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17 Travel Tips for Visiting Paris in 2024

Julianne and I have both been to Paris, so we will be chiming in on these travel tips for Paris together. These are the highlights and things to know; if you’d like a more expansive view of Paris, check out Solo In Paris by Heather, Visiting Paris Solo — A Dream Realized by Julianne, or our other pieces on Paris here.

Our top travel tips for visiting Paris, in no particular order:

Choose the right place to stay for you. 

Heather: I stayed in the Eighth arrondissement. The city is split into 17 arrondissements, and I chose the Eighth for its location. For those like me who aren’t clear about what an arrondissement is or why they exist, this is a detailed view of all of them that includes some history. Succinctly, the city is divided into sections, and the division plays into voting and other government functions. I think it’s charming that it looks like a snail on a map. The Eighth put me within 15 minutes’ walking distance of Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, etc. I chose a hotel with a tiny room and no view in exchange for a lower cost. Many people want a view of Paris and are willing to pay more. Mine was no frills, no breakfast, and no view, but very affordable. I chose Hotel La Sanguine. I booked this in February of 2022 and traveled in May of 2022. The cost has gone up even in that short time.

Hotel de la Place du Louvre

Julianne: Location, location, location. I chose the Hôtel de la Place du Louvre because it is just a seven-minute walk from the Louvre, my primary destination, as well as a short walk from the train station. Since then it’s been remodeled — and the price has gone up accordingly — but at the time it was charming, if cramped, and only around $100 per night. I’ve paid more for a Quality Inn near the interstate here in the States. I usually don’t invest a lot in my accommodations, as long as they’re safe, clean and accessible to the sights I want to see; I don’t expect to spend a lot of time in my room.

Pick one main activity per day. 

Heather: You can’t see and do it all. I booked one big activity per day and had a list of other things to see based on where I would be. My favorite day was my last day when I just wandered. I booked my tickets for early in the day, as close to opening as I thought I could get there. I see so many people book their days solid from beginning to end. I will not come home happy if I’m exhausted. You can’t see it all. You just can’t. Pick one thing each day that will bring you joy, and let the rest be happy accidents. Sit in a cafe. Have a glass of wine. Slow down. I chose art and parks as my primary focus.

Julianne: You may even decide to choose one main theme for your trip to Paris, as I did. It’s a place to be revisited and discovered in layers, if at all possible. (I don’t know whether I’ll get to go back, but I’d like to…and I almost never revisit a destination.) My focus was art. You could explore the food; the wine; churches and architecture; fashion. Paris is a bouquet; if you can, take time to examine and admire each blossom.

Cell Service for Navigation

Heather: Update – I now use eSim on my iPhone14. You can purchase 10g of coverage for 30 days for just $23 from Airalo. Using an eSim is so much cheaper than paying for international coverage add on service from the major carriers. On my trip I was still using a physical sim card. I made a huge mistake and rushed to meet my driver instead of tracking down a SIM card at the airport and spent my first couple of hours in Paris looking for a sim card. I rely on my phone navigation and get downright panicky if I can’t use maps. I do find that City Mapper is more reliable than Google Maps in areas it is available.

Julianne: I’ve never traveled with cell service. I have gotten lost often. This caused me some worry and blisters in Paris, and I might have appreciated the navigation capabilities. But it also led to some absolutely serendipitous discoveries, both in Paris and especially in Milan. If you don’t use cell service, be sure you have a good paper map tucked into a local magazine. (See our safe solo travel blog for more on that.) And be sure you dope out some landmarks before you set off on foot. Paris is a maze.

Transportation options — you have plenty!

