Things to know before the first visit to Paris

A city bustling with culture, romance, food, history and much more is none other than *The city of love* – Paris. The fact that it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world shouldn’t come as a surprise! A perfect dream destination, the first choice for honeymoon for newlyweds is the city for you, the French capital. When talking about Paris, our expectations are bound to shoot up rocket high and it can have its pros and cons. It can be overwhelming for some and be disappointing for others, and a lifelong memory for someone else. For me it was a mixture of all three, I was overwhelmed at a point, disillusioned in another moment yet Paris will always be the city I love and can return at the first chance available.

Eiffel Tower

When my trip was planned, I researched and researched and jotted down all the places to see in the city, got excited & intimidated after reading negative reviews about thefts & crime there thus ruining my first visit to Paris to some levels. Yet from the moment I landed and to the point when I took off, I had my moments with a tint of surprise every now and then. I engrossed various stereotypes in mind and I am happy that they’re not with me anymore. I learned a few things on my 10-day trip to the iconic capital which I wish I knew earlier. So, I am giving you guys tips from the experiences I had after visiting Paris for the first-time visitor and hoping you will find them useful for your visit to Paris. 

Related – Learn How to plan a trip for an unfamiliar destination

1. Coins are precious

The Paris CDG airport is relatively far from the main town and there are two options from the airport to get into the city – hire a cab or use Paris metro (RER). For using the metro, you’ll buy a one time ticket or 2/3 day ticket depending on your requirement. If you wish you buy the one-time ticket from the kiosks I strongly recommend to bring some change (coins) or small denominations below 10 Euro. I had a really *hard-time* using my international card and the machine wouldn’t accept higher notes. I literally stood at the machine and requested anyone who would help me a change, and finally, some tourists helped me out. So don’t forget to grab some change before your first visit to Paris. 

2. Chivalrous Parisians

As against the famous stereotypes, I found Parisian people helpful. I was *looking* lost or probably was lost in the airport while trying to find my way. Through that time, every time I asked people about the way, people went out of their way to let me know. I asked the lady at the metro information counter about the hotel where I wanted to go and she helped me with the entire metro map just with a hotel name…that was spectacular, wasn’t it? Dragging my suitcase all the way to the platform, I asked another security professional about the metro. He literally stopped the train which was on the leave the platform just for me…just for me!!! I felt mindbogglingly wonderful, wow how could they stop a train for a single person!! Yup, that’s Paris for you!! I lost my way while walking back from Arc de Triomphe to my hotel with a dead mobile. Somehow got me onto Avenue Victor Hugo lane, no one in plain sight to ask directions to, and there I saw Zara showroom. After looking around with blank expression for a couple of minutes, a lovely lady at the store – who knew English by the way – finally helped me with the directions. So, I wouldn’t say Parisians are rude or inhospitable, I found them awesome!

3. Multi-Day ticket/ Metro Pass

I know..I know everybody talks about buying multi-day tickets for 1/2/3/5 days validity. But there’s one lesser know option of Paris pass for 6 days starting Monday till Sunday. The pass is not available from the ticket vending machines, that’s why very few tourists know about it. I came to know about it as my card was giving me issues on the automatic machines, so I headed to ticket counters. The lady at the counter politely suggested me the pass with the advantage of using it on RER line too so I picked up this one. Yes, it cost me slightly more than the tickets, but I could it any number of times and also on any metro, RER and large trains too.The one mandatory clause with the pass is that you need to attach your passport size picture to it else the ticket inspectors you will be fined with a huge sum that will negate your use of the pass. I actually got myself into the trap, because of the language barrier I didn’t know the picture was necessary. I got down at Bir Hakim station and the inspectors were inspecting the tickets. I displayed my pass proudly, although she immediately asked me where I’m from and why I have not attached a picture to it to which I was clueless and apologized for being unaware of the fact. She asked me for my passport (thank god I was carrying that) which I showed to her, she let me go with a warning that I need to attach my picture to before next use. Well, that was close 😉 There’s are the automatic photo-vending machine on almost all the stations, you can get yours at approx $5 just like I got mine. So the gist is that the card was amazing for me, and I think anyone going for a week should take advantage of the pass.

Have you read my Adventures en route to Paris!

4. Walk Vs Metro

Paris is a big metropolitan city and it is not always easy to walk for every top spot in the city. You will surely need the metro but does that mean you will not connect with the city because of always staying underground…NO!! Do a mix of both – choose when you would like to walk and when to take the metro for commuting. If you plan to see Eiffel Tower, Bir Hakim is the closest metro if you’re not staying anywhere close to it. But I was staying Trocadero station, right opposite of the iconic tower so it was a walkable distance for me. Plus, it had one more advantage that I found it to be a perfect place to click the tower. I can assure you will tons of amazing shots from Trocadero, and also grab souvenirs from here at a cheaper cost..you can thank me later for that 😉 I tried to walk back from Eiffel to Arc de Triomphe, my god that was a tiring & a long one!! It would have been nice if I had chosen metro there, so got my lesson there and then!! Other places like Louvre Museum is also quite a walk even from the metro station and same happened from Notre Dame, so choose effectively! Walking in Paris can be a memorable one but will also give your feet a tough time, prefer comfortable(really) shoes to enjoy the long walks. 

