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Is Paris Intimidating?

My history in Paris so far is land at CDG, took a bus into town and walked 3 blocks to the train station. Took a train to Bayeux and returned to Paris by train and then another train to Frankfurt. Total time in Paris 3 hours. I have travelled in several countries in Europe and several large cites there, but not Paris. I read many post on this site from people that seem to be intimidated by Paris. Many instances of problems with pickpocket attempts as well as other problems on the Metro or trains. Just read today about a lady having to scream on one system to stop pushing and yelling at a group of people trying to pickpocket people. Another lady travelling alone with a child seemed very wary about travelling to Paris on her first trip.
My reason for the question is that about a 95% chance I will be in Paris for two or three days before the start of a R/S tour. I will also have a 70 year old very petite lady travelling with me for her first trip to Paris as well. I will be responsible for her and don't want any problems while there. I may land in Brussels and go to Maastricht for 2 days instead of the 3 days in Paris, but either way, Paris will be the starting point for the tour. She speaks no French at all and I speak less. I have never had any problems anywhere in Europe, but Paris has always been a place I have stayed away from for some reason.
Would appreciate input from anyone, especially first time experiences in Paris.

Posted by
1878 posts

I do not find Paris intimidating at all. My first trip there was in 2000 as an add-on to an England trip, and have been back three times since. It's a big city but the locals will let you do your tourist thing. Not speaking French is not an issue, learn to say please, thank you, do you speak English, and you will be fine. The thing about Parisians being rude is a complete myth as far as I can tell. Wear a money belt, be aware of your surroundings, and interpose yourself between anyone potentially disruptive and your travel partner. (Personally I do that anyway when traveling with my wife - we are a 50ish/60ish couple - if someone wants to get into a confrontation they have to pass through me before getting to her). Your friend may never otherwise get to Paris - go for it would be my advice.

Posted by
786 posts

I enjoyed my time in Paris and I did not find the people intimidating. I was travelling with my parents who were 62/63. And I love them dearly but they are the type of people who, when greeted in French, will respond in English with a request for a menu in English and tap water with ice (no attempts to blend AT ALL...). But everyone was very gracious- I definitely rolled my eyes more than the French.

We interacted with people in shops, restaurants, on the street- all positive. Of course, I have had negative interactions with people on other trips (and in my hometown) so things happen in Paris too. But from the perspective of the people, I think you have nothing to worry about. As in any big city, use common sense and keep a close eye (and hand) on your valuables in crowded spaces and the metro.

Paris can be intimidating from the sense it is a big city with a lot to see. But it sounds like you have been to other big cities. Get some good maps and a guidebook. And you will be able to figure it out. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1780 posts

Hi Tony,
There seems to be a fine line between advising attention and scaring the wits out people. That happened to us with our trip to Prague seven years ago and I've kicked myself ever since for the lost opportunity to enjoy that beautiful city. If you've traveled at all or live in a major city, you'll be fine. We've traveled to Paris on several trips and every time I read these posts, I think, "Well, maybe it's different this year" ...and it never is. We use money belts while we're shaking off jet lag and traveling between locales, but more as a way to eliminate, " where did I put my passport?" Kind of thing. You'll see most of the usual scams ( ring, roses, petition, 3-card monte) but they're easy to steer clear.

My husband, who couldn't possibly look more American and frequently wears a baseball cap, loves Paris and they seem to love him, so go and have a great time.

Posted by
4637 posts

Paris is certainly less intimidating than any big American city. I have to say at least for me because to feel intimidated is subjective.

Posted by
6626 posts

Americans seem oddly frightened of the world. Paris is the easiest big city I have spent time in -- in terms of getting around, in terms of finding varied in price, ambience, and cuisine food, in terms of fascinating things to see and do. I am an old lady and don't hesitate to take the train alone at night or walk along the Seine as the city lights up. Paris streets are full of people late into the night and the metro is also full of other travelers -- it is just not a scary experience. Paris is far far far safer than any American city including Nashville. When I lived in Nashville a 16 year old girl was gunned down at an ATM two blocks from Vanderbilt the first time she tried to withdraw money -- for 20$. Muggings and rapes are fairly common in Nashville as are armed robberies. Such things are almost unheard of in Paris.

Pickpocketing is common in Paris particularly on public transport so of course a sensible person doesn't have valuables in his pocket or backpack i.e. don't be a walking buffet. I'd rather take the simple and minor precautions to not be vulnerable to pickpockets than get mugged, raped or shot, all of which are fairly common in the large northern city I now live in. There are some pushy souvenir salespeople and scammers; they are extremely unlikely to cause problems if you don't engage with them. They are pretty much guaranteed not to shoot you which can't be said for Chicago, Nashville, Demoines, St. Louis or Miami.

What exactly is the mother with young child so afraid of? What does she think will happen to her in Paris? I mostly see young kids on bouncy horses in the parks, pushing their little wheeled toys down the sidewalks, or being wheeled onto buses which are carefully designed for access by strollers or wheelchairs. What do you think will happen to a 70 year old woman in Paris? She should know however that she is 5 years too young to claim a seat on the bus or train due to age (if she has a disability she may do so of course); she is likely to be offered one on the metro though -- I usually am.

Be sure to say 'Bonjour' before any interaction with another human and please and thank you and you will have all the French you need. Those politeness phrases are absolutely required in order to not antagonize people as a rude person -- but anyone who deals with tourists will if you are polite communicate with you as best they can.

Posted by
10344 posts

Tony,
You're certainly not the only American to feel this way about Paris.
IMO, France, and Paris, are some of the only places left in western Europe, these days, where you may find it a bit awkward, perhaps even slightly unpleasant, to try to get by with just English--especially once you get out of the hotel.

