Essential Paris Travel Tips You Need to Know Before Visiting
Make the most of Paris with our full list of travel tips - from budget tips to where to stay and everything in between.
Make the most of Paris with our full list of travel tips - from budget tips to where to stay and everything in between.
Are you a pastry lover planning on visiting the homeland of croissants for the first time? Perhaps you've dreamt of strolling along the Seine en route to a picnic under the Eiffel Tower, or your overwhelming love of bread, art and European coffee culture has got you itching to live like a local in the city of love?
If you answered 'oui' to any or all of these questions and are currently in the midst of planning the ultimate Parisian adventure, then you have come to the right place. We've eaten our fair share of croissants and have navigated our way through the Louvre museum enough times to say, with certainty, that Paris is never a bad idea.
With that in mind, whether you're a first-time visitor or a long-time lover of the French capital, having a few Paris travel tips under your belt will definitely elevate your experience.
Whether you want to nab discounts at famous landmarks, be first in line at all the attractions, score free metro tickets or simply avoid the usual tourist traps, here's a list of our essential tips for visiting Paris.
Essential Paris Travel Tips
Serving as a homeland to incredible food, world-class wine, iconic cultural sites and stunning museums, Paris serves as a mecca for travellers from across the globe.
Here are some simple tips for first-time visitors to get the most out of this romantic city.
How many days should I spend in Paris?
Henry Miller once said 'To know Paris is to know a great deal'. When you consider it is home to more than 140 museums and galleries, an excess of 30,000 bakeries and 118 Michelin Star restaurants, and more tourist attractions than you can poke a baguette at, it's safe to say that you could spend a lifetime in Paris and still not see it all.
Despite this, most travellers recommend anywhere from 3-6 days in the city of love. This should be enough time for visitors to get acquainted with the city (and eat your body weight in pain au chocolat and cheese).
The length of your Paris itinerary will also be determined by what you are interested in seeing. Do you plan on spending hours meandering through galleries and museums, or are you fast-tracking your adventure past all the attractions and bucket list hotspots?
When is the best time to visit Paris?
The best time to visit Paris will depend on what you want to experience. If you're hoping to avoid crowds and see more locals than tourists, consider visiting Paris between October and April (autumn and winter).
The summer months (June to September) bring gloriously long days and equally long lines of fellow tourists hoping to make the most of Paris in the warmth. As a rule of thumb, more tourists means packed streets, more expensive flights and accommodation, and limited availability of tickets.
On the flip side, while December brings colder temps and shorter days, travellers flock to Paris (and other popular European cities) to experience the magic of a white Christmas.
Paris tips: Many French people will shut up shop and leave Paris for a holiday during July/August and December, meaning some local shops and restaurants close despite it being peak tourist season.
When should I book Paris flights?
As a general rule of thumb, the earlier you can book your flights to Paris, the better. Booking flights anywhere from two to eight months prior to your trip will help you spend less, especially if you can score tickets as part of a wider holiday package or deal.
You will generally fly into Charles de Gaulle airport, which is about a 30-40 minute train ride to the city.
How do I pay for things in Paris?
Card (Visa, Mastercard and AMEX) is a widely accepted form of payment throughout Paris and is definitely the easiest way to pay for your daily pastry run. With that in mind, it's still worth having some euros on hand for when you pop to the markets or street vendors.
If you're keen to stretch your spending money a little further, keep an eye on the NZD to EUR exchange rate well before your trip and load your travel card when it's high.
If a travel card isn't your style, just ensure your bank card or credit card offers favourable rates with low to no conversion fees. Bonus points if they will waive ATM fees!
You can also check out our Flight Centre Mastercard. It lets you earn Flight Centre Rewards on your everyday spending with the added bonus of zero international transaction fees.
Paris travel tips: always opt out of dynamic currency conversion (DCC) when paying via card to avoid paying extra conversion fees.
Download these apps to make your life easier in Paris
- Uber: rideshare that tends to be cheaper than cabs.
- Citymapper and Google Maps: these will help map out the best way for you to get from A to B.
- RATP: The city's official public transport app, mapping every metro station, plus bus times and train routes.
- La Fourchette / The Fork: Find and make restaurant reservations across the city. The app comes packed with reviews and can offer up to 50% off at certain restaurants.
- Paris Guide Monument Tracker: Keep track of Paris' many monuments and their significance with a detailed map.
- Google Translate: Make communicating with locals a little easier. You can also take a picture of menus and signs to have them translated in real-time.
Paris Transport Tips
Paris is a big city with a range of transport options to suit every budget, travel style and level of accessibility.
First and foremost, the best way to see Paris is on foot. Not only is walking free, but it is an ideal way to make the most of Paris' beautiful streets, alleyways, iconic covered passages and architecture. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes though, and prepare to pound the pavement, fuelled by nothing but pastry and Parisian wanderlust.
If the weather isn't great or you're not up for walking, then your next best bet is public transport, with options including the Paris metro, buses and trams. Despite its size, Paris is very well connected, so it's very likely you will be able to rely on some form of transport to get you from A to B.
When navigating trains, remember that there are two types of rail lines:
- The Metro or underground / subway with over 300 stations across 16 lines. Great for inner city travel, with a metro stop on almost every corner.
- The RER or Réseau Express Régional, offers 33 train stations in Paris and 257 across wider France. This is best for regional travel and day trips or getting from one side of the city to another.
Tickets to both can be purchased from machines at any metro or train station. If you're only in the city for a day or two, a paper ticket should be fine (and can be purchased in packs of 10). If you're staying for a while, consider grabbing a rechargeable card or 'Passe Navigo' from any of the RATP stores or station counters.
