Navigating Paris if you Don’t Speak French

5 tips to make your visit, no matter how short, easier…

Paris is one of those cities that are on every traveler’s list of places to visit. This modern city has a robust public transportation system that includes buses, the metro and trains to conveniently get to nearly any point in the city and many points outside.

For experienced travelers, finding your way to the major attractions is simple. A smartphone that includes a city map and a metro schedule have all the information you need to get to the tourist attractions.

Getting Around Paris if you Don’t Speak the Language

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Visiting other sites, or even getting to and from the airport, can be a little difficult without knowing some basic phrases in French, though. Most of the taxi drivers speak English – at least a little – but a mistake can be costly and time consuming.

1. Plan your trip

For the free spirits, planning your trip ahead of time may take away a some of the magic of visiting Paris for the first time, but knowing that, for example, getting to the airport will require you to either take a train (the Reseau Express Regional or RER) or a taxi can save you headaches once you get there. Private airport transfer in Paris is a convenient way to ensure that you get to or from the airport on time without a headache.

2. Choose your hotel wisely

A hotel in Paris, or any other city you are visiting, is more than just a place to get some sleep. It is your base camp to explore the city and should be centrally located to make it easy to get around. Although hotels near Disneyland Paris might be less expensive than the ones in downtown Paris, if you are going to be spending hours each day on the RER just to get to the city, they are not very cost-effective.

3. Get a map

Google Maps can help you get from here to there but a little back-up is always welcome. Since Paris is an old city many of the streets and neighborhoods grew a lot more organically than younger cities in the Americas, Australia and younger countries. It’s not hard to get lost in the winding streets of Paris and, unless you know the language, it can be difficult to find where you need to go.

4. Learn a few words and phrases in French

Not only is French a beautiful language to speak and listen to, it shows your host country respect that you are willing to learn. You don’t have to be fluent and, in most cases, you can get by just knowing how to say hello (bonjour), good evening (bonsoir), thank you (merci) and excuse me (pardon). In those cases where you need more language skills, English is a common second language among Parisians.

5. Learn the local customs

It is safe to drink the tap water in Paris. You don’t have to pay for expensive bottled water in restaurants if you don’t want to. Tipping is done differently in France than it is in America. With the exception of tour guides and taxi drivers, tipping is already included in the bill. If you want to leave the change for your waiter, that is fine but don’t over tip.

Paris at night

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Visiting Paris can be a highlight of a trip to Europe or a chance to explore the city in depth. No matter what your interests are, Paris has something for everyone. Making sure you are prepared is the key to having a relaxing and enjoyable time in the City of Lights.

About Simon Petersen 505 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.