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35 Essential Paris Travel Tips: Travel Mistakes to Avoid

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Do you have Paris travel in your future? After visiting 4 times I’ve rounded up my top Paris travel tips to help you avoid common tourist mistakes in Paris.

If you want even more Paris travel tips be sure to check out this Paris travel itinerary with recommendations on where to stay, eat and explore in the French capital! In this post, we’re talking all about Paris travel mistakes to avoid so you can make the most of your visit!

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35 Paris Travel Tips: Travel Mistake to Avoid

Where to Stay | Paris VRBO and Paris Hotels

Where to stay in Paris hotels
Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

First things first, having a great home base when you travel really sets the tone for your experience. I find this to be especially true as I get older.

When I traveled in my mid-20s I loved staying at hostels, it was part of the experience I enjoyed at the time. I was barely spending any time at my accommodations and when I was, it was nice to be able to socialize nonstop.

Nowadays? I want space, and more secure spaces for my belongings and PEACE. I personally love renting apartments for longer stays and I’ve found VRBO is great across Europe.

Here are some VRBO Paris, France rentals I recommend. My personal favorite Paris neighborhood is Montmartre so you’ll see most of my recommendations are based there:

If you prefer to stay in a Paris hotel, is my go-to choice for easy hotel bookings. Here are some Paris hotels I recommend for your trip:

35 Paris Travel Tips for Travel Mistakes to Avoid

To make the most of your visit to the city of lights, follow these top Paris travel tips and avoid these silly tourist mistakes!

1. Only going to places that are TikTok famous

Listen, I love TikTok travel recommendations as much as the next person, but the thing about what’s TikTok famous is a lot of people know about it!

It can be tough to get a reservation and once you do get into a place it can be quite crowded. What’s more, sometimes places become Instagram or TikTok famous solely for their decor or a cool concept and the taste of the food doesn’t always hold up.

So yes, add some of those TikTok musts to your itinerary but let yourself step off the beaten track as well. Maybe ask a local where their favorite place in town is — I love to ask my Uber or taxi drivers for their suggestions when I land in a new city

You can also check out some of my favorite Paris eats here in this Paris travel guide.

Another great way to get an insider perspective on must-try foods in Paris is to join a guided tour. This Le Marais food tour is a great way to explore a neighborhood in depth and through its food culture.

2. Not setting your expectations properly for famous spots

Paris Crepes Paris Bakery
Photo by Valentin B. Kremer on Unsplash

When I visited Cafe la Flor in Paris I was drawn to it because it’s one of the oldest coffee shops in Paris and is known to have been frequented by some great philosophers, writers and artists including Pablo Picasso!

I went to enjoy the ambiance, to sit there and mentally transport myself back in time, to imagine what it must have been like to be inspired by such a cafe and to people watch from an outdoor seat. I did not go with the highest of hopes for the food, which worked in my favor.

Although, to be fair, I only ordered a cappuccino and pain au chocolat. But they left much to be desired. It was crowded and food was subpar but lucky for me, I was able to enjoy the cafe for its history as I sat and journaled outside.

3. Skipping the sunset Seine river cruise

Travel to Paris by night
Photo by Karl Köhler on Unsplash

This is a don’t miss activity if ever there was one, if you ask me. The first time I visited Paris with my family, a river boat cruise was one of the best activities we enjoyed together.

More recently when I visited I went on this sunset Seine river cruise with my cousins after dinner to celebrate my birthday. If you want to enjoy Paris by night this is one of the best ways to do it.

It’s affordable and with your ticket you have the option to have a drink as well. We boarded our boat around 9pm although you could also go earlier in the evening for true sunset.

For us, sailing the Seine after dinner as the Eiffel Tower lit up with champagne in our hands and snacking on the macarons my cousins had gifted me — it was the perfect night. Highly recommend and if you want to book our exact cruise, it’s this one!

