Paris is no different to any other big city in the world – wherever you go there are people who might want to take advantage of the fact that you’re busy working out where you are on the map or admiring the local architecture to line their own pockets.
But there’s no need to panic! Why? Because we’ve put together our top tips to make sure you’re au courant (in the know) and ready to face whatever the city has to throw at you with all the effortless nonchalance of a true Parisian.
Paris is the city of love and… theft? You wouldn’t expect any different in any other major city in the world though, would you? You’ll hear announcements warning you about pickpockets in paris all the time on the metro. And you should really keep your wits about you at the Eiffel Tower, in front of the Louvre and anywhere else you find crowds of tourists.
Our top tips: Wear your handbag or backpack on the front of your body. And do NOT keep your wallet or mobile phone in the back pocket of your trousers or in that little pocket on the front of your backpack.
In restaurants: Don’t leave your mobile phone or wallet on your table. Someone could easily grab it as they walk past – especially if you’re sitting outside.
You’ve probably heard these tips before, right?
2. The Ring-Trick Don't buy it!
But have you heard about these other tricks thieves have up their sleeves? You’ve possible already been warned to watch out for the shell game scam…
But what is the ring trick? Someone near you bends down to pick up a gold ring they just happen to have found on the floor. And right in front of the Eiffel Tower too. How convenient! Of course, the person who picks up the ring is in desperate need of money and wants to sell it to you. For a price that’s completely unreasonable for a ring that’s actually worth absolutely nothing.
3. Fake petitions don't sign anything
Fake petitions are another way of tricking tourists. You’ll usually be approached by women and girls lurking around tourist attractions with clipboards. They’ll ask you to add your signature to a list in aid of a good cause. And then they’ll ask you to make a small donation. They’ll sneakily fish around in your bag while you sign your name or carefully whip notes out of your wallet while you’re searching for some loose change.
You may also come across genuine charity collections in Paris, but the people collecting money for those will always be clearly identifiable by their badges and uniforms.
4. Metro-Tickets BUY OFFICIAL ones
You may remember us saying on our page about public transport in Paris that you should never buy your metro tickets from people standing around in the stations. They may offer you a cheaper deal, but the tickets won’t work or will turn out to be children’s tickets. If you get caught travelling on a children’s ticket, it’ll be you who has to pay the fine and not the person who sold you the ticket.
So please only ever buy your metro tickets from the machines or counters.
5. WATCH OUT WHEN BUYING DRINKS
Paris is expensive – we know it, you know it, everyone knows it. The average cost of a cappuccino is EUR 5, but you may be charged more like EUR 7 or 8 in a tourist hotspot. Cocktails and apéritifs can cost a fortune too. Especially if you’re somewhere touristy like the Eiffel Tower or down by the Seine. EUR 13 for an Aperol Spritz? Yikes! Make sure you always check the menu for prices before you order.
Top tip 1: Drinking your coffee at the counter is one way to potentially save a few euros. The other cheaper option is to order your drink to take away (à emporter). Lots of cafés have little baskets of croissants or pains au chocolat on the counter in the morning. Help yourself to a basket and order a coffee to go with it. Not only do you get a cheap breakfast, but you also feel like you fit right in with the construction workers and 80-year-old vintage Parisians. You’ll practically be a local!
Top tip 2: Luckily, you’re never far away from happy hour in Paris. It usually lasts for at least four hours a day, every day (check the signs for whichever restaurant or café you’re heading to). During this window, cocktails and other drinks will be nicely discounted. They may even be on a 2-for-1 offer if you’re lucky.
Top tip 3 (ideal for summer):Head to a supermarket and buy a bottle of wine – and paper cups instead of plastic ones, bien sûr! Sit beside the Seine or, if you’re feeling really romantic, find a spot under the weeping willow near Pont Neuf at the western end of the Île de la Cité. Just don’t forget to take a corkscrew with you!
6. NO ENGLISH… PARLEZ-VOUS FRANÇAIS?
OK, so this isn’t really a scam, but all tourists should be aware that Paris is quite possibly the only city in the world where you can’t get away with just speaking English. Now, we know you’re not going to be dealing with the French authorities when you’re in Paris. Well, we hope not anyway because you’ll struggle to find a member of staff there that speaks English.
But chances are you’re going to want to order in cafés and pick up some bits in the shops and you won’t necessarily be able to do that in English either. Especially if you’re somewhere a bit more off the beaten track. And that might be exactly where you plan to do some of your exploring.
Our advice? It won’t hurt to brush up on your high-school French before your trip.
Here’s a vocab list that might come in handy… yes = Oui no = Non please = S’il vous plaît Thank you/ Thank you very much = Merci / Merci beaucoup Excuse me = Excusez-moi!, Pardon! I don’t speak French = Je ne parle pas français. Do you speak English? = Parlez-vous anglais? Okay / alright = Ça marche ! What does this cost? = C’est combien? left = À gauche right = À droite straight = Tout droit cash (pay) = en espèces with card(pay) = avec carte Where are the restrooms? = Ou sont les toilettes? The bill please = L’addition, s’il vous plaît I want to buy this hat. = Je voudrais acheter ce chapeau. 😉
Important: You must start EVERY single conversation you have – whether it’s in a bakery or a museum – with bonjour (hello) or, if it’s after 5 p.m., bonsoir (good evening). Even better if you can throw in a madame or monsieur for good measure. Otherwise you’ll come across as seriously rude. If you want to take it one step further, say au revoir (goodbye) whenever you leave somewhere and add bonne journée (have a nice day) or, if it’s after 5 p.m., bonne soirée (have a nice evening).
PS: You’ll find that people’s English skills suddenly become amazing if they’re trying to sell you something 😉
7. TAKE CARE ON THE ROADS
Another small advice for you: Navigating the roads of Paris is notoriously dangerous. And it’s not just the cars you have to watch out for these days because Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, has been working hard to make the city greener ever since 2017.
Cycle lanes have been introduced throughout the city. Sometimes bikes have more space on the road than cars! In fact, private motor vehicles aren’t even allowed down some roads at all.
Electric bikes and scooters come racing by at unbelievable speeds. Extra traffic lights may have been installed for cyclists, but most of the time they pay no attention to the red lights and bikes end up coming from BOTH directions. In other words, make sure you look left AND right before making any move and don’t just automatically assume that a green man means you’re free to cross the road safely.
Let’s talk about the pavements while we’re here… You can be fined if you fail to clean up after your canine companions in Paris, but the locals are known for being a little bit stubborn out of principle – about this and many other things. And boy do they love dogs around here! You can see where we’re going with this… Watch where you’re walking!