I hope that you enjoyed Part I of my Paris trip recap. If you haven’t read that post, click here to check it out. That post focused on the “Who, What, When, Where, and How”. Need tips on paying for your next trip, read my blog about how my husband and I pay for travel.
This post will include some insight into the logistics of traveling to Paris, shopping streets that you must check out if you travel to the City of Love and tips I gathered as I planned our first trip to Paris, France.
LANGUAGE BARRIER AND “THE VIBES”
I can’t lie, I was a little nervous that we would be uncomfortable in Paris because neither my husband nor I know a lick of French. We both took Spanish growing up (even though we aren’t experts in that either). But I was comforted when I began to do my research and learned that a good percentage of folks in Paris speak English. I can confirm now that I have traveled to Paris that this is true. Most people that we met in the hotel, restaurants, or other public places spoke at least a little English. In some places, the English was better than others but we made do. When someone didn’t speak English or had a hard time understanding what we were saying, we communicated with body language or we’d pull out our Google translate app to get our message across. This rarely happened but it did take place a couple of times.
Although we don’t speak French, we did learn a few phrases so that we could be polite in public settings. We said the following pretty often:
- Bonjour – Hello
- Bonsoir – Good Afternoon (late pm)/Good Evening
- Au revoir – Goodbye
- Merci – Thank you
- Merci beaucoup – Thank you very much
This trip made me realize that English is such a connecting language. It’s almost impossible for someone to learn the hundreds of languages that there are in the world but if one could learn their native language and English they can make out pretty well as a world traveler. English is not just a connecting language for US citizens but for people from all over the place.
TRAVELING WHILE BLACK
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about our experience of traveling while Black. We had a great experience and were treated very well. Many of the Parisians that we met were actually nicer than average people back at home. They also had a very “service first” mindset and went above and beyond to ensure we had a good experience in places like restaurants and bars. Mind you, they don’t work for tips as we do in America so this was truly genuine service. During my research on Paris, I did hear of a few people staying that they experienced various forms of racism while in Paris but that was not the case for us.
TAX-FREE SHOPPING AND THE TAX REFUND PROCESS
One thing that I loved about Paris is the SHOPPING! I mean, stores were everywhere. All the stores that I shop at online were there and that geeked me out so much. On top of that, the prices were less than US prices even once it was converted to euros. I truly wished that I packed less so I could shop more but unfortunately, my bag was already pretty full! I did still grab a few things but not as much as I wanted.
A perk for shopping in Paris is that when you shop and spend over 100 euros, you can get the taxes back on the item once you depart for your flight home. The process is relatively easy too. When you purchase an item, the cashier will look at your passport, collect information from it and then submit it to the “duty-free” database. They will then give you paperwork that you’ll use to get the tax refund at the airport. It’s very important to take your passport with you when you plan to do a lot of shopping so that you can obtain this paperwork. I also took pictures of my and my husband’s passports so I had that as a backup. When it was time to leave Paris, we went to the tax refund kiosk at the airport to process the refund. At the kiosk, we scanned our passports, scanned the purchase paperwork and that was it. The kiosk informed us that we would receive the refund back to our cards in a few days. Really simple process! Read more about it on the Global Blue Tax Refund website.
Next time I go to Paris, I will be traveling with an extra suitcase just for shopping!
WHERE TO SHOP
First of all, there is literally shopping everywhere! We found that sometimes the shopping is clustered together and others times stores are snugged in between random stores and restaurants. It’s pretty cool! If you are like me and you want a few places to start, check out the spots below:
- Galeries Lafayette (It’s like their version of shopping malls)
- Av. des Champs-Élysées
- Rue Saint-Honoré
- Le Marais
- The Paris Flea Market
- Thrift shopping
- Hippy Market
- Kilo Shop
- Super Vintage
- Nice Piece
TIPS FOR FUTURE TRAVEL
- We traveled on an overnight flight to Paris from Atlanta on KLM airlines. We left Atlanta around 11 pm and arrived in Paris around 10 am. If you can do this, I highly recommend it. This way, you arrive in Paris in the “morning” and will be able to adjust better to the time change. You’ll also get to sleep a little on the plane so that when you arrive in Paris you can be slightly functional until your hotel check-in.