4. Not preparing to speak or translate any French

I recently got this question on TikTok — do you need to speak French to visit Paris? The person asking the question was worried that France, and Paris specifically, would be unkind to her if she didn’t speak French as a tourist.

Luckily, Paris is one of the biggest tourism destinations in the world and English is one of the most spoken languages in the world.

If you speak English, you will be just fine in Paris. However, I always recommend learning a bit of any local language of the destinations you’re visiting!

On this Instagram post I share the key phrases I always teach myself in the language of whichever country I’m visiting.

It’s a small way to demonstrate your humility as a traveler by understanding you are in someone else’s home and not demanding or expecting everyone to speak English everywhere you go.

The first time I visited Paris I did struggle a bit. Paris doesn’t have as many restaurants that offer menus in English as other destinations might so be prepared with your Google translate or a French-English pocket dictionary!

Also, if you’re going to venture out into the smaller towns away from any big tourist destination city, be prepared that you’ll run into less and less English speakers!

5. Only exploring central Paris

If you’re visiting Paris for the first time and only have a few days, I completely understand you would want to focus all your time and energy on the main Paris landmarks.

I’m grateful that I’ve now been able to visit Paris four times, allowing myself an opportunity to explore and even stay in different Paris neighborhoods.

Paris has a lot to offer, I know I even have so much more to see! So if you can, venture out to different arrondissements even if it’s just to stroll through and not to visit a specific landmark.

Better yet, take a day trip from Paris out to the Champagne region! Check out this guide to the best day trips from Paris to Champagne and sign up for a memorable champagne tour experience.

6. Neglecting the free things to do

Paris doesn’t have to be the most expensive trip of your life. There are plenty of free ways to explore this beautiful city.

In fact, one of the most Parisian activities you can participate in is completely free! That is, to grab a drink and some snacks and hang out on the Seine riverbank. Picnicking along the Seine river bank is quintessential Paris fun and it’s completely free to spend time there!

You can grab some super affordable snacks from the grocery store and spend a wonderful afternoon out among the locals. You can also picnic near the grounds of the Eiffel Tower, in one of the sprawling parks on either side of it. Another free activity in Paris is to visit a museum on one of the city’s free museum days!

During the first Sunday of every month, Paris’ national museums are free. Plan accordingly and get there early so you can enjoy the museums before they get too crowded. Personally, I recommend grabbing a museum pass anyway because they allow you to cut the lines even on free days!

7. Only seeking out French food

Paris bakery Paris crepes Paris food French food
Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

Paris has a huge food scene and it goes beyond crepes, croissants and macaroons (although, get those too they’re delicious). In fact, I tried ramen for the very first time ever on my last visit to Paris.

I also had the most amazing bulgogi burger at a Korean restaurant and delicious Italian style pizza in Paris. For a full guide to my foodie adventures in Paris check out this Paris travel guide!

8. Not eating at a bouillon

On the flip side, don’t miss eating traditional and affordable French food either! Visit a bouillon for a hearty traditional meal like beef bourguignon or bavette. 

9. Not buying your tickets to Paris landmarks and attractions online ahead of time

I never understood why people would waste precious time on their vacations wasting away in long lines. Book your tickets in advance!

You can book tickets to go up the Eiffel tower, Arc de Triomphe tickets, tickets for the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and more all online.

10. Not getting a museum pass

Paris is filled with some incredible museums, even beyond the Louvre. 48-hour Paris museum pass.

It become activated from the time of your first use and you have 48 hours from that point to make it into as many museums you’re able.

In some cases there is a separate line for pass holders that allows you to bypass the longer lines, as was my experience as Musee d’ Orsay. If you know you want to explore some museums while in town, definitely get the museum pass.

11. Assuming the best views are from top of Eiffel Tower

Paris Eiffel Tower
Photo by Bethan James on Unsplash

Of course, if you’re visiting Paris for the first time you want to go up the Eiffel Tower. It’s one of the most essential things to do in Paris as a tourist!

