40+ Paris Travel Tips to Know for Visiting: Especially First-Timers

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Travel Tips to Know Before Visiting Paris

If this is your first time visiting Paris, you’ve landed in the right spot! Paris is one of my favorite places in the world. In fact, I even brought my mom to Paris just so she could experience the city of lights, too! In this Paris travel guide, I am sharing 40+ Paris travel tips on everything you need to know before you go!

Paris Travel tips for visiting

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Paris is Best Discovered by Foot

One of the most important Paris travel tips I want to share with you, is that Paris is best explored by foot. I mean, you will be walking anywhere from 5-10 miles a day, but I promise it’s worth it!

Paris is a relatively flat city – excluding Montmartre, so there is no need to worry about many hills. Walking through Paris, you will uncover charming alleys, music performers, and adorable cafes.

Rue de l'Abreuvoir street in Paris
Rue de l’Abreuvoir

Using The Metro

I will always opt for walking in Paris, however, sometimes walking is not an option. Paris is a large city, so taking Public Transportation such as the metro is your second-best option. It is so easy to use and has made huge improvements since my last visit!

I would highly recommend getting a Navigo Card. These are metro cards that you can fill up with rides. You can purchase a Navigo Pass for 2 Euros and will find these cards from most ticket machines or train station counters. I recommend topping your card with 10 rides. The Navigo Pass also works on the bus.

This takes out all the guessing work of buying paper Paris metro tickets every time, which was stressful during our first visit to Paris.

Furthermore, if you download the Bonjour RATP app, you can top off your card, or even use Apple Pay, which makes it extremely easy to use. The RATP App also has other valuable train information and maps for the train routes.

For directions, I believe Google Maps works great. Once you’re inside the station, just look at the signage for the stops and compare it to Google. You will know exactly which side of the tracks you need to be on!

With that being said, I think it’s important to address the elephant in the room. Pickpocketing is more common on the metro. In fact, I was even pickpocketed on the metro, but my wallet was practically sticking out of my pants pocket. Still, I continue to ride the metro, and now make sure all my valuables are secure!

FYI: In the past, you needed your ticket to exit the train station. During our recent trip, this was no longer the case, which is great, because I did get stuck in the station before.

Using the Metro in Paris tip

Taxis and Uber

You also have the option of using a taxi while in Paris. Both Uber and Bolt work well in Paris – and are generally more affordable. I would just ensure you have the app downloaded beforehand. If there is any time I would recommend using a cab over the metro, it is to and from the airport.

The metro can get incredibly crowded, so it can be difficult to use with luggage. Additionally, as you just learned above, pickpocketing can happen on the Metro – especially when you have a lot of luggage, which can make you a potential target.

Also, dragging your luggage up and down the Metro and through cobblestone alleys is not ideal. Just save yourself the hassle and order an Uber!

Taxi, Uber,bolt in Paris

Renting a Car in Paris

Thinking about renting a car in Paris? Think again! I would not recommend renting a car when visiting Paris. The streets are tiny, and congested, and finding parking is difficult.

Tipping Culture Paris

Another important travel tip to know while in Paris is that tipping is not necessary. In fact, many Parisians might not even tip. However, when you do tip, it is appreciated. Tipping is generally anywhere from 5-10% or even rounding up a few Euros for good service.

Americans, restain from bringing your tipping customs to Paris. It is not necessary, even though it is something you’re used to. When you do tip, it is recommended to tip in cash.

Paris cafe with red and white awning

Understanding the Arrondissements

Paris is divided into what they call Arrondissements. On the map, this looks like a spiral that works its way counterclockwise. Within the arrondissement (district) are neighborhoods. The first Arrondissement (arr) starts in the center of Paris, which includes the Louvre Museum.

There are 20 arrondissements, and you probably will not make it to all 20 in your first visit to Paris.

Paris Fun Fact: The Eiffel Tower is not in the center of Paris, but in the 7th arrondissement.

