Top travel tips for Paris
Paris is a city that has been the home of so many visitors in the past few years. It’s beautiful, romantic, and full of life—it can also be an expensive vacation spot. But there are ways to save money on your trip without compromising on quality or safety. From public transportation to biking, cheap eats and tipping culture, and tourist traps to be aware of, we’ve got all 10 top hacks you need to know to make the best of your Paris trip.
1. Before You Go
Traveling to a different country can be exhausting. Between packing, customs, and lugging around heavy suitcases, you may be stressed before you even get on the plane. There are ways to make your time at the airport a little bit easier. First, remind yourself that your business trip can be set up for success easily by signing up for services like TSA PreCheck. Secondly, keep track of your bags during check-in and use brightly colored luggage tags so that you’ll easily find them once your plane lands. Third, keep one of your carry-on bags filled with documents you’ll need at the airport, like your passport, ID, boarding pass, and any information like what gate you’re at, what time boarding starts, and more.
2. Plan Out Everything You Want to See on a Spreadsheet
Spending an entire month won’t cover everything there is to see, but a spreadsheet can help keep you organized and keep track of the restaurants, museums, shops, and other sites you want to visit. Use this spreadsheet to keep track of reservations, when places open and close, how much tickets cost for museums and other attractions, and the best ways to get there.
By planning out everything you want to see and do, it’ll be easier to get the most of your time in Paris. Make sure to also keep track of which museums are free on certain days and events that are happening around the city. This will help you save time and money when deciding where to visit in Paris.
3. Getting From the Airport to the City
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is the largest international airport in France and one of the busiest in all of Europe. CDG Airport is 18 miles northeast of Paris and the best way to get into the city is by taking a train. There are two different RER trains that go from CDG airport to central Paris, station Châtelet-Les Halles or Gare du Nord. To pay for a train ticket, you can buy a carnet, which is ten single-ride tickets. The RER B train costs €14 per person and it takes around 45 minutes to get into the city. There are also buses that go from CDG airport to Paris for about 30€ each way or taxis cost roughly 50€ one way depending on traffic conditions.
There are plenty of other ways to get from the Paris airport into the city, but most travelers will take a taxi or car service because of language barriers or the fact that they will be dropped off at their destination with no extra stops along the way. For payment, most Paris taxi drivers take credit cards, but it is best to have cash on hand in case they do not. The drive from the airport into Paris can take anywhere between 30-60 minutes depending on traffic and if there are any road closures or accidents along the way.
4. Travel to Paris by Train
The TGV is the fastest train in France and one of the best ways to get from another French city into Paris. The majority of trains can travel at speeds up to 200 miles per hour, but a trip from Southern France could take as little as two hours if there are no delays or track closures along the way. The central station for TGV is the Paris Gare de Lyon and the closest train station to downtown is Gare du Nord.
You’ll be able to find your way around, but locals are often willing to help out tourists who ask politely. It helps if you know some french phrases like “Pardon Monsieur (pardon, sir)” or “S’il vous plait Madame (please, ma’am).”
5. Learn French Fast
Learning a language isn’t an easy feat and while it’s unlikely that you’ll become fluent before your trip, there are apps and programs available that will help you make your way throughout the city. Apps like DuoLingo, Rosetta Stone, and Babbel are highly regarded and can help you learn conversational French and must-know phrases. It’s likely you’ll find that many Parisians speak fluent English, but you’ll find it helpful to know as much of the language as possible, especially if you’re planning on a long-term stay.
Common French phrases include:
- Hello – Bonjour
- Goodbye – Au revoir
- Thank you – Merci beaucoup
- Do you speak English? – Parlez vous anglais ?
- How much is this? – Combien est ce que cela coûte ?
- I’m hungry – J’ai faim
- I’m thirsty – Je soif
- I want to go home – J’ai envie d aller chez moi
6. Know How to Find Comfortable Accommodations
Finding the perfect accommodations for your trip can be tricky, especially if you’re planning on staying longer than a normal 7-day trip. You’ll want to find something comfortable, close by, and doesn’t break the bank. Paris has a wide range of accommodations, but if you’re looking to stay somewhere that won’t cost an arm and a leg. Research sites like The Homelike (That’s us!) to find furnished apartments, townhomes, and houses that are cheaper than a hotel. You’ll find both short term rentals as well as long term rentals in Paris on the Homelike site.
You’ll also want to consider the location of wherever you decide to stay. Do you want to be in the middle of the action? Or, do you prefer a quiet street with a cafe or two? Whatever it is you’re after, you can find accommodations to rent outside of hotels. These places can also help you save money since you’ll have a kitchen that you can make your own meals in when you don’t feel like going out.
7. Find the Best Paris Neighborhoods to Explore
Is your trip going to be focused around food and famous French cuisine? Then you’ll want to stay in Le Marais or Strasbourg Saint-Denis. These two neighborhoods are right in the center of Paris and they’re home to some great local food, bakeries, cafes, bars and restaurants that won’t break your budget. They also have lots of shops for you to explore with unique finds that will make perfect presents or souvenirs.
More interested in the arts or visiting museums? Explore the Le Quartier Latin, which is home to the Sorbonne University and some great museums like the Musée de Cluny or Saint Germain des Pres that is home to the Orsay museum.
Are you looking for a more quiet neighborhood so you can wind down without all the crowds of people? Check out Montmartre and the Le Marais. If you’re looking to get lost in Paris, then wander into Le Quartier de l’Odéon or the Panthéon neighborhood for some local shops and cafes that will show you a side of Paris less traveled.
To know more about neighborhoods in Paris, check out our useful guide on the best neighborhoods in Paris.
8. Cheap Eats and Paris Tipping Culture
There are plenty of options throughout the city that won’t have you breaking the bank at every meal. To find these options, look for small, independently owned restaurants that you won’t see big name chains. Though some of these eats may not have Michelin star reviews, the hidden hole-in-the-wall restaurants often have some of the best food, without the expensive price tag. For a list of inexpensive Paris restaurants, check out these 14 Paris cheap eats.
As far as tipping goes, you don’t need to tip in most restaurants if a service charge has already been added to your bill (note that this is different than the general 18% gratuity). If there isn’t an automatic service fee included on your check, round up and leave about five euros for each person eating at the table.
In addition to cheap eats, you can also book amazing food tours in Paris such as making pains au chocolat, macarons, croissants etc.
9. Avoid the Paris Tourist Traps and Make Your Own Adventure
Because you’re probably not going to be spending most of your time in Paris indoors, head outside and explore the city. From climbing up stairs to get an incredible view from Sacre Coeur to checking out classic French street art on Montmarte, there is so much of the City of Lights that remains unknown by tourists. Travelers who go off the beaten path will discover areas that make the city so unique.
Don’t waste time waiting around to get into museums and monuments—buy a Paris museum pass. This is one of our favorite Paris travel hacks because it allows you to skip the line at all popular attractions in town, which means more time for fun activities instead of wasting away hours on endless lines.
Another way to avoid the typical Paris tourist traps is by renting a city bike, as we touched upon earlier. This is also one of our favorite Paris travel hacks because it allows you to explore the city at your own pace, while avoiding long lines and dealing with public transportation.
Paris offers free Wi-Fi in many areas across town which makes staying connected easy when traveling. You can use any number of apps to help you get around. Finally, talk to the locals. When you stop in for your morning cappuccino, strike up a conversation with a friendly looking customer and ask for some of their recommendations.