- Keep in mind that you may not need a room on the same day that you fly out. For example, we left on 3/12 but we didn’t need a hotel room until 3/13 because of the travel time and time difference.
- Transportation to and from the Paris airport is very expensive. Be sure to budget for this extra expense. Our private transfer was around 75 euros each way. Ubers were around 88 euros each way when I checked. If you can figure it out, the train is a less expensive transportation option.
- For the most part we either walked, Ubered or took the train around Paris. Ubers are convenient but the cost can add up so I would suggest learning the train as quickly as possible. My tip for navigating the train system is to use Apple Maps. You’ll plug in your destination, change the transportation type to transit, then it’ll tell you exactly which train to take where. It’s pretty nice for a novice in a new city. There was a time, however, that we attempted to take the train and realized that at certain times, it didn’t stop at the station that we wanted to go to so keeping in mind that train schedules change and that the system isn’t perfect. I would suggest making sure your phone is charged at all times just in case you need to call an Uber to the rescue.
- Ahead of your trip, you should confirm your options for international calls and data. The plan that I have allows me to earn credits each month that can be used for free international travel days (Do More Plan – Verizon) so I was able to use my cell without any additional charges. My husband has a slightly different plan (Play More Plan – Verizon) and he has a cost of $10 per day for internal phone usage. We decided that I would use my phone as the main phone and he would only use his where we had wifi. This worked well for us.
CREDIT AND DEBIT CARDS
- Another important thing to consider when traveling internationally is how you will spend money. Will you use credit cards, debit cards, cash, etc? If you decide to use credit/debit, please confirm if your card charges foreign transaction fees. If they do, then in addition to what you purchase, you’ll get an additional charge for spending internationally. This is usually a small percentage (around 1-2%) but this can add up quickly! I don’t believe in excess charges so I made sure that we used cards with no foreign transaction fees. This included our AMEX Platinum Card (earn 80k miles with my personal referral link!) and a Visa-based rewards card. I carried a few hundred euros with us for emergencies but we didn’t need it at all. I would not use debit cards in another country. Debit cards can be easily hacked, overcharged, frozen, etc. then you’re stuck in another country without access to your money.
- Along with the above, understand that not everyone accepts American Express so it’s important to have a backup card. For us, that is the other Travel Rewards card, it’s a Visa card so it’s a perfect alternative for the AMEX.
- Don’t overpack, just don’t.
- Not all of the hotels in Paris or Europe for that matter, have your standard square “washcloths” so I recommend bringing your own or a loofah. For your face, I recommend these disposable facecloths.
- Scents are one of the strongest things tied to your memory. Bring a new shower scent or perfume to remind you of your trip to Paris! I do this with every trip and I’m instantly transported back whenever I use that scent again.
- Watch Emily in Paris on Netflix. It’s a super cute and quirky show but it gives so much insight for those new to traveling to Paris. Both my husband and I appreciated how relevant a lot of the stuff in the show was to our travel adventures – like the part about the elevators!
- Be nice, kind and patient when traveling but stay alert! Pickpocketers are real!
- This MIRROR that was perfect for doing my makeup in the hotel.
- This INTERNATIONAL PLUG has interchangeable outlets that you can use in any country.
- A suitcase SCALE is perfect for checking your weight before you get to the airport.
- This magnetic BATTERY PACK kept my iPhone juiced up.
- PACKING CUBES for keeping your suitcase tidy.
- SILK head pillow and eye mask SET for the airplane.
- A MAKEUP BAG for all your precious makeup.
- An AIRTAG to keep up with your luggage.
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