I have gone to Paris 5 years ago and I must say that I hated it. At that time, I thought that Paris was an overrated city and I’ve told myself that I will never ever go back to that place. However, having a very forgiving nature and with strong belief in second chances, I gave it to Paris. This time though, I have removed the glitzy, glamorous and romantic facade of Paris that I have expected the first time I went there. It’s probably not only me who thinks of Paris that way, blame it on the movies, songs and books for brainwashing all of us. At that time, I think I have expected to see Eiffel Tower in all corners of Paris and fashionable streets where I can see women wearing tiaras all made-up with designer clothes from head to toe and French men looking like they just walked out of a GQ magazine cover. What I faced though were beggars in a dirty, dog-shit-infested street with graffiti on its walls. Huge disappointment.
Funny thing was, once I’ve removed the glitzy, glamorous and romantic facade of Paris off my mind that was when I saw it. It is glitzy specially at night with all the monuments lit. It is glamorous specially after seeing it from the Seine river cruise that I took one night and lastly, it is romantic! I stayed here for 5 full days this time and I felt like I still haven’t explored it thoroughly. When I left Paris, I told myself that I must come back!
I now give you some of the Tips for Solo Women Travelers in Paris that may be useful for you if you are about to go to the wonderful city:
1. Practice your bonjour!
I cannot stress how important this is when you go to Paris. As you are visiting a French-speaking city, you must at least try to speak this as well. I have noticed that the Parisians like it when I at least greet them in French first before I ask for directions. They are more sympathetic to me when I do this. It doesn’t matter if your grammar is wrong, just give it a go and the Parisians will eventually try to communicate with you either in English or by sign/body language. 🙂
2. Buy a day pass for the metro.
I imagine the Paris metro as the lifeline of the city. It pumps up blood to the city itself and the people who live (or are in it). You can find one close to you in just about anywhere in the city. It has become the symbol of the city and riding it is probably listed as things to do in Paris in a travel guide book somewhere. Since the metro system is very dense in Paris, it is highly unlikely that you will not use it during your stay. Unless of course you’d rather deal with traffic and the extortionate amount that you will get when you take their cabs. You can buy a day pass which is valid for unlimited use for a certain number of days. I bought one which was valid for 5 days. Do take note though that the pass is based on days and not by 24-hr clock. Meaning if you buy it at 5pm on the 24th of April, it won’t be valid until 5pm of the 25th of April. The pass will not work by midnight of the 25th.
3. Be mindful of the pickpockets inside the metro and tourist attractions.
Paris is generally safe however, they do suffer from pickpockets. I have personally witnessed it being done to my colleague who was with me in the metro. A non-French looking guy asked my colleague for time, as I was standing behind him, I can see the guy trying to get into my colleague’s pockets. Yes, I meant pockets – jacket, bag, jeans. Good thing that he was unable to steal something since most of the pockets were zipped and those which were open does not have anything inside it. Weird thing was, nobody inside the metro other than myself and another colleague who was with us seemed to care even if every single person inside that cabin can see what was happening. In the Philippines, if that pickpocket was caught he will be beaten up by an angry mob of people before he’s handed over to the police or maybe the hospital. Parisians on the other hand are apathetic towards it. They don’t care. I was a bit upset afterwards and I will later find out during a comedy show that I’ve watched while in Paris that this seem to be a normal attributes of Parisians – they don’t care as long as it’s not them being harmed.
4. Act like a local.
To steer yourself away from the eyes of the pickpockets, you must act like a local. To start of, act like you don’t care which is basically what they do. LOL. Whenever I’m taking the metro, I usually am aware of my surroundings and will even look directly to people just to let them know that I see them and I am aware of their presence – just in case. A local will also not have a map of Paris which they will study inside the metro to plot their itinerary – so I never do that. Instead, I plot my itinerary the night before and write it down on a piece of paper so I won’t have to look at the map when I’m outside. If I really need to refer to a map, I will do it in a cafe or somewhere where I’m not openly visible to everyone like I don’t know, a toilet? :p
Also, don’t hug your bags like it means the world to you because you will attract more attention if you do that and you might as well be screaming that you have your entire trip money in that bag and you will protect it in every way you can – which you can’t. Trust me because the pickpockets work in groups. Having said that, it’s not really a new rule for anyone who’s traveling but just in case I’ll still stay it – NEVER put all your money in your bag. In my case, I bought a light body bag which is actually specially made for you to wear inside your top. So I have my passport and the rest of my money in that body bag which is impossible for anyone to steal unless they will take off my clothes which thankfully did not happen and I only have about a hundred lose euros in my bag and jeans pocket which is basically my budget for a day (I never spent a hundred euro a day though).
5. Body bags instead of shoulder bags/backpacks.
Whenever I travel, I usually use a body bag and during this trip to Paris, I thought that it’s the most convenient and safest way to bring with you. First off, it will be a bit hard for anyone to snatch it from you compared to a shoulder bag or handbags whereas the backpack usually screams “tourists” and will most likely attract attention specially if you wear it in front of you because you’ll look like a weirdo.
6. Watch out for craps!
Dog and pigeon craps that is. Paris, as lovely as it is, suffers from a cancer in the form of these craps/poops/shits or however you wish to call it. So you must always look out for it because it would be a real hassle if you accidentally step on it. Also, never trust a wet surface either as you will never know if you are stepping on water or pee.
7. Walk around aimlessly.
Walking around aimlessly in Paris is probably one of the best things that I’ve ever done while there. I was able to discover unique Parisian things that I probably wouldn’t even have bothered to see if I knew where I was going. Paris is a very walkable city, I basically just walked along the Seine River and arrived in famous monuments that looked familiar to me and those which are not very widely known but was still a good discovery. Once when I was in Montmartre, I was looking for a specific metro station so that I can go to Pigalle only to get out a narrow street and the famous Moulin Rouge windmill was right in front of my face already. So yes, it’s very easy (also safe as long as you’ll take the precautions) to walk around Paris.
8. Live a Parisian life, drink your coffee and eat your pastries.
There is a very noticeable hobby of Parisians that I have observed, they love their coffee as much as they love their pastries. I’m not a big fan of sweets but I had to try their French pastries while I was there. After your aimless walking around the city, you will get tired eventually and I always take a break from it by sitting in one of the numerous cafes around the city and just enjoy the ambiance of being there, being in Paris, with all the charming buildings and all things French. Sip your coffee, bite into your pastry and eavesdrop on the people around you even if you don’t understand a thing they’re saying.
9. Bring a book.
I just figured that reading a book in one of the cafes or restaurants or parks or even a random bench around Paris is very…. Parisian? Like you’re a local and you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower one too many times that you don’t want to look at it and be awed by it anymore. The book will also serve as an entertainment source for you while you’re out there falling in line to go in one of the museums or the Notre Dame. 🙂
10. Buy a souvenir.
For this particular trip, I found the Parisian souvenirs the cheapest and will have a broader option. I actually gave myself a pat on the back for buying all the gifts for my friends in Paris and didn’t wait until I get to Strasbourg or Lyon as both cities have somewhat more expensive souvenirs as compared to Paris (specially in Lyon). I also bought a lot for myself including a small suitcase since my own suitcase’s lock got broken. 🙁 So if you are headed some place else after your Paris trip, be sure to stock up on souvenirs from this city since you might find it expensive in other cities in France.
There you have it folks! I hope you’ll enjoy Paris as much as I did. 🙂