Paris is truly an amazing city. If you are fortunate enough to visit, here are a few valuable tidbits of information and some advice to make your stay more pleasurable.
1. Travel off season to avoid the huge crowds. Shoulder seasons are the way to go. With reasonable temperatures (in the “light jacket range”) and probably some rain, it is well worth not having to stand in long lines suffering from the sweltering heat.
2. At the airport, first thing after picking up your bags visit the tourist information office. Buy your tickets for the Air France bus, Paris Metro/RER and your Museum Pass. You will immediately have everything you need to move around and get into the best sites.
3. Get a map. Take your time figuring out where you are. Paris is a monster if you are not oriented. My Casio Pathfinder watch (with a built in compass) came in handy several times as we got turned around and lost our visual landmarks. You will be amazed how the Eiffle tower “shrinks” behind the tall 19th century apartment buildings which line every street.
4. Bring comfortable walking or hiking shoes. We used public transit and still averaged 8 miles per day!
5. Don’t freak out, but be aware that there are people walking amongst you who would like the contents of your wallet. Train, RER, Metro and bus stops and stations are extremely busy places. Think about where you walk and stand. Watch your backpack, keep your wallet in your front pants pocket or shirt pocket. Limit the amount of money in your wallet. Wear a money belt. Use it as your “bank” to refill your wallet. But most importantly be aware of your surroundings. If you see some people two or three times during your going from point A to point B, stop and let them pass you. Get a good second or two of eye contact. They will soon disappear.
6. Have fun. Look for the differences that make travel interesting. Window shop. Be amused.
7. Be amazed at the quality of the food.
8. Be stunned at the cost of the food and products.
9. If you get lost or take the wrong train, just go with the flow. Trust me you will find your way.
10. Last, but certainly not least…enjoy yourself in Paris, the city of love.