Depending on who you talk to, Paris is either the "City of Light" or something not quite so enthusiastic. Any way you cut it, there's nowhere in the world quite like it.
Unfortunately, it's essential for travelers to take caution with personal goods, as pick-pocketing is moving beyond petty theft to a national pastime. Here are a few other things you should know before you go to France.
Randy LeGrant from GoAbroad says, "Compliment the French on the way they look, on their 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."
If you're unfamiliar with the language, the set lunch menu is a great place to start your order. Just watch out for prix fixe faux pas, which could leave you out of pocket.
Loren Siekman from Discover France shares her tips for travelers visiting the countryside, "If you're traveling by rental car, never 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 preying on rental cars. My advice is to take all valuables from the rental car, don't leave anything important inside."
Basically, it's best to leave luggage at your hostel before you drive into the countryside.
Sadly, being a tourist makes you a target not just in Aix en Provence, but in these crime hot spots as well.
Matt Scott from Matador Network warns us about a common scam in France, "As you're walking around enjoying the sights, someone passes you and appears to pick up a gold ring off the floor. They ask if it's yours, saying 'It must be your lucky day,' as they give you the ring. Then they ask you for money, and their 'family' may also appear at this time to pressure you into paying. The fake gold ring is nothing more than a piece of brass or copper, and is totally worthless. You only realize this, of course, once you've handed over your cash."
Find out about other variations of this scheme and avoid falling for other local scams here.
Samuel Daams from Travellerspoint says he wishes he'd learnt to speak French before going there, "The French typically do not like speaking English – even if they can. Respect this, and learn some basic French beforehand."
Nomads Tristan Rutherford and Kathryn Tomasetti recommend taking the train. "It's the safest – not to mention quickest and cheapest – way to travel in France. Services run until very late in the evenings, and are often manned by security guards. We'd think nothing of eating out and getting a train home at midnight," they say.
Unless, of course, you've just arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport...
Siekman says, "There are several ways to get into the city, the last choice we would advise is the RER train." The RER is great for Parisians who know their way around, or experienced repeat travelers, but not great for tourists who have just hopped off a long-haul flight. "Tired and disoriented tourists are easy targets for baggage theft and pickpockets on that line. If you catch the RER train, always keep an eye on your luggage, all the way into the city."
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.
France is a mostly safe place for travelers. However, theft, pickpockets and scam artists are common. Here are our tips to travel safely.