Paris for three weeks

I'm planning a trip to Paris for three weeks in late May, early June. I am female in my early twenties and traveling by myself because I am tired of waiting for other people to have the money/time to go with me. Any recommendations on safe travel? I do know the basics, but anything specifically on France or Paris would be really useful. Also, I was looking into staying at a hostel, but some have limits on how long you can stay. Any information on longer stay hostels? This is my first time in Paris and I want to stay pretty cheap which is why I like the hostels. Thanks for the help!

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3409 posts

Re hostels: Well, you don't have to stay at the same hostel, do you? Why not book 3 or 4 different hostels in different parts of Paris. You can get familiar then with various neighbourhoods and truly get to know the city.

Posted by Emily
Chicago
256 posts

Good for you Sage! Hostel traveling gives you the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and make some great memories. I'm a young(ish) woman who travels frequently by myself and have found very, very few instances where I didn't feel safe in Paris. Only once did a monsieur deem it acceptable to attempt a conversation late at night and try to follow me. I walked into the nearest open cafe and that was that, just like I would have done here at home. A better piece of advice would be to protect your valuables, as Paris has many people who'd like nothing better than to lift that wallet you keep in the front pocket of your purse you hang on your arm. Just use some common sense-no splaying maps open out on the street while your purse is next to you, no leaving your valuables out of your sight, blah blah. I'm sure you've been taught all the basic safety tidbits since you were young. Some people use money belts, but I can't stand them. I use my normal purse which never leaves my body.
Have a great time and feel free to PM me with any other questions!

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
674 posts

Just to say bravo to you for doing it! I can't speak to safety from personal experience but all I've heard is that normal big-city precautions work as well in Paris as elsewhere. Violent crime is much more of a problem here than in Europe. But the Europeans have it all over us when it comes to pickpocketing. My wife's vigilance saved my shoulder bag (not, of course, a "purse" ;) !) when I had it on a cafe table as a couple of sharp-eyed youths approached. Her vigilance also saved her when a group of girls with a map asked her for directions while one of them started rifling her coat pockets. We keep our passports, credit and debit cards, and major cash in neck wallets, others swear by money belts. I've heard that pilfering can be a problem in hostels and people sleep with money belts and such. Property protection is likely to be more of an issue than personal safety, at least from the perspective of this old guy! Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Sage, good for you, I am glad you are doing the trip. I've done Paris solo and feel quite safe there, but as others have said, its more about protecting your stuff then your person. Wear a money belt and keep your passport, bulk of cash and credit cards in it, just carry one days cash around in purse. I use hotel safes, but in hostels I think its better to carry it with you rather then leaving it in the lockers. The lockers are fine for your suitcase and clothes though.
Read about the "scams",, people who approach you and may be trying to pickpocket you ( the deaf mute "petition girls" are one, simply IGNORE them and keep walking , don't even stop to see what they want) also the "ring scam" a person approaches you and says they just found a "gold" ring, they then offer it to you, after that they ask for money, its "creative begging" really but no need to engage with strangers. An 18 yr old girl from my work stayed at the St Christophers Hostel near Canal St Martin and liked it very much, and another hostel I hear about as well reviewed is the MIJE one.. I would google for reviews. Have fun, lots to do , try the Fat Tire Bike tours, the Night one and the one to Giverny were especially fun.. but they are pricey if on a tight budget but maybe worth a splurge ?

Posted by Bob
Minneapolis
589 posts

Hi Sage. Since this is your first time to Paris, and you are looking for general advice, the best advice I can give is to buy the Rick Steves Paris or France book! It will add hugely to your trip planning, enjoyment, and confidence. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by Sage
Salt Lake City
5 posts

Thanks for all the advice! Norma, I hadn't thought of it like that! I'd like to take a two day trip to the Normandy area, so I'll probably just switch hostels then. I'd definitely like to stay in the Latin Quarter and I'm looking into the area by the Eiffel Tower. I just bought two across the body type bags that zip, they should be good for travel. Again, thanks for the replies! I really am so excited :)

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

Sage, for more information about hostels, look at the Let's Go books, or http://www.hostelworld.com or http://www.hostelbookers.com. Think twice about staying in the Eiffel Tower area. It's not so close to other attractions, and the neighborhood is far from a "happening spot." You'll probably want livelier areas where people under 50 might actually go, such as the Latin Quarter, the Marais, and Republique. Of course, if you read about a particularly good hostel, regardless of the neighborhood, consider staying there. Hostels are great for meeting people, and it's easy to team up with them to go out at night (or by day) if you don't want to go alone.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
916 posts

Even for a solo traveller on a budget, renting an apartment is a good alternative to a hotel. It saves money on rent and food, plus there is a sense of settling into a neighbourhood and getting a real feel for life in the city. Some may be not that much more expensive, in the long run, than a hostel. But of course hostels are the easiest place to meet people in a non-threatening environment.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Sage I have a few decades on you agewise and I wouldn't suggest the area around the ET for a young twenties girl, its a bit more sedate and residential then I think a solo traveller would enjoy.. and I like walking back to my place at night where there is some still some street life going on, not down quiet roads. I suggest you continue to look in the 5th ( Latin Quarter) and try the 4th( Marais ) also.
I too think you can switch places half way through, I have had to once when the place I wanted to stay in did not have all the time available I wanted, it was not that big of a deal.

