How to Prepare for a First Time Trip to Paris
Europeans take visiting Paris for granted. They can just hop on a flight and be in the City of Love within a few hours from pretty much anywhere on the continent. But, for those of us living further away, having that dream vacation isn’t quite as easy. Anyone visiting Paris for the first time needs more planning, preparation and guidance. So, here’s everything you need to know for your first trip, whether you’re here backpacking or staying in one of the luxury villas in France, to make that dream trip a reality.
Preparing for Your Trip to Paris:
After deciding to visit Paris, it’s time to start thinking about your budget, booking flights, finding suitable accommodation, staying safe while you travel and planning what you want to do. Paris is an expensive city, but you’re also going to get good value for money with the high-quality service and food. You should also double and triple check any visa requirements. France is part of the Schengen Agreement, and most nationalities get 90 days in 180 days visa on arrival at the airport. But not every nationality is eligible.
When Should You Visit Paris:
Paris gets millions of tourists all year round. It doesn’t need to be on a list of top destinations because it is always a hot-spot for travellers. Some come during the summer for a warmer vacation whereas others want to experience the winter wonderland at Christmas. Every month is busy with tourists coming for weekend breaks to week-long trips. Temperatures don’t get too hot in the summer, unlike destinations further south such as Greece and Spain. Likewise, winter rarely sees the thermometer dipping to frigid levels compared to their northern or eastern neighbours. In short, there isn’t any specific or best time to visit. Tourists come every month of the year.
The Best Things to Do in Paris:
Everyone knows the top attractions, which include the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. There are also several museums, art galleries and public gardens creating a green oasis in the centre of the city. Be sure to snap some photographs in the districts lined with elegant buildings and take a boat ride on the River Seine. Notre Dame is also another must-see spot in Paris. France is famous around the world for having excellent food and coffee. Anyone on a first time trip to Paris should sample the food and get a coffee in one of the many roadside restaurants and cafes.
Getting Around Paris:
The metro is very efficient and takes commuters, tourists and anyone else who uses it around the city in no time at all. You can buy a single ticket, which is validated at the entrance and you can make as many transfers on different lines as you want using the same one. If you plan to rely on the metro, buy a carnet, or 10 tickets that come as a set. Purchasing these are cheaper than buying individual tickets and saves time from lining up at the machines.
The metro in Paris is quite confusing if you don’t know where you want to go. For this reason, download one of the free metro map apps onto your phone and take a few minutes planning the route before you get on the train.
Tips for Staying Safe in Paris:
Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and don’t have expectations that are too high. Believe it or not, there’s a medical condition called Paris Syndrome where tourists experience a mental breakdown because they find the city isn’t what they quite expected. As extreme as this may be, it does happen. And the romantic view of a city paradise isn’t always the reality. Do a bit of research and make sure you have a realistic idea of what to expect so that you can at least avoid feeling disappointed.
You should also be aware of scammers and pickpockets operating in the streets. Thieves often work in gangs and are highly professional, so it is important to stay safe while you travel. Make sure you keep your personal belongings safe at all times, especially when you’re using crowded public transport. It’s also important to know that France is currently on a high terror alert, and although it’s improbable you’ll experience anything, you need to be aware and vigilant at all times.
The Language Barrier:
People in France speak, you guessed it, French. But, unlike other major destinations around the world, English isn’t widely used. Street signs, information on the metro among other things are often written in French without a translation. And many of the locals who work outside of the tourist industry lack fluent English. This isn’t such a problem for Europeans who more often than not know a little bit of French, but it is for other nationalities where English is a second language.
The best piece of advice is to expect that everyone outside of the tourist areas can’t speak English. Buy a phrase book and make an effort to learn a few phrases to help you get by. If you ask someone for help using your limited French, you’re more likely to get what you’re looking for. Alternatively, write down a few essential phrases to refer to or show the person you’re asking for help.
The Ingredients for a Dream Trip to Paris:
The essential points described in this article should now have prepared you for your first trip to Paris. In short, you should set realistic expectations and be aware at all times for your safety and scams. And make sure you enjoy many of the masterpieces in the art galleries, museums and finding that perfect photograph near the Eiffel Tower.