Paris is a timeless destination. Whether you want to sample delicious French cuisine, scale the Eiffel Tower, or just channel your inner Emily in Paris – the city is sure to keep you on your toes.
Unfortunately, you might not always be enjoyably ‘on your toes’. There are some things to avoid in Paris if you want to experience that dreamy, Parisian escape. The French capital is also known for scams, lots of queuing, and sometimes stressful driving and transport systems. At best, Paris is full of art and culture, while at worst, it is a hotspot for crime and stress.
Luckily, we’ve compiled a guide to the 11 most important things to avoid in Paris. Avoid these things, and you’ll have a wonderful time!
Skimping on hotel location
It can be tempting to skimp on hotel location, especially when you find a cheap deal for a hotel in the outer arrondissements. You can catch the Metro to explore central attractions, you may think. What’s the big deal?
Simply put, sections of the Metro and certain arrondissements aren’t advisable to wander after dark. Ideal hotel location depends massively on what kind of traveler you are, what you want to do, and what time you want to do things. For example, if you are a solo female traveler and want to glimpse the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, basing yourself in the 19th arrondissement will not make the easiest journey.
Similarly, spending money on public transport can be counterproductive when traveling on a budget. If it’s a question of budget, make sure to include extra transportation costs when weighing up central and outskirt hotels.
For those with only a weekend in Paris, consider whether you want to spend lots of time commuting into central Paris as well. Would you prefer to walk between most attractions? Or are you quite happy catching the Metro throughout your stay?
Driving (unless you’ve got excellent insurance)
Driving in Paris has got a bad reputation. People often associate the city with jammed traffic, frustrated drivers, complex lane systems, and zero parking. And, to be honest, it’s often a fairly earned reputation.
Gov.UK advises that drivers in Paris take particular care against robberies from their vehicles. For instance, suggesting car doors are locked at all times when parked and driving.
Considering that Paris is so well-connected by public transport, renting a car is redundant. Picture it as akin to renting a car in Zone 1 London.
However, if you are set on driving a car in Paris, ensure you use a reputable rental company and have excellent insurance.
Carrying hand luggage during the day
Whether you are carrying necessities or just checking out your hotel early, aim to avoid carrying luggage around Paris.
Instead, choose to carry necessities with the mindset of ‘whatever I’m carrying I can afford to lose’ and invest in a secure, comfortable bag. Really, all you need to carry is a phone, purse, and perhaps a camera.
If you’ve had to check out early or are waiting to check-in, contact your hotel and request luggage storage. More often than not, the hotel will be happy to store your luggage for you free of charge. Even if they say no, you can make use of services like Luggage Hero and Bounce, which have lockers to store your belongings across Paris.
Still wondering why hand luggage is one of our things to avoid in Paris? Not only does hand luggage make you a target for theft, but lots of attractions also have restrictions on entering with luggage and do not provide storage services. Therefore, carrying hand luggage limits your safe enjoyment of Paris.
Queuing for attractions
Queuing might seem a small price to pay for Paris’ attractions! Sure, queuing is part of our everyday lives.
However, queues for attractions in Paris are notoriously long. To queue for the Eiffel Tower, you can expect waits of anything between one to three hours – and perhaps longer. While this might not seem so dreadful, queuing for multiple attractions can have a knock-on effect on your Paris itinerary. Visit the Eiffel Tower and Louvre and, before you know it, it’s dark, and you’ve missed your entrance to the Catacombs.
Remember that in summer, queues are usually unsheltered, meaning you’ll have to remember a hat, sun cream, and water, so you don’t burn or suffer from heatstroke. In wetter, colder months, unsheltered queuing can also be pretty miserable.
Luckily, queuing is one the easiest things to avoid in Paris, as most attractions have realized most people want to skip the process. Look for skip-the-queue tickets when booking entrances to attractions and avoid unpleasant waiting.
We’ve included taxis in our things to avoid in Paris list for a few reasons.
Firstly, there is a higher risk of crime in taxis than regulated services like Uber. While Uber lets you pay upfront for the trip, taxis leave you more vulnerable to scams and rip-off prices. In a taxi, you’ll have to pay attention to the meter and make sure to agree on a price beforehand.
Uber also lets you track your trip online, as well as providing you with number plate and driver details. You can easily forward these reassuring details to friends and family if you get into difficulty, something solo travelers might particularly appreciate. In a taxi, you’d have to request and find these details yourself.
