Travellers must always familiarise themselves with the local area, cultures and customs. By reading this guide, you’ll be better prepared and be able to enjoy your trip with less hassle.
It is incredibly important to have your wits about you whenever travelling to a new location.
There are, of course, always levels of risk but we hope that this guide gives you a better understanding of what to look out for and how to minimise it.
Travelling anywhere in the world has its own fair share of risk attached and travelling to Paris is no different. Many large cities throughout the world are prone to pickpockets and scams especially concerning tourists.
It is always advisable to get travel insurance to insure your belongings in case of loss or theft. Travel insurance is also advised in the event that you get ill or injured whilst travelling and you need emergency care. Company 1 & Company 2 both offer competitive rates for Travel Insurance.
Emergency Number – 112
Time Zone – GMT+1
Currency – Euro (€)
Population – 2.16 million
Size – 105 km²
GDP – €709 billion
Most visitors of European nationality will not be required to get a visa to enter France due to the Freedom of Movement. Some other countries such as the US, Canada, Brazil & Argentina will have visa-free entry for 90 days. To check whether you need a visa to enter France, please check here.
What is the currency?
The currency used in Paris is the Euro (€). Denominations include €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 & €5 and coins including denominations of €1 and €2 and €0.50, €0.20, €0.10, €0.05, €0.02 and €0.01 cents.
Where can I get it?
The easiest way to get Euros in Paris is via the ATM machines located around the city, although you may want to check the exchange rate charged by your bank first.
How do I exchange it?
If you carry cash with you and want to exchange it into Euros then you can do so by following the signs for Bureau de Change located throughout the tourist areas. Just look for the obvious signs Money Exchange, Bureau de Change or simply Change. The Avenue des Champs-Elysées has many places where you can change your money.
If you prefer to buy your Euros before you travel and need a reliable and trustworthy company then we recommend XXX
You can check exchange rates here
Tips & Gratuities
Tipping is expected in restaurants for exceptional service (around 5-10% of the bill). There are some situations where it is customary, for example in restaurants (over a certain amount of people) and polite such as in taxis.
Ultimately tips/gratuities are discretionary and depend on the quality of the service you receive.
Pint of Beer – €6.76
Glass of Wine – €3.82 – €9.64
Breakfast – €4.50
Lunch – €9.28
Dinner – €12.76
You must be able to prove your identity either by providing documents when asked or within 4 hours at a police station. Identity documents can be a passport, a photo driving licence or other documentation provided by a government body.
Concealing the face in public places in France is illegal. This includes balaclavas, full veils or any other garment or mask that is used to conceal the face. The law does not provide any exemption for tourists. Failure to comply with the ban is punishable by a maximum fine of €150.
You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons.
In an emergency, contact the police, ambulance, or fire department on 112. This number is free to call – only use it in a genuine emergency.
- Only use registered taxis or a reputable company that can track you such as Uber
- Try to avoid walking alone at night. Keep to well-lit main roads
- Beware of wearing headphones – they reduce awareness of your surroundings.
- In Paris, cars drive on the right. To ensure you cross roads safely, only use designated crossings, only cross when the green light is showing.
Staying safe in bars and restaurants
It is paramount that travellers who are in unfamiliar cities are extra vigilant when in late night venues.
- Make sure you keep your property out of sight and safely under the table.
- Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
- Check up on your friends by phone or text to make sure they got home safely and vice-versa.
Petty theft can occur in Paris as it can anywhere else in the world. The key here is to be prepared before your travel.
- Don’t leave your bag unattended anywhere in Paris – this can lead to a security alert
- Keep your purse or wallet close to your body and don’t carry too much cash.
- When using an ATM, check that no one is looking over your shoulder and that the ATM hasn’t been tampered with. Cover the keypad so no one else can see your PIN number.
- Keep your mobile phone, MP3 player, camera, and other gadgets out of sight in your pocket or handbag when not in use.
- Record details of your electronic serial numbers (ESNs).
- Inform your service provider and police if your phone or other valuables are stolen or lost. Dial 112 for the police
Don’t be fooled by scam artists in Paris. There are a number of sophisticated scams which have been reported by travellers. Remember, if it seems to good to be true, it usually is.
Below are some of the most popular scams in Paris that you should be aware of.
The Shell Game
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and is arguably more magic trick than scam. There are three upturned cups (the “shells”) on a table, one of which has a ball or dried pea under it. The scammer will show you the ball under one of the cups, then move the cups around very quickly. Inevitably, whichever cup you put your money on the ball being under, it will have “magically” disappeared. It’s an unwinnable game, purely designed to take your cash.