But take note, you won’t get the best views of the city of Paris from up there. What amazing view of Paris doesn’t include the Eiffel Tower, after all and if you’re standing on it, it won’t be part of your snapshot!

Instead, I believe the best views of the city can be captured from the Arc de Triomphe. I managed to capture an incredible shot of the sunset with the Eiffel Tower on one of my very first visits to the city and it was beautiful. Check out this post on some of my favorite views of the Eiffel Tower for more.

12. Taking taxis and Ubers everywhere

Does Paris have Uber? Well, yes and it’s quite convenient at times. But for the most part you’ll want to take advantage of the great public transport the city has to offer or walk to really take it all in!

With Ubers and taxis you might get stuck in traffic, but the Paris metro is pretty reliable and easy to navigate with the help of Google maps.

You can buy one-off tickets or day passes depending on your needs. Some stations have a person sitting in a window at the station and in my experience they can be very helpful in advising you which option is best for you.

13. Only buying 1 metro ticket at a time

Paris metro
Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

Of course, from a costs-saving perspective you might want to opt for a day pass or even a weekly pass depending on your travel plans. But even if you aren’t getting a pass, I recommend always buying at least 2 tickets at once from any station.

Here’s why:

For one, you might decide you want to take a bus at some point. It would be easier to already have a ticket on your person rather than going to find a place to buy a ticket separately. I imagine buses accept cash or even credit card as well but I don’t know this for sure so better safe than sorry.

More importantly, not all Paris metro stations have ticket purchase booths! You might be exploring in one area, and be ready to take a metro elsewhere.

You might get into a nearby metro station only to realize they don’t sell tickets there and there are no ticket machines.

Now, you’re off to find another station so you can buy your tickets. Instead just always have at least 2 tickets on you in case.

14. Tossing your metro ticket after going through the turnstiles

To continue on with the public transport mistakes, this is a big one. Once you use your metro ticket to go through the turnstiles and onto your train do not lose or throw away your ticket!

The police often do random ticket checks to make sure people are not riding the trains for free.

When you arrive at your destination station, you might need to show your just-used ticket to the guards (they get stamped with a date /time detail when you go through the turnstiles). So, do yourself a favor and designate a safe place to keep your used tickets for each trip.

Once you’re all the way through to your destination and out on the other side, then you can toss your ticket but not before you go through the exit at your destination station!

15. Not buying the proper RER ticket

Finally, if you’re traveling outside of Zone 1 in Paris you will need to purchase a ticket accordingly. For example, if you’re taking a train to Disneyland Paris and you need to take the RER be sure to purchase an RER ticket.

When in doubt, ask for guidance from a ticketing attendant and do your research so you can arrive fines from the ticket police!

16. Not paying attention in line

Okay, I don’t know how broadly true this is but I learned it from my cousins who are residents of Paris and have been for several years now — Parisians apparently don’t like lines.

I’ve experienced this myself when trying to purchase a transport card from the above ground ticketing stand near Sacre Coeur.

Had I not known to push through to the front and to pay attention to when it was my turn I might still be standing in that so-called line! I’ve also experienced, however, orderly lines for getting into restaurants.

So, be prepared in case. This one might be environment-specific or dependent on the purpose of each line.

17. Not budgeting enough time for the Eurostar for London to Paris travel

If you’re interested in London to Paris or a Paris to London train the Eurostar is a great option. However, there’s an important point to keep in mind. I tend to be perpetually and excessively early to most places.

So, I thought I would calm down a bit and not get to the train station hours early for my train from Paris to London. I would be cool about it, for once.

Wrong time to make that decision! On my Uber ride to the train station in Paris for some reason I decided to look up any Eurostar train travel recommendations or tips. Normally this would be something I would do in advance but I felt called to in that moment.

Paris to London train London to Paris travel
Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

My stomach dropped when I saw that they close boarding 30 minutes before departure time and they recommend arriving to the station at least 90 minutes before departure to have time to go through security and customs!

