Traveling to the French capital for the first time or even the second time and wondering what not to do in Paris? This post will show you some rookie mistakes to avoid for a fun trip.
There is nothing more exciting than visiting Paris, especially for the first time. The thought of finally seeing the Eiffel Tower and other beautiful places in Paris can throw you into a total frenzy of excitement.
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And with all the excitement, some people forget to do enough research on things not to do in Paris and end up committing the same mistakes most people make.
So whether you’re a seasoned or a first-time visitor, here is what not to do in Paris for an amazing trip.
Before You Go, Here’s How to Plan Your Visit To Paris: Practical Quick Tips
WHERE TO STAY
Best Eiffel Tower Views: Hôtel Le Walt (9.0)
Luxury stay: Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel (8.2)
Mid-range stay: Hôtel Eiffel (8.7)
Budget Stay: People – Paris Bercy (8.9)
Apartment Rental: Résidence Charles Floquet (9.1)
- Don’t forget to take Travel Insurance. Request a free quote from my favorite insurance, World Nomads. (More on this at the end of the article.)
- Prepare your trip extensively with this Paris Travel guidebook.
- Don’t forget a universal travel adapter, a travel neck pouch, and comfortable walking shoes.
- Consider getting either the museum pass or the Paris city pass if you plan to visit a lot of attractions. The city pass comes with free transportation and access to the hop-on-hop-off bus. You can read my Paris museum pass review to see if it’s right for you.
- Book this private transfer from CDG airport to Paris to avoid the hustle of figuring out how to get to Paris.
What Not To Do in Paris
Here are the biggest mistakes to avoid in Paris to fully enjoy your trip.
1. Throwing away your ticket when you take a train or subway
Unlike some places where a train ticket is as good as useless after boarding, it’s not the same in Paris!
First of all, that ticket will help you exit the subway when you reach your final destination and without it, you might find a hard time!
Also, sometimes the train police can check to see who actually paid for the trip ( of which you have to show your train ticket) and who is trying to beat the system by refusing to pay!
And if you don’t have it by the time of checking, you’ll be fined instantly – which is almost 20 times more than the actual ticket fee!
Whatever you do, make sure that you don’t lose the train ticket!
2. Not minding your manners
French people are generally well-mannered people! They will never go to a shop and not say hello ( bonjour) to the attendant or even say sorry (pardon) if something goes wrong!
But I also know that in some places, saying hello to someone offering you a service is not a given!
What you should do instead!
While in Paris, you should learn to always say hello, whether you’re talking to a server at a restaurant or a cashier at a supermarket – just say bonjour or Bonsoir ( good morning/ good afternoon or good evening) to create a calm and friendly environment otherwise you might not get the friendly vibe from the Parisians!
3. Visiting just the Eiffel tower
Yes, it’s true the Eiffel tower is the most famous landmark and the international symbol of Paris and France at large but there is more to Paris than just the Eiffel tower!
Of course, you should visit and climb it as it gives some of the best views of Paris but don’t leave the city without checking out other places!
Other Places to visit in Paris?
There are so many beautiful places to visit in Paris including; the Louvre museum which is the most famous art museum in the world, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré Coeur ( also known as the sacred heart of Paris), Notre dame cathedral, Orsay museum, and so many others!
Psst… Before visiting the iron lady, check out these Eiffel Tower practical tips.
4. Visiting just the famous places in Paris
One of the other tourist mistakes in Paris to avoid is just visiting the popular tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum, etc and forget about other places.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t visit them but I am saying that there is more to Paris than just the places with crowds.
What more to see in Paris?
Some of the hidden spots to visit in Paris include; Paris Statue of Liberty – yes Paris also has its own version, Parc de la Villette – a 55-hectare urban cultural park, or Buttes Chaumont if you’re looking for a perfect place for a Parisian picnic.
