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Paris Tip: How to solve minor travel emergencies

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The funky carpet at a Paris' FNAC store. Photo by Alex Korting
The funky carpet at a Paris' FNAC store. Photo by Alex Korting

You’re in Paris and you forgot your camera’s memory card at home. Oh, and your watch just stopped. To top it off you’ve got a splitting headache.

So, what’s a Cheapo to do? Never fear, this practical guide will help you navigate some minor emergencies and other incoveniences you might experience while in France.

My watch stopped / Ma montre s’est arrêté

While you may not be paying much attention to time while on vacation, it can be annoying when your watch battery suddenly dies. The problem is easily fixed by a visit to a jewelry store, or “bijouterie.” Ask for a “pile” (battery) for your “montre” (watch) and it should be good as new for under €10. Cheapo tip:  Bijouterie can also be helpful with other travel jewelry snafus. If you drop your necklace à la Carrie Bradshaw, for example, they can quickly and easily repair a chain on-the-cheapo.

I have a headache / J’ai mal à la tête

Unlike in the U.S., the only place to buy any kind of medication in France is at the “pharmacie.” These modern-day apothecaries are all marked with a green cross and can be found on many a main and side street throughout Paris. Pharmaceuticals in France are also sold under their generic name only, not the brand name. For example, if you’re looking for Advil for your headache you’ll have to ask for “ibuprofène”

French pharmacists can diagnose and prescribe medicine for minor ailments; the phrase “je suis malade” and a good pantomime should get the point across if you’re feeling under the weather. The pharmacy is also the place to find such essential items as contact lens solution (“du solution pour les lentilles”), adhesive bandages (“des pansements”), and sunblock (éran solaire).

I’d like some contact lenses / Je voudrais des lentilles

Speaking of contact lenses, what happens when you drop one in the Jardin des Tuileries (it happens more than you think!) and it’s your last one? Well, French opticians sell disposable dailies without a prescription. You’ll obviously need to know what specifications you need, but other than that it’s simply a matter of walking in and asking for what you want. The smallest amount you can buy is usually a box of 30 “lentilles” (a 15-day supply), which will cost €15 to 20.

I need a memory card / J’ai besoin d’une carte mémoire

Imagine: You just got to the top of the Eiffel Tower. You turn on your camera to take that first picture and – doh! – realize you forgot that extra memory cartridge. Ne vous inquiétez pas. Don’t worry. Head to the electronics chain store FNAC (pronounced fuh-NACK) for a new “carte mémoire.” Depending on the model you need and what you’re looking for, a card can cost as low as €6.

Note: Not all FNAC outlets offer a huge inventory. But the larger stores can be found on the Champs Elysées (74, Avenue des Champs Elysées), outside Saint Lazare (109 Rue Saint-Lazare), and in the Forum des Halles.

Help, police! / Au secours!

Though no Cheapo likes to think about having a more major emergency, it helps to know what to do if something worse than a broken shoelace occurs. If you ever have a real emergency in France, there are three numbers you need to know (although 911 works in most countries). That’s 15 for an ambulance, 17 for the police, and 18 for the fire department. Dial from any phone and help is on the way!

About the author

About the author: Liz Webber is a freelance journalist living and working in Paris. She has previously worked for the International Herald Tribune and Budget Travel.

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