Some suggestions: 1) take a look at Rick's book on Paris, it might help you; 2) put as much time as you can spare into learning to speak some of the basic French travel and "politeness phrases", audio is better because you hear how the words should sound; and 3) read Rick's advice about wearing a "money belt" and putting the things you can't afford to lose in it, then you don't have to worry anymore about being pick-pocketed.
Then you should be okay.
Happy travels!

Posted by
215 posts

We've never found Paris to be intimidating. It is easy to navigate, the people were friendly, LOTS to see and do. We've been 3 times and have been all over the city either on foot or metro, our daughter studied a semester in Paris and has made quite a few trips into the city besides, my parents have been a half dozen times, my brother and his grlfriend just spent a week there. No pickpocket attempts or anything that made any of us uncomfortable. My daughter walked or took the metro everywhere for 4 months, day and night.
My dad uses a money belt, my mom, daughter and myself each carry a pocketbook with a cross body strap, husband carries his wallet in his front pocket when in crowds/on metro etc.... I also have a dslr camera on me most of the time. We aren't super cautious by any means, just try and be aware.
I typically carry a Rick Steves phrasebook with me as my French is pretty poor, it is quite helpful. Paris has been by far the easiest city we've visited in France as far as getting by without speaking French. Pretty much everywhere else we've been has been a bit more of a struggle, some more than others, but not impossible. We can always point to the words in our phrase book if necessary:-)
My parents are both in their mid 70's, my dad gets around great, my mom isn't very steady but she was fine everywhere we went. No one bothered her.

Posted by
11613 posts

I don't find Paris intimidating but it is a big city. I felt completely safe there, walking alone even late at night. I speak no French beyond the courtesy phrases.

On my last day in Paris I did get tear-gassed by roller-blading policemen chasing thieves, but I think that was unusual.

Posted by
8774 posts

I love Paris! It's my favorite city. I've recently returned from my 4th trip and was disappointed I only had 5 nights to spend there. I can't wait to return again. As mentioned by others, take precautions you would take in any city. Learn to say hello, please and thank you, and to ask in French if they speak English. That's it! There is so much to see and do there. Three days can only scratch the surface. I don't think you'll regret going there.

Posted by
3621 posts

Tony, Do NOT miss the chance to spend a few days in Paris. It is a lovely city. We've been several times and do not find it anymore intimidating than Nashville. Just use good common sense as you would in any large American city and you will be fine. In fact you will probably be safer there than in many U.S. cities. At least I feel safer there. TC

Posted by
2081 posts

Tony,

you know the saying...you have to crack some eggs to make an omelet.

To me i didnt think Paris was "intimidating" it was "overwhelming!". But "overwhelmed" in a good way.

I found it to be really cool and large and fun all at the same time. I HATE crowded, but i love Paris. Go figure. I saw it as "Disneyland for Art/Architecture/foodie" students.

As far as the pickpockts go, im sure your neck of the woods has its own social issues, so think of it that way. Its something to deal with and one nice thing about Paris is that they wont stick a knife or gun in your face to get your $$$. They try to do it slicker than a DC Politician, by pick pocketing you. As i say, all they want is your $$ not your life!

You will notice the scams going on there if you have read up on them in Ricks book or the board. I found them to be funny since i was thinking, is it "life imitating art or art imitating life?"

When i was there i didnt have to worry about an older person to take care of so i guess i would be worried somewhat too, but you can do something to minimize the pickpocket issues if you care to.

As far as speaking French goes, if you can do the basics, you will be okay. Im sure my command of French is less than yours and the didnt boot me out of France.

Ive only been there once, so far, but i wouldnt hesitate to go back. To me, there is so much there to do/see/experience AND eat, that i will go back and probably more than once!

happy trails.

Posted by
206 posts

Thanks for all the great feedback. I'm not really that worried about Paris and would be less so if it was just me travelling. I do the money belt and am always aware of my surroundings. Paris is just so big, and not having been there but 3 hours, it will just take some planning before I go. I'm sure I will have other posts later asking for help regarding the area I will be staying. I do speak some German and will have to work on French. Being from Tn, I hope they can understand Southern French. Not sure they would understand Ya'll and Howdy!

Posted by
1839 posts

I felt the same way before our trip this last summer. It was the only part of the trip I was apprehensive about.

I would recommend taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel/apartment. Make it easy. Wear a money belt, and I took those wire twist ties from the produce section and tied up the zippers to my day bag and my fanny pack. It was very clear I was not a target for any pick pockets. Then set out. It is a beautiful city, felt very safe and not difficult to navigate. People were very friendly, helpful and it was clean and gorgeous everywhere you go. You must do it! You won't regret it.

Posted by
9717 posts

I did find Paris intimidating...until I got there and got my feet on the ground.

I had been to Paris several times before, from 1972 to about 1976. That last time I was with someone who was fairly anxious, it was hot as heck, the pissoirs and dog doo added an uncomfortable ambiance and I had no desire to return.

Fast forward to 2014. I was doing Rick's 21 day tour which ends in Paris. I decided to add on his Paris city tour mostly to see if I could be comfortable there with the added safety net of the RS guide. Then I found a friend was going to be in Paris so planned to meet up with her for a week. In our first meeting of the 21 day tour the guide was going over the itinerary and when he started to talk about Paris he asked if anyone was not looking forward to Paris. Then he said...I will make you love Paris! Once our tour got to Paris, he did the Metro orientation and as we headed off to our first stop I thought I can do this. In spite of the fact that in the Metro on the way home one of our tour members found a strange hand in his pocket (he did have on his money belt and did not have valuables in his pockets!) I started enjoying myself. I wound up having a terrific time! I did quite a bit on my own until I met up with my friend and then we had a great time together.

In looking back, I realize as with many things the anticipation was far worse than the event. I've changed since those visits of the 70's and Paris has changed. I found the people welcoming, transit easy to do for a person who is not comfortable in a big city and of course the sights amazing.

