traveling to paris: quick tips


Getting to/from the Airport: Of all the sites I researched, Paris by Train has the smartest, step-by-step instructions on getting to + from CDG. However, they left out a few critical points. If you’re coming to Gare de Nord from the Metro, keep your ticket as you’ll need this to validate in order to secure your tickets for the RER B I learned this the hard way, and luckily enough a service attendent was willing to validate me with his pass. Also, the service booths are closed on the weekends and the machines do not take most U.S.-issued credit cards (it says Visa but none of my cards worked). You’ll need Euro coins in order to purchase your tickets. Once you get through this mess, traveling to the airport is a cinch.

Getting around the city: The Paris metro system is probably the most efficient and easiest underground system to navigate. As I mentioned here, downloading the Paris Metro + Paris Maps apps will change your life. I used the Paris Metro every day, and it gave me the simplest routes to get where I needed to go, and even showed me a map of metro stops closest to my location. I made the mistake of buying a ton of metro tickets, when I should have invested in an unlimited pass. This wasn’t too frustrating as I enjoy exploring a city by foot, but it might have been more economical.

Dining in Paris: New Yorkers are spoiled in the sense that we have food and restaurants on demand, catering to our every whim. Not as much in Paris. Hip Paris Blog has the most comprehensive guide in dining out in Paris (along with rules of the road). Expect to have lunch from 12-2, dinner 8-11. Also, I did notice that table turns are not as aggressive in New York, so you’ll have to be proactive (and I mean PROACTIVE) in asking for, and receiving, the check.

When it comes to breakfast, don’t expect your ubiquitous coffee carts or Starbucks. “Takeaway coffee” is quite a novelty in Paris, as most places expect that you will sit down just for a cup of coffee. In all candor, I had a difficult time with this as I just wanted a large coffee and my iPod to enjoy the city. Starbucks is present (I saw 2 locations in Paris) and there are shops that offer coffee to go, but this isn’t the norm. Typically, I went to the local boulangerie and purchased a croissant/baguette and had water. Check out Lost in Cheeseland’s post on basic Parisian etiquette.

The language and the “rude” question: As I mentioned in another post, there are rude people everywhere. If you’re traveling to another country, make every best effort to learn simple phrases. I’ve shared many smart language apps you can download that will help you navigate the basics of French, but, in short, make an EFFORT. Don’t expect that our cultural norms are practiced in Paris, and don’t just walk up to someone and start speaking English. Nearly every Parisian I encountered was accommodating, English-speaking and willing to help. I only encountered ONE person who pretended to not know English when in fact he did.

Note: Thank you so much for your wonderful emails, comments, Twitter @ replies, Facebook notes throughout the week — I sincerely appreciate it. I work really hard to make this space a beautiful, virtual scrapbook of all the things I love, including my travels and all the food I DIE to eat. If you have any questions, suggestions, comments, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “traveling to paris: quick tips

  1. Formidable, Felicia! I’m so glad you loved your time in Paris. Your pics were evocative! I had to smile at your comment about buying coffee in Paris. A few years ago, vacationing in Paris, my husband and I found ourselves going to the boulangerie for our breakfast croissant and then taking that bag and slinking into Starbucks for our Cafe Americano and then sitting down at the Starbucks patio to enjoy both. A big cup of “American” coffee was the one U.S. thing we clung to while in Paris even though we felt like a cliche. The apps you mention sound great–oh, well, maybe for us next time! I found websites an Rick Steves’ books invaluable.


  2. If only I’d read these tips before embarking on my solo trip to Paris the summer before my junior year, knowing not more than five words of French! So helpful. And your Paris series makes me miss Paris so.much.


      1. Ugh, I would LOVE TO!! Unfortunately, I now have a job that ties me to Houston except for 15 days out of the year. So not sure when I could go back, but I definitely definitely want to. In the meantime, I’ll have to live vicariously through your beautiful posts!


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