Paris is a smorgasbord for the solo traveller with plenty of adventures to be had, new flavours to be tasted and historic sites to be seen. Plus it’s relatively safe. But like any trip, a little planning goes a long way, so bookmark these handy hints to create a bump-free visit to the City of Light.
1. Be aware of scams
Paris is a city of wealth but also poverty, so staying aware of your surroundings and the people nearby is essential. Hovering around Paris’s famous sites and in popular metro stations are scammers who target tourists. Some scams worth knowing include: being asked to sign a petition (always avoid), a string bracelet being placed on your wrist which you are then asked to pay for, and being approached by someone with a piece of jewellery that you “dropped”. Whilst most scammers are harmless, you’ll be less likely to waste time and enter into a confrontation if you can recognise what is happening from the start and walk away.
2. Travel light
Leaving the heart in so many places. #parisstair A photo posted by eli (@eli.lei) on
Only take what you can carry. Even though Paris is a very easy city to get around, the hotel or apartment you’re staying in is likely to be old. Which means there may not be an elevator, only stairs. And then, more stairs. Without having a second pair of arms to help you with your luggage, you’ll need to be sure that you can lift your bag and haul it up several levels if need be. So, pack as light as you can, and choose a suitcase or backpack with easy to grasp handles and wheels.
3. Choose your accommodation location wisely
Paris is considered to be one of the safest cities in Europe for solo travellers but that doesn’t mean that you should travel with your guard down. Walking home from dinner or a night out is a possibility in a city that doesn’t sleep, so put some forethought into the area that you want to stay in. Ideally, steer clear of major train stations like Gare du Nord or Gare de Lyon, as the surrounding areas can be a bit sketchy. For a safer alternative, try hotels or bed and breakfasts around the central Marais district.
4. Pickpockets are real
Art nouveau #Paris A photo posted by Majell del Castillo (@ruemargaux) on
Unfortunately pickpockets are a regular occurrence in Paris. Like the scammers, they lurk around metros and attractions but the difference is, you won’t notice them. Travelling as couples and often dressed as unsuspecting tourists complete with maps, pickpockets are clever. Avoid being duped by never carrying your wallet in an outside pocket of your trousers or jacket, and keeping your handbag at the front of your body with a hand resting on it. If you’re wearing a backpack, keep it zipped up and locked, and don’t leave anything of importance in an easy-to-access position.
5. Learn the French basics
Despite the bad rap they get, the French actually can speak English and as long as you’re polite, they’ll be happy to have a chat. Start with Bonjour and move onto the French phrase for do you speak English – “Parlez-vous anglais?” The majority of young Parisian adults speak enough English to reply and then help with directions or any other general questions you might have. Plus by striking up a conversation you may get some local-in-the-know tips on things to see and do that can’t be found in a guidebook.
5. Travel with a phone
Public phones in Paris can be quite difficult to locate and then use, with most requiring a pre-purchased phone card. Save yourself the hassle and travel with your mobile phone in case of an emergency. Use your phone plan from home, or buy a sim card from a French retailer like Bouygues Telecom who has stores scattered throughout the city.
6. Join a meet-up group
Morning yoga in the park @moniquedboucher #paris #rachelleinparis #placedesvosges #yogainparis #nameste #yoga #lululemon A photo posted by Rachelle Saevil (@saevilrow) on
Feeling a tinge of loneliness and dying for some interaction on a deeper level? Sign up to a meet-up group and join a one-off gathering of like-minded people. From yoga in the park to scouting the best vegan restaurants in Paris, there are groups to cover activities big and small.
7. Have a back-up fund
Whether it’s a credit card, a savings account or a parent’s number on speed dial, having funds to use in case of an emergency or an unforeseen cost is vital when travelling alone. Be prepared and you’ll feel much more relaxed.
8. Prepare for downtime
Whether it’s at the airport waiting for the train into Paris or laying low in a park for the afternoon, it’s okay to stop, relax and unwind, and just enjoy your own company. Whilst there is so much to see and do in the city, a lot of its beauty can be found in the day-to-day life that exists outside of tourism. So do as the Parisians do and find a sunlit terrace, pull up a chair and read a book over a black coffee.
Feature image: © Kerem Tapani Gültekin/Flickr