Latin Quarter in Paris itinerary
Latin Quarter

Learn Some French

No matter what country you visit, learning a little bit of the language goes a long way – so keep this Paris travel tip in mind! The locals always appreciate it when you try. You’re in their country, after all. Some basics to know include:

  • Bonjour: Good morning
  • Bonsoir: Good evening
  • Au revoir: Goodbye
  • S’il te plaît: Please
  • Merci or merci beaucoup: Thank you or thank you very much
  • Excuse moi: Excuse me
  • Je suis désolé: I’m sorry
  • Je ne parle pas beaucoup le français: I don’t speak much French
  • Parles-tu anglais?: Do you speak English?
  • Sortie: Exit
  • Entrée: Entrance
  • Billet: Ticket

However, if these words don’t come to mind, downloading Google Translate will save you! You can even download French before you visit, this way, you won’t even need cell service.

The app also has a feature called Google Lens, which allows you to take a picture for it to translate. This comes in handy for signs and menus!

Always greet people with “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir”

But if there are two French words you want to make sure to remember, it is Bonjour (Good Morning) and Bonsior (Good Evening). By doing this small gesture, will help with locals!

Never just start speaking to locals in English, as this is considered rude. Saying “Bonjour, English?” is more acceptable. Usually, they will reply, “a little.” If you still need help, Google Translate is the next best move.

most photo worthy spots in Paris to take instagrammable photos

Getting Cellphone Service

Nowadays, having cellphone service feels like a must. You are able to share your location with loved ones at home, quickly look up directions and restaurant reviews, and call friends and family via Whatsapp.

So how do you get service? This is one of the easiest Paris travel tips I can offer—an E-sim. If you have a smartphone, downloading an esim should be a breeze. I use Holafly on iPhone and Android with no issues.

The esim allows me to have service the second I land; No searching in the airport for a place that sells sim cards.

Best Time to Visit Paris

Paris is always a good idea, but one of my top Paris travel tips is visiting during the shoulder seasons. This is in the Spring and Fall.

During the Spring, Paris fills with cherry blossoms, wisteria, and chestnut trees, and the weather starts warming up, but it can still be cold. There will be crowds, but not as bad as summer.

Summer in Paris is one of the most popular times to visit this romantic city, but it is one of the most crowded and expensive times to visit.

In the Fall, the summer crowds will disperse, and Paris has beautiful fall foliage. It is an excellent time to visit Paris.

Although prices will be high, as well as the crowds, the holidays in Paris are magical. They put up beautiful displays and lights! You can even make Paris a stop while doing other Christmas Markets in the Alsace region.

After the holidays, Paris will be cold, but this will be the most budget-friendly time to visit. Additionally, this is when Paris will have the fewest crowds.

Spring in Paris - blooms in Place Dauphine
Place Dauphine

How Many Days is Ideal in Paris

If this is your first time visiting Paris, consider spending at least 5 days in Paris. Paris is a large city with so much to see and do.

3 days in Paris should be the absolute minimum. You likely won’t be able to take any day trips, but you will cover some of the main attractions. Just make sure those days are not on a Monday or Tuesday since those tend to be days museums are closed.

Have a Paris Itinerary in Mind

Making sure you have an idea of your Paris itinerary is another one of the top Paris travel tips to know before visiting. Conquering by neighborhood and or area is crucial in order to save you time.

My 5 days in Paris itinerary is designed to help make the most of your time while seeing some of the top attractions Paris has to offer!

Furthermore, most main attractions need to be booked in advance, which will dictate some of your itinerary.

Related: Top 10 Things to Do in Paris

Fontaines Concorde Paris France travel tips itinerary
Fontaines Concorde

Purchase Tickets Well in Advance

And to dig a little deeper, booking tickets in advance for major attractions is crucial if it is a must-see for you. While I have no desire to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, if you want to, the tickets can be sold out months in advance.

