You don’t really think, we’d end our backpacking trip in Europe without visiting, the ever famous city of Light, would you?
Alas! Paris! Finally! I guess for everyone who’s been fascinated with traveling probably has this city marked up on their ‘to visit’ list. But let’s face it, visiting Paris for the first time ain’t easy. As beautiful as the city may seem, there are several drawbacks you have to consider when visiting the city of lourve in France.
Besides the intense excitement, you will be feeling a little anxious (If you’re a first timer like me to visit Paris).
I had a lot of fun on my four day trip in Paris, but I couldn’t deny that I did made few of the common rookie mistakes along the trip. So for this post, I ‘ll be noting some of the typical blunders, most first timers should avoid when visiting Paris.
10 Common Mistakes, First Timers Should Avoid in Paris
1. Book your hotels / hostels near the city center.
As backpackers, we tend to like booking cheap & availing discounts when we travel. But let me tell you about these affordable inns and hostels (in Paris) advertised by booking websites, they don’t really match the exact description when it comes to location. It’s best to book somewhere near the city center. It maybe a bit pricey, but It’s definitely worth it and will save you a lot of time and trouble.
In our case, the hotel we booked was at Bobigny area, which is.. I kid you not, outside Paris! We actually had to walk a mile or two to get to the nearest metro station and endure another 45 minutes to get to the city center (by metro). Walking is fine on a lovely summer day but during early fall and autumn season (September – November) it gets pretty drizzly and rainy, it’ll soil up dirt on your fur faux boots! Unless you don’t mind wearing those ugly wellingtons!
2. Taking a cab is unnecessary.
Okay, so if you really have no knowledge about directions or just plain lazy, a cab may be a good option, but trust me, it’s really not necessary. Even the locals would prefer public transportation such as bus, metro and RER than a taxi / cab. Besides the expensive cost (€8- €10 per 10 minutes – virtually estimated), you will have a hard time talking to the cab driver if you don’t know the language – french. The metro is the most ideal means of transportation for tourists and backpackers alike. It’s reliable and of course a lot more affordable.
3. Have enough money with you.
In some places in the city, especially around tourist areas, it can go from pretty expensive to very expensive. From museum passes to metro and bus tickets, it’s one hell of a costly trip to put it all together. Another mistake first timers make is buying souvenirs on main tourist spots such as outside the Notre Dame Church, Museum of Lourve and the Eifel Tower at Gustave St. where a lot of predator stores are at waiting to ransack that credit card of yours, and guess what? These souvenirs aren’t even genuinely made in France.
There are actually places where you can buy the same expensive souvenirs you see on those kiosks for a cheaper price. Several shops in the alleys towards Le Pantheon block and along the way to Pantheon University, are some examples.
4. Eating at Champs-Elysees will cost you more than your plane ticket home.
Champs-Elysees is one of the most expensive places to eat in Paris. Although it’s quite tempting to dine all classy and fabulous at cafes where the Eiffel Tower is just a few walks ahead, most restaurants in this area are too overpriced and sometimes don’t even serve great quality of french food. Try to avoid restaurants that offer the “tourist specials” as you’ll be ending up like a pauper eating french bread for the rest of your stay.
For a more affordable french brunch, I suggest to go to small Parisian Bistros located at the back of Avenue Gustave, here they serve traditional french meals at a decent amount of price. Also, there seems to be quite a few small restaurants around this area to choose from that won’t charge you more than what you eat.
5. Avoid dancing with Clowns.
Yes! You heard that right! Try to watch out for these bozos around Arc de Triumphe (Triumphal Arc National Monument) area. They will aggressively pull a picture bait on you! I cannot stress this one out more than enough! Just try to avoid clowns around this area.
My Clown Story:
My unwanted photo shoot begun when this clown came creeping up behind my back trying to pose on my pictures, so i thought he’s probably just trying to be funny with tourists (I mean, he’s on a clown costume after all), but then after a few camera clicks, this sneaky mthrfck asked me for money. I gave him a few coins in my pocket (took €4) handed it to him but he insisted, he wants €20! Twenty euros for a stupid picture with a clown that reeks! (not kidding, his costume smells like old people fart). I walked out flipping on him as he aggressively cursed in french. Oh boy!
6. You don’t have to walk the whole Champse-Elysees street.
It’s a huge loopy street filled with high-end fascinating shops, yes! But you don’t have to walk all the way to the end as it will take up most of your time. It is wise to plan where you want to go, or where you want to shop beforehand.
7. Travel Light
Traveling with a couple of luggages is a pain especially if you plan to commute. Their metro does not have elevators nor escalators, so unless you plan on making those suitcases as humps on your back then it’s best to travel light. One small luggage is enough, a backpack is even a better idea. Another advantage for traveling light is, it’ll be easier for you to squeeze your bag in the crowded train, plus you’ll be a less feasible victim of pick pocketing.
8. Avoid Scammers in the metro.
Since by taking the metro saves you a ton amount of money, you are also easily giving the scammers a run for their tricks. One famous scheme they use to pull is scamming you on the ticket machines, where they’ll gladly pose as a helping hand and would try getting the tickets for you using, what they call their “authorized card” and instead of inserting cash on the machine, they’d have you pay them instead (they’ll of course ask more than what should cost). At some point, if you resist their so called ‘help’, they tend to become very aggressive and would even show you a silly ID they wear just to prove that they’re ‘legit‘.
Note: The ID they wear is totally different from the ones of real employees who works in the rail road transportation, such us the metro,RER and bus. Don’t be fooled!
Paris is not only the most tourist’ visited city in the world but also one of the places where pick pocketing is adamantly of a high concern, that neither the police nor the judicial officers couldn’t keep up. There are crooks everywhere you go. A lot of tourist, most especially first time travelers invite theft by strutting around their priced possessions in public, making it easier for thieves to steal. By parading your expensive gadgets and high end purses, you’re also attracting burglars to make you pay for their next meal.
- Instead of carrying hand purses, choose to wear a sling bag and make sure the bag is always faced in front of you.
- Carry one credit card / ATM card and only a few cash with you and make sure they are placed securely in your front pockets.
- Keep the important things such as passports,tour passes, money, and smart phones in a small neck bag that you can hide under a jacket.
10. Wear decent clothes.
We all know that it is important to dress comfortably when traveling, but come on folks! It’s Paris! The fashion capital of the world! It is highly recommended to wear at least good looking clothes (it does not have to be expensive though). Put on a decent looking trench coat and you’re all set!
With all these said, there is no doubt that a trip to Paris is still a great idea for an out of country vacation. If you have limited time, one advise is to try not to do it all in one go, cause trust me you cant and if you do, it’ll wear you out! There will always be more time to come back for a next trip. The museum of love won’t be going anywhere, neither does the Eiffel tower. It’s alright to miss out on something from your checklist, as there will always be a next time. After all, Paris is meant to be savored and discovered on your own terms and not rushed. So during your visit, take your time to explore and discover the magic of the city. It won’t be your last, I’m sure.
Photo Credit: Benjamen Colegado