5. On-Time Departures from the Main Train Stations

The French capital has not one but as much as 7 main train stations namely – Gare de Bercy, Gare de Lyon, Gard du Nord, Gare de l’Est, Gare Saint-Lazare, Gare d’Austerlitz and Gare Montparnasse – serving in Europe and different France regions. Even Charles de Gaulle is also a train station which can take you into the city easily so making that count to a total of 8. Wherever you would like to travel, you might have to check the station, its distance from your hotel/current location and plan accordingly. All the stations are well connected with the Paris metro and somewhat located easily in easily accessible corners of the city. One point to keep in mind here is all the outstation trains either Eurostar or SCNF or any others leave sharp on time without even a second’s delay. I’ve been to Gare de Nord station from Paris to Basel and it was immensely enormous. I reached just in time, not buying an online ticket and so I had to miss the first train to avoid losing the train. For any first-timer, getting through the train station and reaching to the platform can be overwhelming just like for me!! I had to buy the next train and literally explore the station and food outlets just to pass another 3 hours which actually took a toll on my plans.

paris to zurich train sncf

So, best to buy tickets only and also reach on-time just to avoid any change of plans. The station is a mammoth of activities in itself with a large number of places to roam around admiring the architecture, relish Parisian delicacies or shop for a variety of things including souvenirs from the city of love. 

gard de nord restaurant paris

6. Make friends with tourists

Travelling solo? Struggling to get a perfect click with Eiffel Tower in the background? Don’t shy away to humbly request any one of the jillion tourists to take a nice picture. I met a wonderful woman, who was also traveling solo like that. We didn’t even have a common language – not even English – but when I asked her to click a picture of me, she clicked at least 2/3 before asking me to turn on flash for a better picture. Awesome..right? Yes, travel makes one more modest, a better person and a fine communicator 🙂

7. Learn slightly about Parisian history

Paris and France overall have a profound historical background. You will be amazed how knowing a little bit of history will enhance your overall trip. I must admit I didn’t do my homework and I missed a lot only because I wished I knew. Paris is the city which you’ll never forget, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could turn it into a memorable one. 

8. Black should be your favorite color

Already my favorite, who else is with?? Parisians are well-known for their love of black color and seriously no/little makeup. Yet they all look fashionable! How?? I feel Black is most fashionable and a color one can’t go wrong with. A black trench coat, red lipstick and boots and you’ll blend in right there!!

Have you visited Paris? How was the experience on your trip to Paris? Do share your thoughts with me!!

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– The Wanderer

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57 comments

  1. Great tips. I’ve been to Paris a few times, and the travel through metro and trains was what I had the most challenges with since I also had an international card that didn’t seem to work but sporadically. So I walked around town with stretched out pockets with euro coins!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I visited Paris for the first time a few years ago, and really enjoyed the city! I studied French, French history, and French culture all throughout high school, so I was super excited to finally visit the French capital. You have some really great tips here! I also agree that a mixture of walking and metro is the best way to explore the city!

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  3. Great tips for Paris! The only time that I’ve been, I went with a tour so I didn’t have to worry much about transport etc. To be honest I was a little reticent of going back on my own, but these tips are great.

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  4. #6 – definitely! I even learned later on that just in case you’re really traveling solo and in dire need to have your photo taken, ask a fellow tourist who is a Japanese woman. Why? Because they are the BEST in making photos. I was first in disbelief when I first heard it, but after having experienced it myself. Just. WOW. Unbelievable without even giving requests/instructions/asking too much (10 shots and I was like, “I feel awkward standing now” and didn’t realize that it was that much from different angles.
    Anyway, lovely set of tips and they are very practical! Paris is one of my favorites. So much romance in the most subtle way.

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  5. I wish I had this before my first trip to Paris! This would have really helped manage my expectations and preparing for the trip! I had no idea coins were going to be so valuable or that they wore so much black.

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  6. Paris was the first place I ever travelled to and I did find it a bit disappointing, after a lifetime of dreaming of visiting! The history is phenomenal though and I agree – it’s a nice city to walk around in.

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  7. Paris is my favourite city in Europe!! I’ve been at least 18 times and love each and every visit. I totally agree with exploring Paris by foot as well as in the metro, it’s the perfect thing to do! I especially loved just catching the metro to the Louvre and to walk along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower (as you can’t really get lost, just walk towards the Eiffel Tower). It’s a stunning route and such a nice way to see the city!

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  8. I have been putting off the trip to Paris because of what you said in the first paragraph – I’m scared I’ll be disappointed by the city, as everyone talks so well about it. But I guess my curiosity will win over me and with the very useful information you provided, I’ll have a blast!
    Well, it’s time to look for flights 😉

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  9. I can definitely relate to the walking vs. metro part. The distances in Paris are big and a walk along the Seine from one landmark to the other only looks short. We once walked from Notre Damme all the way to the Eiffel Tower and I still remember that walk – mostly for my hurting feet and me stupidly wearing fashionable boots that day… Go for sneakers and you can explore Paris on foot, but if you are short on time – metro is definitely the best way to quickly get around.

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  10. Great information. I, too, find the Parisians helpful and they will go a long way if you try and say a few words. And most dress nicely in that city! Always feel underdressed! My favourite area is the 6th Arrondissement. Such a cool area to hang and get a neighborhood feel. Nice post!

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