Heather: I am a big fan of public transportation, and taking the train from Charles De Gaulle Airport into the heart of Paris is an efficient, easy and cost-effective way to get into the city. However, here is why I hired a driver. I had gotten my flight on points, so I had a little extra money to spend on the trip. A trans-Atlantic flight always wipes me out, and I hate navigating public transportation when I’m groggy. Plus, I had an early return flight; I needed to be at the airport by 5 am and did not want to rely on public transit or taxi. So I used InterService Prestige for both my arrival, and my departure, it was flawless. My driver was waiting for me with my name on his phone (no big signs, sadly), he grabbed my bag, and we were out of there pretty quickly and into the insane Paris traffic. The company communicated with me very little, but it was all on my confirmation paperwork, and I had no issues. You pay your driver in cash, so you will want to pick that up before you arrive in Paris (ask your bank) or hit an ATM as soon as you get there. Do NOT use exchange offices in the airport; the rates are terrible. This is a blanket statement: Never use airport exchange offices. 

You can also hire someone to expedite you through customs. It’s a long process, so if you have difficulty standing or waiting in lines, you might consider that. Here is a link; I cannot verify this service as I did not use it. 

Julianne: I took the train from Charles de Gaulle, and it was a treat. It helped ease me into Paris culture; it was obvious that there were regular commuters on this train as well. There also were performers rapping for cash in my train car, which was entertaining. I found a great blog that explained the Paris train how-to step-by-step. See my blog about visiting Paris solo for the full details.

You can’t get a bad photo in Paris.

Heather: If hiring a photographer or finding the perfect IG shot is important to you, go for it. I got great photos using my phone and propping it up on poles, curbs and my purse. Be careful and watch what you are doing! I used the .03 timer and the .07 view, so I was never more than a few feet from my phone. Pickpockets are a problem in large cities, and Paris is no exception. I was extremely careful and closely watched what I was doing! My travel camera is the Fuji X-A7 and I travel with two lens.

Julianne: Paris is incredibly scenic. And I’m a firm believer in that the best camera is the one that you’ll carry everywhere, which for me is my iPhone. Unfortunately, I didn’t get great shots of myself in Paris. I tried carrying a selfie stick, and I hated it — I felt very obvious. Since then I’ve started using the Xenvo Shutterbug, and I couldn’t love it more. I balance my camera and set up my shot inconspicuously; then I stroll into the frame and use the remote shutter to get a ton of photos as I move normally. I don’t feel so conspicuous getting a selfie this way, though you do have to be careful about getting too far from your phone or risking it taking a tumble. (Thank you, Otter Box.)

Bring an umbrella or rain jacket. Carry it every day. 

Paris travel tip number 1, carry an umbrella or rain jacket!
Saved from a complete soaking by guys selling these while in line at the Louvre.

Heather: I checked the weather daily, and there was always a “chance” of rain. I was standing in line to get into the Louvre when the sky opened up, and it POURED. Thankfully a dozen men who know how to hustle offered up umbrellas for €5 each. If you don’t want to pack one, pick one up as soon as you get there. You’ll need it. Plenty of Parisians carry them, but they are small. The sidewalks can be narrow and full, so be considerate of others around you.

Julianne: True advice for every trip I’ve ever taken. When I was a child, our family camping trips were cursed by rain, and I’ve only rarely escaped this dark cloud (pun intended). I’ve purchased umbrellas in many countries. A good rain jacket with a hood is helpful in big cities such as Paris, so that you can navigate crowded sidewalks; one that folds into its own pocket and has a carrying strap is extra useful and less easy to leave behind on a bench or table. If you choose an umbrella, make sure it’s a small one.

Carry some cash.

Heather: I did 12 days in Ireland and never used cash, but I learned on another trip to carry at least some in case of emergencies. I was glad I had it on this one, not only for the emergency umbrella situation but also for the Metro. And generally, it was nice to have. While there are a lot of opinions about tipping, I had some great servers and did tip at some places, and it was nice to have the cash to do so. I got euros from my bank before leaving and then used an ATM to take out a bit more.

Julianne: I always keep a bit of currency from previous trips to countries, because pretty money is fun! It’s also handy in the case of the euro; I always have at least a few coins from my last trip in my pocket for the next. In some destinations, you need to use cash for certain activities, and it needs to be crisp and new. But you won’t need a lot in Paris.

Watch where you are walking.

