10 Things You Shouldn’t Do in Paris
Like any city, Paris has its own list of travel quirks that newcomers should be well aware of prior to their arrival. It is rare to get into major trouble as a tourist in Paris; at most you’ll insure a small fine should you neglect to follow the ticketing rules for the city’s public transport.
That being said, this list of things you shouldn’t do in Paris will make your time in the city more efficient and better spent. Read, memorize, repeat!
1. Don’t Assume Everyone Speaks English
The global stereotypical belief that the French are a rude people is actually very untrue. They simply don’t waste energy entertaining outsiders who arrive on their homeland and make no effort to speak the local language.
A lot of travelers expect everyone they encounter in Paris to speak English to some degree, and this is very, very problematic, not to mention unacceptable.
The French speak French. If you’re lucky enough to find one who can communicate in your own home language, be both impressed and grateful. Make an effort to memorize a few basic French phrases before you arrive and even out the playing field — it will go a long way in making your stay more enjoyable!
2. Don’t Pay to Enter the Louvre if You Can Help it
The Louvre is an unmissable attraction for anyone’s first visit to the French capital. There are a few ways to get it not he Louvre without paying the hefty entrance fee.
First of all, anyone under the age of 18 doesn’t have to pay to enter the Louvre at all times. On a similar note, anyone between the age of 12 and 25 with a form of European identification (passport, drivers, ID) may also enter the Louvre for free.
On July 14th there is free entry to all, as well as on the first Sunday of every month.
The Louvre also offers a really wonderful night session on Friday evenings during which it stays open between 6pm and 9:45pm; anyone may enter free of charge at this time.
3. Don’t Have High Expectations for the Mona Lisa
If you’re interested in visiting the Louvre, it’s likely you’ve got some expectations as to what you’d like to see once inside.
A lot of people make it their life’s goal to see the Mona Lisa in person, only to be largely disappointed when they do.
She lives deep inside the Louvre museum, behind a thick wall of glass and barricades. When you do find her, you’ll probably have to wait for the crowds to disperse before you can get up close and personal.
The Mona Lisa is tiny; a lot smaller than you probably expect even when you’re first warned of her small frame. An important piece of history nonetheless; pay her a visit while keeping point 2 mentioned above in mind.
4. Don’t Be Scared to Tip in Paris
Unlike cities like Barcelona, the French aren’t going to refuse your tips if you try to leave them behind.
Tipping in France is not expected, nor do service employees rely on this as their sole form of income as in the United States and Africa. But it’s a welcome gesture as a show of gratitude if you do find yourself satisfied with the service.
5. Don’t Expect Parisian Public Transport to Run on Time
The biggest misconception is that because France is a first world country, the public transport must run on time, all the time.
The Paris metro is notoriously late. It’s an ongoing joke amongst the locals that there is almost always a line not running, or the entire system is down because of this protest, this strike or this problem.
6. Don’t Shop on the Champs-Elysées
The Champs-Elysées is like the Louvre in that it’s a must visit while in Paris. One should absolutely see the architecture and vastness of the street, as well as the Christmas lights if you’re in town over the festive season.
What you don’t want to do is actually attempt to shop on the Champs-Elysées. This is the busiest street in Paris, drawing over 300,000 visitors per day. Shopping here is a bit like a perpetual Black Friday sale where you’re seconds away from a retail stampede.
7. Don’t Forget to Take Day Trips Out of Paris Once in a While
Far too many people arrive in Paris and never leave until moving on to their next destination, or going home.
There is many a fabulous day trip to be had from the city of lights. Visiting Versailles is definitely the most popular, while areas such as Normandy and Deauville are wonderful to do in the summer when you feel like having a swim!
8. Try Not to get Sucked Into Tourist Traps
Not an easy thing to do in Paris, but if you make a conscious effort you’ll be able to spot the tourist traps before they have chance to swallow you whole.
The worst ones are probably the souvenir shops that line the streets near the main tourist attractions. Here you’ll pay big money for actual junk. It sounds harsh but there is little weighted quality to the plastic Eiffel Towers, felt berets and tacky snow globes that will inevitably land up in a landfill within the next year.
Likewise there will be many restaurants near the same attractions charging ungodly amounts for below average food, palming it off as “traditional and authentic”.
Be environmentally conscious with your money wherever you can in Paris. Invest in quality and not just convenience.
9. Never Arrive to a Park Late in the Summer
Since there are no beaches in Paris, the parks around the city become the go-to for everyone who wants to soak up some sun in the summer heat. You’ve never seen park grounds so full in your life, and arriving after midday can actually result in you not finding a spot to settle at all.
It’s very hard to imagine, especially if you’re coming from a country where parks are not used for this function. But you shall see…
10. Don’t Forget to Have Your Souvenir Cheese Travel Wrapped
Important! Cheese is one of the most common souvenir items taken out of France by international visitors.
When you shop at the fromageries around the city, be sure to request that they travel wrap your cheese and not just regular wrap! There is a difference, and regular wrapped cheeses might not survive the journey home.
The same goes for purchasing French wine while in Paris. Request their travel-friendly packaging that will protect the item from damage.
As a bonus item of what not to do in Paris: don’t forget to take at least one free guided walking tour through the city center!