5. Eating at restaurants near famous places
One of the big mistakes to avoid in Paris is eating at restaurants near famous places as they’re usually way more expensive than any other restaurants in the city.
For example, a restaurant next to the Sacré Coeur is likely to be more expensive than one on a non-famous street in Paris. Also, restaurants with Eiffel Tower views are more likely to be more expensive compared to the others.
Where to eat instead?
Paris has a number of restaurants in that you can never fail to find one at any turn you make.
So try to look for ones that are a bit far from the popular site as you’ll get a better value for your money – and a bigger portion as well. You can also check out these cute Parisian cafes.
6. Renting a car or using taxis in Paris
If you’re wondering what not to do in Paris, then renting a car or using a taxi is one of them.
I am not trying to take these service providers out of business but the traffic in Paris is crazy and not to mention how it can be challenging to drive in some areas of the city if you choose to rent your own car.
Also, private taxi fares can be a bit high and it’s easy to be scammed by being charged unfairly which is why, if possible, stay away from taxis while in Paris.
How to avoid this mistake?
Paris public transportation is pretty extensive, comfortable, and above all cheap! You can opt to use the trains, subway, trams, or buses – so many options at your disposal – and they all easily connect to all the major popular attractions you’d want to visit.
Trains and subway are also perfect to beat the city traffic which helps save time.
Pro tip* If you purchase this Paris city pass, you get to use public transportation for free. But if not, you can choose to buy a “carnet” of 10 train/subway tickets at once which reduces the general train fare.
7. Assuming that everyone speaks English in Paris
This is actually one of the common misconceptions most tourists have when they plan to travel to Paris which is entirely wrong as most French people can barely speak any English.
Of course in popular places, you’ll hear people speaking English or even tour guides but be ready to find yourself in situations where you can’t understand what someone says and they will not be able to understand you.
And that brings us to the next Paris mistake.
8. Not learning a few French words
As we’ve just seen, it’s not a given that you’ll find English speakers everywhere you go in Paris, it’s important to learn a few French words.
I made this mistake myself as I couldn’t say any French words beyond the usual bonjour and now that I know better, I’ve made it a mission to try and learn French – (still unsuccessfully but I am not giving up) as your life can be much easier and more fun if you can speak a bit of French in Paris and locals will see the effort and appreciate you for that.
What to do instead?
Before you travel to Paris, learn a few basic French words that can help you go by on your adventures.
It doesn’t have to be fluent French but something to help you say something, read, or understand basic writings.
A few French words you should learn include;
- Bonjour – Hello/Good morning
- Merci – Thank you
- S’il Vous plaît – Please
- Poussez- Push (Useful when opening/ closing doors not to pull when it says push)
- Tirer – Pull (same for opening/ closing doors)
- Bienvenue – Welcome
- Au revoir – Goodbye
- A bientôt – See you soon
- Enchanté – Nice to meet you
- Sortie – Exit
You can also buy this Simple French Phrasebook to help you learn easy French on the go.
9. Wasting time in long queues
One of the other things not to do in Paris is waste time in long queues especially if you just have a few days in the city of love.
You should know that most attractions in Paris receive thousands of people every day and it’s possible to spend over 3 hours in queues just to buy an entry ticket which is not really ideal since the idea is to utilize your time as best as possible.
What should you do instead?
Luckily for you, most popular attractions offer skip-the-line entry tickets so you can get fast-track entry without wasting time in queues.
Some of the skip-the-line entry tickets you can buy in advance include;
- The Eiffel Tower skip-the-line entry ticket
- The Louvre Museum skip-the-line entry ticket
- Arc de Triomphe skip-the-line entry ticket
- Catacombs skip-the-line entry ticket
You can also check out my complete list of skip-the-line tickets for major Paris attractions to avoid wasting time looking for them online.
One of the other ways to skip the long lines in Paris if you don’t want to buy the fast entry tickets is by visiting in the morning hours before the crowds flock in.
