Last updated April 2021.
Traveling to Paris for the first time is not always easy for tourists, especially if you’re not from Europe. Many visitors want to know where should I avoid in Paris? Whether you’re visiting Paris in the peak season or off season, these helpful tips can help you plan your trip like a pro!
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.
Where to stay in Paris?
When visiting Paris for the first time, the best neighborhoods to book your hotel accommodations are:
- The 7th Arrondissement – Near the Eiffel Tower and the BEST neighorhood for first-timers.
- Montmartre (The 18th Arrondissement) – A quiet and romantic area of Paris.
- South Pigalle (The 9th Arrondissement) – Great for travellers on a budget.
- Le Marais (The 3rd & 4th Arrondissement) – Central location and one of the hippest districts in Paris.
- Saint Germain (The 6th Arrondissement) – A classic Parisian neighorhood.
- The Latin Quarter (The 5th Arrondissement) – Popular with tourists and students.
- Champs-Élysées (The 8th Arrondissement) – Lots of excellent restuarants and shops near here.
If you’re traveling on a budget, these are the best affordable hotels in Paris:
- Hotel Marignan – Located in the Latin Quarter (5th Arrondissement)
- The Helussi Hotel – Located in the 9th Arrondissement
- Hotel Eiffel Turenne – Close to the Eiffel Tower
If you want to splurge on a nice place, consider these luxury accommodations:
- Hôtel Plaza Athénée – Beautiful views of the Eiffel Tower from the hotel
- The Peninsula Paris – Just steps away from the Arc de Triomphe
- Le Bristol Paris – A short walk from the city’s most popular shops and attractions in the 8th Arrondissement
To make your Paris holiday more enjoyable, here are 12 common tourist mistakes to avoid!
- The ultimate guide to visiting Paris on a budget
- Paris Pass review – is it worth it?
- 6 day Paris itinerary for first time visitors
1. 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.
The Paris Pass gives you free transport around the city.
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.
2. Not taking advantage of 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.
They’re also recommended by Expedia and the Paris Pass currently has a rating of 4/5 on TripAdvisor. Many people have already used the Paris Pass for their Paris trip and posted happy reviews.
With the Paris Pass, you can save time, money, and enjoy stress-free sightseeing. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out these TripAdvisor reviews.
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:
✓ Pick from over 60 Paris attractions
✓ Valid for up to 6 days
✓ Save up to €59 on ticket costs with a 4-day Paris Pass
✓ Mobile pass option
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
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.
Still not sure if the Paris Pass is right for you?
If you’re just interested in visiting museums and monuments, you may want to consider getting the Go Paris Card instead.
If you’re just interested in visiting the Eiffel Tower and doing tours in Paris, then you may want to consider getting the Paris Explorer Pass instead.
Either way, don’t make the mistake of paying full price for attractions when you can save money with one of these three tourism passes. Choose the one the works best for your trip!
3. 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.
If you’re planning a short stay, it’s essential to choose a central location that provides easy access to your must-see attractions.
Many tourists make the mistake of staying outside of Paris in order to save money. But commuting into the city every day is expensive. Plus, it wastes a lot of your precious sightseeing time.
To save money, you may want to consider booking your accommodations through Booking.com. This is my go-to site for finding deals on hotels. Below you can check prices on local hotels in Paris.
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 to have fun in Paris even if you’re traveling on a tight budget.
For hotels: I recommend using Booking.com to save money. Compare prices to find the best deal.
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!
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.
We found that we received good service by using French first, especially when we said, “Bonjour / Bonsoir” when entering a restaurant or shop.
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.
- Oui – Yes
- Non – No
- 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.
Prep for your Paris trip
6. Forgetting to bring voltage converters or 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.
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.
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 when using the Paris Pass.
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 food 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. The best view of Paris is NOT from 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. Right?
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.
