Let’s face it, being a first-time visitor in Paris isn’t easy. Travelers have to deal with everything from jet lag and language barriers, to a new currency and figuring out the public transit system. Some of us save up our whole lives to visit the City of Light, so pricey mistakes aren’t something we want to keep as souvenirs.
While a few faux-pas here or there won’t ruin your experience, there are a few common mistakes to look out for that will make your first days a little smoother. Avoid these in order to keep within your budget and to save time to get the most out of your trip.
Waiters will prey on innocent tourists who may be wondering if the tap water in Paris is drinkable. The days of the plague are mostly over, so don’t fear—French tap water is just fine. Don’t feel pressured into buying pricey bottled water unless you want sparkling or mineral varieties. Just ask for a carafe d’eau, and spend the euros on an extra dessert instead.
Armed with a museum pass and a metro pass, you can avoid some lines and having to worry about purchasing tickets. But there will always be that pressure to use the passes. What if it’s a nice day and you want to walk, but you haven’t used the pass yet? What if you want to linger more in the gardens but you need to use the museum pass before it expires? If you want the security of the passes, just be sure to plan your route to make sure you don’t lose out in the end.
Is it a mistake to go to Versailles? No. But with only a few precious days in Paris, is it necessary for a first-time visit? We’ll let you decide. If you’re going in the spring or summer, however, be prepared to surrender several hours of your vacation time to waiting in line at the majestic chateau before fighting crowds inside to catch a glimpse of Marie Antoinette’s bed. If you’re on the fence, don’t feel bad about skipping the trek out there, or even opting for a lesser-visited chateau like Chantilly.
With taxi drivers, hair dressers and tour guides, don’t feel bad about tipping. With anyone else, there is absolutely no need to, unless the service went above and beyond the norm. Just round the bill up and leave the change. Paris tipping rules are as simple as that.
There’s no need to dig deep into your pockets for a bit of breakfast. Head to a café for a coffee and croissant under €5 euros or just get an assortment to go from your local bakery and leave the breakfast buffet for when all the bakers are on strike. Yes, it has happened before.
That cheap hotel out by Disneyland seems great, because it’s just so gosh-darn cheap. But the commute into Paris isn’t much different from those who come from London (I exaggerate…kind of). We love cheap hotels, too, and that’s why we push our favorites in the heart of the city—because you didn’t fly all the way to Paris to spend hours on a train, did you?
Queue up in Paris—we all need to at some point. While you’re at the Eiffel Tower, I’m at the grocery store, and the lines are often comparable. But pick your battles. Lines at the Louvre are shorter on Wednesday and Friday nights, and the same goes for the Musée d’Orsay on Thursday evenings, while the Eiffel Tower is always pretty busy. Plan ahead so that if you have no bookings or pre-purchased tickets, you won’t hit all of the lines at all the wrong times.
You planned and planned, you thought you could do it all, but alas. It’s just impossible. Paris will be here for quite some time, so if you didn’t get to every major sight, there’s always tomorrow. The Mona Lisa isn’t going anywhere (hopefully), and the Eiffel Tower should still be standing, so try to enjoy what you do experience and make the to-do list for round two.