Last updated October 2019.
Traveling to Paris for the first time is not always easy for tourists, especially if you’re not from Europe. There’s so much to see and do in Paris. Whatever your plans are, these helpful tips are great for first-time visitors to Paris, especially if you’re visiting from North America.
While Paris is known to be one of the world’s most expensive cities, there are plenty of ways to have an amazing trip without breaking the bank. For example, one of my favorite ways to save money on accommodations is to book through Airbnb. I have used Airbnb throughout Europe and North America and have always had a good experience. It’s great for groups, friends, or couples since prices are often cheaper than hotels.
To make your Paris holiday more enjoyable, here are 12 common tourist mistakes to avoid!
Related Post: 6 Day Paris Itinerary For First-Time Visitors
1. Not using the Paris Pass
Visiting Paris for the first time can be stressful. Paris is a big city and there’s lots of fun things to do and see. It can be challenging to plan an itinerary and determine which attractions to spend your money on.
The good new is you don’t need to plan your Paris trip alone. After doing a lot of research for my own vacation, I discovered the Paris Pass. This pass can be a great tool for planning your holiday.
I used the Paris Pass, which helped me easily plan my itinerary and visit all the top attractions in the city. With the Paris Pass, I saved time, money, and enjoyed stress-free sightseeing.
PRO TIP: Buy the pass online to save extra money off the retail price. To buy the Paris Pass, click here to go to the official website.
Here’s what’s included in the Paris Pass:
The Paris Pass is a sightseeing card which gives you FREE fast-track entry to the city’s top tourist attractions, including a free Hop on Hop off Bus Tour, the Louvre Museum, and the Palace of Versailles.
Standard Entry Price
FREE with the Paris Pass
Standard Entry Price
FREE with the Paris Pass
Standard Entry Price
FREE with the Paris Pass
Plus, you can use the Paris Pass to get free entry to 60+ other attractions, museums, and tours in the city, including an unlimited transit card to cover all your transportation needs. I rode the Paris metro everyday during my trip. It was easy to use and a quick way to get to each attraction.
How to get your Paris Pass:
Step 1: Choose which pass duration you want to buy (2, 3, 4 or 6 day). You can click here to purchase your Paris Pass from the official website.
Step 2: Download your mobile pass instantly using the Paris Pass App. If you prefer a physical pass, simply opt for delivery (they deliver worldwide) or collect on arrival in Paris.
Step 3: You now have FREE access to any of the 60+ top Paris attractions included for the duration of your pass. You can activate your pass anytime within 12 months from the date of purchase.
Step 4: Download the free guide book, which is included with your purchase. Use this book to help you easily plan your itinerary.
2. Booking a hotel outside of Paris
I know those affordable hotels near Paris Disney sound tempting. But unless you’re spending every day exploring the Disney park, it’s not a good idea. Commuting into the city every day is expensive. Plus, it wastes a lot of your precious sightseeing time.
If you’re planning a short stay, it’s essential to choose a central location that provides easy access to your must-see attractions.
To save money, you may want to consider booking your accommodations through Airbnb. I always use Airbnb when traveling because it’s usually cheaper than staying in a hotel. I also love that many places have a kitchen. This lets me to cook some meals instead of spending money at restaurants.
CLICK HERE to get a coupon to use towards your next stay with Airbnb!
3. Taking a taxi to get around the city
Taking taxis to get around the city is expensive. Plus, you’ll waste your vacation time sitting in traffic. The Paris metro is easy to use and it’s a quick way to get to all the top attractions.
For Paris Pass holders, you can use the unlimited Transit Travelcard to get around the city with ease. It comes pre-loaded with a credit / value to match your Paris Pass duration. You can learn here about how to save money with the Paris Pass.
If you’re staying in town for more than a few days and not using the Paris Pass, I highly recommend buying a carnet of 10 tickets. This makes getting around town easy and will save you money.
PRO TIP: Another great way to explore Paris is to take the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. This is included for free when you purchase the Paris Pass.
4. Thinking that everything in Paris is expensive
Paris is home to some of the world’s finest hotels, restaurants, and attractions. BUT! There are plenty of ways for budget travelers to have a good time.
For restaurants: Avoid restaurants in tourist areas because they are expensive and mediocre (at best). Instead, take advantage of prix fixe menus at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can also eat at street vendors or coffee shops for lunch so you can afford to go out for dinner. I love snacking on Nutella crepes while walking around Paris!
For attractions: I recommend using the Paris Pass to get the best value when sightseeing.
5. Not learning how to speak these key words in French
If you’re short on time, I recommend buying a French phrasebook for a quick fix to learn common phrases. This will be especially valuable when reading restaurant menus (if an English one is not available).
While it does help to be fluent in French, it’s not necessary for enjoying your trip to Paris. Most people in the service and tourism industry (hotels, restaurants, museums) speak basic English. Some even speak fluent English.
