After visiting Paris so many times that I have lost count, I’ve put together a little guide on things to avoid. You’ve probably heard some of these points through word of mouth and chose not to believe them or witnessed a few things yourself and not known how to handle them. You may be heading there soon and not know what to expect. Either way, I hope I can help you in some way today because these are all things that I have learnt the hard way (yikes).
Restaurants and cafés close to tourist attractions.
Slightly obvious but when you’re hanging around outside Moulin Rouge (because you can’t afford to go in) and the smell of “fresh” croissants or bread is wafting through the air and suddenly that cute little café is kind of tempting and how bad can it REALLY be? It would be nice to sit in and look at view…Nope! Don’t do it, don’t fall in to that trap. Well, you could fall in to it if you’re desperate… but most of these places around tourist attractions are not authentic Parisian places to eat. You’ll get a 2 Euro ready meal popped on a big posh white plate and charged 30 Euros for it. I wish I was lying but I am not. Yes, I am bitter because I have learnt this one the hard way!
Sticking to the guide book and packing too much in.
Ok, but have you ever been so interested in TripAdvisor or that map that the hotel gave you that you’ve bumped in to people? Or enjoying a pastry in a *ahem* real café so much but have had to cut the experience short because you only have 3 minutes and 45 seconds to shove it in your mouth until you have to dash to the next tourist attraction? Slow down, take your time and enjoy it! I am sure there is a Pinterest quote somewhere about looking up and not at your phone but it has never been more relevant than it is in Paris (or any other place actually). There is so many beautiful buildings and side streets to admire.
Scammers and thieves.
Your Nan warned you, Your mums friends aunt warned you and your nosey neighbour warned you but you didn’t listen because you thought they were just being over protective and now you’re on a packed Metro holding on to your bag for dear life just in case. Well, although they were being protective, they are actually right. A lot of thievery takes place on the packed Metro (and London Underground to be honest) it is just too easy for people. It is not your fault (unless you are advertising your goods, then it is your fault, sorry) but you can do simple things to avoid it like wearing one of those bags under your clothes, putting your purse under a lot of things in your bag or holding it in front of you. You should probably stop putting your wallet in your back pocket for this too.
In addition to this, the more you look at your belongings, the more attention you will draw to yourself. Maybe consider walking? It is much more enjoyable than being crushed underneath some ones armpit.
As for the scammers, they come in all different forms and mostly around tourist attractions. Someone will try and persuade you to buy a rose for your partner and then charge an obscene amount, someone also might grab your arm and put a bracelet on it and demand you pay for it. Either way, be cautious. The most popular scammers (and which are not limited to their gender) I’ve seen are:
1. The Rose Guy (as above)
2. The bracelet guy (again, as above)
3. The “sign the petition” ladies! Usually greet you with “do you speak English?” A petition for the blind or deaf or even an orphan child. Designed to make you feel bad and under pressure. They get you to sign and ask for 10 Euros after, sometimes more. Don’t do it.
4. The guys persistently selling you those brightly coloured Eiffel towers for 1 Euro. They shake them in your face until you get so annoyed with them that you buy one. Deep breath. Don’t do it.
5. The guy screaming “selfie stick!?!” at you while you are trying to take a selfie. I’ve never asked specifically how much but I’ve overheard 8 Euros. Potentially a great deal but also potentially will break by the end of the day.
6. Begging children/children surrounding you at cash machines. I’ve heard of this, never personally seen but apparently it does exist.
Your high expectations.
Time to reel in that image of Paris being that romantic city of love with jazz playing while you dance in the street and feed your lover Macarons. The real reality of Paris is that it is a city. People commute, there is homelessness and there are both good and bad people. Nothing like the movies. That doesn’t mean it is a bad thing, I just think the term “remove your rose tinted glasses” is very accurate and do not take the photos on social media as the real thing.
The worst times to go to any city is June, July and August and Paris is no exception to this. I think combined with the heat and the crowds around the Eiffel Tower are enough to make you say “what in fresh hell is this?” Especially now even more so with the security barrier. There will be no space on the grass to sit down and eat, coincidentally ice creams are suddenly more money…hmm how suspicious? I’d recommend going in the spring or autumn. I think winter (specifically Christmas) is a time to avoid any city too. Perhaps even considering going at the start of December is a good idea, you would get all the seasonal benefits without the crowds.
Speaking of the fresh hell of crowds under the Eiffel tower…Queues. Book your ticket in advance! Whether that is for the Catacombs or The Tower, just do it. Don’t do what I did and queue in the Catacombs queue for over 3 hours. It will diminish the value and excitement of what you’re looking at and honestly leaving you questioning if it was worth it. Unfortunately the answer will always be no. Be a smart egg and book in advance, your future self will appreciate it! (and you can look back and think “I actually enjoyed this”)
The view from the tower.
Ok, admittedly I have never done this. Why? Because I have been told time and time and time again that it is simply not worth it. It is down to you if you want to do this but for me, I have never seen the point! A lot of people recommend going in the tall black building behind for a better view. As someone very dear to me says “Would you rather be in the street looking at a castle or be in the castle looking at the street?” This applies here!
Taking the attitude personally
Customer service is not some of the Parisian’s strong point. I’d be lying to you if I said there wasn’t a strong undertone of sarcasm or rudeness in quite a few people I have encountered in Paris. I’ve even witnessed several people rolling their eyes, audible sighs when I spoke and also being treated poorly in a restaurant for absolutely no other reason than me being a tourist. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry several times and I can 100% assure you, I was a good customer. It’s a strange experience but you just have to ignore it and go about your day. You will probably never see them again, it’s not worth the negativity in your life even if for a few minutes. Drop a smile. Put on YOUR best customer service face.
What do you think? Have you encountered anything I’ve forgotten? Let me know!