In your situation, I would go to Paris so it will give you some time to settle in. I know many scoff at Rick's recommended Rue Cler, but I loved it and felt very comfortable walking around there solo. Does your tour start in Paris? If so, then I would highly recommend staying in the tour hotel even if it is not in the Rue Cler area.

With your friend, I would make sure she is wearing a money belt and make sure her purse is a cross-body type, with the strap short enough that the purse is up in front of her. Budget in $/€ for a taxi from the airport as that will decrease your anxiety.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
6626 posts

Fanny packs not only look ludicrous but they are invitations for theft. Backpacks are a pickpockets dream -- great for water bottles and books and sweaters -- not for wallets. (know two people who lost wallets from backpacks the same day in the FLorence market near San Lorenzo -- they were not together at the time) While violent crime is very rare, there is a European culture that are very expert at this and have flowed into major European tourist destinations under the EU. They can have a wallet from a pocket or backpack in seconds without you noticing.

It is easy to be pickpocket proof. I wear clothing with hidden inner pockets -- Scottevest.com has lots of these. In cool weather I wear their women's trench with hidden pockets. Even a travel shirt like the ones Steves wears in his shows, usually have hidden zip pockets behind the breast pockets that will work for being out and about where you need one credit card and a few bills and nothing more. A money belt under the clothes is useful in transit but once there use the hotel safe if you have one.

And note that carrying a wallet in a front pocket is an invitation to pickpockets -- I know several people who lost them this way -- these people are good -- wallets in pockets should just not be considered if you want to avoid losing them.

Posted by
4637 posts

JG, very well said.
Tony, don't speak German there. They still had some bad memories despite it happened so long ago.

Posted by
16883 posts

There is no more issue in Paris than any other big city you're familiar with. Crowded areas have the greatest risk for both pickpockets and commotion. Plan for pickpockets using the tips at http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/theft-scams. If your money is well safeguarded, you can spend much less time worrying.

You may want to avoid some crowded situations altogether. For instance, it's not unreasonable for two people to take a taxi instead of the metro. Many taxi rides within the city center will cost less than €10. If you need a breather, park benches are pretty easy to find in Paris - just look at all that green space on the map. A café may have tables close together, but your table is yours for as long as you want it, and no one should rush you.

As I told myself when approaching London for the first time (8 million people!), you only have to walk down one street at a time. As in Venice, if a main street is crowded, there's always a less-crowded option a block or two away.

Posted by
11450 posts

Tony I don't find Paris intimidating.. but then I have been before,, many times. What may intimidate some is that yes.. not everyone speaks English( and this bothers some people more then others) and yes, it is a big city. Now.. you are from a big American city.. one that would make me personally nervous.. so at least I don't think we have to worry about you being unused to large cities.
There are pickpockets, but also remember.. there is far far less chance of you being mugged by force in Paris then in any large American or Canadain city.. good pickpockets operate by stealth.. you won't know its gone till its gone.. so while upsetting.. if you keep only spending money for the day within reach it won't devastate your holiday., and just use moneybelt for deep storage. Also remember, millions of tourists do go to Paris and DO NOT get pickpocketed.. so its not like it happens to everyone!

Lastly , I have visited alone,, and alone with a child.. and as for basic safety its safe enough that when I got desperately ill and could not leave hotel room I sent my then 11 yr old out to get herself a sandwich at a nearby bakery. I wasn't thrilled ( she was only 11, it is a much bigger city then where I live, and she spoke no French) but it was like 3 in the afternoon and she was starving! She had no problem. When I took my then 13 yr old son I let him out regularily to get his mcdonalds fix.. it was just down the street and he had no issues.. so its not like Paris is a scary big city..
I don't know if I am helping or just muddling it for you.. but really.. you have already shown some common sense ( using a moneybelt) so I think you will be fine.

One note.. with a 70 yr old lady.. I would learn and take buses instead of metro.. the metro stations can have very long walks in them, and lots of stairs( and yes, some have escaltors, but in my experience its not unusual to see them out of order) .. my own relatives who live in Paris now rely on buses and taxis after 70-80 years of taking metro.. its not a safety issue.. its an ease of mobility issue at their ages.

Posted by
2081 posts

@ tony,

....Being from Tn, I hope they can understand Southern French. Not sure they would understand Ya'll and Howdy!

You dont know until you try.

I would find it interesting to observe when you do that too.

Just a comment about languages and such.

i worked with a chinese girl from Australia. She had an Australian accent and spoke Chinese. When she went to Hong Kong everyone she spoke to was trying to figure out where she learned her unique accent.

i know of a relative? that is korean and has a texas accent and also speaks korean.

so, youre not alone when it comes to accents.

good luck and have fun in Paris.

Posted by
2939 posts

janettravels44 posted in her first post:

"Paris is far far far safer than any American city including Nashville. When I lived in Nashville a 16 year old girl was gunned down at an ATM two blocks from Vanderbilt the first time she tried to withdraw money -- for 20$. Muggings and rapes are fairly common in Nashville as are armed robberies. Such things are almost unheard of in Paris."

Unfortunately, everything she said is true. If you visit Nashville, stay away from the ATMs after dark unless you are surrounded by a group of friends or are in a well-lit not very secluded place with lots of people around. Beware going to a bar and then walking to your car late at night alone in downtown Nashville. Use the same precautions you would in New York City (lived there for several years).

Now, back to Tony's Paris questions. Full disclosure: I have never been to Paris, so I won't comment on that. On the subject of learning to speak some French; I think you would be on the right track to learn some conversational French before you go to Paris. I have found the Rosetta CDs to be useful to learn some basic German and French.
A Rick Steves phrasebook may be useful to you.

Posted by
10344 posts

At least Nashville has the Parthenon.

Posted by
2081 posts

with regards to Paris being "smelly dump" i wouldnt say that.

I will say that when i was there in 2012 i found that you have to watch your step on the sidewalks since there are places where locals? will let their dogs use the sidewalks as their bathrooms and its not picked up. Also i did get a strong whiff of it on one of the RER entrances too.

just something i found unique to Paris, so far.

