Some of these are general travel tips that are good for any trip overseas, but Imei has included a few that are particular to Paris.
- Bring a sturdy and comfortable pair of shoes for walking. Don’t worry so much about fashion. Your feet will only care that they are comfortable. Most Parisians spend time walking everywhere, and it is not uncommon to see a person carrying the makings of a meal from several stores (butcher, bakery, Casino) onto the Metro. Be prepared to stand during most of the prime commute hours on the Metro.
- If you need a converter for an electrical appliance, make sure it’s not one of those “all-in-one” converters on a solid block. The prongs are the correct ones, but the block won’t fit in the deep and round hole around the prong entrance. Sticks and holes do matter.
- In winter, bring a wool coat that hangs below the waist, a scarf, gloves, and a hat. The windchill factor is exacerbated in Paris proper because of the buildings. In summer, wear loose clothing but don’t be an ugly American: leave the open-toed Teva’s and flip flops at home. You’ll thank me after the first person rolls her bag over your toes in the Metro. Also, the Metro isn’t often air-conditioned in the summer, and with humidity, prepare to sweat.
- Take a moment to study a map of the Metro lines. Almost everyone takes them for public transport, and they are much cheaper than taxis. You do not want to drive in Paris. If you are staying a week or longer, purchase a pack of tickets rather than single tickets. Keep these handy while you ride, as they are checked occasionally during transit and when you exit the Metro station, as well as when you are transferring from one line to another.
- Pack light, and bring smaller and more narrow luggage with you. Some of the larger pieces of luggage I have seen don’t fit on the escalators of the Metro or are difficult to manage going up and down the entrances and exits.
- Your mobile phone will work in Paris, but it is expensive for your data use. It may be better to explore other options: a temporary phone from France; buying a T-mobile Hotspot access (T-mobile is Deutsch Telecom); use a Skype phone? I wonder when someone is going to bother to make this more convenient for businesspeople to purchase per day a phone and/or SIM card for use while in another country.
- Meals generally take longer to consume, especially when eating in public. The French really know how to eat and how to relax. They tend to eat dinner a bit later, so get yourself a snack in the late afternoon so you can make it to dinner time, and sit back and enjoy.
- If you get sick in Paris, don’t be afraid to stop into a hospital if you need to. Hospitals are clean, efficient, and if you have no residence in Paris, absolutely free. Welcome to socialized medicine. Also, if you need a pain reliever like Ibuprofen, don’t help yourself to it from the shelf in your local pharmacy. All medications — even the over-the-counter (OTC) ones, must be handed to you by a pharmacist.
- Like NYC, Paris is as beautiful to see at night as it is in the day. With the Metro running until 4 am, you can get around, snap pictures, walk along the river, and see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. For the clubbers, you’ll have your pick of swanky places, but get ready to hear some unknown American rap (from the old B sides) that might be leaving you scratching your head.
- Like any large city, there are reports of crime and vandalism, yet for its size, these numbers are surprisingly low. Keep a small amount of Euros with you for incidentals, and if you don’t need your passport, lock it up in the hotel safe. I always keep a copy of my passport in my luggage as well. I also recommend keeping your money in a thin money bag that hangs on the inside of your clothes, and for men to keep their wallet in a front pocket with their hand placed over the pocket when in crowded public places full of tourists.
- If anyone invites you to their home for a drink, dessert, or a meal, graciously accept! You will see how people live, especially in homes with less space per person. Be sure to bring a gift: something for the meal may be appropriate, such as something from the patisserie or a bottle of red wine.
So, do you have any travel tips for Paris, France?