I took my first trip to Paris recently and it was awesome! If Paris is a destination on your bucket list, read on for tips to make the best of a trip to Paris.
- Go to at least one museum. Even if museums aren’t your thing, make a point to visit at least one museum. The architecture of the museums in Paris are a good enough reason to see them in my opinion. A few options are: Musee de l’Orangerie (impressionist and post-impressionist collections), Musee D’Orsay (impressionist and post-impressionist collections), Centre Pompidou (large modern art collection), Musée du Louvre (extensive collections of artwork from various eras). If you plan to check out more than one museum, purchase a Paris Museum Pass to avoid waiting in lines. Check out the link list at the bottom of this post for more ideas on museums to visit.
- Exchange some money before leaving. To avoid exchange rate fees, be sure to exchange some money into Euros before you go. You can do this at the airport. American credit cards do not work in some train stations in Europe where you use a machine to make your transaction. Save yourself the hassle and use cash for transportation and other things that would require paying through a machine.
- Conversational phrases will go a long way! As you would in any country you visit, if you don’t happen to know the language, try to learn basic conversation phrases: Bonjour (Hello/Good Day), Bonsoir (Hello/Good Evening), Merci (Thank you), Pardon (Pardon/Excuse me), Parlez-Vous Anglais (Do you speak English?). Don’t assume all French people speak English, but you may want to suggest that they check out something like Effortless English if they are interested in learning English, as they provide 3 keys to learning English fast. If you want to learn more than just how to say, Hello, Please and Thank you, I recommend picking up a copy of Parisienne French. [Related: Recent Reads: Parisienne French]
- Leave room in your schedule for the unexpected. Though I tend to be a little focused on crossing off as many sights on trips as possible, it’s also fun to forget about plans for a while and just enjoy your surroundings. Pack comfy walking shoes and wander around the city. When you need a rest you can stop in a cafe for a café crème and a croissant.
- Use the Métro! Like many major cities, the Parisian Métro system is a great way to navigate the city on your trip. You can pick up maps in Métro stations. Many Métro stations have information booths with staff who can answer your transportation questions (if they speak English).
- Capture images of your trip (and don’t let them languish on your camera). Years from now, you will appreciate the photos from trips you’ve taken. An awesome camera with all of the bells and whistles is great if you can afford it. But you can take some lovely, memorable photos with your phone or a point-and-shoot. Some of my favorite photos from my trip were captured with my phone. There are plenty of sites to photograph in Paris; The Eiffel Tower, Arc du Triomphe, and The Avenue des Champs-Élysées just to name a few.
- If you really can’t stand to be unplugged, consider getting an international data plan. You can rely on WiFi in your lodgings, coffee shops, and other public areas to stay connected on social media. But if you really can’t stand the idea of being unplugged, purchase an international phone or data plan with your cell phone carrier for the duration of your trip. I suggest you simply carry around a small guidebook and pick up a Métro map to save your money though.
- Airbnb is a great alternative to pricey hotels or hostels. If you prefer to travel with the comforts of home, check out Airbnb listings. There are many French home options on Airbnb that are on par or cheaper than hotel prices. Airbnb hosts are invested in making your stay in their homes comfortable. After all, no one wants a bad review. Hosts can also clue you in to restaurants, sights, and shopping only locals would be aware of.
- Pack light! Pack light enough to only have carry-on luggage with the intention of remixing what you bring. You may want to to buy some souvenirs for yourself and others. Remember to pack an international converter to charge your devices.
- If you’re on a tight budget, buy food and snacks at a neighborhood grocery store. Your expenses can add up pretty quickly in Paris. To save money, try to have one great meal a day and eat inexpensively by visiting a local market for breakfast and snack options. Street food options (like crepes) are also relatively inexpensive. Food was not the focus of my trip planning, but it definitely will be next time around. My rule of thumb for visiting restaurants I hadn’t researched in advance was that if the restaurant had a line/wait, or even just a fair amount of happy looking diners, it was worth trying. Check out the link list at the bottom of this post for restaurant suggestions.
- Create a shopping budget and stick to it. To ensure that you don’t cry when you look at your next bank statement when you get back home, set an amount of money you want to spend per day an all things including shopping and stick to it. A travel guide book I read suggested allocating for $120 a day in spending money, but it’s definitely possible to manage on less. Allow for plenty of time for window shopping as well. Even wandering around a Phamacie is fun in Paris simply because the items are packaged so prettily. Try to also diversify your shopping experiences. Depending on your preference, select a few outdoor/flea markets, department stores, and boutiques/stores unique to Paris to visit. Try to resist the allure of multinationals you can visit at home like H&M and Zara. There are great shopping areas to be found all over the city. I really enjoyed visiting Merci and would have also visited Colette if I hadn’t run out of time. Vintage lovers should definitely try to visit a flea market. Shopping suggestions can be found in the link list below.
For more info to help you plan your trip, check out these links:
- The Kitchy Kitchen’s Guide to Paris
- Design Sponge Paris City Guide
- De Quelle Planete Et-Tu Guide to Paris
- Fluent City Blog’s Essential Paris: Top Things to Do in Paris
- Paris in Four Month’s Paris Tips
- Rick Steve’s Tips on Planning Your Time in Paris
Have you been to Paris before or are you planning to visit in the future? Do you have any more tips to add?