5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to France

By , Travel Insights Editor France 5 things, france, french trains, paris, pickpockets, rental cars, tips, travel scams, travel-safety, travel-safety-tips

If France has anything, it has a reputation. Depending on you who talk to, Paris is either the “City of Light” or  something, well, not quite as passionately enthusiastic. Any way you cut it, there’s nowhere in the world quite like it. It’s not leading the pack in regards to Adventure Travel or Voluntourism, but if you’re looking for an unparalleled experience into the arts, food or a general appreciation for quality of life, France is not to be missed.

Unfortunately, we’ve received plenty of pleas to take caution with your personal goods, as pick-pocketing is seemingly moving beyond petty theft to a national pastime, but we still feel privileged to bring you five (and a half) pieces of Parisian travel advice from those in the know.

Un. Compliment the French

... on the way they look, on the food, on the way they look, on the glass of wine you're drinking, and on the way they look. Otherwise they will curse at you. They love to hear wonderful things about their country.
Conversation Corps , Randy LeGrant

WorldNomads: If you're unfamiliar with the language the set lunch menu is a great way to order. But watch out for the prix fixe faux pas that could leave you out of pocket.

Deux. Don't leave valuables in your rental car

Visiting the countryside:  Persons traveling by rental car should always be aware to NOT leave valuables in plain sight when parking in tourist sites and villages. Aix en Provence, for example, is a must see but also one of the worst for petty theft by criminals praying on rental cars. The best advice is to just take all valuables from a rental car, don’t leave anything important inside.  So, leave luggage at the hotel first before visiting!
Discover France, Loren Siekman

WorldNomads: Sadly being a tourist makes you a target not just in lovely Aix en Provence. Find out where the other crime hot spots are in France, and stay clear of the crooks. 

Trois. “The Ring Trick” 

As you are walking around, enjoying the sights someone passes you and appears to pick up a gold ring off the floor. They ask if it is yours and say it must be your lucky day as they give you the ring.  Only then do they ask you for money, their ‘family’ may also appear at this time to pressure you in to paying. The ‘gold’ ring is nothing more than a piece of brass or copper is totally worthless. You only realize this, of course, once you’ve handed over your cash.
Matador Travel, Matt Scott

WorldNomads: There are variations of this mean-spirited scheme, read our quick guide to Paris scams and avoid falling for one of them.

Quatre.  Say Bonjour!

When in France I wish I had known French. The French typically do not like speaking English, even if they can. Respect this and learn some basic French beforehand.
Travellerspoint, Samuel Daams

WorldNomads: You can get a free French Lesson with the WorldNomads French Language Guide - available as an audio file for iPods or an App for your iPhone

Cinq. French transport tips 

Take the train: it's the safest (not to mention quickest and cheapest) way to travel in France. Services run until very late and are often manned by security guards. We'd think nothing of eating out and getting a train home at midnight - Vive la France!
Footprint Guidebooks, Tristan Rutherford and Kathryn Tomasetti

WorldNomads: Except maybe if you are arriving at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport... read on.

Cing et demi. Train crime

There are several ways to get into the city, the last choice we would advise is on the RER train. The RER is great for Parisians who know their way around or experienced repeat travelers, but not at all great for arriving tourists from overnight flights. Tired and disoriented tourists are easy targets for baggage theft and pickpockets on that line. If you take it, always keep an eye on luggage at every stop all the way into the city.
Discover France, Loren Siekman

WorldNomads: Travelers keen to hang on to their walets need to see our list of other RER lines and Metro stops which are notorious for high levels of crime.

Well, at least now you’re equipped with a few tidbits of cautionary advice and the ability to count to five (and a half) in French. In short, the best way to enjoy France is to keep your eyes on its cultural wonders, a croissant in one hand, and your wallet in the other.

Read more stories from WorldNomads.com to help keep you travelling safely. WorldNomads.com - an essential part of every adventurous traveller's journey.

What did you learn in France and wish you knew before you went? Leave us a comment...



  • Colt Stacer said

    six) Check out staying in apartments! Less the deposit which has always been returned to myself, the cost is often a few hundred US dollars less for a week (assuming you aren't going for luxury) than staying in a hotel but note you will pay extra for arriving or departing on the weekend. An apartment allows you to fully experience the markets because you have a place to prepare and store food!

    sept) Don't rent a car; the metro is all you need and a week pass can include your transportation to and from the airport. Purchase ahead of time and have it shipped to your house (convenient and ensures you have it ready when you get off the plane). It will become active starting the day you first use it.

    huit) My last one, purchase a museum pass, it is cost effective and can be valid for multiple days. Also you can buy it ahead of time and either have it delivered to you at your hotel/apartment, or shipped to your home. Valid based on the day you select at time of purchase.


  • Dalma said

    "The French typically do not like speaking English, even if they can. "

    Totally wrong I'd say. but you can be sure I never answer to someone who suddenly pat my shoulder shouting "WHERE IS THE EIFFEL TOWER??". So my advice would be : don't think that locals are your personal servants.

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