France is the most visited country on Earth.
And of course, its capital city, Paris, will be a hot spot destination for many. If you're headed to Paris, there are a few things you should know before you hop on your plane (or train).
Read on for some important facts about Paris to know before you set off for your vacation in the City of Lights.
1. If You Really Want to See Something, Plan Ahead
Don't rock up to the Eiffel Tower, Catacombs or Louvre and expect to enter immediately. During the height of summer, you'll be waiting several hours to enter the building. Sometimes the lines can even snake around the block.
Instead, purchase your tickets in advance, unless you don't mind waiting for hours in line. This way, you'll save precious time and enjoy more of your vacation by being able to sit in cafes and soak up the atmosphere.
Visit this travel blog for some more information on the top tourist destinations to visit in Paris.
2. Be Wary of Pickpockets
As with any city, there are pickpockets and thieves. But since Paris sees a lot of tourists, they're unfortunately ripe for the picking. That means you and your family or travel buddies will most likely be a target.
Pickpockets in Paris can be brazen, even reaching into your pocket or purse to grab things from it. As such, make sure your phone or other valuables are hidden away and can't be seen when you're simply walking around.
If you're carrying a purse or handbag, make sure it zips or buttons and that the zip or button is facing you so that no one can get into it without your attention being drawn to it.
Because of the risk, we don't recommend wearing backpacks, as this not only earmarks you as a tourist, but can be easy to filch items from without drawing attention.
Pickpockets often operate in groups. You may have someone tell you they want to read your palm. Another common ploy in public areas is asking you to sign a petition.
Once your hands are busy, children or people working with them will then reach into your pockets and grab your valuables. It's best to avoid speaking to someone you don't know on the street, especially if they're asking for you to do something that keeps your hands busy.
3. Water Isn't Free and Sodas Aren't Refillable
This is throughout Europe, so if you're starting in Paris on a European vacation, you'll want to know this early on. Some countries, like the United Kingdom, for example, may give you tap water if you specifically ask for it, but France isn't one of them.
Instead, expect to pay a nominal fee for your water. Additionally, your appetizers, like bread may not be on the house, so check with the staff beforehand.
If you're a big soda drinker, don't assume the refills are free. In most locations throughout Europe, they aren't. Don't order a Diet Coke and ask them to keep it coming, otherwise, you'll find yourself with a huge and unexpected bill.
4. Don't Visit Paris in August If You Can Help It
Well, if it is the only time of year you have off, then visiting Paris in August is better than not going at all. But as a rule of thumb, Paris is deserted in August and doesn't have its usual flair.
August is the month that most Europeans, including the French, are on their summer holidays. As such, many shops are closed and many Parisians leave the city to go to the South of France or abroad for their own holidays.
Of course, big shops and attractions will remain open, but the little mom and pop shops that make Paris what it is may be empty. And what is Paris without its Parisians?
5. Make an Effort to Speak Some French
Generally, Parisians are pretty adept at English. This is because a large portion of their tourists are from the United States and the United Kingdom, and many of them work closely with industries that require a proficiency in English.
But, learning a little bit of French goes a long way. No one expects you to recite Moliere, but if you can learn a few words, you'll find people will appreciate the effort.
Learning the words for "Thank you," "Excuse me," and "Please," are great ways to get around. Most Parisians will be grateful for the small effort, even if it is only minor.
6. Take the Metro
If you're from an area of the world where you've never taken public transportation, now is the time to learn. The Metro is iconic in Paris and is a cheap and quick way to get around.
For just a couple of euros, you can zip to and from the airport, Disneyland and all over the city. Many times, it's actually faster than taking a taxi.
Just keep ahold of your belongings, as pickpockets are also ready to pounce on unsuspecting tourists riding the metro. And if you go during rush hour, expect to get friendly with the person next to you.
Facts About Paris: It's a Magical City
You could read several books on the facts about Paris and never learn everything there is to know about this magical city. No matter what you decide to do there, or when you decide to go, you'll have a marvellous time.
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