5 things I wish I knew before going to France

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.

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.

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 in France

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" in France

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 scamsand avoid falling for one of them.

Quatre. When in France, 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.

Cinq et demi. Train crime in France

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 otherRER 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...

17 Comments

  • 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.

    Enjoy!

  • 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.

  • FrenchParisian said

    Yes, you are right. If you come to Paris for the first time you have to take care in the RER, cause it's not safe sometimes... But, as french people I want to say that I hope you will have a good time in my city. And be sure that you are welcome in France, dear friend, even if a lot of us don't speack very well English. Just accept be yourself, accept it, and enjoy the city, the country and people you meet, because you are WELCOME !

  • FrenchParisian said

    Yes, you are right. If you come to Paris for the first time you have to take care in the RER, cause it's not safe sometimes... But, as french people I want to say that I hope you will have a good time in my city. And be sure that you are welcome in France, dear friend, even if a lot of us don't speack very well English. Just accept be yourself, accept it, and enjoy the city, the country and people you meet, because you are WELCOME !

  • Jeremie said

    "the prix fixe faux pas" does not mean anything in French.

    Your article is somehow valid for Paris, but I doubt you'll find trains running at midnight somewhere else...

    Look like you've never been there

  • Katell said

    Enough is enough of this so easy french bashing made by stupid and totally ignorant people ! Wherever you travel 1st things to do is to learn a minimum of local words,phrases, cultural manners, it is call " To be polite" Do not expect everybody to have to speak your own language or to have to understand right away your personal demand... Be humble at once, please ! Travelling is all about been humble, curious ans generous, stop judging, the world does'nt belong to you ! We all are differerent and everybody deserve a minimum of respect wherever you shall go ... or just stay home then ! By the way you forgot to mentionned that none of pickpockets are french but they are mostly comming from eastern countries ...Ignorant I said ..

  • robert said

    Further to the "say bonjour" comment. One thing I learned many years ago is that, in France, ANY encounter or transaction begins with "bonjour". Supermarket checkout, ordering at a café or bar, whatever. I'm pleased to note that it seems to be catching on a bit in the UK, too. Well, not "bonjour", but at least "hello". Also, when you meet with someone for the first time each day, shake hands.

  • Jeanie said

    I have visited a few times now, getting ready for another trip. (My partner works with Disney and built Disney Paris). I always have a good experience, have never had any negative encounters with the locals in Paris, or any other European city for that matter. The key is be humble and polite. Arrogance, being loud is not getting along as a visitor. I am always so amazed with the beauty and the culture and love to soak it up. People who live in such beautiful places are usually very gracious and appreciate the beauty as well. They appear to want to share it with the world. I have experienced the "gypsies" at Notre Dame with the ring trick. I had read about it prior, and was amused really when it was played out for real right in front of me. I was confident and walked on saying no thank you. I also experienced the trick with women offering some bouquets of lavender and wanting money. A very diverse population, and you witness survival. Often I have seen families who exploit their children on the train to get the passengers to give money for the music they are playing. Locals will ignore but there are some who give money. I do not get involved and try to ignore. Not being fluent in French puts you at a particular disadvantage in these circumstances and it is best to avoid these encounters. You can continue to ride the RER just be aware and look the other way.

  • Jenny said

    There's pretty much nothing in this article that doesn't apply to visiting any country: pay compliments, learn a bit of the language, be polite, secure your possessions, beware of scams. Shouldn't we all do this all the time? Another I'd add to the list is: definitely DO hire a car. Get out of the cities and into the villages. Find the local markets. Meet the local people. Participate in the community - with or without language skills. Some of our best conversations have been using charades. The image of my husband trying to buy a corkscrew is priceless.

  • Neil said

    France, America, Barbados, U.K., Germany, Hong Kong, Canada, you name it. If you don't know how to be polite and act as if you are somehow important; don't learn how to say please, thank you, and good day, in the local language, then you will probably find people won't think much of you and rightly so.

  • Mat Brady said

    I want to hire a car and travel through the French country-side, and my only real valuable will be my mobile phone- so I'm wanting to travel light.

    My question is: What type of luggage would you recommend?? And what should I pack in it?

    1. A large hiking pack? or...
    2. A rolling suitcase?

    Advice welcome. :)

  • Alexandr said

    Best way to visit Paris are Segway Tours, in few hours you can cover large areas ,
    Check out our website! and come discover Paris with us!! http://axltour.com/

  • Stéphane Médina said

    Bonjour !,

    I just read your "story" and I like to apologize in advance for my "bad English".
    I will be brief. On reading these tips for travelers to France, I am shocked by the naivety and the caricature of that write! this is far from the case. You insult our Country! ...
    It is as if I had fun to describe "American" with his boots, his hat and his horse in the streets of New York!
    Come and discover France (like the USA) the diversity of our culture and our landscapes.

    Best regards.
    Stéphane

  • alwoodlands said

    I would like to share something here. Toilets in Paris free. This makes me happy. However, to use them all as well as to control a spaceship! That's why we wrote the article and “How to use outdoor toilets in Paris? ".

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