When considering a trip into Europe, there are several stand-out hotspots that are likely to be considered when scrolling through the travel deals section of Expedia. From Barcelona to Berlin and Amsterdam to Athens, very few cities are heralded quite as heavily as Paris. But to avoid a serious case of Syndrome de Paris whilst touring the Eiffel or the Arc, one must understand the reality of the City of Light.
1. Don’t Expect the Best on a Student Budget
If you’re on a Paris city break for several days staying in a hostel or cheap hotel, don’t expect Parisian luxury. As a major tourist destination, Paris can afford to keep prices up – which means that cheaper options are often a bit, well, underwhelming. Be sure to check reviews, research districts, and seek advice from friends who have travelled there as well: just because your hotel is near a station or major attraction doesn’t mean it’s in the safest (or cleanest) area. Remember that TripAdvisor is your friend, too. Paris hotels – much like New York City a few years ago – have had trouble with bed bugs. Yikes!
2. It Might Be Cheaper to Eat In
When you’re trying to do Paris cheaply, money should be spent on attractions. Most museums and landmarks aren’t free to visit, so if culture is what you’re after (or shopping along Champs-Elysees) plan ahead for meals. There are supermarkets everywhere, and making your own sandwiches will be a fair bit cheaper than eating out. And if you’re looking to sample a crepe or croissant, get these at street stalls, where they’re usually €2-€3 cheaper than in restaurants.
3. Stay Alert – No, Really
It sounds like advice your mother would give, but it’s very important to keep on your toes in Paris. Pickpocketing is extremely common, and tourists with expensive cameras, fancy jewellery, or a noticeable air of ‘I’m lost’ are easy targets. Keep bags in front of you, not behind, as it’s difficult to keep an eye on a purse in a packed train. And be wary of beggars, vendors, and ‘petitioners’ (groups of women asking if you speak English, who will try to scam money from you) – all are quite aggressive in their approach, and it’s best to ignore them and walk away. Don’t give money to anyone who asks and use common sense on local transport – it’s better to be safe, as they say!
4. Take a Lot of Photos…
…and remember you never have to go back if you don’t enjoy your trip. Many people have been disappointed or disillusioned with Paris, so if your city break ends up being more of a bust, know that you went, you saw, and you (almost) conquered. With all the films, books, and songs that tell us just how perfect and brilliant Paris is, it’s easy to feel frustrated and let down if it doesn’t stand up. If nothing else, it’s a good experience in travel (and at least you can say you’ve gone!). And there are plenty of other amazing European cities to choose from for your next getaway – and choosing might just be the hardest part!