And while you can get tickets the day of, those lines can be 3 hours long. Spending your vacation waiting in line is not worth it, in my opinion.

So, attractions like the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Cabaret Shows, The Catacombs, and Museum d’Orsay are all places you should get tickets in advance. You can even consider skip-the-line tickets in Paris.

champs de mars tour Eiffel
champs de mars tour Eiffel

Consider Purchasing One of the Paris Passes

With that being said, one of my money-saving Paris travel tips you should consider is getting one of the Paris Passes.

The Paris Go City Pass is one of the only passes to include the Eiffel Tower. If you don’t feel comfortable using the Metro, it also includes the Hop-on-hop-off bus, along with entry into a ton of attractions. Not only will this help you save money in Paris, but it lets you secure a ticket, so you won’t have to queue in line long.

Another Paris Pass that can help you save money is the Paris Museum Pass. It covers a ton of museums and attractions around Paris. You will usually start saving money after you visit your 4th attraction.

If you do get one of these passes, it is still important to get it in advance because some attractions, like the Louvre, will still require you to reserve your free-timed entry because the Louvre only sells a certain amount of tickets per day.

Furthermore, you should always double-check to make sure you’re saving money!

Make Restaurant Reservations in Advance

If you consider yourself a foodie, or enjoy fine dining, then this might be one of the most important Paris travel tips for you to know before visiting. If there is somewhere specific you want to eat, make sure to make a reservation beforehand.

Now, if you’re not picky, you will surely find tons of great restaurants to grab a seat at. I have never had an issue getting a table in Paris. But, if you are looking for fine dining or trendy restaurants, it can be hard to get a table right away.

Breakfast at Cafe Marly in Paris
Breakfast at Cafe Marly in Paris

Explore Outside of Paris

Paris is a huge city with so much to see, but one of my top Paris travel tips to know when visiting is to consider exploring outside of the city. Consider a day trip to Versailles, Rouen, Champagne, and Giverny. Or you can even take a day trip to Ghent, Belgium, or an extra weekend in Bruges!

outside the window of Versailles
Versailles

Take a Nighttime Tour Down the Seine

Paris is known as the city of lights and one of my favorite things to do in Paris that I want to pass down to you is taking a nighttime cruise down the Seine.

Not only does Paris look special lit up, but you also have the opportunity to see the Eiffel Tower Sparkle, which is so cool – especially if this is your first time visiting Paris.

The Eiffel Tower sparkles for 5 minutes on the hour when the sun goes down. Make sure to plan your Seine tour accordingly for after the sun is planned to set.

I use Vedettes du Pont Neuf because they dock at Pont Neuf, which is close to the Saint Germain neighborhood (where I stay).

Most boat tours leave near the Eiffel Tower. Many tours are pre-recorded and do the same route.

Eiffel tower lit up at night - Paris travel tips

Crossing the Street in Paris

It took me a second to realize if I didn’t just cross the street, I might have been standing at the crosswalk for a while. So, in France, if there is no crosswalk sign indicating you to walk, I have found you just take the leap of faith and carefully start crossing as pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks.

If there are crosswalk light indicators, make sure to follow those!

Crossing the street in Paris - Paris travel tips

Smoking is a Large Part of Paris Culture

France may have one of the largest cigarette-smoking cultures I’ve experienced in Europe. From walking down the streets to sitting at the cafes, you will likely be getting some secondhand smoke.

Paris Scams

I believe knowing some of the common tourist scams you may encounter is important, and they exist in almost every big city, so I am certainly not singling Paris out.

One common scam I see is a group of men (sometimes in traditional African Dress) asking you if you are from Africa and trying to gift you a handmade bracelet. However, when they finally tie this around your wrist, they will demand money. They can be very persistent. Just say no thanks and keep walking.

Another common scam is people asking for signatures for petitions. Again, they may ask for money, or this can be a distraction to possibly get pickpocketed. Either way, there is no reason to be bothered with so-called petitions that your signature certainly will not help.