Happy trails

Posted by
3580 posts

To feel safe confine your activities to daytime, wear money belts, be aware of your surroundings, take taxis instead of public transit, don't park your purse anywhere but on your body, find a hotel in a central location, etc. I find Paris no more or less hazardous that American cities I've been in. If you stay in the tourist (central) areas, you will find that most shopkeepers speak fluent English. When taking taxis have your destination written down and show that to the driver so mistakes can be avoided. Read about scams here on this page. Paris has a couple that are unique to Paris.

Posted by
12895 posts

"smelly dump" is an exaggeration. Certainly not a "dump." If it is, then I am glad that a "dump" is not deterring tons and tons of tourists from visiting the city year after year. Whatever the negative description of Paris is (if one falls for that), it is not enough to end my repeated visits of the place, which is on the agenda again in this coming May. "Smelly" is a description where admittedly I have encountered a few times in Paris, so few that I hardly recall them but that could be a case of discrimination too. But if one wants to run into that description, come to SF, where many more places can be seen for that purpose.

I stayed away from Paris too on my first big trip as a solo to Europe. But two years later I went to Paris directly from SFO for the first time.

Posted by
3696 posts

I think any place can be intimidating, depending on what you have heard and what you believe. If you focus on the scare stories you would never travel anywhere, as there is always someone who had a bad experience somewhere. I bought into the crap that all the French hated Americans a number of years ago, but had to see for myself that nothing could be further from the truth.... I then decided that I would make my own decisions on what a place was like, and really try to ignore people's negative opinions. For every negative story you can find hundreds that are positive... I have now been a number of times and each time I find more that I love about the city (and I typically prefer smaller towns) You will love it and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Posted by
11450 posts

Swan.. which cons are unique to Paris.. just wondering.. since that has not been my experience.. I have seen the same stuff go on in several cities in Europe.

Posted by
12895 posts

"I bought into that crap...." By the early 1970s with Vietnam going on, etc, I must say so did I. Hearing that the "French hated Americans" (quite often back then), I was not going to be stopped from going to Paris. It just fueled my desire to see Paris since it was only Paris on my first visit to France in '73.

Posted by
18 posts

Like all the others have said - I would definitely wear your money belt. And if your budget allows I would take taxis instead of the Metro. I've travelled in Paris when I was a teenager, college student, young adult, and in my 30's and if it's the wrong time in the Metro (rush hour, etc.), I think THAT is intimidating for anyone.

Other than that, I think you will be fine.

Posted by
5697 posts

Tony, does the petite 70-year old intimidate easily? We can be pretty tough old gals. Recently I had Metro seats offered to me .... age has its benefits!
If the two of you have travelled or lived in big cities you should be fine with your valuables in a money belt UNDER your clothes and a positive attitude.

Posted by
13511 posts

Paris is neither a "smelly dump" nor unsafe or intimidating. Yes, it has its share of aggressive panhandlers but so do many other cities in the world, and they're easily deflected. Yes, there are pickpockets but so do most other tourist destinations in the world. Take the proper precautions you should in ANY of those places and you'll be fine.

My apologies to fans of those but I would NEVER wear a fannypack, and backpacks are not necessarily much better from a security standpoint. In either case, I'd never put anything in them that I couldn't afford to have lifted. The short of the matter is that we sightsee only with the amount of cash and cards we need for the day, and everything else stays in the hotel safe. We don't use moneybelts but do employ other methods of stowing the cash/cards safely beneath our clothing and away from light fingers. We also own a Pacsafe bag which is slash-proof and has locking zippers.

While we learned some manner words/phrases in French, we had no problems at all with English. Most of the time our greetings in French were replied to in English anyway as it was probably clear we weren't locals!

We never took taxis: walking and the metros served us just fine but those are personal preferences.

Anyway, Paris is a terrific city with oodles of fabulous history, art, architecture and culture, and we can't wait to go back!

Posted by
206 posts

Laura B, the 70's lady that I will travel with can hold her own with anyone. She is very good with people and everyone that meets her, really like her. She is about 5ft tall and about 105#, which I though might tend to be an easier target for someone. I won't leave her side in walking or riding the various means of transportation, and think everything will be fine. From all the post I have gotten on this question, I can tell others have had problems in Paris, and some also may have been intimidated at some time or another in Paris. I do live in a dangerous city now, but know what to avoid. Never had a problem in Nashville at all. To me, Paris is like New York City. A great city, but areas you must stay away from. I'm also pretty sure Paris is not near as dangerous as New York. I just bought Rick's Paris 2015 this weekend and will spend lots of time with it. Also just one other question, does anyone know in what area of Paris Rick's BOE 14 day tour usually starts from? That would give me a good idea also of what area to research on the most. Happy New Year to all. Yesterday started a whole new year of travel for everyone.

Posted by
1760 posts

Hi Tony, I haven't been on that particular RS tour but the itinerary indicates that you will be in Paris for 2 days and will visit the Louvre and Notre Dame. You will also have some free time to explore on your own. There is much to see so I'd suggest that you look at the "Paris at a Glance" page in your guidebook to see what must see sites you want to do. You could take a taxi or the metro to see the Eiffel Tower, walk through Rue Cler and over to Napoleon's Tomb. Or stroll along the Seine and past the bouquinistes (book sellers) stalls. Get an ice cream cone. Or walk over to the Luxembourg Gardens, relax with a cup of coffee and do some people watching. You won't have too much time so you should probably focus on one or two things. Paris is a beautiful, special place and I hope you will enjoy your stay.

Posted by
11450 posts

Tony RS uses many different hotels in Paris for tours.. I was on exact same tour as a friend , but at different times and we were in two different areas ( neither of them were Rue Cler or the 7th either.. for all of those who think RS only uses or recommends hotels in that ho hum area)..

