Paris like all cities in the world has particular ‘quirks’ that only the locals know…
Here are 10 things locals know about Paris that you might want to find out before you get there.
1 – Don’t put your métro tickets near coins or metal
the subway tickets have a magnetic strip. If it gets in contact with metal, it will become demagnetised and the tickets won’t work: the machine will reject them.
If that happens to you and there is a booth near by, cut of the line and go directly to the teller. Hand him/her your tickets and tell them they don’t work, they need to be changed. And don’t store your tickets in your wallet…. how practical!
By the way, you need to keep your métro ticket handy while you are still in the subway – there are controls and if you don’t have a valid ticket, you’ll get a fine!
2 – Beware of private limo drivers approaching you at the airport
They will tell you they charge the same as a regular taxi driver does, but it is not true. They charge more, and it is not legal. It’s not dangerous, per se, just not a good idea…
Some of them are private limo drivers, others are simply plain people with no taxi license whatsoever and often no particular taxi insurance…
Go to the taxi line like everybody else :-)
3 – Avoid restaurant patios unless you like cigarette smoke
This one is sad but true. Since the 2007 law which forbids smoking inside restaurants, all the smokers go to “la terrasse,”which is outside and therefore is excluded from the law.
Smokers now rule the French patios, so avoid sitting there if you can’t stand the smell of cigarette smoke.
4 – Don’t plan to go on museums on Mondays or Tuesdays
Many Parisian monuments close on either Monday or Tuesday, and on holidays, so make sure you check their opening days before you show up.
5 – Traveling in the métro with suitcases, strollers is likely to be a pain
Be prepared to face long walks and stairs… especially if you need to connect between lines.
There is no telling on the “plan de métro” how long a connection is: some take 15 minutes of fast-paced walking with at least 6 flights of stairs!
Try that with a large suitcase… Or rather, don’t – I did it for you! It’s painful. Which brings us to the next piece of advice…
6 – Don’t take large suitcases to Paris
Compared to the US, things are smaller in Paris: car trunks, elevators… It’s actually impressive how tiny the elevators are!!
So pack smart, and think small… (Same goes for baby strollers: it’s close to impossible to fit an American-sized one into a French rental car.)
7 – Getting a taxi can be very tricky
If you are staying at a hotel, the clerk should be able to call one up/ schedule one for you.
There are also taxi lines where you can wait and get a taxi – if you are lucky, that is… Like anywhere else, taxis get super busy on rainy weekend nights….. so if you need to go somewhere, there are numbers you can call: les taxis Parisiens, les taxis G7…
And of course, now there is Uber, which makes things really easier !
Read my article on How to get a taxi in Paris.
8 – Don’t holler at your wait person
All you have to do is to catch their eyes, maybe do a discreet hand gesture, and they’ll get to you as soon as they can.
Don’t call your waiter “garçon” either, it’s only applicable to a very specific type of waiter “le garçon de café” and is very old-fashioned anyway…
Use Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle. Learn more about French politeness in my French audio lesson.
9 – Beware of “Do you speak English” scams
Paris is a big city and relatively safe. Like in any other big city, you might run into pickpockets, beggars of all sorts, and of course scammers.
Some will start their spiel with “Do you speak English?” then be all nice and friendly, tell you their oh-so-sad story, and eventually ask for money.
Another popular scam is the “You dropped something!” and then the person hands you what looks like a valuable piece of jewelry… Particularly effective in front of a jewelry store :-) While you are busy talking, a partner visits your bag or the person accuses you of robbing them, all ending up in asking for money.
Just be aware of your surroundings.
10 – Some areas of Paris are not safe or family friendly
Certain parts of the Rue St. Denis, a few blocks from the Centre Pompidou can be a bit dicey. There’s a fair number of prostitutes and junkies around there.
Ditto for the side streets around the Place Pigalle down the hill from Montmartre (up the hill is fine).
Neither place should worry an NY’er very much, but they are certainly not family appropriate.
You should also avoid walking at night time on the Barbes Boulevard, the Forum des halles and the Seine banks (by the river; up the street is fine).
Most Paris suburbs are safe enough, but don’t go to St Denis, La Courneuve, or Mantes-la-Jolie unless you want to see what a French ghetto is like.
Do you have more tips on things to avoid in Paris?
Should you have more tips on what to avoid in Paris, please do share them in the comments below. I’m sure they’ll be useful and I’d love to read what you have to say. Merci !