Heather: Not all bike lanes are well marked. I almost got CREAMED by a bicyclist. (My fault!) I was walking confidently and walked right into their way. It’s a small miracle I didn’t hurt us both badly. Watch carefully as you cross streets; look both ways. Pay attention to traffic signals. I can’t believe how many people stepped in front of traffic without paying attention. Be aware of where you are. If you need to pause to look at your map — digital or otherwise — step out of the way and get close to a building. Remember, people live where you are visiting. I found myself gawking up at buildings, camera in hand. It happens, but do your best to keep out of the way of others. Be respectful when taking pictures. But, again, try to stay out of people’s way, and please, don’t be the tourist who blocks traffic to get a photo. It happened so much. 

Julianne: Also true advice for every trip I’ve taken, especially in New York City. I lived in Chicago for several years, very close to the Wrigley Field district; now I live in Denver and do a lot of everyday errands in Golden, also a tourist mecca. While I love the energy of visitors and am always happy to share directions or tips with people who are as excited about my home as I am, I also can attest to the frustration on the part of locals with tourists who cause safety hazards by disregarding signs and traffic.

Be aware of pickpockets and street vendors.

Heather: There are vendors selling all kinds of things at all of the famous sites. I found that pretending to be on my phone, either just talking out loud like I was on my Airpod or holding my phone to my face, kept them from approaching me. But don’t let people think you are distracted. Keep an eye on your things. I didn’t have any issues. I did watch someone try to buy something from one of those vendors, and there was a disagreement about money. Don’t engage. Also, in some areas, you will see vendors with stalls; this is different than the guys carrying merchandise around. 

I had my phone in my hand most of the time, and when I didn’t, I had it in my waistband. I highly recommend a crossbody or front pack, especially if you take a lot of photos. I had a small backpack I usually love, but it left me with no easy place to put my phone. I took many photos using my timer and set my phone a few feet away. Just be mindful— watch. When in cafes, I sat in the second or third row of tables, not right by the sidewalk, so someone couldn’t snatch my phone or bag and run. Don’t keep your phone in your back pocket or somewhere easy to access. Walk with confidence. 

Julianne: I have a hard time with a backpack in cities. I tend to catch my watch when putting it on or taking it off. I worry about hitting people or merchandise or pieces of ancient castle. (Some historic buildings won’t let you take them in.) I always need my phone, and I often need my ID, or a credit card, or a tissue or lip balm. And I feel distracted at the worst possible moments when fumbling with a backpack. I tend to carry a crossbody and edit it to the bare essentials when out and about.

Mind your solo travel safety. 

Heather: We have a whole blog on safety tips for solo travel. When I was in Paris, a well-populated city, I employed the following tactics. 

  • When walking alone down quieter streets, I would pretend to be on my phone if I saw someone approaching. I would say things like, “Yes, I’m just around the corner, I’ll be right there!” and make fake conversation until I passed the person. 
  • I was out after dark several times and never felt uncomfortable. I have a higher risk tolerance, but I stayed on busy streets with many people. 

Step up your clothing game.

Heather has travel tips for visiting Paris

Heather: I generally dress like a 15-year-old boy. T-shirts and jeans. I stepped it up just slightly for Paris and borrowed clothes from one of my more fashionable friends. I will say this: No one cares what you wear, but if you wear workout clothes, you will stand out as a tourist. That being said, I wore my Nike trainers most days. I took a pair of cute flats I wore in the evenings when I went to dinner. Nothing fancy. Paris in early June, even when temps are in the mid to high 70s, feels warm. I wore layers. Loose sweaters that could be draped over my shoulders. A light jacket I could stuff in my backpack purse. I did not pack the “right” jeans for as much walking as I did. I packed minimally, carry-on only.

Julianne: I remember planning my first trip to Europe — a week in Venice with a boyfriend also new to Europe. I asked a coworker about which comfortable tennis shoes to wear, and she looked at me in horror. I instead bought some black leather walking shoes. Today tennis shoes are much more accepted, but they’re not your gym workout shoes or mowing the lawn shoes; they’re usually more hip — a step above (bad pun intended). It’s true — no one much cares what you wear, unless you want to access churches or other religious sites that may want you to cover your shoulders, or your legs to your knees. (Few people in Paris wear shorts, either, except tourists.) But you’ll feel as if you fit in better if you dress better. I can’t recommend black clothing enough for any trip to Europe. And a scarf in summer or winter is always a good idea; light cotton or heavy wool depending on the weather. It’s almost part of the uniform, not to mention good protection from the sun or the cold.