However that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to Paris without knowing these key phrases in French. These are the most important words to know:
- Bonjour / Bonsoir – Hello / Good evening
Parisians like to be greeted with “bonjour” (or bonsoir depending on the time of day). When you walk into a store, a restaurant or your hotel, it’s polite to say “bonjour”. If it’s after 5:00 PM, switch to “bonsoir”. Saying bonjour / bonsoir goes a long way and can create a good first impression.
- Merci – Thank you
Saying “merci” is also polite. Locals will appreciate you trying to speak French!
- Pardon – Excuse me
If you’re looking to pass someone when going up the stairs or you want to get off the metro and someone is standing in front of the door, you’ll hear Parisians say “pardon” instead of “excuse-moi”. Say this and you’ll sound like a Parisian instead of standing out as a tourist.
My must-have Paris accessories:
Click the product to shop
6. Forgetting to bring voltage converters / adapter plugs for your electronics
Most people know the voltage in France is 220-240, but still many visitors forget. If you don’t already have an adapter, I recommend buying this great all-in-one travel adapter and charger before your trip.
If you do forget one, don’t worry. I saw a couple of tourist shops that had voltage converters and adapter plugs for sale.
7. Falling for popular tourist scams
If you’ve been to other cities in Europe (or major tourist cities around the world), you’ll probably recognize a scam when you see one. These scammers take advantage of unsuspecting tourists.
Here are a couple of popular scams you should be aware of:
The string/ bracelet scam: People may ask if you’d like a “friendship bracelet or ring”. They will tie it so tight that you can’t remove it and then demand money from you. Keep an eye out for these people (usually males) near popular museums and the Montmartre area.
Petition scams: This is usually around popular monuments, such as the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. Mainly run by young girls, they are often holding a clipboard (or a piece of paper) and ask you “Do you speak English?”
From my experience, these girls can be extremely aggressive and they are not afraid to grab your arm to get your attention. Firmly reject any petition and continue on your way.
PRO TIP: It’s important to keep an eye on your belongings at ALL times (especially when visiting museums, riding the metro, or in crowded areas). Pick pockets are highly prevalent in Paris. There are signs around the city to warn tourists. Be smart and don’t let your purse or belongings out of your sight.
8. Trashing your metro ticket after entering the metro
Keep your ticket after entering the metro because you may be required to present it upon exiting (or have to pay a fine if you don’t have it).
A metro officer checked my ticket when I took the RER train to Versailles and when I exited the metro near the Eiffel Tower. Luckily, I read this tip before my trip to Paris so I made sure to keep my ticket.
For Paris Pass holders using the Paris Visite Travelcard: the Paris Travelcard is valid in Central Paris (zones 1 – 3) for use on the metro, RER, buses, trams, SNCF Trains, and the Montmartre Funicular.
Make sure to write down your Given name and Surname as well as the ticket date of use on the ticket as indicated. This is what you’ll show the metro officer if they ask to see your ticket.
9. Over tipping in Paris
When dining in a restaurant, tax and tip is already included in the menu price, and it will be shown on your bill. This service charge is usually 10%-15%. Even though it’s appreciated, you’re not expected to tip on top of this.
10. Going to a non-service continu restaurant for a meal between the regular meal hours
You’ll notice that some restaurants in Paris have a sign that says “service continu”. This means that the restaurant serves food between regular meal hours (2:00 PM – 7:00 PM).
Restaurants that are not “service continu” either close or only offer drinks during these off hours. If you’re looking to eat a late lunch (or an early dinner) make sure to look for a restaurant that says “service continu”.
11. Paying for water at a restaurant
Ask for a carafe of tap water instead of paying high prices for bottled water. It’s perfectly safe to drink the water and you’ll save money.
Want to know the secret password to ordering tap water in Paris? Say “une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plait”. Oon carafe (rhymes with giraffe) doh.
12. Thinking the best view of Paris is from the top of the Eiffel Tower
I loved going to the sommet of the Eiffel Tower, but it certainly wasn’t the best view of Paris. That’s because you’ll miss the view of the Eiffel Tower in your photos. (For example, when you go up the Empire State building in NYC, you’ll see everything except the Empire State Building).
A couple of my favorite places to enjoy a beautiful view of Paris is from the top of the Arc de Triomphe and the Towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral. You can visit these two attractions for FREE when using the Paris Pass.
PRO TIP: A view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe is both beautiful during the day and at sunset. The Paris Pass allows you to visit the Arc de Triomphe as many times as you wish. I used the Paris Pass to go to Notre-Dame Cathedral and Arc de Triomphe twice during my trip — just because I could! I felt like a VIP with my pass!
Not sure if the Paris Pass is right for you? Consider purchasing the Paris Explorer Pass instead. You can to visit 3, 5, or 7 top attractions and tours as you go. Save over 48% off Paris’s top attractions. Once activated, the pass is valid for 30 days. You can click here to buy your Paris Explorer Pass from the official website.
If you want to get the absolute most out of your Paris holiday, this 15-page travel binder printables package is for you!
Save your sanity by organizing all of your vacation details in one place. Use these beautiful printables to plan ahead so you can have the best vacation ever on a budget you can afford!