Pickpocketing in Paris

The first time I visited Paris, we got pickpocketed. It was kind of our fault, but still, Paris is certainly known for pickpockets. They usually work in teams, and it happens most commonly in busy metros and crowded tourist spots.

The key is to make sure your valuables are not loosely sitting in your pockets. They are looking for easy targets. People who have their hands full or have valuables visible and easy to snatch.

This past trip to Paris, I added my credit cards to my Apple Wallet, so I almost never even had to take my wallet out. Again, this is not to scare you but just to be aware of your surroundings and valuables.

Be Aware of Strikes

The people of France have no issue striking for their rights, and they do it somewhat often. These stikes can affect transportation and even major attractions.

I would pay most attention to the railways, just so you won’t miss your train, along with the airport. The RATP website or app will have updates if this is the case.

Paris Metro - Paris travel tips

Check For AC in Your Hotel

If you are from a place where air conditioners are standard, you might be surprised to learn that having airconditioned places in Europe is quite the commodity. So, if you’re someone who likes your room ice cold, this is one of the top Paris travel tips for you!

Confirm your hotel has an AC, and if not, consider getting a small portable fan with you during the summer because Paris can get hot!

Oh, and while we are talking about hotels, most don’t have ice machines either. I’ve never been an ice person, but apparently, it is a big deal to many.

Water Saftey in Paris

You will be happy to learn that Paris and France, for that matter, are known to have clean and safe drinking water. You will even find some free water fountains around Paris to fill up your water bottle.

If you still want to get bottled water, you can find it at grocery stores, and it is generally pretty cheap.

Comfortable Shoes Are a Must

If you really want to see Paris, walking is going to be a part of your itinerary. And I know you might want to be as fashionable as possible in a place like Paris, but if you’re trying to walk around in heels all day, I think you may have a bad time.

Many people walk anywhere between 10,000 to over 20,000 steps a day. Personally, I wore Chelsea boots, cushioned Converse, and Birkenstock sandals in Paris.

Lafayette Galleries Rooftop
Lafayette Galleries Rooftop

Learn About Late Night Opening

Something really cool about Paris is that some attractions offer late-night openings. These can be some of the best times to visit as the crowds tend to be less.

You can find these times directly on each attraction’s website, but some of the most popular late nights at the Louvre on Friday and Muse d’Orsay on Thursday.

Experience the Free Attractions in Paris

Paris is an expensive city, but there are plenty of free things you can do when visiting! For one, seeing the outside of main attractions like the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, or posing in front of the glass pyramids of the Louvre are all on the table.

There are dozens of free gardens, and in all honesty, walking around Paris is like walking around a museum with all the stunning architecture, fountains, and statues dotted through the city.

And there is also free Sunday! This happens on the first Sunday of the month when many museums and monuments are free to visit! This is a very popular day for people to visit, so you can expect crowds, but hey, it is still free!

See 30+ Best Free things to do in Paris!

Sacre Coeur Cathedral is one of the best free things to do in Paris
Sacre Coeur Cathedral is one of the best free things to do in Paris

Use the Bathroom at any Attraction/Restaurant You Visit

Free public restrooms don’t come by easily in Paris. With all the walking you will be doing in Paris, you will likely need to stay hydrated, so you might be in search of a washroom more frequently.

Therefore, make sure to use the restroom at any attractions and restaurants you visit.

Read: Ultimate Paris Travel Guide

Take Advantage of Free Walking Tours in Paris

Paris is known to have some of the best walking tours. You can even find walking tours dedicated to specific neighborhoods that are full of history. So, if you’re someone who loves to learn fun facts and history, consider one of the many free guided walking tours.

Just keep in mind, that free walking tours are really “pay as you wish” tours. This is the one time you should make sure to tip your tour guide.

Saint Michel Fountain - meet up for free walking tours in Paris

Experience a Cabaret

Now I know this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but when in Paris, seeing a Cabaret is a classic thing to do – and they are a lot of fun! It’s like Broadway, but with some topless outfits.

