11 Things Tourists Should Never Do in Paris

Paris welcomes so many tourists that locals can become fed up of those unwilling to embrace their culture
Paris welcomes so many tourists that locals can become fed up of those unwilling to embrace their culture | Anastasia Zhenina / Unsplash

Paris is a stunning capital to visit, but there are some things that tourists should never do while visiting. Simply follow these rules and to ensure the chance of having a fabulous time in what has recently been named as the most elegant city in the world.

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Never buy tickets for attractions and shows on the day of the event

To save time and avoid long lines in Paris, make sure to buy tickets online in advance. The views from the Notre Dame towers are breathtaking, for example – costing €10 ($11.61) to climb – but the queues are soul-crushing. What’s great though is that tourists can find out how long the line will be online before they decide whether or not to go. Better yet, miss the queue altogether and download the revolutionary JeFile app available on Google Play or the App Store.

Never take the stairs at Paris’ Abbesses Métro Station

Most people get on and off at Paris’ Abbesses Métro Station after they’ve been on a tour of Montmarte’s iconic filming locations for Amélie (2001). Some will have to wait a little while for the lift, making it tempting to take the stairs. However, at an epic 36m (118ft) and around 200 exhausting steps, Abbesses is the tallest station in the Paris Métro system. Riders are definitely better off waiting for the elevator.

Never take pictures in Paris’ famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore

Steeped in literary history and the perfect spot to ponder, this incredible bookstore is on every book lover’s bucket list. The store is very relaxed in some ways, offering armchairs and benches with soft-seating throughout the bookstore for readers to sit down and flick through a potential purchase. However, there are some rules they are fierce about enforcing, the most notable of which is no photos. While some tourists will try to snap a few on the sly, this can get you into a fair amount of trouble. The bookstore has other rules, such as not stroking the resident cat that mooches around, but it’s the no photo rule that is taken most seriously.

Never board Parisian transport without a valid ticket

In London, most central stations have a tapping out system that makes it impossible to escape without a valid ticket. However, people only need the ticket to get in as all exits open automatically in Paris. While it might seem tempting to some people to skip the ticket buying, those who do so risk getting hit with a very high fine.

Never assume people speak English just because it’s the capital

Given that Paris is the capital and therefore one of the most multi-cultural areas of France, there are many people who speak English quite well. However, there are also Parisians who’ve simply gotten fed up with tourists not bothering to learn a single word of French. It’s a good idea to strike up a conversation in French if possible, even if it’s something as simple as ‘comment aller à la gare (how do you get to the station).

Never expect the Métro to get you to your destination on time

Paris’ Métro system is one of the most convenient ways to travel around the city. However, it all depends on the Métro line. Riders taking one of the modern, automated sliding-door metros like Line 1 are somewhat less likely to encounter the problems of older Métro trains like those running on Line 11, with its flickering lights between Châtelet and Hotel de Ville, plus some holdups between stations. Be sure to always allow a little extra time to get where you want to go.

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Never pay with large bank notes in the boulangerie

There are hundreds of boulangeries in Paris, and eating freshly-baked pain-au-chocolat or croissant in the morning, overlooking the Eiffel Tower or sipping a glass of orange juice, is one of the most savoured aspects any trip to Paris. But given the relatively tiny prices of their products, boulangeries really don’t like having to break huge bank notes. So make sure to pay with loose change if possible.

Never rely on taxis late at night in Paris

It’s not uncommon to have to spend an hour scouring round to find a taxi in Paris because, unlike cities like New York and London, night owls can’t depend on flagging down a passing taxi here. What’s more is that the taxi stand system is hugely unreliable, even in the daytime. However, smartphone car services like Uber, LeCab, and AlloCab are a fabulous alternative and sure to arrive when needed.

Never underestimate the cheek-kissing tradition

Those lucky enough to be invited to a French soiree or simply invited to a meal as a group, be prepared to cheek kiss every last person. Contrary to what some might expect, kissing strangers on the cheek en masse and not just friends and family members is the norm. Even if there are 40 guests, those who skip this social tradition will be perceived as rude.

Never ask for your steak to be well-done in posh Parisian restaurants

French cuisine tends to cook meat lighter than tourists might be used to, and so it’s sometimes perceived as rude to ask for well-done steak. The flavours of the meat are said to be charred away when it is overcooked, spoiling the treat. Of course, those who really can’t take the thought of à la française can ask for ‘bien cuit’, but many waiters will try to sway diners to try it ‘cuit à point’ instead.

Never forget your phrases of French politeness

Since Paris is bustling with tourists, it’s easy to get on the wrong side of locals who get annoyed with the crowds. So don’t forget to use manners when interacting with waitstaff, street vendors, or even when just brushing into people on the metro. Greet others politely with a few learned phrases like pardon (sorry), bonjour (hello), au revoir (goodbye), and merci (thank you) to avoid being branded as an annoying, impolite tourist.

Interested in a culture-packed trip to Europe? Take a look at our itineraries in Spain, Italy and Greece.

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