So you’ve landed in Paris without a guidebook and without a clue. If you’re like me, you probably figured:
a) the guidebook was too expensive
b) too much excess weight for your backpack
c) you wouldn’t feel like reading a guidebook anyhow – you want to discover Paris for yourself
I have all sorts of guidebooks in Paris – and nine times out of ten I end up leaving the crucial restaurant guidebook at home – in the wrong handbag, etc. So here are some tips just for you – without a guidebook. You can print this up – it’s just one piece of paper that won’t weigh down your backpack.
1. Get some Euros before you go (HSBC bank if you have an account, AAA if you’re a member).
2. Have your Mastercard or Visa card four digit code handy for ATM machines at CDG airport so you don’t have to use expensive money exchange services.
3. Hop on either the RER B SNCF/RATP service from Roissypole & Terminal 2 to central Paris, or take the Air France shuttle or Roissypol bus to central Paris. These public bus and subway train services can get you to either the Right or Left Bank depending on which you choose.
4. Find inexpensive hotels on the Left Bank, particularly around Montparnasse and most of the 14th arrondissement. Shoot for the one-stars and two-stars if you’re hoping to find a hotel under 100 Euros.
5. Buy a ‘carnet’ of 10 tickets for 11.10 Euros to use the Metro when you can’t walk.
6. Get breakfast at fast croissant/’salon du the stands. Their coffee will be less expensive than sitting on a cafe terrace.
7. Drink kirs (white wine and cassis) rather than hard liquor at cafes to save money.
8. Order a carafe d’eau which is tap water (don ‘t ask for a glass) rather than bottled water. Tap water is OK to drink.
9. Always wait for a waiter, hostess or maitre d’ to seat you in a restaurant. Only seat yourself at outdoor cafes.
10. Always pick a restaurant with a good crowd of people.
11. Avoid most Thai restaurants unless you KNOW they’re authentic.
12. Always opt for the daily ‘menu’ to get the best lunch deal.
13. Check out the restaurants that use a blackboard to change their daily menu.
14. Never go to a restaurant where the owner or a tout encourages you to enter. You can do better.
15. Never use a toilet in a cafe or restaurant without at least having the courtesy to consume an expresso (Paris has free saniset toilets on many street corners and public restrooms in the major parks.
16. Never talk loudly in the Metro. That draws attention to the fact that you are tourists.
17. Never talk loudly in restaurants. That draws attention to the fact that you’re impolite tourists.
18. Ask for a better price at flea markets and outdoor antique sales.
19. Remember that some museums are closed on Mondays and some are closed on Tuesdays.
20. Remember that just about every day in May is a holiday and if it isn’t a holiday, probably someone is on strike. Hopefully, not your airline, your taxi driver, or your shuttle bus.
21. Remember that every shopkeeper is welcoming you into his or her own unique universe where he or she is king (not the customer). Be your natural, witty likeable self – and he or she may end up inviting you home for dinner. You might even end up buying something.
22. Remember that every hotel desk clerk must become your secret accomplice in finding the best possible room for you. If you aren’t happy with your room – don’t sit and brood and wreck your vacation – commiserate with the desk clerk as if she or he was your very best friend, knowing full well that they can wave a magic wand and make everything better.
23. Remember that everything you need desperately is probably on a side street not on a main avenue – and it’s probably at a place who’s name you can’t pronounce (I can’t) the quincaillerie (sounds like can-ki-yare-ree
) including DUCT TAPE and suitcase locks (called ‘cadenas’).
24. Find free Wi-fi in some of Paris’s parks and libraries – or McDonalds.
25. Find great souvenirs in the Paris Metro shops or outdoor markets.