1. Get an international plan for your cell phone before you leave, don’t assume you’ll find a sim card in the airport (you won’t) or that there’s a cell provider on every corner like in the US (there isn’t). You will be so grateful for this tip.
2. Take your packed suitcase, unzip it and dump it upside down. Discard this suitcase. Buy a new one that is half the size and fill it with 1/4 of the previously packed things. 1/4? Yes. One. Fourth. You’ll need ample room for purchases.
3. Book an airbnb so you can get a real taste of Parisian life and all its glory. The hotels in Paris are generally sub par until you breach 350 euros +, so an airbnb is a great solution, as you’ll get more bang for your euro. Where to stay: St Germaine area (in the 6th) is the perfect central location and home to a number of delightful bars and restaurants. However, Paris is a breeze to navigate by foot, metro or uber, so don’t get too stuck on being ‘central’. When I go, I like to stay in the quiet, cozy and much less touristy 7th. I mean, if it’s good enough for Karl Lagerfeld to take residency, then it’s plenty fine for me. If you’re after the Beverly Hills of Paris vibe, look no further than the 8th. And If you’re not afraid of veering off the beaten path, Montmarte oozes romance with cobblestone streets and jaw dropping views of the skyline.
4. Bring a voltage converter with you. Actually, bring two.
5. If your objective is life-changing dining then do your research and make reservations ahead of time. Make the res for 9pm or later if you can get by with passable French. If the best you can spit out is bonjour in the voice of the chef from Little Mermaid, then make the earlier res so the staff has more time (patience) to spend explaining the menu to you. Lingering is expected so fret not if you take up the table real estate for a few hours. (read my Paris restaurant recommendations here!)
6. Don’t bring a fistful of euros, just use the ATM machines when you get here. You won’t be charged any crazy transaction fee and you really don’t want to be carrying around more than 200 euro cash at any given time while traveling. Nor do you need to. Everyone will gladly accept your Visa and Mastercard. It’s American Express that you might run into problems with, as their transaction fees are 7% (SEVEN) as opposed to the 3% that they take in America. Nonetheless, contact your bank and let them know your travel dates so your CC doesn’t get shut off mid shopping spree.
7. Did the beret you bought when you were 13 make it into your packing essentials? Throw it out. And please don’t ‘not bring it but decide to save it, just in case you use it for Halloween one year’. While we’re at it. Let’s toss that cross body passport holder you’ve got. Perhaps this trip, we’ll try to fit in a bit more, non? Remember. The idea is to not attract attention (read: not be robbed blind).
8. Now I know I said don’t over plan… but you should still be decently prepared. Make a priority list of things you just have to see. (check out my Paris in 4 days itinerary here!)
9. Get a French phrasebook and familiarize yourself with it. It is important to at least initiate your conversations in the language of love. Bojour, merci, pardon, parlez l’anglais, s’il voo plait, etc. Click here for a perfect travel phrase book and general ‘french customs’ courtesy of Trip Advisor.
10. Dress the part. Parisians dress impeccably well. They do not wear shorts and walking sneakers and they most definitely have never stepped outside their home in pajama pants. Do yourself and your fellow culture abiding Americans a favor and bring your nice shoes and tailored slacks to Paris. Merci!
This is it for now, but a full eating guide and itinerary are just around the blogging corner. In the meantime, you can find me taste testing all of the macarons in Paris as official research for the Traveling Fig. xx