I would contact the tour department.. they can tell you which hotel you will start from, although at this point I may not be decided yet. They will however let you know if they have it decided and you can contact hotel and prebook to stay there,, it is easier then having to switch hotels to start the tour.

Posted by
13511 posts

I'm also pretty sure Paris is not near as dangerous as New York.

I've walked all over Manhattan by myself without feeling unsafe. And I'm about the same size as the lady you'll be traveling with, and only 10 years younger. I wouldn't have any qualms about exploring Paris by myself either.

Posted by
117 posts

Hi Tony, my wife and I were in Paris for three days in November. It was part of a first time "dream vacation" to Europe for us, and, it was the highlight of the whole trip. For us, Paris seemed very safe. We were out early and late, walked everywhere we could, encountered several of the so-called scams (they are easy to spot with a little education), and traveled on the supposedly scary RER B rail line to Chatellet Les Halles from CDG, without any incidents.

Learn a few basic phrases, such as hello, wear your money belt, and use the buses instead of the metro (for convenience, sightseeing while you ride and less stairs, not for safety), and all will be fine.

A side tip, we stayed in a B&B owned by a retired French couple. The cultural experience was invaluable, along with the epically(sp) awesome breakfasts.

Posted by
206 posts

Rick, what part of town was the B&B in and give me a few details about it as I will be looking a hotel or B&B later.

Posted by
11450 posts

Tony,, most central areas are 4th 5th and 6th. Walk to many sites from and within those areas . Many other areas are fine.. but not perhaps as central for such a short visit.

B@Bs are not really a thing in Paris.. and any hotel that includes breakfast does so for a fee.. or its built into a more expensive fee.. suggest you just walk out the hotel door in the morning and go for breakfast ast nearest café.. which if you stay in most areas , means likely on same block your hotel is on.. there are thousands of them everywhere! Breakfasts offered at hotels are over priced.. often include only cold items.. with perhaps a boiled egg for a extra charge.

When booking hotels do check they have an elevator.. not all hotels do.. so make sure it is mentioned .

Posted by
755 posts

Please note that I have removed a term that some found offensive. I have also removed the posts referring to this. Please note that the term, which we can all agree is not typically used in present-day speech, does seem to have different connotations in the UK than in the US in the present day. I even found a UK company that proudly has this term in their company name. Companies like that don't exist when there are severe negative connotations in the local culture. As we are all travelers, I think we can understand that there can be differences in meaning with various terms across borders (a "fag" is a cigarette, "death to America" stems from using "death to..." to express exasperation with something in the same way we might say "damn those teenagers" ...no one actually means that they want death or eternal damnation, etc). This also isn't the first term in the English language (or any language), nor the last, to have a meaning that changed from being particularly negative to being innocuous over time.

Further comments about this term will be considered off-topic and will be removed. For those of you that found it to be offensive, this is a reminder that the offense you perceived is not an excuse for you to reply on the boards and berate someone. This is a violation of our guidelines. Use the Report button please.

Thanks to everyone for your understanding and for considering this matter closed.

Posted by
29 posts

Spent 8 days in Paris this past October. Moved all over and I mean all over. Never felt unsafe until after day 6 when a Romanian group of kids (we all know who they are) swarmed us in mid day and tried to pull my back pack off my back and grab my wifes purse. Of course they were not successful because a shoving match occurred and others came to our assistance pulling them away but it made us more paranoid after this. It was not in an alley or a dark place we should not have been but in the middle of the day in an extremely busy area around many people. Go figure. This could happen anywhere but has not happened to us in any US city when we did cut through areas we should have questioned. Of course, we did not have a backpack on and we were dressed like everyone else in the US. Paris is truly an amazing city and experience. We did find the parisians to be a very complex people. Do not let my story or others stop you from enjoying this amazing place. Just be careful (not paranoid) everywhere you go.

Posted by
29 posts

Never forget. To travel is to learn. Touch different cultures. See new wonders of the world and step outside your comfort zone. You are as safe as you are.

Posted by
12895 posts

"we all know who they are"....Quite true when you are in Paris. I don't carry a day back pack, not necessarily for lessening the chances of getting jumped in the street by Romanian punks-wanna be, but I can easily travel without one in the summer. Good that Parisians intervened on your behalf. They know who the culprits are.

Posted by
11450 posts

rick,,no.. b@bs are not popular in Paris.. they are not a thing.. .that does not mean there are none however.. the agency you linked to is one of the few I have heard of .. and some of the units are not cheap!!

Glad you liked them.. but no.. they are not common in Paris.

Posted by
117 posts

Pat, B&Bs are most definitely "a thing" if you know where to look, and are interested of course.

Maybe not for you Pat, but they are for me. And based on my experience, along with Rick's tips in some of his videos, they should be a serious consideration for anyone looking for a cozy, homey, "almost authentic" experience in Paris.

As to the cost, with everything, hotels included, it can vary. Our B&B was a much better value than any of the budget hotels we contacted. The posted rates do change with the seasons, and aren't necessarily what one will pay. We got a deal. And in my opinion, Tony's needs as he described them, would be met quite well given a similar setting to what we experienced.

Simply dismissing a very legitimate option, and an affordable one at that, is not helpful for someone looking for advice.

Posted by
11450 posts

Not dismissing , said glad you enjoyed your experience, but they are not common in Paris and that is a fact. Simple.
As for pricing that is subjective. Some people think spending 200 euros a night is cheap , others think 75 ..

I have lived with relatives in Paris, stayed summers, many times, been there hundreds if days, I have lived " authentic " ( as in taking out the garbage and picking up bread for dinner ) and I find it interesting that someone thinks a week in a rental apart!sent or b nd b makes them an expert on what is common or not in a place.

