Hi Frugalistas! Did you catch up on my post about the 10 things you must do on your first trip to Paris? Or are you planning your first trip to Paris at the moment? Or maybe you just like Paris and like reading about Paris. Regardless of where you are up in planning a trip to Paris there are some things to avoid when you first travel to Paris. It’s not that they are necessarily “wrong” – after all, it’s your holiday and you should do whatever suits you and makes you happy. They are just the things that I believe either represent poor value for money, will waste your time or not deliver an authentic Paris travel experience. Of course, there are more than 10 things to avoid on your first trip to Paris, but here are my top 10 choices.
Staying outside Central Paris
When you visit Paris you should stay in central Paris. That is, within the Peripherique, the road that encircles the inner city. When you book your hotel or apartment check that the address or the description of the hotel mentions the arrondissement, then you are looking at somewhere in central Paris. While there are no Paris arrondissements to avoid, generally speaking, the lower the number of the arrondissement, the closer you are to central Paris. Staying in Central Paris will definitely add to your first class Paris travel experience.
If you looking for a particular location in Paris, the fourth and some of the third arrondissements are the Marais, the Latin Quarter is the fifth, and the Eiffel Tower area is the seventh.
2. Queuing 10 things to avoid first trip to Paris
Queuing is never cool and is never fun regardless of where you travel. In very popular destinations like Paris, queuing is somewhat inevitable, but there are things you can do to minimise your need to queue in Paris.
Firstly plan your day so that you go to the very popular places early before everyone else gets there. I like to arrive about 10-15minutes after opening time, so that the real earlybirds who’ve been waiting for opening have cleared.Secondly, book a Museum Pass or the skip the queue pass where you can. Even the Eiffel Tower has got with the program on this one, so really you have no excuse. You will still need to queue for the security checks, but once through those, head straight in!
3. Falling for a Paris tourist scam
Whether it’s the ring scam, the petition scam, a plain old mugging, or the American teacher, read up on the most common Paris tourist scams. While I thought I knew most of the Paris scams, my readers came up with a whole list all of their own. Also check your Paris guide book – a recently updated guide book should have all the news on the “latest” scams to avoid. Do your research, make sure you have appropriate insurance via global medical plans and avoid having your trip, your health and potentially your memories of Paris, spoiled. Scams are one of the easiest things to avoid in Paris if you know what you are looking for.
4. Eating in tourist restaurants
You know the restaurants and cafes I mean. Unfortunately they are everywhere in Europe’s big cities. Firstly, they will be clustered around the major tourist sites (although the Eiffel Tower is an exception). Then they have pictures of the food outside. And a “menu touristique” or tourist menu will be prominently displayed – but don’t confuse this with the daily specials board you will see outside any café or brasserie. There may be a spruiker out the front to entice you inside. If you see red check table clothes in addition to all of these be alarmed and walk away now!
These types of restaurants are very common around Notre Dame, in the Latin Quarter and are almost everywhere in Montmartre.
Instead, head a few blocks away from tourist locations. Walk down smaller, quieter streets rather than staying on the big main streets. Ask for recommendations from your hotel or other travelers. Consult your guidebook.
Yes, you may pay slightly more. But you will eat better food, in a better atmosphere, and you should enjoy it more.
5. Going to the Moulin Rouge
I’ve been to Paris 10 times. I’ve never been to the Moulin Rouge. And indeed I’ve only ever walked past it once.
As far as I am concerned, the Moulin Rouge, the Lido, and all other “famous” cabarets are tourist traps and are definitely places to avoid in Paris . You will eat expensive, mass produced food in the company of hundreds of other tourists. You will drink expensive, but cheap champagne. You will watch Anglophone girls dance – yes, the famous French cabarets visit Anglophone countries regularly in search of the very tall, leggy girls that fill the chorus.
If you do want to have a special night out and try the Paris nightlife, might I suggest consulting Paris Time Out (there is an English version) for the latest cool bar or night spot? Or trying a fancy restaurant such as Jules Verne at the Eiffel Tower, or Atelier, Joel Robuchon’s restaurant in the 6th arrondisement (EUR150 per person plus drinks).
But realistically, I know some of you will want to visit the best shows in Paris regardless of what I, or anyone says, and that’s perfectly OK. It’s your holiday and you should do what YOU want to do.
6. Thinking you need to see everything in the Louvre
Unless you absolutely adore art, do not plan on seeing everything at the Louvre on your first trip to Paris. The Louvre is just too vast, with just too much on show. Instead, work out what you want to see, then leave.
They don’t hand out medals for those who see everything, and I am sure there are so many other things you want to do and see. Do those instead, and have a great time.
7. Catching a taxi everywhere
Catching a taxi can be a good option if you are traveling in a small group from Charles de Gaulle now that there is a fixed price fare to and from central Paris. But don’t assume that you need to catch a taxi everywhere.
Using the metro is much, much cheaper and is a quintessential Paris experience. It’s also easy to use. You can buy your tickets from the vending machines in English and the lines are coloured coded to make it easy to navigate. You can read my guide to using European trains here.
Of course, you also indulge in that other quintessential Paris experience – walking. Then you can enjoy more of that lovely food without feeling guilty.
8. Using the hop on, hop off bus
It’s terribly convenient to use the hop on, hop off buses. But in Paris you don’t need to. The number 69 bus will take you from the Eiffel Tower up to the Pere Lachaise area, passing almost the same sites, at a fraction of the cost. The Paris traffic is the same, so why pay more?
And if you buy a “carnet” (10 Metro tickets at once) you can use your ticket on the bus!
9. Thinking the Champs Elysees is the “real Paris”
If you’ve never been to Paris, I’m sure you have a vision of strolling along a grand tree lined boulevard, for a spot of lecher la vitrine (window shopping), or people watching.
And yes, it’s a lovely thing to do. It’s just that the Champs Elysees is not necessarily the best place to do it. The section of the Champs Elysees between the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe is not so bad. There are pretty gardens, and there may be an interesting exhibition you can drop into at the Grand and Petit Palais. But there are also thousands of tourists. All doing the same thing as you.
Beyond the Arc de Triomphe the Champs Elysees turns into car show rooms and bewildered tourists looking for their bit of Paris.
Instead, for a pretty walk, wander the pricy Ave Montaigne (just near the Arc de Triomphe), back over to the Left Bank to the Eiffel Tower, then head east along the river to the Louvre and the Tuileries. You’ll walk past the Georges V and the Plaza Athenee Hotels (where you can stop for a very expensive, but atmospheric coffee), as well as a who’s who of the top European designers for your window shopping. Then, there’s the prettiest part of the Seine – tree lined and relatively quiet.
10. Not getting lost
While you may not want to literally get lost, wandering away from the tourist areas, and exploring the tiny streets is something you should do.
Depending on how much time you have, consider my walk to Butte Chaumont to find your own part of the real Paris.
It’s easy to have a first class trip to Paris if you take my advice on these 10 things not to do in Paris.
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