I was stuck in tons of traffic, frantically trying to use Google translate to communicate with my driver that I’d appreciate if he could please go faster.

He couldn’t, the traffic was so bad. I started making back up plans in my mind. I was potentially going to need to reschedule my flight from London to Chicago the next day.

I was maybe going to have to try crying at the train station to he Eurostar people. I was going to make it with barely 20 minutes of cushion.

I lucked out. The train was running late. By the time I got upstairs to the Eurostar security entrance there was still a line to go through security and border control! I was grateful and lucky and the stress was not worth it. So, go early!

18. Not including CityPharma in your shopping plans

One of the best places to shop in Paris for affordable, French skincare is… a pharmacy. City Pharmacy to be exact.

Sure, you can purchase almost everything online these days In fact, check out my roundup of French skincare products to buy at CityPharma with links on where to get them online. But visiting CityPharma is an experience not to be missed.

You have plenty of French pharmacists who are very kind and there to help you navigate the store. Really.

The first time I visited I shared my specific skincare concerns with one of the women there and she guided me to a variety of products which I continue to use today and have since restocked up on!

And, a lot of products are more affordable here than buying them online or in the U.S. because some of what we consider luxury brands in the U.S. are considered standard drugstore products there.

So, check out my guide of what to buy at CityPharma and add CityPharma to your itinerary. Tip — go when it opens in the morning! The store is not that big and can become super cramped as the day goes on and more people start shopping.

19. Over-scheduling your itinerary and not leaving time to just stroll through

is Paris a city solo in Paris
Photo by Clément Dellandrea on Unsplash

One of the best things you can do when visiting Paris is to simply meander. Wandering aimlessly through the streets taking in the Paris aesthetic all around you is such an awe-inspiring sensation. There is beauty everywhere in this city, the architecture of every building will capture your attention.

Of course there are plenty of Paris landmarks and tourist attractions you will want to explore as well, but not leaving any time to simply stroll aimlessly through Paris would be a big mistake.

20. Not capturing your memories with a unique photo shoot experience

Listen, as a solo female traveler I am queen of using my smartphone tripod to take photos of myself. I even wrote a whole guide on how to take photos of yourself as a solo traveler.

But whether you’re traveling alone, with a partner, with friends or family I highly recommend booking a photo shoot experience to capture your travel memories.

This has become one of my favorite things to do in new cities (I recently booked a shoot in London!) and it can be an affordable yet rewarding experience.

We tend to save hiring professional photographers for huge milestone moments, don’t we? They’re for graduations, weddings, first birthdays and such. But why not also for your incredible travel adventures?

I have been booking mine through Airbnb experiences and I absolutely loved Quynh, the photographer I worked with in Paris.

Here is the link to booking the exact experience I did. I opted for a shoot in my favorite neighborhood of Montmartre. I know you won’t regret trading some money and a couple hours for professional Paris photographs you can keep forever!

21. Not eating out alone

travel to Paris in October French bistro
Photo by Alex Harmuth on Unsplash

Surprisingly, Paris is a great city for solo travel. Even if you’re not traveling alone, I encourage you to split off from your group for the day to enjoy a solo meal.

Eating solo is a low stakes affair in Paris because it’s not as uncommon as it might be in other places. Many of the cafes are perfectly designed for it.

You’ll notice cafes that have a very tiny table with only enough room for 1 or 2 people that look directly out onto the street. You could easily spend time alone here without feeling uncomfortable, simply taking in the views or journaling as you sip your cafe au lait.

And there’s nothing like stealing moments for yourself, taking yourself on a solo date in beautiful Paris. Trust me.

22. Thinking Paris is only for lovers and romance

Like I said, solo travel in Paris is an amazing experience. If you’re waiting to have someone to go with because Paris is meant to be the destination of love, stop it.

Love you. Go with you.

