How to plan a trip to Paris
Paris is known as a romantic city, the city of Quasimodo and Esmeralda, but also as a gastronomic center where cooking lovers, like Ratatouille, become star chefs. If you’ve always dreamt of coming to Paris since your childhood but you never had enough time or energy to plan a trip there: here are a few tips from a local Parisian to help you organize everything. Trust me, you will enjoy your trip much more if you don’t have any bad surprises when arriving! Read on and find out how to plan a trip to Paris!
First of all, keep calm!
There are no worries to have about going to Paris. Parisians are known for being arrogant and grumpy but they are still very nice people and are becoming more tourist friendly. If you are afraid of big cities, don’t worry! Paris is a safe city and nothing untoward will happen to you!
Decide when to go and how long to stay
Now that you are not nervous anymore about coming to Paris, you can start planning everything. You first have to look at your schedule and think about the dates and the length of your trip. There is no lean season in Paris and it’s a lively city during the whole year so if you want more details about Paris at each season you can have a look at this article: “Best time to visit Paris”.
My advice is to go in the mid-season because it’s when Paris has its nicest colours but it’s likely to rain as spring is also the season of the “giboulées de mars”, which is the French version of the “April showers”.
Concerning the length of your trip, it really depends on how much time you have, how many things you want to see and what’s your budget of course! But I would say that you should not stay less than three days because Paris is a huge city. I think it’s worth spending at least four days to discover all the big landmarks and museums and to enjoy the Parisian “art de vivre”.
Choose the means of transport
As Paris is still one of the first world tourist destinations it’s quite easy to get there. You can reach Paris either by plane, by train or by car. Many airline companies offer low-cost flights from European cities.
There are two airports in Paris, Orly and Roissy Charles de Gaulle, so don’t forget to check on your flight booking at which airport you are landing.
To go to Paris from the airport you can take a bus – from Roissy or Orly for about twenty euros round trip ticket -, and Orlyval from Orly for ten euros, a train (the RER line B from Roissy) or a taxi which will cost about thirty euros from Orly and fifty euros from Roissy. If you live in a bordering country or in England, taking the train is another option to go to Paris and it’s sometimes cheaper than the plane!
Apply for a French visa if necessary
Unless you are a citizen of the EU or of a country of the European Economic Area, you will be likely to need a Schengen visa to go to France. However, there are many exceptions. For instance, citizens from Australia, England, Canada, the United States don’t need a visa.
Here is the complete list of people exempt from visa requirements.
Book your accommodation
First, choose between staying at a hotel or renting an apartment or an Airbnb. Here is a list of the pros and cons of hotels and Airbnb if you hesitate: “How to choose your accommodation in Paris”.
Then think about what you want to visit and what kind of neighbourhoods you would like to discover. Because even if you can easily reach the big landmarks with the bus or the metro from everywhere, it’s nicer to walk in Paris so you should have a look at the distance from your accommodation! Once you’ve made up your mind you can look at the different types of hotels and Airbnb.
Get familiar with Paris’s transport network
Paris is not as huge as London but taking the metro is much faster than walking and will help you gain time if you don’t stay very long. It’s quite easy to use the metro in Paris. The ticket costs 1.90€ for one journey and to find a metro station you have to look for the yellow sign M or the green fantasy entrances.
The metro is not so expensive compared to the price of taxis in Paris. In addition, metro in Paris is safe. You have to pay attention to your bag and belongings but not more than in any other place in Paris because cameras deter pickpockets.
If you want a few tips for your first time in Paris, you can read this article!
Make a list of what you really want to see
Even if you stay here for two weeks you won’t be able to cover everything in Paris so just think about all the places you definitely want to go to during your trip. Then make a realistic time schedule considering the distances and knowing that you might have to queue.
Don’t go to the Louvre and Orsay on the same day if you don’t want to get tired of museums. Save some time for strolling around Paris and getting lost in its little streets because it’s a very good way to become familiar with the city!
And plan some free time to experience Parisian life by sitting at cafés in Saint Germain, going to bars in the Latin Quarter, drinking beers or wine on the Seine banks or going clubbing near the Champs Elysées.
Check the opening days and hours
Most of the museums in Paris are closed on Tuesdays, such as Le Louvre or Pompidou), but also on Mondays, like the Orsay but you’d better check for their opening days and hours. Some museums are opened at night once a week, usually on Wednesdays or Thursdays.
Pre-book some of your visits
For very touristy places such as Versailles, the Louvre, Orsay or the Eiffel Tower I advise you to buy your ticket online in advance because you will gain time as you will have to go in the line only once instead of twice and sometimes you will even be able to skip the line!
Look at the sightseeing tours
Don’t jump on the first sightseeing bus you pass in front of because most of them are tourist traps and cost over thirty euros. You will only stay five seconds in front of the big landmarks. So, look carefully at all the different tours, by bus, by boat or on foot.
Walking is probably the best way to discover a city and see all the little details and hidden gems but also to experience Parisian life and meet the locals. Discover Walks offers free walking tours (which are only tip supported) done by born and raised Parisians. Enjoy!
It can either be the easiest or the most difficult part of the trip organization as you probably know that Parisians are known for their chic fashion. However, you don’t have to dress very classy. The most important thing is to bring clothes and shoes in which you feel comfortable in.
Try to learn a few French words and phrases
Knowing the words “Bonjour”, “Merci”, “Au revoir“ will be very appreciated in stores or restaurants or if you ask for directions in the street or the metro. These very easy words can change everything as it means you know French etiquette and Parisians will be more likely to help you. And that’s almost all you need to communicate with French people. Our English skills are improving and we are not as bad at learning English as we used to be. But, if you want to learn a few more sentences to guarantee you can have a more fluent dialogue with the locals, read this article about the 20 must-know French phrases for your visit to Paris.
If you’ve done all that’s on this list I think you’re ready to go to Paris. So, bon voyage (have a good trip) and à bientôt (see you soon) on one of our many tours! If you need further information about anything, feel free to contact us! We will more than glad to help you!