Planning a trip to Paris, the City of Lights, can be absolutely exhilarating. After all, the city holds a spot on many travelers’ bucket lists, and for good reason. Whether you’re looking for a vacation filled with culture, a culinary-inspired experience, or a romantic getaway, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Paris.
While many of us feel like we understand what we’re going to experience in Paris, based on what we’ve seen in films and on television, there are a few things that might catch the average visitor by surprise. Don’t head into your Paris vacation unprepared. Instead, equip yourself with these nice-to-know pieces of info to eliminate some unnecessary surprises.
Here are a few things that are good to know before you go to Paris:
MANY PEOPLE SPEAK ENGLISH – IF YOU ASK NICELY
The Parisians have a reputation for rudeness toward tourists, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find my experience has directly contradicted that. While there are certainly shopkeepers, bartenders, and regular people who can only speak French, many of the folks you’ll encounter in restaurants, popular stores, and tourist attractions are well-versed, if not fluent, in English. As long as you ask politely, in French, you’ll find many of your communication barriers can disappear.
KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED FOR SCAMS AND PICKPOCKETS
Like any big city, Paris is home to its fair share of unsavory citizens hoping to make a quick buck on an unsuspecting tourist. It’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on your belongings, but it’s especially important in Metro stations, near major landmarks, and anywhere where crowds are likely to congregate.
If someone approaches you on the street or on public transit attempting to show you (or sell you) anything, it’s best to politely decline or ignore them.
KEEP COINS ON HAND FOR RESTROOMS
While you won’t have to pay extra to use the toilet in restaurants you’re dining at, in many other places, be prepared to pay to use the restroom. Toilets in train stations, bus depots, public parks, and other spots are typically staffed by someone responsible for collecting a small fee from folks hoping to use the facilities.
BRING A WATER BOTTLE
This one is especially important if you’re planning to visit during the summer months, which can get quite warm. Staying hydrated is important, but in Paris, it isn’t always easy. You won’t find as many public drinking fountains as you’ll find in other places, and many restaurants will charge you for water – and once you pay, provide a fixed quantity instead of unlimited refills.
Instead of continually combating thirst, bring a water bottle from home or buy one when you arrive. Fill it up at your hotel, or with water purchased from a local grocer, for a cheap and easy way to keep thirst at bay as you break a sweat exploring the city.
These are just a few tips you won’t find in most guidebooks that’ll help you make your Paris vacation an easy, enjoyable experience for your whole family. Equipped with this list of things to know before you go, you’ll be ready for some of the things that catch many travelers by surprise – and, in some cases, put a damper on the whole vacation experience.