Also visiting during weekdays instead of weekends can help you skip the long lines as most popular places get more visitors during the weekends.
Or instead of buying individual entry tickets, you can get yourself this Paris city pass. The pass will give you fast entry to most of the major tourist attractions while saving on transportation as it comes free with the pass.
10. Buying drinking water at restaurants or anywhere in Paris
Tap water in Paris is absolutely safe to drink so it will be a mistake for you to spend your money buying bottled water. So while in restaurants, ask your server politely to serve you tap water which is free.
Actually, it’s not only in restaurants, even when just moving around the city, you also don’t need to buy bottled water when you get thirsty.
All you need is to locate one of the Wallace fountains (drinkable water taps) spread all around the city and since they’re almost everywhere in Paris, locating one will not be a problem.
You just need to carry this re-usable collapsible travel water bottle to keep refilling every time you run out of water.
Pro tip* If you don’t know where to find the Wallace fountains in Paris, you can download the Maps. me app as they’re listed on and you can easily get directions to the nearest one from where you are.
11. Not going on a Seine Ceuise
One of the best things to do in Paris is going for a seine cruise and missing it would be a huge mistake.
A cruise on a seine will give you spectacular views of the most famous Parisian landmarks; from views of the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Orsay Museum, Arc de Triomphe to many other attractions.
What to do instead?
You’ll be able to see the beautiful monuments brightening up and the reflection of the lights on the surface of the seine is a magical sight proving that Paris is indeed a city of light.
12. Packing too many activities in one Paris trip
It’s not surprising that you’d want to see everything in Paris in just one visit but to be honest, it’s hard!
There are so many places to visit in Paris and so many things to do that it’s utterly impossible to do all that especially if you just have a few days – even if you have a month in Paris actually.
So packing so many activities in one trip will just burn you out and not get to enjoy the beauty of Paris to the maximum since you’ll be rushing through places instead of experiencing them.
Create a realistic Paris itinerary before your visit taking into account the number of days you have and your budget! This will help you set realistic expectations on what is possible and what is not.
13. Not booking way in advance – hotels, hostels, restaurants
Paris is one of those cities where most things if not everything requires advance booking or you’ll find them booked out.
This is most common at high-end restaurants, luxurious vacation rentals, hotels, and a few unique activities!
For example, to get a table at the restaurant at the Eiffel Tower, you’ll need to book like 2-3 months in advance or you can forget about having dinner with a view.
What to do Instead?
If you plan to visit Paris and want to sleep at hotels with Eiffel Tower views or dine at fancy restaurants, make sure that you book as early as you can – even 3 months earlier if possible.
And on top of getting yourself a spot, booking early can sometimes help you get good offers hence paying a bit less compared to what you would have paid if you booked last minute.
14. Not minding the safety of your items
Paris is generally a safe city but it would be a huge mistake to let your guard down and ignore the safety of your items.
Even if the city is safe, there is some petty and street theft like in every other major city you have to be mindful of.
How to stay safe in Paris?
- Don’t scream tourist or you might become a target to pickpockets.
- Know where your items are especially in crowded popular places. You can take a travel neck pouch like this one to keep your travel essentials in or even this money belt to hide your money in.
- Wear your backpack from the front, especially in the metro, or crowded places or you can even substitute your normal backpack with this anti-theft backpack instead.
- You can also check out these general travel safety tips to know how to stay safe in Paris.
15. Tipping away your money
One of the other things to avoid in Paris is tipping away your money. I am not saying don’t tip at all while in Paris but tipping too much can slowly ruin your budget without even realizing it since it’s always small bits every day.
Actually, if you don’t feel like tipping at all, it’s totally ok since most menu prices include a tip fee of about 10%- 15%.
What to do then?
You can always tip if you want especially if you received outstanding customer service, but if you don’t feel like it, don’t be compelled to tip as most servers are not actually waiting for it.
16. Packing too much
Another mistake most people make when traveling to Paris is packing way too much than they need!