Posted by
117 posts

I defer to the words of advice, in print and on video, given by the owner of this website. And, I will continue to refer to him over any and all single-minded, self-important individuals, regardless of how many nights they've spent in Paris or anywhere else. ;)

Posted by
120 posts

Back to the original question of paris being intimidating. I have traveled there twice alone (60+) and have never
felt afraid or intimidated, even walking alone at night. Any new city must be studied ahead of time so you know where
you want to go and don't look "lost" walking down the street. I used the "google map man" before I went to Paris the
first time and "walked" him around many of the places I would be going. That way, much of it looked familiar to me
when I got there.

I always use a money belt. Purses (always worn across the body) are best left for a small amount of handy cash and an umbrella and a banana.
Credit cards, more cash, and passport all stay in the money belt. That way, should the worst happen (and I have never seen
it) not much is lost.

As with any big city when traveling with another person, plan ahead. Should one person get on the metro and the other not
make it on in time, know that the first person will get off at the very next stop and you will meet there.

Read notices about some of the most popular pickpocket tricks and keep your eyes open. One of the common ones is someone walking toward you and pretending to drop a ring and wanting to ask if it is yours. I would see them coming and start shaking my head no and they would look frustrated and keep walking.

You might find it interesting to read the site tomsguidetoparis.
It was very helpful to me.

Posted by
11450 posts

Your loss Rick,
Even with hundreds of days under my belt I still learn things from posters on this site and others. I would never cut my nose off to spite my face.

Rick Steves himself would likely tell you the same thing.

Ps I have met him, and taken one of his tours.. awesome.. but I am no dummy.. the more you are willing to learn, the more you will know.

Posted by
206 posts

Since my post starting this topic, I have decided to fly into Paris 3 days before the tour and enjoy the sites of Paris. Will take a taxi from CDC rather than the metro. Will stay in the 4th, 5th, or 6th. Have gotten many ideas on how to spend the two days before the tour, what to see and what to avoid. Will learn the necessary French greetings, and phrases to get by with. Now that the trip is in planning, obsession is taking over again. Love the planning, and my folder is already getting full. I even gave the lady, that will be going along, her own folder with lots of the info I have accumulated, so she will be always aware of what is going on with the trip. She wants me to do most of the planning, but I hope she gets as interested in planning as I do.
Tomorrow morning is the first Nashville travel club meeting. Rebecca and I are starting that up. Wish us luck. We may only have 3 or 4 attending, but we have to start somewhere.

Posted by
9717 posts

Good luck on your travel meet-up! We have a core of 5-8 with others coming when they are in trip planning mode or, in our instance in better weather months. (Really, who wants to drive 2 hours in freezing fog/snow/ice, etc??) One thing I suggest as well is to just notice people who post on the forum from your area, then send them a private message with an invitation to come to a meet-up.

Posted by
7 posts

Back in February 2000, we traveled to France, and we had a great time at the cities outside of Paris. But Paris was a different story when I had to deal with a train station employee. I was trying to fix a problem with my train tickets, and I did my best to communicate the problem in French. When I couldn't think of a certain word in French, I said it in English. He screamed at me in French: "No English!! You come back tomorrow and go upstairs!!" I was in tears after he screamed at me. An Englishman walked by and asked what had happened, and I explained it to him, he said facetiously, "Welcome to France." Another friend of mine who went to France said she also had problems with employees at that same train station. (It's the one that takes passengers to Lyon).

Posted by
117 posts

Pat, I interpreted your initial comments re: B&B's, and then your subsequent comments on my lack of experience to be dismissive. If I am mistaken, then apologies.

All I can do is work from my meager experience (in comparison with most of y'all in here) and make suggestions based on what turned out to be one of the best parts of our well planned trip -- with the credit for that planning going entirely to the resources from Rick Steves, and yes, from some helpful suggestions gained from reading this forum. I take no credit, I was following directions.

"Then what do you need this website for ?"

Steven, I have a major aversion to narrowmindedness. Unfortunately, I think I displayed some of that very thing myself. When I see someone looking for advice and I suggest a B&B, only to have a more experienced traveler suggest that B&Bs aren't "a thing," when our experience suggests they are "a thing for those interested in that type of accommodation" (please understand), I wonder what's behind that reasoning.

Our experiences do vary and I do value the shared experiences of the folks in here. Otherwise, I wouldn't hang out in this forum, and wouldn't have been reading the comments in here since we started planning our November trip last summer.

My wish for travelers such as Tony is that their experience far exceeds mine. And for us, the stay in the B&B was a highlight. I chose to defend that highlight, needlessly or otherwise.

Again, apologies to you Pat, to Tony, and sorry to any and all for the drama on my part. I will move on.....

Posted by
11450 posts

What I meant ( and thought I clarified in subsequent posts) is that in Paris.. B@Bs are not a popular/numerous TYPE of accomadation provided.
Not that they do not exist.
Not that they can't be good, but that because the locals do not generally have the space or inclination to entertain in their homes( most apartments in Paris proper are very small compared to what we North Americans have ) so there are FEWER B@Bs then in many places, and often they are pricey.. However I am aware that some people do couch surfing and use AirNub and those do have you sharing actual residence with locals.. however those are not what most of us consider a traditional B@Bs although they can be inexpensive and in some cases free( ie Couchsurfing)

Posted by
3460 posts

Rick , that was very gentlemanly and appreciated . Best wishes in the future .

Posted by
12895 posts

Are certain cities (capitals) in Europe assumed to be intimidating for the first time visitor? Paris is now a lot more tourist-friendly in terms signs pointing the way, explanations/signs in English, German, and French for Metro ticket machines, the frequency of such signs, picto-grams, use of international symbols, multilingual menus, specific ticket counters at trains stations indicating "English spoken" (even though that's unnecessary since all SNCF personnel behind the ticket counter speak English anyway.), staff at the reception speaking English at small hotels, instructions in English at ATMs, pay phones, etc. Some of these came with technology. Most simply didn't exist., such as ATM instructions were only in French as were SNCF and Metro ticket machines, etc.

