Paris Travel Tips for Your First Time in Paris
One of the greatest cities in the world, Paris is a vibrant and cultural city, with famous sites at every turn and never enough time to see them all. Paris is also regarded as the world’s most romantic city and a heaven for foodies and fashion lovers.
We still have to meet someone who is not willing to visit Paris soon or to come back and discover more!
Everyone visiting Paris for the first time wants to have a memorable trip, and there’s nothing like Paris tips from a local to get the best out of the French capital.
In this article, we are sharing our best Paris insider tips for your first time in Paris: must-see Paris travel tips, as well as all-time favorites and off-the-beaten-path things. Read this article as a complement to our Paris Travel Planner, and you are set for a unique trip to Paris!
Visiting Paris for First Timers – Top Insider Tips
1. Look for the Best Time to Visit Paris for You
The first of our tips for Paris is about the best time to visit Paris. ‘Paris is always a good idea,’ and there is never a bad time to visit Paris. The city has great parks and beautiful avenues and streets, but it also has some of the world’s best museums and other interesting indoor options.
There are, however, a few things you might want to take into account when planning your first trip to Paris.
Generally speaking, the shoulder seasons – Spring and Fall – are good because it’s often less crowded and the temperature is pleasant.
If you want to beat the crowds and pay less for things like transportation and accommodation in Paris, you should consider visiting Paris in November, early December, and January.
If you are interested in shopping, consider visiting Paris in January or July, during the sales, when it is possible to find fantastic bargains.
2. Don’t Leave without Travel Insurance for your First Trip to Paris
It’s important not to skimp on Travel Insurance when you plan your first trip to Paris. Unfortunately, bad things happen when you least expect it, so the best thing you can do for yourself is to be insured.
While a basic consultation in France is affordable (around 25€), hospitalizations or emergency evacuations can easily run into hundreds or thousands of US dollars, which you’ll be expected to pay before you leave. Having a travel insurance policy can give you peace of mind for your first time in Paris and is something most travel experts recommend.
3. Get the Most of Your Time, Book in Advance, and Skip the Lines!
Unless you visit Paris off-season, you’ll experience frustrating long lines at all Paris’ main tourist attractions.
Waiting in line will not only make you waste precious time; the chances are that you’ll be exhausted even before starting your visit! That’s why the second of our tips for traveling to Paris for the first time is about booking your tickets for the main attractions in advance.
Below we list the Paris main attractions you will need advance tickets for and have added links to our favorite trusty providers for your convenience.
Finally, have a look at our Skip the Line in Paris article, with the best days and time slots to avoid the biggest crowds in the main tourist attractions.
4. At the Airport, Only Use Regular Taxis (or Verified Private Airport Transfers)
Taking a ride with a regular, official taxi is what we would consider a matter of common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many tourists still get lured!
At the Paris airports, you’re likely to be approached by someone offering a private taxi service. It might be tempting because it seems easy (no need to search for the taxi stand) and faster (not waiting in line). NEVER accept this kind of “offers.”
If you’re lucky, you’ll end up spending much more (those nonofficial cars don’t have a meter), and you can’t exclude that such a ride could lead to more unpleasant surprises or dangerous situations.
If you don’t want to take public transport and you prefer to know from the beginning how much your ride will cost, we recommend booking a private airport transfer from the Parisian Airports to the city.
5. Save Money on Public Transport
France has good high-speed trains (named TGVs), with very regular connections between Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg, and more. It is very easy to plan weekend trips from Paris by train or longer trips to the rest of France as it takes a little as three hours from Paris to Marseille or from Paris to Strasbourg.
High-speed trains can be costly, though, especially if you buy your train tickets at the last minute. But the good news is that there are ways to find cheaper options if you plan your trip months in advance.
For getting around Paris, the Parisian Metro is the best option. The metro in Paris takes you everywhere in the city, with opening times starting from 5.30 am to 2.15 am on weekends.
Apart from the single metro tickets, valid also for bus and tram rides, the Parisian Metro has different passes well worth the investment, especially if you take the metro more than 3 times a day. Check out our quick guide to the metro of Paris for all the Paris metro tickets and passes and our best tips.
6. Buy a Prepaid SIM Card for your Trip to Paris
Most of the hotels and hostels in Paris offer free Wi-Fi for their guests. You can also get a prepaid SIM card for your trip, which will allow you to communicate with other numbers in France and keep you connected to the internet all the time. Here are the best prepaid SIM cards for France (and how to get them). Bonus points if you can buy one online before starting your trip!