For more tips on how to save money and make the most of your trip to Paris, please check out this post: The ultimate guide on how to visit Paris on a budget
13. Beware of taxi scams at the airport
If you plan to take a taxi from the Paris airport to your accommodations, it’s important to ONLY take regular official taxis or verified airport transfers.
You’ll find regular taxis located in the official taxi queque. Follow the signs posted in the airport arrivals to the taxi queques.
Make sure to only get inside a taxi with an illuminated rooftop sign and a meter. The sign will read “TAXI Parisien“. If you get in the taxi and notice there isn’t a meter, get out and find another taxi.
Money-Saving Tip: The Bus or RER is the cheapest way to get to and from Charles De Gaulle Airpot. The airport has 2 train stations on the B line of the RER.
14. Avoid common tourist traps when visiting Paris
Most tourist traps are easy to spot, just like in any other major European city. But here’s a few rules to avoid common tourist traps:
- Skip going to restaurants and cafes near popular attractions and landmarks. Prices are often high for average quality food and drinks. Instead, walk a few blocks away to find better restaurants and cafes.
- Restaurants that display photos of the dishes and menus in several different languages are catered towards tourists. Keep in mind that these places are often expensive and the food is mediocre.
- Beware of additional charges in restaurants and cafes. Most places include a service charge (around 15%), which is automatically added to your bill. Check the bottom for “servis compris”. If service was good, you may want to leave a little extra (around 10%).
- Avoid eating at the restaurants in Versailles. Instead, bring a snack with you or eat near the Versailles Château Rive Gauche station.
15. Skip the long line at the Louvre
The Louvre Museum is iconic and a must-visit attraction, but it’s also one of the busiest museums in Paris. Below are some tips to avoid waiting in long ticket lines:
- Purchase your tickets in advance. I recommend using the Paris Pass or Paris GO Pass to save money. If you’re not using an attraction pass, you can purchase your tickets here.
- Visit the Louvre on Wednesday. Both Wednesday and Fridays, the museum stays open in the evening. Choose to visit around 3:00pm on regular days and around 5:00pm on Wednesday and Fridays to avoid crowds.
- Choose the right entrance. There are 4 entrances to the Louvre Museum: he Pyramid entrance, Carrousel du Louvre, Richelieu Passage and Porte des Lions Entrance. I find the Richelieu Passage is usually the least crowded.
Paris for first-timers FAQs
When is the best time to visit Paris?
The best time to visit Paris is in the Spring and Fall when the weather is mild and there are less crowds.
If you want to find deals on hotel accommodations, the best time of year to visit Paris is November, early December, January and Februrary. I like comparing rates on Booking.com.
The best time to visit Paris for shopping is during January and July when sales on happening to find good bargains.
How much should I budget for a trip to Paris?
Your daily budget should be around €184 per person for your vacation. Based on the expenses of other visitors, this is the average daily price. (Price are in Euros).
|Average Daily Cost|
As you can see, a vacation to New York for one week will cost an average of €1,286 per person. (Source)
Can you do Paris on a budget?
Yes, you can have an amazing trip to Paris without breaking the bank. I travelled to Paris as a student on a limited budget and was able to stay in the city and see all the popular attractions. Below are some ways to saved money in Paris:
- Use the Paris Pass to save money and time at the city’s more popular attractions.
- Skip taxis and Uber and ride the Paris Metro. It’s easy to use, cheap and the fastest way to get around the city.
- Find cheap hotel deals on Booking.com. This is my go-to travel accommodation site.
- Have a picnic in the park. Grab bread, cheese and a bottle of wine. This is a popular activity during the warmer months.
- Make lunch your biggest meal of the day. Many restaurants offer pre-fix lunch menus. It’s affordable and then for dinner you can have a picnic in the park.
- Snack on crepes as an affordable breakfast option. There are many street vendors that sell fresh crepes. The nutella option is my favorite!
- Visit museums on the first Sunday of the month. Most museums offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month.