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Paris Tips the Guidebooks Won’t Tell You

Paris sometimes gets a bad rap. People think it is expensive, hard to manage and the people are rude. Some of those preconceived notions are based on real experiences but it is not everyone’s experience. Plus, many bad experiences are based on not knowing what to expect. Here are some of my favorite, lesser-known Paris tips to help you have a great trip.

You see, we LOVED Paris when we visited a few years ago. So much, in fact, that I didn’t want to come home. Ever. Yep, if I could have found a way to stay without having to sleep on a sidewalk grate, I would still be there. We had a pretty easy time of things even though neither of us has a working use of the French language. However, there were a few Paris tips that we learned when things caught us by surprise.

Tips for fun and stress free travel

Paris Tips You Might Not Hear Elsewhere

  1. Many showers in Paris hotels do not have a shower curtain or enclosure of any kind. Don’t think that they somehow forgot to hang it up….nope….it doesn’t exist. So shower as normal even though it will most likely flood the bathroom and get the toilet paper wet. Resistance is futile.
  2. If you are jonesing for a latte, order a Cafe Creme. It is the closest thing you will get without giving in and hitting Starbucks.
  3. If you are going in winter or spring, pack a coat and a scarf no matter how warm the forecast says it will be. I was pretty thankful for mine when we had a freak snowstorm during our Paris stay.
  4. Most waiters in restaurants are not rude….so don’t assume they will be and start off on the wrong foot. We only hit upon one rude waiter. He was terrible but many, many others were wonderful. My #1 Paris tip is to be nice to those you meet and strike up a conversation. You never know who you might meet.
  5. Learn the metro. It is the easiest way to get around the city.
  6. Do not stop in the doorway of the metro train when leaving the train to see where to go next. You will get run over by the angry mob behind you stuck on the train.
  7. Do not rent a car. You don’t want to drive (or park) in Paris.
  8. Don’t kill yourself trying to see EVERYTHING. Some of the best times in Paris are spent in a street cafe drinking a cafe creme watching Paris walk by.
  9. Check the address when you are trying to find a restaurant. We found out the hard way that MANY restaurants and businesses have the same name. We went to the wrong one & ended up in one of the red light (ish) streets in Les Halles.
  10. Leave the main streets and tourist areas. You will definitely find better food and, often, better prices.
  11. Ask any questions you have for hotel staff during the day. English proficiency seems to decrease as the day turns into night.
  12. Though this may have been just at our hotel, face cloths (washcloths) are not a staple in French hotels. If you really need one, you might want to bring your own.
  13. A service gratuity is included in your restaurant bill. You do not have to tip on the top. However, if you had excellent service, leaving a bit extra is a good practice.
  14. Bring a pair of insoles for your shoes. Even the most comfortable shoes lose their give after all the walking in Paris. The cobblestone streets do a number on your feet. I refuse to walk around in running shoes so I took my comfiest pair of riding boots with a pair of insoles. They kept my feet feeling great the whole week.
  15. Walking tours are often worth the extra money. We did a foodie tour of Montemarte and a guided tour of the Catacombs. We were very happy with both and felt that we learned much more than we did at the sites we visited without tours. We booked both through Viator and you can save up to 40% off tours & activities in Paris through them.
  16. Pay attention if you ride on the train. We took the high-speed train to Switzerland and ended up being in the car ahead of the President of France (at the time). Dewey completely missed seeing him because he was digging in his carry-on bag.
  17. Consider packing light if you are going to use the metro. Roller bags don’t work that well with Paris’s cobblestone streets and many metro stations have stairs that you must climb.

Paris is a must-see in my book. It is a large city with a zillion places to see, do and visit. It can get overwhelming. My friend Roni has a great Paris trip planning guide that you should definitely check out.

Wondering why you aren’t that excited about your upcoming trip? It might be because you are exhausted. I feel your pain! Before our last trip, I wrote 6 Reasons Traveling Moms are so Tired. It was a good reminder that one of my best tips for Amazing Family Travel is to just go and let go of the need for the trip to be “epic” or “life-changing”. Just go and see and do. You can always go back!

17 Paris tips the guidebooks won't tell you


Friday 29th of April 2016

Get the most comfortable shoes you can. There are a lot of cute "comfort" shoes found on Zappos. I personally like Pikolinos and Arcopedico. Look for Mary Janes, ballet style but with thicker base, and ballet styles. Also black moto boots are ALWAYS in style.


Saturday 13th of September 2014

One interesting thing we found was the closer you sit to the patio the more expensive your food / drink is. So if you sit inside at the back it is cheaper than sitting next to the window or outside for the same food.


Saturday 12th of April 2014

great tips! thanks! we are just starting the planning phases of our upcoming trip!


Saturday 12th of April 2014

Thank you! We love Paris and can't wait until I get to go back!


Thursday 13th of March 2014

These are awesome tips! Especially the one about the shower and checking addresses. I also will look into insoles-I've never used them but sometimes my feet get sore from all the walking.

Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

Friday 22nd of March 2013

One day, oh one day, I will see Paris. These look like great tips! Thanks!