Traveling in past in Paris, say in '70s and '80s was much more of a challenge if you couldn't read the language. In contrast to the (West) Germans then, the French used international symbols much less. That was the feeling I got. You had the feeling (as a tourist) that it was expected of you to communicate in French, regardless if you could or not, and back then I couldn't.

Posted by
206 posts

Rick M. I appreciate your input on the B&B's. I have stayed in several in the US and only had wonderful experience with all of them. Only one I stayed in in Europe was in Bayeux. Although it was nice, the only time I ever saw anyone was when I checked in. I left in the mornings for tours before they ever served breakfast so I really got no benefit from it at all. Have seen some great post on B&B's so would not hesitate to stay in one again but don't think that is what I want in Paris, Probably will use them again but look for them more in small towns rather than the cities. Thanks for your post.

Posted by
41 posts

In my experience Paris is not so much intimidating as different. We, my wife and I and whatever young lady in our family as a graduation gift, have been to Paris five times, never had a problem, and love it. Here are my suggestions: the more French you can use the better, and rather than a book or cd. I'd try to take a couple of speaking lessons with a native speaker. I can speak French fairly well, having served with the French army on several occasions, but my wife does not, and we contacted one of our local colleges to see if perhaps a French student might be eilling to help for a few bucks. Bingo...worked liked a charm and she now feels comfirtable dealing in Paris. Second thing: un-ericanize yourself! Ditch the back and butt packs, the ubiqultous water bottles, the white socks, and the horrible baseball caps! Dress like the French, which means generally black/dark blue, some sort of sweater, always a scarf (men and women), and almost never a hat. Try to keep your voices down when in a cafe etc...Americans (and Germans) always sound like we're bellowing in oublic while the French are usually quite subdued conversationally. Always always initiate any meeting with "bonjour", always ask questions...the famously (and erroneously) nasty cafe waiters are always flattered to be asked their opinion on, say, which cheese goes best with which wine, etc. They are the experts and are usually flattered when a visitor recognizes this. Now throw out a warm "merci", and you've done well. Now many travelers like to visit many different cafes, testaurants, etc, but I loke to settle on 1 or 2 that I really like and visit them daily, if only for a coffrd. You will thus become a known "regular" and will be recognized and you will feel like you belong. This is exactly what most Parisianz do!
Have a pleasant trip and I hope thus is of help.

Posted by
41 posts

Oh, and to the above I would add...try, really try, to travel in the off-seasons. We have enjoyed early Spring...April or early May, and late Fall, early Winter. We enjoyed our November visit. This way you will avoid the overwhelming tourist crowds of Summer...families with kids, phalanxes of Asians armed with cameras, and the "one-day in Paris" groups. You will be able to see everything at a far more relaxed pace, the cafes will all be open, and most of the people you see will be French!

Posted by
10344 posts

IMHO it's a good question, and yes, Paris can be a bit intimidating. It's one of the few big cities left in Europe where you probably don't want to try and bulldoze your way through in English.
Yes, these days you can get away with that, even in Paris, but peoples' reactions to you will be better if you make an effort with the politeness phrases. I find it fun to see a Parisian smile (even the tourist industry workers), even if for just for a second. You can see they appreciate politeness phrases from anglais speakers.

Posted by
206 posts

I will try to have to necessary greetings and as many other words or phrases as possible down , as I still have a good while before I go. Don't believe it would be feasible to take a language course for 3 or 4 days in Paris. I will have a phrase book and maybe even a translator, but that will be the best I can do. Being from Nashville I already have the "Bonjour You All " down pat. Just kidding, and appreciate all the comments. Have been really studying Rick's book on Paris and read all the posted comments on Paris. Looks like I will be there only two days on my own and then 2 days on BOE14. So far, I have a list of 12 places I want to eat and 9 places I want to visit that the tour does not go to. So, based on the two extra days I have, I have to eat 6 meals a day and visit 5 sites a day. If I don't sleep I will eat every 4 hours. Think I better cut my list in half or extend my trip.

Posted by
10344 posts

Tony,
Rick's French Phrase Book & Dictionary is all you need. One illusive quick Parisian smile from a waiter or other service provider--in response to your use of one of the "politeness phrases"--is all you need to make the book worth several times the book price of $12.99!

Posted by
5 posts

My wife and I are celebrating our 75th birthdays with a three week trip to France. This includes 10 days in Paris. We are staying in a hotel near the Sorbonne and will purchase. The Paris museum pass and. The Metro pass. Pariahs is a city designed for walking - Iguess that helps keep them all so slim! We spent 2 weeks in Paris 10 years ago and never felt threatened or intimidated. The French are more formal than Americans, so it helps to add a little reserve to your actions. The most useful French sentence I recalled from my university days was " I do not speak French well - do you speak English? Of course, the first half of that sentence was painfully obvious, but it elicited friendly responses, even from waiters who said they did not speak English.

Go,, open your mind, eyes, and heart. You will never regret the visit.

Posted by
796 posts

No, it is not at all intimidating. We've lived in Paris and spend a lot of time there every year. We have taken our parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents and they all loved it. We also travel with children. There are murders, rapes, robberies as well as pickpockets in Paris and guess what-the same are in London,Rome and other cities in the UK, EU and the USA. It can happen in any city or even small town or rural areas. Paris is wonderful. Don't miss out on it!! You can get mugged or robbed in Brussels or Frankfort too. We've been going to Paris for decades and even lived there and have never been robbed or harmed and we use the public transportation there and we use the European trains with no problems. I am fluent in French but others we have taken are not.

