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5 Simple Tips for traveling through Paris

Getting around Paris with some experienced know-how

Dreams of visiting the Eiffel Tower, Versailles and the Louvre cross your imagination. Great croissant and espresso breakfasts, wine and cheese lunches and fresh local breads and delicious sauces tempt your epicurean palate. Tendrils of Eiffel Tower up close (click any pic to enlarge)accordion serenading romantic couples and the alluring musical melody of French songstresses teasing sultry tones are aural delights. Can you imagine it?

Grabbing a flight to Paris is easy from almost anywhere in the world. Booking accommodations near the Seine and Champs Elysees may not be too difficult. But deciding what to do in Paris from the plethora of options available might pose a few roadblocks as all options are tempting opportunities.

Paris Tips Unique to Paris

Unlike other metropolitan cities, Paris has a few unique quirks we haven’t found in other gateway cities. Here’s our 5 best tips we learned while visiting the Paris ~ the City of Lights.

1. Take the RER (commuter network) instead of driving or cab – I’ve driven in numerous large cities around North America and a few in Europe. I’ve driven on the opposite side of the road in a standard driving on the opposite side of the car (left hand Paris streets aren't the same as North Americaclutching). Let me say the chaos of Paris driving is unlike any I’ve experienced before – lanes do not mean anything, motorbikes lane hop terrifyingly and red lights do not mean STOP! Being a driver in Paris is nerve-racking, being a passenger or in a cab is even worse.

Paris Tip 1: Take Paris’ RER network when you need to commute any distance you can’t walk. The Paris RER network of buses, subways and commuter networks are amazing and will get you pretty much everywhere. Take the train from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport, subway to Versailles or take the bus to the Moulin Rouge. Buy an RER Travel pass for open access to the network and adventure as you please. You will appreciate the stress reduction getting around Paris!

 

2. Washrooms are a problem – no understatement here! We recommend you severely reduce your water intake as finding a washroom / WC / loo while out and about in Paris is nearly few and far between toilets / WCimpossible. You can use the public toilets sparsely interspersed around the city – finding one is a stroke of luck and we’ll bet the lines are long as it cleans itself every use – think tinkling in a dripping cavern of freshly washed bathroomness. The larger tourist sites have washrooms available, but never for the popularity of the venue. Even the Starbucks and McDonalds washrooms are insufficient, super lined up … and often requiring a passcode with purchase to unlock.

Paris Tip 2: Use the WC facilities at your restaurants 3 times daily and severely reduce your liquid intake during the day – a point of necessity!

 

3. Grab an escooter – One great thing about Paris are the dedicated bike lanes available, generally well curbed off from Take a Bird for a ride ...the driving chaos on the roads. That offers the ability to get around the city core on e-scooters a great short trip opportunity to save some footsteps (sorry Fitbit) when your feet have had enough.

Paris Tip 3:  With great escooter options like Bird and Lime (among others) usable easy enough with smart phone apps, you can quickly locate available scooters and for a few dollars (2 miles, 22 min, $6 Euro for our trips average) you can be scooting along to your next destination in just a few moments.

 

4. Skip the line tours – Depending on the seasonality of your visit and the popularity of the sights you want to see; consider how much time you have for waiting in lines to get into your Versailles was especially crowded on our visit daydestination. For popular tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Versailles and even lesser ones like the Catacombs, the skip the lines opportunity may be worth it’s weight in gold to speed your entry access. Just as an example, The Palace of Versailles had a 2.5 – 3 hr wait to get access to the palace grounds - lined up in full sunlight on hot pavement late May. A timed entry access allowed a +/- 15-minute opportunity to access the Palace and bypass the overheated lines.

Paris Tip 4:  Consider purchasing a Skip the Line access pass to your tourist attraction if you are visiting during high season (May thru October). Compare Skip the Line and regular entry ticket prices on the destinations website and popular tour sites like Viator and Expedia and consider the frustration value of waiting in 2-hour access lines.

 

5. Restaurant reservations in advance – along the same lines as the logic of skip the line access passes to attractions and reserve early for popular restaurantsknowing that everyone likes to eat in a narrow window of time - restaurants fill very quickly. Even moreso during high season and for those restaurants near key attractions, if you really want to eat somewhere specific book a reservation.

Paris Tip 5: While touring during the day, check out a variety of restaurant menus and food selections so you can book a reservation early. If there is a one restaurant you know you really want, book a table even before you leave home!

 

6. Google Translate (Bonus Tip) - what an amazing tool to assist with language barriers on menus, signage or any text in a Google translate helps read menus and signsforeign language. While not perfect (the word champignon translated to fungus - which a mushroom really is anyways), Google Translate is a great app to help bridge the language divide and make communications a little easier.

Paris Bonus Tip: Download the Google Translate app (available both for Android and iOS) and use your phones camera to scan and read menus, use the voice feature to convert a phrase to and from French (in this case) or type in text to convert back and forth. Voila!

 

Paris is home to over 2 million residents, as well as being a major tourist destination. 2017 tourist stats show 23 million visitors converge on Paris to see the sites.

We’d like to offer a few other travel considerations for visiting a major tourist destination:

  • Pickpockets – any large gathering of tourists will naturally attract pickpockets and opportunists. Secure your belongings and don’t give pickpockets the opportunity for success.
  • Currency – exchange the majority of your currency at your home bank, then consider your hotel and local banks as your next best opportunity for perfect afternoon treat - gelato!additional travel needs.
  • Prebook the tours you want – if your heart is set on seeing a particular attraction, pre-book your tour (and consider a skip the line or enhanced tour to make the most of your experience). Last minute attempts may not be successful (especially in high travel season).
  • Enjoy a gelato – less popular in North America, gelato is a great vacation treat in the afternoon and easy to find. Fewer calories, less sugar and a great tasty treat!

We visited Paris in the spring (cause you pretty much have to see how beautiful Paris is, in bloom) just at the start of the busy summer tourist season. The lines were long, the heat was rising and there were people everywhere. We immensely enjoyed visiting Paris and will return – probably in the fall to winter to spring months when we could see more of the sites with far less crowds and congestion.

Ah, Paris, je t’aime!

Have you explored Paris? Wished you knew some of these tips? Tell us what other tips we should include. Drop a comment below and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Our French Adventure took us through Paris (and delivered a surprise engagement), through the Champagne Region and some excellent champagne house tastings and north towards the WW1 battle fronts of France and Belgium. Follow our other French Adventure posts here:

 

Viator

 

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