Get the scoop on Paris before you head out!
Tour de France
Get a good guidebook. Without one, you’ll miss out on all the subtleties of this ancient, diverse and historically sophisticated city.
Disguise your guidebook with a plain brown wrapper — it’ll be less obvious that you’re just visiting.
Don’t dress like a tourist. Do you wear a camera around your neck and a fanny pack at home? Tuck it all in a tote or a backpack and you’ll blend in and get a better overall experience.
Learn a few key phrases so that you can say them with accurate pronunciation and confidence. Your efforts will be appreciated. Contrary to popular belief, English isn’t the universal language.
Learn menu words so you know what you’re ordering and don’t wind up eating ‘les omelettes’ every day.
Keep a pocket French/English dictionary with you at all times for discreet review.
Ooh La La, I Need Some Moolah
Exchange $100 into Euros while you’re in the U.S. The lines at the airport money exchange booths are always hideously long.
You get the best exchange rates by using your credit card or ATM card. Most bureaux d’exchanges charge a large commission or have grossly unfair rates.
Cab drivers will not take more than four people in one cab. They charge a few francs extra for every bag that they load into the trunk.
A taxi ride from either airport into Paris will run you at least $50. Express bus tickets cost approximately $10 each.
A 15 percent tip is already included in every restaurant or café bill. But you should leave a few francs as a gesture after every meal or coffee.
Managing the Metro
Familiarize yourself with the Metro before you get on. Lines are color-coded and named by number, and also according to the terminus station. You’ll find maps on the street, just before you descend into the station, as well as inside near the turnstiles, right next to the track, and on-board the trains.
Tickets can be purchased in carnets (10 at a time) for convenience and a slight discount. You can also buy weekly or monthly passes.
Little plastic pockets to hold your metro pass and tiny metro maps are free at the ticket counter.
Bypass long lines at the ticket window by getting your tickets in the machines in the station. They accept credit cards and coins and even have instructions in English.
Once the train stops, the doors don’t open automatically! You have to manually lift the latch to get on or off.
You can transfer lines as many times as you’d like, but you need a new ticket every time you surface.
Trains come every three minutes and are usually on time.
The last metro trains depart from each terminus at 12:30 am.
The French eat dinner no earlier than 7 pm, and more typically around 8 or 9 pm. Most restaurants don’t even open before 6:30 pm.
Most small stores (even those that sell food) close for lunch.
The entire country goes on vacation in August, which means many small family-owned boutiques and restaurants will be closed for the whole month.
Dogs are allowed everywhere. You’ll see them in supermarkets, in restaurants, on the metro and just about any other place you can imagine.
Rarely will you find a non-smoking section because every single man, woman and child in France smokes like a chimney.
All stores, markets and many restaurants are closed on Sundays.
The French drink wine or water with meals. Soda is a refreshment not to be mixed with food.
Keep in Touch
Phone booths don’t accept coins or even tokens anymore, but they will take your U.S. phone card. Or you can buy a prepaid card from any tabac (tobacco shop) in 40- or 90-minute increments.
All Paris phone numbers start with “01.” All cell phone telephone numbers start with “06″ and are slightly more expensive to call. The Internet is alive and well in Paris