Learn a bit of the language.

Heather: I used Duolingo for a few months before I went to brush up on my French and retained almost nothing. I often sounded like Joey on Friends, but I tried! I always greeted people in French and did my best to order in French at restaurants. With mixed results. A lot of people indeed speak some English. The closer you are to tourist sites, the more English speakers you will encounter. Google Translate was helpful most of the time. If you at least try, people will be more receptive to you. 

Julianne: Agreed. Forget the rhetoric about snobby French people. If you try, most will take pity on you. They may make it obvious that they’re taking pity on you, but whatever. My biggest problem was mixing up what I wanted to say in French with what I actually said in Spanish, a language I know much better. 

Grab groceries at a bodega.

Heather: I like to keep a stash of food in my hotel room. My room didn’t even have a working refrigerator, so I had bananas and granola bars in my room. Usually, I’d have yogurt as well. Great for breakfast, mid-afternoon or late-night snacks. I love trying new kombuchas in different countries!

Julianne: I usually only eat one meal a day at a restaurant when traveling: dinner. I’m usually on a timetable and a budget. So snacks are pretty important for breakfast and an on-the-go lunch. But further, the charm of a market in another country is impossible to resist. Look for local foods at the market! I’m an adventurous eater, so this was a way to try an assortment of new things without eating out for every meal. I also bought half-bottles of French wine at local wine shops to try in the evenings. As a solo female traveler, I didn’t need a lot of booze, nor did I want to be out much after dark. My wind-down was wine in my room watching BBC.

Make time for rest.

Heather: I returned to my hotel every day around 5 p.m. for a 30- to 60-minute siesta and a shower. I definitely felt my age, but I was also walking 10-12 miles per day. 

Julianne: I visited Paris on a budget, so I went in the winter. This meant it was getting dark by 5:30 p.m. I got up early and went hard all day, then went back to my room not long after the sun set for the aforementioned local wine and BBC.

Ask for the check.

Heather: I usually check the restaurant etiquette before going anywhere, and thought I had with Paris, but I was not prepared to ask for the check. The server will check in, but unless you ask them to bring the bill, they will keep checking on you. I got three glasses of wine one night because I misunderstood the server, who was asking if I wanted more wine when I thought I had asked for the check. Be clear when you are ready to go. Do not ask to take your meal in a to-go box. It’s just not something they do there. Order appropriate to your hunger level. 

Don’t be fussy when eating out.

Julianne: If you have a legitimate food allergy or dietary restriction, by all means express that. Otherwise, go with the flow in a French restaurant. French food is iconic! There’s history and great pride baked into every dish. Honor that or you risk insulting your server and, most importantly, missing out on a truly dynamic meal. 

Heather: I am a notoriously picky eater. I will eat any vegetable you put in front of me, but when it comes to meat dishes, it gets a little touch and go. I used my Google Translate to do my best with the menu and took my best shot. Desserts and wine never fail me, but I ate some real meals as well. Salads are a pretty standard go-to for me, but I also had this great chicken dinner that was a little out of my comfort zone but was so, so good.

Choose to walk.

Heather: If you are able, walk. Walk the neighborhoods. Pop into little shops. Stop and have a glass of wine or a coffee. Paris is beautiful and moving, and I often felt overwhelmed with gratitude at having the privilege and health to travel. You’ll never see it all, so enjoy what you see. My favorite spots were random little streets.

Julianne: I live for serendipity, and Paris is full of it. Walking is by far the best way to experience the city. See our Gear We Love — Clothing Edition for suggestions on comfortable shoes. Bring a few blister patches and good socks. Carry a phone charger and backup battery and wear a smart crossbody bag. Wait until the end of the day to look into the shops, so that you don’t have to lug your souvenirs all over the city. But yes, walk. You have to burn off that amazing French food and wine, after all.

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