Because these shows are so popular, you will want to book these shows in advance. The shows usually have an option of dinner or just the show.

One of the most iconic places to see the Cancan girls is Moulin Rouge. Some people love it, others, not so much. Many say it feels like a tourist trap, but I haven’t personally been to tell you.

However, I have been to Latin Paradis, which was the first Cabaret show to open, and it was the highlight of my mom’s first visit to Paris, and I thought it was fantastic as well!

Paris Travel Tip: They do not allow any photos and videos of the show. Be respectful of the rules.

Paradis cabaret show

Try Some French Food

This seems quite obvious, but don’t forget to indulge in some French food. And while you don’t have to go as extreme as ordering escargot or frog legs (although I’ve found both tasty), there is plenty of other less extreme food to eat.

Head to any pastry shop or bakery for fresh baguettes and croissants. To my Americans, it is not a chocolate croissant but a pain au chocolat. Don’t forget to have tons of crepes. Croquet madame or croquet monsieur is one of my favorites.

Paris food
croquet madame

Berets are Mainly For Tourists

One of my top Paris travel tips for not looking like a tourist is not wearing berets. You can find them for sale at almost all the souvenir shops, and at this point, they are designed for tourists.

If you want to buy one or wear one, that is totally fine. I am not judging you!

Souvenirs in Paris

Everybody’s taste is different when it comes to bringing home souvenirs – but I thought I’d add my 2 cents. You will see people selling little Eiffel Towers everywhere. They are cheaply made and usually come from China.

Instead, I’d like to recommend bringing something home a little more authentic or made in France. You can bring home food such as cheese, macarons, and chocolates or wines and champagne.

Paris is also known for their fragrances and cosmetics. If you have the budget, you can even shop at one of the top designer stores like Louis Vuitton or Dior and claim VAT tax on the way home.

In my humble opinion, one of the best things to bring home is a small painting. You will find talented artists on the street painting – especially in Montmartre. For book lovers, you will find dozens of stands along the Seine at Les Bouquinistes selling second-hand books.

Les Bouquinistes in Paris
Les Bouquinistes in Paris

Currency and Credit Cards in Paris

If you didn’t already know, the Euro is used in France, and credit cards are widely accepted. You can even use your mobile wallet at almost all establishments.

Visa and Mastercard are accepted just about everywhere. Not as many places accept Amex, but some places do. If the bill is over 50 euros, sometimes you will need to insert your card into the till, so make sure to still have a credit card on you.

Make sure you bring a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees.

It is good to have some Euros for tips or in the rare case they don’t accept cards.

Don’t Overpack – Especially if You Plan to Shop

If you know you like to shop, I urge you not to overpack! Plus, dragging giant suitcases through the tiny alleys of Paris is no fun – trust me!

If you do find yourself with extra items that don’t fit in your suitcase, I have a travel hack for you. I have been doing this for years, and it has yet to be a problem.

I bring a normal size shopping bag (something you can expect to get from an airport store) and put any extras I have inside of it. I’ve never been questioned about having the bag, and normally I pack snacks inside of it for flying since I don’t like airplane food.

Parisians Are Not Rude

I am not sure where this stereotype came from because I have found the complete opposite in France. New York has the same stereotype and as a New Yorker, I know we NY’ers are not rude either, lol.

But seriously, I’ve only experienced kindness from the French, and I don’t think Parisians should be dubbed as rude!

Tuileries Gardens in Paris
Tuileries Gardens

Pack for Layers in Paris

When you are packing, another one of my top Paris travel tips to keep in mind is packing in layers. I always find myself putting on and peeling off layers when I am there – especially during the Spring and Fall.

Morning and night can be cold, but the afternoon will be warm. Always check the weather forecast about a week before your trip and plan accordingly. Paris also gets a fair bit of rain – which you might not have expected. You can always grab an umbrella from one of the street vendors.