If your trip to Paris is going to be for just 2 weeks, don’t pack like you’re moving for a year!
Large luggage will be hard to move around with especially if you plan to use public transport – which is hard to miss honestly.
Pack only the things you’ll need not what you might need. And when it comes to what to wear in Paris, pack outfits not clothes as this will reduce packing unnecessarily too many clothes.
17. But don’t leave the essential home
I know we’ve just talked about not packing too much but that doesn’t mean leaving behind the travel essentials.
Leaving behind the essentials will make you buy them in Paris which might be a bit costly as opposed to carrying what you had before hence spending more money.
What essentials should you pack for Paris?
Some of the essentials to pack for Paris include:
- A European travel adapter or a universal travel adapter if you don’t want to keep buying a different one for each country you visit.
- Extra memory cards: You’ll need more space for your photos.
- A Portable Power bank: Stay connected at all times.
- A good camera: You’ll need to capture the beauty in Paris.
- A Windproof travel umbrella. Regardless of the season, it can rain any time in Paris, so be prepared.
- First aid kit: A travel essential for any trip.
- A fleece/ Bomber jacket/ Leather jacket: Whichever you prefer, you’ll need to stay warm if it gets chilly especially if you visit Paris in spring or in winter.
- You can check out my complete Paris packing list to know exactly what to pack and this list of what to wear to know the exact clothes not to leave behind.
18. Wearing uncomfortable shoes
Paris is a city best explored on foot and it will be a huge mistake to carry shoes you can’t walk in on Paris’ cobblestone streets.
So as you pack, leave high heels behind, leave flip flops behind and carry your sneakers or even your running shoes as they will be the most comfortable.
My Adidas walking pair of shoes really work well in Paris but you can take any running shoes you already own.
19. Visiting popular attractions at the wrong time
Before you visit an attraction, it’s paramount that you check its individual opening hours as most places have different operating hours or you might just end up bouncing.
For example, most museums in Paris stay closed on Mondays and on some French public holidays.
But also the opening and closing times of each attraction differ. Some stay open till 9: 00 pm on specific days while others close before 6:00 pm.
You should also note that the opening and closing hours vary according to the season with late closing happening in summer as opposed to the winter season.
20. Visiting Paris during the high season
One of the other mistakes to avoid when planning a trip to Paris is visiting during the high season which is between June- August.
During the summertime, the crowds are high, everything is expensive which may not be the most pleasant time of the year to visit the French capital.
What to do instead?
Plan to visit Paris during the shoulder season when the prices of activities, accommodation, and food have relaxed a bit and the crowds have disappeared so that you can enjoy most attractions without competing with thousands of other people at the same time.
21. Taking the train at rush hours
Paris trains become something else during the rush hours (8:00 am – 9:30 am and 5:30 pm- 7:30 pm) when most people are going to work or returning home.
They’re crowded, everyone is running up and down in the subway and you can feel the pressure in the atmosphere, and as a tourist, you may not want to be caught in this situation.
If you can, try to avoid taking the metro during rush hours.
22. Falling for Paris tourist scams
Yes, there are scammers even in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and they mostly target tourists, especially at popular tourist attractions.
Be a smart traveler that reads into the situation fast or you might just get scammed! If someone is being overly friendly, take the friendliness with a grain of salt- of course, some will be genuine but be wary of that.
Free gift from a stranger? You’re getting scammed my friend and you should walk away immediately.
Paris Tourist Scams you should look out for?
The Bracelet Scam: Someone will wrap a bracelet around your wrist and tell you how good it looks on you and insinuate that you’ll get it for free. But no it’s not free! Unless you want to buy it, don’t be forced into buying it if you don’t want it but rather take it off and boldly tell them that you don’t need a bracelet.