The Metro Helper
This breed of scammer is far from unique to Paris. Virtually any city in the world which has a metro with a complicated ticket system will have some of these ‘helpful’ souls waiting to take advantage. While trying to decipher the maps and machines, someone in an official-looking uniform will approach you and offer to get your tickets for you. They will charge you for an adult ticket, but will only buy you a child’s ticket. They may even give you an expired one. If you’re caught by an actual metro official, you’ll be fined.
The Friendship Bracelet
Widely reported around Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, this scam involves a friendly guy approaching you and prompting you to stick out your hand, perhaps with the offer of a handshake. As soon as you do, you’ll find a colourful thread tied around your finger. This, over the course of a few minutes, will be braided into a friendship bracelet. Unfortunately, you are now hooked like a fish, making it very easy for the scam artist to demand payment.
Fake Charity Collectors
This one is astonishingly common underneath the Eiffel Tower. You will often find 10 or more scam artists working the crowd at the same time. The approach is very simple – someone will wave a clipboard in your face, often featuring photocopied logos from legitimate charities. The scammers seem to mostly favour charities for the deaf and mute, presumably so they can pretend not to be able to reply if you question their authenticity. Suffice it to say, the money they gather will never go to a good cause.
Areas to Avoid
Although Paris is a safe city to visit there are areas where tourists should avoid. Tourists should stay within the Paris ring road and not venture into areas without a trusted French-speaking companion. Even so, some of the areas below are avoided by some Parisians themselves.
- All of the “Porte de” areas
- Gare du Nord Train Station (After Dark)
- Châtelet–Les Halles Station (After Dark)
- Jaurès, Barbès
- Place de Clichy
- La Villette
Paris has had its fair share of terrorism attacks in recent years. The attacks on Paris including that in the Bataclan Theatre and Stade de France in November 2015 sent shock waves around the world. Travellers should not allow terrorism to deter them from visiting such beautiful cities but it is paramount that they remain vigilant and note local advice.
You can find updated information on threat levels and security risks in Paris on the Vigipirate website
The French will be very happy to help tourists and even more so if they attempt to speak to them in French.
We recommend brushing up on your French speaking skills by using this handy French phrasebook.
Common phrases to use and perfect on your visit are:
Bonjour – Hello
Merci – Thankyou
Au revoir – Goodbye
Je ne comprends pas – I don’t understand
Je ne parle pas français – I don’t speak French
S’il vous plaît (see-voo-play) – please
Je cherche (zheu share-sh) – I’m looking for
Books to read
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Jean Perdu owns a floating bookshop in Paris and he has an amazing knack for knowing exactly which book his customer is in need of at that moment.
The only person he can’t help is himself and after he opens a long lost letter from an old lover he vows to fix that so off he sails down the Seine.
Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant
Bel Ami is a classic 19th-century French novel involving a naïve young boy desperate to join the upper classes and a long line of bored rich ladies willing to jump right into his arms.
Learn all about how corrupt 19th-century Parisian high society was in Bel Ami.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Of course Victor Hugo is also known for writing Les Miserables, which is also well worth a read, but it stands at over 1,200 pages in English.
This is set in Medieval Paris and we follow the tragic story of Quasimodo, Esmerelda and Claude. Hugo is the Dickens of France so expect vivid descriptions of Medieval Paris and, of course, the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral.
All the Light We Cannot See
All the Light We Cannot See spent over two years on the New York Times Bestseller list and won the Pulitzer Prize.
It’s set in WWII France and our protagonists are a blind Parisian girl and a German boy who strike up an unlikely relationship. There’s also the subplot involving the mystery of the most valuable jewel in the Paris Museum of Natural History, taken by Marie-Laure and her father when they flee Paris.
P.S. From Paris by Marc Levy
Marcy Levy is the most-read French author today and reading books originally written in another language is important for truly understanding another culture.
One of his more recent releases, P.S. From Paris, is the story of two ex-pats, one British, one American, and their complicated love story in the City of Light.
Mia is an actress playing a woman in love when in real life she’s trying to escape her husband. Paul is a writer struggling to come back after his first hit. The two are set up on and dating site and then the story really begins.
Of course, much of what we have covered is common sense. But now you should be aware of the risks posed to tourists whilst visiting Paris.
As one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations, it is worth remembering that the city relies on tourists and therefore police carry out foot patrols throughout the city to ensure the safety of tourists and the local population.
As we have already highlighted, please ensure that you have valid travel insurance that covers you for loss, theft and medical cover in the event that something happens to you or your family.
So now that you are equipped with this information, please enjoy Paris and let us know how you got on by tagging us #totalguide.
If you believe we have missed some information that may help other travellers, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org