Outdoor Cafes are a Vibe

If there is one thing I love about Paris, it’s the outdoor seating facing the street. Please do yourself a favor and make sure to enjoy some people-watching while sitting at a cafe.

Cafes in Paris - Paris travel tips

Dining in Paris

If you’re from the USA, restaurants move a lot slower in Paris and Europe in general. Therefore, I’d make sure to have your whole order ready because they don’t come back and check on you the same way.

Additionally, people don’t eat and leave. Many will sit and have a drink for hours before ordering dinner. Oh, and dinner is usually later in Paris than it is in the USA. It usually starts around 7:30 PM.

If they ask if you want water, this is usually an actual bottle of water you have to pay for. If you want free water, you must ask for tap water. Also, carbonated water is very popular in Europe, so they might say water with gas, bubbles, or sparkling.

Have A Small Bag For Souvineers

Because I know you will probably buy some small things along the way, I recommend having a small bag with you. You can use this to also carry a light jacket and reusable water bottles.

Just make sure it is not overly large, as many museums make you put your bag in a locker. Make sure not to have any valuables in an easily accessed pocket. I prefer a small travel backpack that I use as my personal item for the plane, but you can bring anything you like.

Safety in Paris

What kind of Paris travel tips guide would this be if we didn’t talk about safety? Like any major city, it is important to watch your surroundings. The most common crime that happens to tourists is pickpocketing, as we discussed above.

Paris is a generally safe city to visit – even for solo-women travelers. But if you want to err on the side of caution, don’t walk around by yourself late at night or use the metro at night. Additionally, share your location with family members and check in regularly.

I have always felt safe in Paris, just as I have always felt safe in NYC.

Arc de Triomphe should be on any itinerary with 5 days in Paris.

If You Visit the Louvre, Have A Plan

Did you know the Louvre is the largest museum in the world? You can literally walk for miles in the museum. In fact, my guide said it would take over 3 months to look at every piece for 30 seconds to a minute.

So, having a plan on what you’d like to see before visiting the Louvre is crucial if you want to maximize your time. Most have the Mona Lisa (smaller than I thought it would be), Winged Victory of Samothrace, Dying Slave, and the Seated Scribe as some of the top pieces to view.

If you love Egyptian art, the Louvre is known to have one of the best collections outside of Egypt. I would also recommend the Winged human-headed bulls from the Palace of Sargon II.

Louvre Travel Tip: It is supposed to be a shorter line if you pre-purchase your ticket and go to the entrance in the Tuileries Gardens by the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.

Mona Lisa at the Louvre
Winged Victory of Samothrace
Winged Victory of Samothrace

Book Accommodations in Advance

If you learned anything about visiting Paris, booking things in advance has been a huge theme. Accommodations in Paris are no different. I would highly recommend booking your accommodations as far in advance as possible to secure a hotel with AC!

Some hotels I would recommend include:

Grand Hôtel de L’Univers Saint-Germain
Grand Hôtel de L’Univers Saint-Germain

What Should Your Paris Budget Be

Every Paris budget will range, but it is no secret that Paris can be expensive. You can usually expect to spend close to $1,000 for 4 nights at a 3 star hotel. You can of course spend much more, or less, but I believe that would be a good average to go by.

For 4-5 days, you can expect to spend around:

  • Food and Drink: $500+ USD
  • Additional Activities: $ 350+ USD

Again, this varies, but I just want to give you an idea.

The Louvre in Paris - Paris Travel tips

Paris Travel Tips For Visiting Wrap-up

This concludes some of the top Paris travel tips to know for visiting. I hope these Paris tips help you prepare for an incredible time in the French Capital.

Do you have any questions about these Paris travel tips to know before visiting or feel like I’ve missed something? Let me know in the comments below, send me an email, or a DM.

Did you find these Paris Travel Tips Helpful? I’d appreciate it if you can share it below!

Paris travel tips - visiting Paris
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Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

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