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Older travelers

My husband and myself age 68 and 62 are taking a trip to Paris. Are there any tips for making this trip memorable and not a nightmare. My biggest fear is that as an older couple we will be targets for crime (pickpockets etc.). Also, we are trying to learn enough French to get by but my retention is less than when I was young. Will we be able to communicate?

Posted by
334 posts

I think the closer you can stay to a metro the better. Still there may be lots of walking and stairs in the metro with limited elevators and escalators. Next, break in new walking shoes, preferably black, no new white tennis shoes in Europe as you may as well have a large sign "American Tourist" on your back. Very basic French is all you need. Taxis are at Taxi stands and you usually cannot hail one like in the states. Money belt is a must and a large purse, or day bag for travel books and daily items only with a small amount of cash. I have traveled to Paris numerous times and never had a problem. Another writer suggested reading the Tourist Scam alert on the Graffiti Wall which is very good. My first pedicure was after my trip with my 70+ y/o mother which we both needed for aching feet after our return. We stayed in the 6th by the Bon March department store, more of a neighborhood than most locations.

Posted by
410 posts

What a wonderful trip to look forward to. And there are people travelling in their 80´s so I wouldn´t say you are old. We are younger, but not by much and I would just take the normal precautions in any big city.

Try not to stand out too much, although you will of course look like the tourists you are. Don´t stand around too long reading maps, don´t talk too loudly, in English. Have a secure handbag etc, don´t leave it on chairs or on the floor in restaurants or cafes. I do not use any different handbag to what I would normally and we never use money belts or similar.

We live in Spain (although are not Spanish) and have travelled quite widely in Europe. It is generally very safe. Also, the continental Europeans are generally very respectful of older people - more so than their British or Australian counterparts for example.

The French can be a bit particular about their language but always appreciate the effort so learn enough to get by but many will understand English.

Posted by
8293 posts

Linda: You are in your 60's, you are not in your dotage! Many travellers are much older than you, as you will notice on your flight to France and in the airport. You worry that you "will be targets for crime (pickpockets etc.)" Forget the "etc." There are pickpockets everywhere (attempts have been made on me in my local supermarket) but you can defend against them easily with money belts, and other methods. As for the "etc.", what did you have in mind? Violent crime? Knifing? Mugging? No. You will be safer in Paris than in almost any large American city.

Posted by
489 posts

I don't think you need to worry about crime if you use just a bit of care. Don't leave your luggage, camera, etc., unattended, for example. We always use a money belt when we travel and I often skip carrying a purse. There is a scam that is very common in Paris. Basically, someone walking toward you pretends to find a ring on the street and wants you to end up buying it; but you wouldn't fall for that here in the US so why would you agree to buy a piece of jewelry from a stranger in another country?

As far as learning the local language, I agree that it is helpful to know basic greetings and questions, and I also try to learn directions (entrance, exit, north, etc.). I don't think you'll have any real difficulty being understood in Paris even if you can't speak any French. If it makes you feel more secure, invest in a small French-English phrase book.

My husband and I usually figure out the basics of the local transit system before we start vacation. There are good descriptions of the Paris metro in most guide books, and the Rick Steves books generally tell you how to get to the popular sites. If you're concerned about getting lost, one often-repeated suggestion for tourists is to carry the address of their hotel with them, along with the name of the nearest metro stop. No matter how far you wander, in Paris you're only a subway ride away from your hotel.

Probably the biggest problem we've had in Paris is that we always end up with tired legs and feet. It is a very "walkable" city and we tend to push outselves to walk further than is comfortable for us. Wear comfy shoes and don't forget to take a rest when needed.

Parisians are very accustomed to tourists who can't speak their language and we've found them to be friendly and accommodating. Have a terrific trip!

Posted by
3329 posts

We, a couple in our 70's, just returned from a month-long house exchange in France, with our last day spent in Paris. You might try to find my post of about a week ago, relating how kind and helpful people were. However, Paris is a big city with the perils that accompany that terrain, not so much violence, but thieves, and scam artists. Read the pertinent sections of the graffiti wall on this site, and try to set your mind for a higher level of vigilance than you need in Tallmadge. As for communication, we found most people in restaurants and shops will say they speak only a little English, but we were able to communicate just fine. You can e-mail me if you have other questions.

Posted by
8392 posts

Paris is very, very safe, as Norma said. My mom traveled all around Europe into her late 70's, by herself. The one additional thing I would warn about, that happened to my mom, is when she was trying to get her suitcase up onto a train...a guy in his 20's offered to help her and ended up stealing her wallet (no money belt!) out of her purse. So be aware if someone offers to help you, although 99+% of the time, they really are just trying to be helpful. I would also add that you should travel very, very light, it will make your trip much easier for you. Enjoy!

Posted by
6898 posts

My wife and I are both older than both of you. We have never had a problem. My suggestions are: 1) keep your passports and large bills in your money belt. 2) don't get so lost in the sights that you lose sight of your surroundings and the movement of people around you. That's when you are vulnerable. Be aware of what is moving around you. Don't worry about being old.