Posted by Sage
Salt Lake City
5 posts

How much do you know about the Montmartre area? There are many options for hostels around there, but I've been advised not to stay there because the night life is a bit sketchy. Also, I've looked at apartments but they are way above my budget. most hostels I've found are 25-40 dollars a night. If you've found cheaper ones, I'd love to know about them!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Montmartre is everything on the hill, more or less. What you hear about is Pigalle at the bottom of the south slope which isn't Montmartre. There's probably some hookers around and a bunch of sex stores with painted-over windows. There's also a bunch of kids walking around with their tourist parents at night - - and kids marching off to school during the day. Look up above the street-level stores and you'll see one of the most rapidly rising residential real estate price areas in the city. It's not very exciting. If you can find a hostel you like on the Butte, I'd grab it. I tend stay in a budget hotel just down the back slope. My wife wanders out at night to pick up stuff while I'm trying to watch the news - - I don't give it a second thought.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3209 posts

I'm not a fan of Montmartre. I'd go with Pat's suggestion to stay in the 4th (Marais) or the 5th (Lation Quarter) if you can.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Sage your budget is lower then I personally can help with, 25 dollars( which is only 18-19 euros a night) a night is under my comfort zone. I would suggest you try and bump your budget up a bit, a 19 euro bed in a dorm in a hostel in a large city, well , lets just say, may not be nice, or nice area . I think you might be happier if you could bump budget up to 30 EUROS a night. Keep in mind a very very cheap hostel may be filled with younger travellers , more of a party crowd, and likely staying in such a hostel will limit your sleep(keeping in mind you will be in 8-12 bed dorm bunk beds to begin with at that price level) An apartment may be a better idea, but I think you will still be paying 400-450 euros a week for an inexpensive one.. What realistically is your budget per night.

Posted by Sage
Salt Lake City
5 posts

Just thought I'd you on my trip planning! I took a serious look at everything I want to do, food, accommodation, and airfare and decided to change my dates a bit. I'm only staying for two weeks now, but I really wanted have a good experience so now I can spend a bit more on food and adventures. I've decided on a hostel in the Latin Quarter at about $34 a night and I can stay there the whole time I am in Paris. I'm a bit sad I won't be able to take any trips outside of Paris, but they were way out of my price range and I will just save them for another trip! I will hopefully be booking my flights and hostel this weekend! Thank you all for your help, it's always nice to hear from someone who has actually been there instead of muddling through it by myself. CAN'T WAIT! :)

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

"I'm a bit sad I won't be able to take any trips outside of Paris, but they were way out of my price range" I'm not sure where you wanted to go, but if you let us know, we may be able to help you with that as well. Inexpensive accommodations are available all over, and train tickets bought in advance, while non-exchangeable and non-refundable, are also cheap.

Posted by Dave
Stamford, CT, USA
25 posts

As far as train tickets go, make sure you buy them in the USA to get a good price, rather from a European site as with Rail Europe. That's what I've been told. Only done this a few times on my Europe travels and found to be true. Will also save without a surcharge on your credit card for using one on a European site. Some say that prices are better for Eurail Passes on the European sites, but unless it's so good...best not to do it as you'll pay for the exchange fee with your credit card. Most don't say this as you won't know until you get your credit card statement. I think there is info on buying passes and tix on RS.com about this and these fees. Check out the Eurail link on this site for more great info.

Posted by Kim
Paris
544 posts

Given what Sage has said about the parameters of her trip, I'm not sure that Dave's advice (good as it is!) applies in her situation. She seems to be considering more of a stay-in-Paris vacation, with maybe a couple of day trips. A rail pass wouldn't come into the picture in such a situation. And if her day trips are local to Versailles,etc there's no price benefit to purchasing in advance. (In fact, I'm not even sure how she would purchase in advance. Sage, you've made a savvy decision based on Pat's advice on where to base yourself. I think you'll really enjoy that neighborhood. I admire as well your decision to reduce the number of days in your trip to ensure that the money you've saved will be able to go to funding more of the experiences that are the reason for travel in the first place. If you get an idea of any day trip(s) you'd like to take, start a new thread. There are plenty of folks around who can help!!

Posted by Sylvia
Osceola
8 posts

Wear a money belt! Some people don't like them, but if you wear one as a trial for a day or two at home first, you will get used to it. Don't keep all your money in the belt, keep a little out so you don't have to dig into the money belt each time you make a minor purchase. The object is to protect your larger bills, and your passport. Keep any credit cards or ATM cards in there also. The money belt gives you tremendous freedom. In my purse I just keep small change, make up, Kleenex etc so if the purse were ever stolen it is not the end of the world. I only use ATMs that are in bank lobbies. They are all over Paris. If staying in a hostel, wear the money belt to bed, don't park it elsewhere! Don't buy Metro tickets singly, purchase a "carnet" of 10, or even cheaper get a Pass Navigo which gives you unlimited transportation for a week (Monday - Sunday). You need a small photo for the Pass so bring one with you; otherwise you have to pay a few Euros to get one taken in a phone booth. The Pass Navigo is available at major Metro stations which are staffed with a ticket office. Don't let anyone try to sell you a gold ring, don't sign any street petitions (they can be a front for pickpockets) and ignore strangers who might approach you. Just nod your head and say "no" and they will move on and not bother you. Pay attention when you make a purchase and are given change. Don't worry about the small minor coins, just the larger 1, 2 euro coins and bills. If someone tries to shortchange you, just call them on it, and they will usually make it right. This is not a major problem but happens often enough because so many Americans don't seem to bother to look at their change and become vulnerable to loss. Good luck, and bon voyage!
Sylvia