You’re great company, I’m sure! Enjoy your own company as you wander the streets of beautiful Paris.

I even celebrated my 33rd birthday largely solo in Paris and had the most incredible time. Paris does not only belong to the lovers and romantics. There is plenty of room for the solo adventurer, so go and soak it all in!

23. Assuming all croissants / pain au chocolate are the same

Okay, let me save you the fate of the same disappointment that met me in Paris. ‘It’s Paris,’ I thought, ‘there’s no way I’m getting a less than amazing croissant or pain au chocolat anywhere here!’

I was wrong. But you know what they say, there’s no sunshine without rain and no light without the dark.

Because I bit into some less than amazing ones, I was also able to find and really enjoy the truly amazing ones. Like La Maison d’Isabelle, the 2018 winner of the best croissants and they still sell them for only 1 euro each!

Or my personal favorite, L’Orvier de Montmartre where I found both the best pain au chocolat and cream croissant. I share more about it in this Paris travel itinerary.

24. Letting the street vendors around the Eiffel Tower get under your skin

Paris Travel Blog Paris Landmarks Eiffel Tower
Photo by Cederic Vandenberghe on Unsplash

Paris is a tourism hotspot. The Eiffel Tower is the focal point of this attention. Where there are tourists, there are people trying to sell stuff to tourists. Trying to make a living. Trying to support their own families.

Do you think it’s anyone’s dream job to try to aggressively sell Eiffel Tower keychains or statues that 10 other people are also selling the exact same versions of nearby?

Be gracious. Be firm. And don’t let it ruin your day. If you want to buy something, buy something. If you don’t, don’t. Be ready with a firm no, no thank you and go on about your day.

25. Assuming all Parisians are rude / mean / snobby

It’s an age-old stereotype, and stereotypes are harmful. They limit your thinking, close your mind off to learning because they make you think you already know.

But let me ask you this, if you’re a fellow American, would you want to be lumped in with the global stereotype of what that means?

As someone who travels as much as I do I hear a lot of what people think of us and let me tell you, it’s not great.

If you wouldn’t want everyone to assume you’re a gun-wielding, over-eating, always-too-loud and obnoxiously ignorant person simply because you’re American, afford others the same opportunity to be who they are as individuals.

I’ve had some very pleasant interactions with Parisians, and some less so. I’ve had some very pleasant interactions with fellow Americans, and some less so.

If you want to travel around the world, the first step is to toss out what you think you know and open your mind to learn through your own experiences and interactions. That’s half the fun of travel!

26. Expecting the bill to come to you promptly after a meal

In general, many European cities are far more relaxed about meal times than in the U.S. I am regularly annoyed every time I go out to eat with friends in the U.S. after returning from Europe because so often the wait-staff comes by constantly and the bill comes as soon as you take your last bite!

That’s just not how it’s done in other parts of the world. Meals are social occasions expected to allow for hours of chit chat and you’re generally responsible for calling your waiter over if you need something. For some, this can be quite annoying. Personally, I love it.

An important thing to note about France for your Paris trip — it’s considered rude for your waiter to bring your bill to you without you asking for it (although I have had it happen maybe once when a restaurant was super busy).

Be aware of this so you don’t feel frustrated waiting for a bill to arrive that never will, and be prepared to ask for your check yourself when you’re ready. ‘L’addition, s’il vous plait!’ pronounced (more or less): la-diccion, cee voo play

27. Paying for water

Paris travel guide
Photo by Luis Cortés on Unsplash

Often you will be asked whether you’d like water at a restaurant and if so, sparking or still.

Then, they’ll bring you a bottle and it will show up on your bill. If you want to sidestep this, and I do recommend that you do, order ‘un carafe d’eau’ which means a pitcher of tap water.

28. Expecting ice in your water

Ice in your water is a pretty American thing but the default in Paris is no ice. Personally, I love it as I’m always requesting ice-free water in the states! But if you love your water with ice, remember to ask for it.