7. Aside from the Landmarks, Discover Life in Paris
When visiting some of the most famous landmarks in Paris, you’re likely to see more tourists than locals.
But there’s so much to a town or city like Paris than its landmarks and main streets. There are many hidden gems in Paris, and letting yourself get lost where locals live and hang is the surest way to feel like a local.
To get a little more of your first time visiting Paris, you must venture where the locals are. So choose one of the lesser-known districts of Paris, put away your map, and just wander.
There are several other ways to get a taste of daily life in Paris.
- Take public transport
- Go to local markets
- Have a stroll near a university
- Drop-in a supermarket
- Go where people work
- Take a walk in residential areas
8. Discover Popular Food in Paris
We all like sushi and pizza, but hey, you are visiting Paris in France, the cradle of one of the best cuisines in the world!
Few countries in the world offer such a variety of dishes as France. From north to south, region after region, you’ll discover different specialties based on local, typical ingredients and products. The good news is that in the French capital you can savor the best of all the French regions.
Ask locals for their favorite restaurants, market stalls, and Paris food, and then be sure to check them out. Join a cooking course and learn how to prepare your favorite French dish. Enjoy French traditional food in any of the Parisian bistros. Stop for a coffee and some people-watching in a cute Parisian café. And be sure don’t miss Paris’ best cakes!
TIP: This Paris Gourmet Tour is an excellent introduction to local food in Paris.
9. Safety Paris Tips
Despite what you might have heard in the media, France is a safe and welcoming country, and we never felt unsafe in Paris. Still, by the main tourist attractions, watch out your belongings.
France is a safe and welcoming country. However, like everywhere in the world, in big cities and by the most sought-after attractions you might incur in petty crime and foul play.
In public transport, always keep your handbag or backpack in front of you to avoid possible pickpockets. Never keep your camera hanging around your neck or your wallet in your trousers back pocket. Instead, store them in your bag, possibly in a zipped pocket not within easy reach.
Be cautious when approached at train stations or by famous landmarks by people offering to help. While most of them will be genuinely generous, some might be trying to rob or scam you.
On long-distance trains, keep your bag always on the racks above your seat. Don’t trust the racks between the seats and the train doors (lessons learned here).
Don’t leave your belongings unattended in public spaces, and better keep your bag on your lap or between your feet. We recommend using an anti-theft travel bag or a theft-proof backpack for safe travel.
In addition to these Paris tips for first-timers, check out our dedicated post about safety in Paris.
10. Avoid the Tourist Traps When Visiting Paris
It is no secret that the most visited places are also potential tourist traps, and Paris makes no exception. Avoiding the tourist traps in Paris is often a matter of common sense. However, there are a few rules that are likely to keep you off the tourist traps.
– Avoid changing money in airports, at La Défense, and near touristy sites. Same for money withdrawal with a foreigner card
– Skip cafés and restaurants close to the main landmarks and all the places attracting hordes of visitors. Prices can be 2 or 3 times the price than in other neighborhoods of Paris.
– Beware of restaurants displaying photos of the dishes and menus in several languages. They are obviously for foreigners.
– Beware of additional charges in many cafés when sitting at a table. Most of the times, Parisian cafés have a price for having something standing at the counter or sitting at a table
– Don’t rely too much on websites like Tripadvisor, and learn how to read behind the lines. Search for advice and reviews from locals.
11. Take a Day Trip from Paris to Explore its Surroundings
With so many interesting sites around Paris, we won’t blame you if you want to block one day or two of your Paris Itinerary to get out of town and explore what the Parisian region has to offer.
From Château de Versailles to other fairy tale castles near Paris; from Provins medieval town to picturesque towns like Giverny, there are great day trips from Paris or fantastic weekend getaways by train or guided tour.
12. Just Say NO
The last of these tips about Paris for first-timers is to learn to say “NO.” It is ok to have a plan full of interesting things to see & do for your first trip to Paris, but should you rush through it just for the sake of moving on to the next thing on your list?
This is definitely one of the biggest travel regrets among international travelers. They come to Paris, they see many extraordinary things, but in the end, the general feeling is that if they had just chosen half the things, they would have discovered much more about the city, especially about local life.
So for your Paris first time, much better to allow yourself to go with the flow and see where it takes you. Most of our greatest travel memories have come from us saying “YES” to not doing what we’d planned.
So there you have it, the best Paris tips for visiting Paris for the first time, from where to go, what to do, and what to avoid. All these Paris travel tips will ensure a smooth first time in Paris.
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