Public transport reminders:
- Keep your ticket until you leave the station as officers will validate them after you leave.
- Validate your ticket by placing it through the ticket gates when entering the platform.
- Be mindful of your belongings as pickpockets are not uncommon on public transports in Paris.
If walking or the metro isn't your style, then rest assured you can still easily grab a taxi or some form of rideshare app. We would also recommend holding off on car hire until you leave Paris, as parking in the city can be a bit of a nightmare.
Paris travel tips: Keen to change up your transport? City bikes, known as Vélib', are available from more than 1800 stations across Paris.
Paris Accommodation Tips
Paris is split into the Right Bank (north of the Seine River) and the Left Bank (south of the Seine River).
From there, the city is further divided into 20 arrondissements (districts) laid out in a clockwise spiral starting from the centre of the city. Unlike other European cities that have one distinct old town or city centre, each arrondissement in Paris has its own central hub with plenty of bars, shops, theatres and restaurants.
Before booking your accommodation, look at a map of the city and figure out where you want to be spending most of your time. This will help determine which area will best suit your budget and itinerary needs and decrease travel time.
It's also worth figuring out what vibe, atmosphere and personality you want from your accommodation, as each arrondissement brings its own flair.
If you're keen to stay central to the Eiffel Tower and other bucket list landmarks, then the 7th arrondissement is your best bet. Other must-see neighbourhoods include the Latin Quarter (5th) which is perfect for those with a low to mid-range budget, and Montmartre (18th) which is home to the infamous Moulin Rouge and the Sacré Coeur church.
Best Paris districts for:
Sightseeing - 1st, 7th, 8th
Nightlife - 4th, 5th, 9th
Local life - 11th, 12th
First timers - 7th
Most romantic - 18th
Shopping - 4th, 9th
Paris Travel Hacks
Wondering what else you should know before visiting Paris for the first time? With flights and accommodation sorted, here are some practical tips to help you nail all the details from food to shopping and sticking to a budget.
Eating and drinking in Paris
- The closer you are to the main attractions, the more expensive your food will be. Head further back for cheaper meals and fewer crowds.
- Paris is home to so many restaurants ranging in cuisine and price. Use each meal as an excuse to treat your taste buds to a unique sensory adventure.
- Enjoy a picnic with a view! Paris boasts plenty of picture-perfect picnic spots where you can roll out a rug and feast on baguettes, cheese, meat and pastry. Our favourites include Champ de Mars, Tuileries Garden and Parc des Buttes Chaumont.
- Wine is often cheaper than soft drinks.
- Stuck on what to get at the boulangerie? You're guaranteed a good time with a baguette, pain au chocolat, éclair, macarons or a madeleine.
- Enjoy life in the slow lane and take advantage of Paris' iconic café culture. More than just a place to eat and drink, cafés are social institutions and ideal places to meet with friends, family and colleagues - great for people watching!
- Most reputable restaurants require bookings.
- Lunch is served between noon and 2:15 pm and dinner between 7:00 and 10:30 pm. For all-day restaurants look for signs that say 'service continu'.
- Prepare to eat later, with most locals choosing to chow down on dinner after 8:00 pm.
- Shops are only permitted to have sales in June and January, so if you're a shopaholic with your sites set on Paris consider visiting in these months to get the most bang for your buck.
- Some of the major museums like The Musée d'Orsay offer free entry on the first Sunday of every month.
- Buy a Paris Pass or Museum Pass in advance, which will help you skip the line, save money at - major attractions and includes a free metro ticket. The pass opens the door to more than 60 museums and attractions throughout the city and includes guidebooks, insider tips, hidden gems and recommendations on what to see and do in each neighbourhood.
- Using a Velib' is a really affordable way of getting around Paris - it's only 1€ for 30 minutes for "normal" bikes or 3€ for up to 45 minutes for e-bikes (then 2€ per 30-minute after that).
- Book your accommodation in advance to ensure you're not stuck sleeping out in the sticks or forced to pay an arm and a leg for a nice room in a central location.
Insider travel tips for visiting Paris
Perhaps the best Paris travel tips are those that help you avoid looking like a tourist and instead encourage you to step off the beaten path and live like a local.
- Etiquette is everything in the city of love, so avoid sticking out as a tourist by using greetings like 'bonjour' when entering a shop or restaurant and 'merci' or 'au revoir' as you leave.
- Like many major tourist cities, Paris is no stranger to scams. Avoid people on the street offering you bracelets or roses.
- The Louvre is massive, so know what you want to see before you arrive to avoid being overwhelmed. If you're keen to spot the Mona Lisa without the long line, arrive first thing or after 4:00 pm to avoid the crowds. But there is so much more to The Louvre than the Mona Lisa, so expand your horizon and visit the amazing Egyptian antiquities permanent collection or check out the Medieval Louvre where you can see the original underground foundations of the building. Plus the building itself is absolutely stunning, so you won't run out of things to see other than the Mona Lisa!
- Opt for comfortable, smart casual and neutral clothing. Wearing flashy or expensive clothing and jewellery will also make you more of a target for pickpockets.
- The best view of Paris isn't from the Eiffel Tower. Instead, look at other iconic viewing spots like the Arc de Triomphe, Montparnasse Tower, Notre Dame, Butte Montmartre or a carousel in Tuileries. Chances are they will be cheaper and far less time-consuming.
- Shop at Les Puces flea market, which just so happens to be one of the largest in the world. Here you can expect sprawling alleyways and stands packed with souvenirs and treats.
- If you're short on time, invest in a skip-the-line ticket or guided tour as most major museums get extremely buy and sometimes it can mean queuing for hours!