1. To reply, use the French number, or hold up your fingers if you have to.

  2. If you are only having a drink, say: pour un verre, or pour boire

       If you are also going to eat, say: pour manger.

  • To order, always start with: Je voudrais…

  • If you are ordering wine, your choices are the house wine (cheaper) or their other selections by the glass, carafe, or bottle.

  • In a restaurant ask for une carafe d’eau, which is a carafe of tap water, and perfectly fine to drink, and will save you lots of money, especially if you are eating out a lot. Specify this right away or they may bring you bottled water and charge you for it. 

  • Sitting outside at a café may seem like a great experience, but everyone around you will be smoking, so if you are sensitive to that, I suggest staying inside.

  • Some of the best restaurants close in the middle of the day, so keep this in mind and check hours ahead of time, and some are closed completely on Sundays and Mondays.

  • Be prepared, at times, to wait much longer for service and items than in America because places may be busy and also it is French custom not to rush you.

  • When you want the bill, you often have to ask for it: L’addition, s’il vous plaît. In some places they may drop it down on the table right after serving you; this does not mean you need to feel rushed or that they are pressuring you to leave.​

Beginner language tips

  • When approaching someone, stopping someone to ask a question, at an outdoor stand, entering any store, restaurant, or other such establishment, say, Bonjour in greeting first. If it is after 6pm, Bonsoir is used. Always say Au revoir upon leaving or parting.

  • Ça coûte combien ? = How much is it ?

  • If you want to connect to wifi in a café or other place, it is pronounced wee-fee, so ask: Avez-vous wifi ?

  • And, of course, use s’il vous plaît (please) and merci (thank you) quite liberally.​

  • The French language can be tricky to pronounce and there is lots more to know. It's a good idea to practice as much French as you can before you leave, as it will go a long way for you.​

 

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All photos are the property of Nicole T. Smith, L.Ac. and cannot be copied or used in any way. All rights reserved.