Lastly, we recommend avoiding taxis because the Metro is much more cost-effective. Like driving in Paris, road travel is rarely needed because public transport is so well-connected. In most scenarios, it’s best to save your hard-earned cash and hop on the Metro instead.
Signing petitions might seem a strange addition to our things to avoid in Paris. However, petitions are the most popular method of distracting victims of pickpocketing and theft.
Typically, one person will approach you with a petition and pen, while another will rob you while you’re distracted signing the petition. Be aware that individuals with petitions might appear emotional or even angry when persuading you to sign.
The best course of action is to firmly walk away with a polite no. If you are worried about rejecting a legitimate cause, be reassured that real petitions will be available to sign online. Whereas the one in front of you is 99.9% likely to be a scam – especially in touristy areas.
“Do you speak English?”
Following on from the petition scam, be aware when approached by a person asking: “Do you speak English”.
Instead of pickpocketing, these scams ask you to make a donation and sign their petition. When you donate, the person quickly becomes irate and escalates the situation, claiming there is a minimum donation (which is as high as they can possibly make it).
The scam involves creating an embarrassing public display to pressure the victim into donating large amounts of money that does not go to the advertised cause.
Use your instinct when avoiding this scam in Paris. Does the person have a piece of paper? Are you in a touristy place? Does the person seem to be working in a group? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, the best response when asked, “do you speak English” is a blank face or polite shake of your head.
Plastic water bottles
Plastic water bottles are on our list of things to avoid in Paris for environmental and financial reasons.
Purchasing plastic water bottles is a huge trend amongst Paris’ tourists, especially in the hot summers when many fail to prepare for the heat. Many street sellers and shops sell plastic bottles of water, so it can be tempting to buy water while sightseeing.
You can avoid wasting plastic and spending unnecessary money by planning ahead. Instead, invest in a reusable water bottle. And, if you are a frequent traveler, preferably choose a bottle with an in-built filtration system.
You’ll be able to fill up your reusable bottle at Paris’ multiple drinking fountains and at the hotel before you leave for the day.
Using pockets to store valuables
Using your pockets to store valuable is the biggest no-go in Paris. If you only remember one of our things to avoid in Paris, make sure it is this one.
Whether you are targeted at attractions, on the Metro, or just on the street, pick-pocketers love valuables in pockets. By storing your phone or purse in a pocket, you may as well just give them away.
Except for internal, secure pockets, most pockets are not secure and are easily visible to thieves. If a corner of your phone is sticking out of your jeans, or there’s an obvious purse-sized bulge in your coat pocket, you immediately become a target.
Money belts are a wise investment, particularly if you are a frequent traveler. Money belts fit underneath your clothes and clip around your stomach, hiding your valuables while sightseeing. If you are concerned about how secure your pockets and bags are, purchase a money belt before traveling to Paris.
Not making an effort to speak French
Not making an effort to speak French is a huge mistake and definitely one of our things to avoid in Paris.
By not trying to speak French, you’ll miss out on cultural immersion in one of the most sought-after cultures in the world. Do you really want to miss out on Parisian culture and attempt to pronounce essential words in French?
At the very least, you’ll mess up and get a smile from the waitress, receptionist, or shopkeeper. But, at the most, you’ll pick up new vocabulary and practice a valuable, widely spoken new language. It sounds like a win-win to us.
Not traveling with valid public transport tickets
Our final addition to our things to avoid in Paris is simple. Do not forget to validate your public transport tickets and purchase the correct ticket for your journey.
Fortunately, it’s easy to remember to validate tickets most of the time. When entering a Metro station, there are turnstiles to pass. At these turnstiles, insert your ticket into the slot, and it will pop up in a different slot further up the machine. Once you’ve validated your ticket, the turnstile will allow you to enter the station. Needless to say, if you jump these turnstiles, expect a hefty fine and to be caught on CCTV or by the nearby barrier guard.
When purchasing a ticket, make sure it covers all the zones you are visiting. Much like London, the Metro includes different prices for the number of zones you travel through. Therefore, if you get caught traveling through zones with the correct ticket, you can also expect a high fine.
Things to avoid in Paris – the verdict
With the right awareness and planning, a trip to Paris can be just as dreamy as you anticipate. By incorporating our things to avoid in Paris when planning your trip, you’ll stay safe while exploring the city.
Avoid becoming a target, victim, or exhausted Paris tourist. Instead, have a fantastic experience of one of the world’s most beautiful, culturally rewarding cities.