Europe France Paris Travel

Paris Travel Tips and Advice: Paris Guide for First Time Travellers

First time visitors to Paris often write in asking for general tips and advice based on our collective experience. Besides how to avoid looking like a tourist in Paris, here are our top tips to maximise the enjoyment of that first visit.

1. Greet people with a lively Bonjour Monsieur, Bonjour Madame or equivalent. The English equivalent of ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ does not measure up to the musical inflexion of the French greeting.

2. Take the opportunity to practise your French, no matter how basic it is. Although most Parisians speak English fluently and willingly compared to a few years ago, a little acknowledgement of their language goes a long way.

Musee de Cluny - Paris
In the queue for Musée de Cluny

3. Be prepared for queues to get into museums, restaurants, major sights, even some patisseries. This isn’t confined to the peak of tourist season.

4. Where possible, make dinner reservations ahead of time. Many Paris restaurants have online reservations or can be contacted by email. If you are planning to dine at any of the fine establishments, it is best that you book in advance before you leave home to avoid disappointment. Some restaurants such as Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower require credit card details when taking a booking.

5. The Paris Visite card is not always the best option for travelling on public transport. Check out the Passe Navigo Découverte and the 2010 rates.

View from Sacre-Coeur - Paris
View of Paris, looking down from Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre

6. Be polite but firm when confronted with pushy souvenir sellers and gypsies. They congregate around popular tourist sites such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Trocadero and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Keep an eye on your belongings and best to avoid eye contact.

7. Be aware that there are scams operating in the streets of Paris and don’t fall for the popular Paris gold ring scam. Don’t let anyone put a bracelet around your wrist unless you’re willing to buy it.

8. When it comes to money, you’ll have a difficult time breaking a 500 euro note if you bring one with you. Bureaux de Change won’t touch it and the banks service customers only. Unless you’re using it to pay for hotel accommodations or expensive meals, 100 euro notes are more widely accepted.

Le Grand Hotel - Paris
Le Grand Hotel, Paris

9. Respect that in some shops and patisseries such as Ladurée, photography is (sadly) not allowed. They may even frown at you when you’re taking photos of their shop windows. The same goes for photographing food in some top end restaurants.

10. As a first time visitor, don’t make the general assumption that the French are rude and arrogant. They may not be very open with their smiles but don’t mistake it for impoliteness. In our joint and separate travels to Paris, we have encountered many friendly, helpful and accommodating people on every visit. And we have always been made to feel welcome.

Bon voyage et bon séjour a Paris!

This concludes our Paris Guide for First Time Travellers series which features What to See in Paris, Things to Do in Paris, What to Eat and Drink in Paris.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.


    • It’s amazing how far it gets Mr G when he travelled on business (without me), and he hardly speaks any French! 🙂

  • Fantastic advice… so many first time visitors to Paris have had the fear of the ugly American treatment put in them by well meaning friends rehashing slights, mostly imagined. I’ve always been amazed at the response I get trying to express myself in French when in Paris… they seem to regard their language the way some people in the US regard a favorite sports team 🙂

    • So many people who haven’t been to Paris often ask me ‘how rude are the French’ and I’m convinced they want validation of their opinion and not the truth. I tell them if they go with such an attitude to any country, they’ll attract rude people. And you’re right, the French are proud of their language (and so they should be imho). It’s like giving someone a compliment; it makes everyone feel good 🙂

  • Well said. Even with my high school French, a little effort goes a long way.

    Well done on an informative series 🙂

    • Absolutely! It’s always fun to speak a foreign language even with limited vocabulary. Glad you enjoyed the series 🙂

  • I really loved this series & learned a lot myself! Sometimes it’s the small things we don’t think about – using a little bit of French, greeting shopkeepers, & generally approaching Paris with an open heart & mind go a long way to making any trip to the City of Lights considerably smoother.

    I’m quite confounded myself when people say the French are rude – from all my travels, I’ve found them to be some of the nicest people on the planet 🙂

    Merci for this wonderful travel guide!

    • It has always been the same in our experiences. Treat people with respect and they do the same. Besides, we are the visitors and the ones who need to make a little effort; that’s a point that can be forgotten by some travellers.

      Merci for your support Tuula 🙂 It has been a fun (and nostalgic) series to write.

  • I think I may have convinced the bf to finally revisit Europe! Fingers crossed I get to go to Paris next year! And I’ll be printing out your entire blog. In fact – there’s a comp running on my blog for Blurb books, it’ll be judged by my bf so no favours or bias from me – but if you make a Paris guide for first time travellers – I’d buy it for sure!

  • […] October was a busy month with the Crave Siff Sydney events resulting in many food posts but the controversial opinion article The Ugly Side of Venice with giant billboards covering iconic buildings and the mysterious Through His Eyes: Sydney’s Eastern Beaches gave What to Eat in Aleppo Syria: A Food and Drink Guide a competitive battle. November was an eclectic month which saw Gourmantic’s debut into guest posts at the Urban Grocer and Trains on the Brain. We were also interviewed by Flipnomad as a couple. Back on Gourmantic, we  featured our first interview with a volunteer in Africa but the most popular posts were the four part series, Paris Guides for First Time Travellers. […]

  • Good post! I’m just back from paris trip. If you are in Paris, a nice place to sit and snack or have a picnic lunch is at the Luxembourg Gardens. It’s a lovely place with tons of park benches, a lovely sculpture garden, a pond, fountains, and a beautiful museum.

  • There’s no doubt that I might have convinced the bf to finally go back to Europe! I get to go to Paris the coming year! And I’ll be printing out your entire blog.