Posted by
51 posts

PARIS is not intimidating but the METRO can be. I think as long as you walk, and stay close to the sights you are interested in you will love it. It is fairly compact (the core) and actually easy to tour most major sights if you stay in the Latin Quarter, by foot. I've stayed in Rick's favorite neighborhood and it is a little bit more off the beaten path, except for the Eiffel tower. So maybe just plan your sightseeing well, and spring for some taxis if necessary. I've traveled on many subways and although the Paris ones are well marked and convenient, they are absolutely jammed packed!! Often times you can almost feel crowd crushed, so I think a 70 women might be uncomfortable if she is not used to that type of thing. Besides that, I think you will have a wonderful time. You are obviously doing your homework and If you have a touring plan you will be great. I don't speak French beyond the basics, and I have been to Paris numerous times alone with my teenage daughter- no problems.

Posted by
2 posts

One can google scams or pickpocketing in Paris. It can happen, or attempts can happen. But a strong word "NON", whistle, spinning around (so they can't get in) and/or yelling "police" will stop it. Then you are safe.

Again: Paris is safe. If you can't visit Paris, one of the most wonderful and welcoming cities, then you might as well shut it down or look for directions to Mayberry RFD. Truly an ounce of prevention and you are good to go!!! Enjoy! I'm so glad that she gets to see Paris! So many vistas, so many famous things seen in pictures and history books. Your real choices are what kind of art, food/restos, vistas, walks, history (shopping??) to focus on. GO!!! Have a great time! If you have restos you are set on, some may need to be booked well before you leave. Same for tix to the Eiffel Tower. (to avoid insane waits). etc. You decide what's important. A few precautions and safety will take care of itself. Google away.

Posted by
12895 posts

@ Tony...Use French, English, German which ever works and is the easiest for you at the moment. I used German at Paris-Orly where i landed from SFO in 1973 as a 23 year old backpacker, since I saw the French and English being used by my girl friend and the airport bus driver, a gray haired guy, definitely of the war generation, were getting us no where because of severe linguistic limitations on both sides. Finally I asked him in French if he spoke German. He did. Problem solved.

Posted by
10344 posts

In my opinion, the Metro is what makes it relatively easy to get around the city.
But you have to know how the Metro works (the name of the final stop in each direction is the key) and then watch carefully when you're in the Metro stations for the signs that lead you to the correct platform.

Posted by
4473 posts

Don't miss the opportunity to enjoy this outstanding city! And your companion would probably enjoy the time to savor the wonderful breakfasts at an outdoor cafe and some time in the Luxembourg or Tuileries Gardens.

Posted by
8 posts

Tony,
Your question elicited many knowledgeable and useful comments, and I only add my voice of "go and enjoy" to the many who have already written.

My husband and I first traveled to Paris in 1998 and stayed for a week (arranged on our own) before a 5-week stay in different regions of France. I remembered my fears when our son left the year prior to study in Paris -- worried for his safety and being in this big city with little/no language other than Latin basics and German. During the year he did very well and quickly learned French to get along fine.

We returned in 2006 to stay for 10 days in an apartment adjacent to Les Invalides. We were accompanied by a friend, our son and his wife and their 3-year-old son. We walked every day in the area, used the Metro and once again loved the ease of getting around in the city. One commenter noted the public bus system, and I recommend it. It is less crowded and often more efficient re steps, tunnels, etc. On the other hand, Paris subway tunnels are fascinating studies from encountering small musical groups performing to artists and students sharing their talents.

A 70-year-old is often be more fit than many who are decades younger, and age is not a barrier in Paris. Use common sense, go with an open mind as you obviously have in your other travels, and let the city woo you. Paris is truly a classy dame.

Posted by
7124 posts

If you are intimidated by the thought of mankind dreaming of beauty then yes Paris may be just that. If not, then just wrap yourself in it.

Posted by
206 posts

Thanks for the great thoughts and comments regarding Paris. I have been studying Rick's book on Paris, plus all the other info I have been given. I don't think I really feel intimidated by Paris, but wanted all the info I need before going. Picking the right area to stay, seeing important sights, finding great places to eat and visit all make a trip either great, ok, or not so great. With the correct info, it just helps to make a rather expensive trip worth every dollar spent. I'm sure we have all been places where we could have invested more time to be prepared to have had a better experience. One or two bad events or memories can make the trip seem not worth the time or money spent. We all see posts on the site from people that have had bad events. However, many of them forget that event and go on and have a wonderful time. By getting help from posters on this site, I plan to be as well prepared as possible. I think I have given others great info on Germany, Austria and a few other places. Thanks to all of you for great info on Paris.

Tony

Posted by
10344 posts

Tony,
Paris is, arguably, less intimidating than it was in the old days.
However, since you brought up the language issue--in my opinion, Paris is still one of the few remaining places in Europe where not making an effort to open up a conversation in French may get you a frosty response.
Rick sells a French phrasebook for $12.99 that, IMO, is well worth it for the politeness phrases and other language advice it contains. He recommends making an effort to open up an interaction in French, even a "tourist service industry" conversation (ordering food, taxi, etc).

A little effort language-wise will get you a lot in Paris. Makes Paris even more fun.

Posted by
12895 posts

"...less intimidating than it was in the old days." Very true. My view exactly, esp if you were there in 1970s and '80s.

Posted by
1666 posts

If you can stay rational it is overwhelming and chaotic, but not intimidating and a very pleasant place just being there.

Posted by
206 posts

I know several of you had posted regarding my comments about my travel partner's ability to do a tour like the BOE14. Well, she decided on her own that she would not be able to keep up and do the tour. Looks like her health is sort of going down somewhat. so this is the best decision for her at this time. Imagine I will travel single unless I can find someone else interested in the tour. There will be from 20 to 27 others on the tour next year and I always meet great people on the tours. I am spending lots of time researching Paris and enjoying that.

Posted by
57 posts

Tony, When I was in Paris, I found the Tourist Information Center helpful in finding me many walking tours both free and not.
If you speak some French and want to improve what you do know...the tours given by the Departement des Monuments Historiques, which are free, and are led by university graduate volunteers are excellent... the TI has the information.

Posted by
11450 posts

Tony pls be!ieve me. You can do this.