Posted by
3580 posts

I'm in this "older travelers" demographic, too. I've been visiting Europe for over 40 years. Compared to then, I rest more, go out at night less, eat less, read more, and go to fewer museums. I am more inclined to soak up experiences rather than run around to see everything. I am learning to appreciate bus rides, park benches, conversing with strange men without fear of being picked up; and when I've tripped on curbs someone always comes to check that I'm ok. Having gray hair is a plus in Europe, more so than at home.

Posted by
31510 posts

LInda,

I'm also somewhat of an "older" traveller, and often travel solo. With adequate preparation, you should have no problems.

You might find it very helpful to pack along a copy of either the France or Paris Guidebooks, as there's an enormous amount of information on things like Museum hours, costs, lodgings, restaurants and also getting around on the Metro, etc.

Regarding the points you mentioned:

  • Pickpockets: Be sure to wear a Money Belt! Be aware of those around you and especially any "distractions" or when in crowded conditions (ie: the Metro). Try to ignore those who want you to "read a card" or try a bracelet (and of course the "ring scam"). You might want to read the "Scams" section on the Graffiti Wall.

  • Languages: Try to learn some of the more common polite words (please, thankyou, etc.). You could also bring a copy of the French Phrasebook. You'll probably find that you'll be able to manage well with English in most places, but try to speak slowly and avoid slang.

  • Other things: You might find it useful to have a look at a copy of Europe Through The Back Door as it covers other useful things like money issues, rail skills, etc.

Be sure to plan your transportation carefully. There are several methods to get to Paris from CDG. You'll have to choose the one that's most comfortable for you.

Happy travels!

Posted by
445 posts

Swan ...that message was the best and too true!!
I loved that part of sitting on park benches!!!!

Posted by
3 posts

My wife and I are a little older than you, but love Paris. Assume you may well have your pocket picked. It took me two times to get out of the habit of putting my wallet in my back pocket, and I lost it twice- both times on the subway. I wear pants that have zipped pockets, making it difficult for someone to extract my wallet without my knowing. But, I don't carry much money in it - just a few euros and i.d. Use a money belt! Also, I carry enough money to get us through the day, without having to dig out my money belt each time I pay for something, but not so much that its loss would devistating. We have felt safe walking all over Paris. USE RICK'S PARIS book, and plan your days for what you want to do in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. I print out my plans before we leave, and seldom see everything, but have conficence as to when places are open. Enjoy. Paris is a wonderful place.

Posted by
21843 posts

Careful who you call old !!! Most of the long time posters on this site are closer to your age than you may think. Big advantage -- we now have time and money. At 67 and 64 we are about to take our 12th trip. You will not stand out unless, of course, you act old and confused. I am never confused just sometimes I am not sure where I am or where I want to be. However, if you expect it to be a nightmare, it probably will be -- attitude is about 90% of the game. Most of the world speaks English and so will the French once you show them how bad your French is.

Posted by
2349 posts

Use public transportation when it's easy and convenient for you. There are a lot of stairs and walking to use the metro. All that walking is cumulative. Wouldn't you rather spend your walking time strolling along the Seine? Don't be afraid to take cabs. They are not as expensive as you fear, and may save you time and wear and tear on your bodies.

Posted by
1 posts

Just back from two weeks, total n00b in Paris, not much younger than you, saw no pickpocketing, heard about none at hotel or anywhere else (I'm friendly), am on several Paris boards - no one there has had a problem either.

Just act as you would do in any urban setting.

People really do speak English, virtually everywhere - although keep trying to speak, as with most people, they appreciate it.

Posted by
1157 posts

Two things to do before your trip. Start walking in the shoes you intend to wear in Paris, up to a mile or more, maybe even 3 miles a day. You will walk more than that in Paris. My wife and I, also in our 60's even went and climbed th stairs at the loca football field to get in shape for the metro stairs. It worked wonders!!

2--Learn some basic French phrases. Check out www.travlang.com, then click on foreign languages for travlers. There are 105 languages there with all the basics from Armenian to Zulu. Another good site that pronounces the words for you is www.bbc.uk.com/languages There are many sites that pronounce the words and you can easily memorize them. The French will love you for starting off in French, no matter how you butcher it. My KS accent had them baffled but they were SO helpful. You will have a great time. Be sure to walk a lot before you go.

oprah44

Posted by
964 posts

We spent a week in Paris back in May- I'm 60, my sweetie is 76. We had a great time, walked miles every day, used the Metro, did everything we wanted. It never occurred to us to worry about being older. In fact people were very friendly towards us- possibly one of the only benefits of having grey hair, I think.
Some excellent advice here, especially to wear shoes that are comfortable. And have a great time!

Posted by
875 posts

My husband never wanted to go to Paris because he expected everyone to be rude. We learned just the basic phrases so we could be polite, ask for the check, where is the toilette, etc. and found that once we said "Bonjour", the Parisians would usually begin speaking English in response -- but they always appreciated the effort of our attempt to speak a little French. We found the Parisians to be very polite and helpful if approached in the same way.
Just like in any large city, you must practice personal safety. I would be more concerned walking around in downtown Dallas at night than in Paris! But you just shouldn't be complacent.
Best wishes for a great trip!