29. Not trying the chestnuts roasted over an open fire

The first, and possibly only, time I tried a chestnut roasted over an open fire was in Paris in October. My cousins who live in Paris didn’t even know there’s a whole Christmas song about this!

I’ve seen chestnuts being roasted over an open fire in many European cities from October on through the winter season, and if you have the opportunity to try some then go for it!

30. Not taking a day trip

Alright, this one I’m guilty of myself. If you have enough time, consider taking a day trip out from Paris to a neighboring city or town. I personally love to join group tours for this sort of thing because it takes the pressure off of me for planning.

Here are some that I’ve bookmarked for one of my future visits to Paris that you might like, too!

Paris is very near the birthplace of champagne so I most recommend finding the best champagne tour from Paris for you and your group!

31. Not greeting people with ‘Bonjour’

When you approach someone with a question or when you enter a smaller shop, perhaps even when you pass someone in your apartment building if you’re staying at an Airbnb or VRBO, it is considered very rude to to not greet them.

A simple ‘bonjour’ (hello) when you enter and a ‘merci, au revoir’ (thank you, goodbye) of acknowledgment as you leave are considered basic manners.

32. Visiting Paris without travel insurance

Well, really visiting anywhere without travel insurance. You never know, especially in today’s world, when you’re going to need medical or travel coverage.

I have gotten sick a few times on travels and wound up with potentially very expensive medical bills.

You might run into a pandemic related delay or need to stay longer to quarantine like I did in London. You might lose your luggage. Any number of things could go wrong on any trip you take. Hopefully none of this happens but what if something does?

My travel insurance of choice is through SafetyWing.

It’s affordable, you can purchase it for the exact number of days of your trip and for the exact locations you’ll be visiting. I have been trusting SafetyWing for years and for a really affordable price it brings me so much peace of mind on my travels. Highly recommend!

33. Expecting to put a love lock on a bridge

Paris love lock bridge
Photo by George Kourounis on Unsplash

This is old news by now but in case you missed the memo, in 2015 Paris began cutting down the love locks on its famous Pont Des Arts. It was damaging to the infrastructure of the bridge to have all those locks hanging off of it.

You might still see some love locks hopefully scattered around different parts of Paris, but now that it’s likely not an eternal love lock.

34. Being too casual with your belongings

Paris is mostly safe for tourists but one of the biggest crimes is pickpocketing. Don’t make the mistake of being lulled into a false sense of security. Personally, I recommend wearing an anti-theft cross body bag like I do and keeping it on at all times.

No taking it off at the restaurant and putting it on the back of your chair, or on the chair next to you or even on the table in front of you.

When you walk, especially through crowded areas, keep your crossbody bag in front of you with your hand over it.

This might sound extreme. I mean, my friends from Canada don’t understand my hyper-vigilance when we travel together. But it does make a difference. Be smart with your belongings!

35. Expecting your usual to-go coffee

Coffees in Paris, from an American viewpoint, are tiny. So, so tiny. And not really meant to be on-the-go. You’ll still find places that will pour a cute little coffee into a cute little paper cup for you, but don’t expect a lid or a coffee bigger than your hand.

Of course, you can sneak out some of the larger chains like Starbucks and have a different experience, but be prepared for what you might get when you order a takeaway coffee from any random Parisian cafe.

You’re more likely to get a slightly bigger coffee if you order an Americano. You can also do what I do and order to coffees to go at a time. Anything in the name of coffee enjoyment!

Conclusion: 35 Paris Travel Tips & Travel Mistakes to Avoid

Follow these essential Paris travel tips and your trip is positioned to be a great one!

Want to explore more of France? Why not visit Strasbourg, the Christmas capitol that’s lovely to explore any time of year?

This town has an interesting history, once under German rule and now a part of French. Check out the Strasbourg Christmas market guide and plan your visit to this beautiful town!