The petition scam at Popular attractions: With this scam, a woman (or women) will approach you with a supposedly important petition they want you to sign as a way of showing support to whatever cause they’re involved in. Do not sign it because as soon as you do, they will demand money in an aggressive way that you might end up feeling compelled to give them something just so they leave you alone.
23. Shopping at Champs-Élysées Avenue
Champs-Élysées Avenue is one of the most famous avenues in the world and that comes with a huge price tag.
Of course, you can find a number of luxurious brands but if your plan is to travel on a budget, you’ll completely ruin your budget if you shop there.
There are so many shopping places in Paris where you can get good quality items for the fraction of that price.
You can check out streets like Rue de Rivoli for budget-friendly shopping with brands like MANGO, ZARA, ETAM, etc next to each other and Boulevard Haussmann for a wide variety of shopping.
24. Being extremely spontaneous
Paris has so much to offer and being extremely spontaneous and thinking that you’ll just go with what comes might be a big mistake.
First of all, there is a lot to do, a lot to see, and a lot to experience, and not having a proper plan or itinerary will leave you running from place to place with no actual agenda or even leaving out places you wouldn’t have if you had made a proper plan.
In the same way, since most restaurants and hotels require advance booking as I mentioned earlier, there is nothing like, I’ve seen the place, I’ve liked it, now let me pop in – this will not work in some places in Paris.
What to do instead?
Come up with a proper Paris itinerary, plan a bit on where you’ll go, and what you’ll do and book everything you need to book in advance.
25. But don’t over follow the itinerary
I know I’ve just said that planning is pretty important when it comes to visiting Paris but don’t be too rigid and follow everything religiously to the dot.
If you see something that catches your eye and you genuinely want to see it, don’t hesitate to stop to admire it instead of sticking to the itinerary from start to end.
I guess what I am trying to say here is that plan well for your Paris trip but leave some room for being spontaneous.
26. Thinking that the Eiffel tower gives the best views of Paris
This might be the biggest misconception ever told about Paris. Yes, I agree, the Eiffel Tower gives spectacular views of the city but (in my opinion), it’s not the best spot.
And what’s the best spot?
The best spot to get the best views of Paris is at the observation deck of the Arc de Triomphe.
From the top, you get views of the Eiffel tower itself, the view of the 12 roads as they diverge from the Arc, the entire stretch of Champs-Élysées Avenue and so many incredible sights.
To access the Arc de Triomphe to enjoy the view, you’ll need to purchase this online ticket in advance to avoid the long lines.
Some of the other places to go for the incredible views of Paris include; Pont Alexandre III, Sacré Coeur, Montparnasse Tower, etc.
Final Thoughts on What Not to Do in Paris
There are so many mistakes most visitors to Paris make especially those that are visiting for the first time but I hope that this post helps you avoid them as you enjoy the city of love.
Did you make any of these mistakes while in Paris? Let me know in the comments below what they were and if you committed another mistake that is not listed here, drop it below as well and I’ll take note of it.
NEVER TRAVEL TO PARIS WITHOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE
One of the biggest mistakes you’ll ever make when planning a trip to Paris is to forego Travel Insurance!
You might think that it’s expensive, but when you think of how much it will save you when you lose your valuables or even get sick, then you’ll know that it’s NOT that expensive!
There are many Travel Insurance companies out there, but I love World Nomads! They cover almost every single thing you might face/do while in Paris or even France in general, it is easy to request a quote, and if you ever need to claim, the claiming process is not a rat race!
I’ve used World Nomads on all my trips, and I am confident and happy to recommend it to you!
No worries if you’re not yet ready to book your trip, you can request a free quote from World Nomads here and see if it suits your personal needs!
Check out these posts to help you plan your trip to Paris
- The Complete Guide to Visiting Paris in Spring
- Where to Find Cherry Blossoms in Paris
- What to Wear in Paris in Spring
- The best Parisian desserts you should try
- What to do in Paris at night
- Where to find the best views of Paris
- Best Places to go for the best views of the Eiffel Tower
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