If you’re travelling to France, there are 10 helpful hints or pieces of advice that I give to all my friends. Follow these and you will be treated better and your trip will run much more smoothly.
1. When you arrive from overseas, it will likely be in the morning. After you check into your hotel or apartment, do NOT take a nap. The easiest way to get used to the time change is to go by the new time. Yes, 9 a.m. in Paris is really 3 a.m. in New York or Toronto, however, it’s daylight in France so take advantage of the time. Just go to bed a bit early if you are tired.
2. If it is your first time to France and you arrive in Paris, take a bus tour so you can get your bearings. It will also help you decide what you really want to see.
3. As soon as you enter a shop, always, always say, “Bonjour”. Otherwise, it is rude.
4. Really try to speak a little French. Do not start off by saying, “Do you speak English?” Most likely the person will respond, “Non”. If, however, you do try to speak French the person will be more understanding and try to help you out. Think of it this way, if you were in Canada and a foreigner who comes into your store says, “Do you speak Swedish?” how do you think you would respond?
5. Walk as much as you can in Paris. You’ll see more, you’ll wear off all those calories you ate at dinner the night before.
6. Go to the Louvre Museum at night. It is open Wednesday and Friday nights until 9:45 pm and is much less crowded. Remember it is closed on Tuesdays. From October to March, access to the permanent collections is free on the first Sunday of each month.
7. A coffee or café au lait is only consumed at breakfast, NOT at dinner time.
8. If you order “un café”, you will get a small cup of espresso coffee. If you want a North American coffee, ask for “un café allongé” (ah-lohn-ZHAY). A café au lait is also known as a “café crème”.
9. Your hotel as well as department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps will have Paris city maps. They won’t be great (small print), but they come in handy for a day’s worth of sightseeing.
10. Assuming you are flying home from Paris, book your last night at a hotel at the airport, so that you don’t have to get up extra early and have the stress of getting to the airport. Most hotels will allow you to leave your luggage in storage until you collect it when you leave. Or, you can check your bag at Gare du Nord (lower level), which is one of the major stops on the way to Charles de Gaulle airport.
Be sure to check out these other posts on etiquette and customs in France: