* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program?
• Yes, pick-pocketing is not only common in Paris, but among the most common crimes in Europe. Try to always keep a minimum of money and important documents on you at all times.
• When traveling by train, hug or sit on your valuables so that in case you fall asleep, your things will not be at risk.
• Stick to cities centers. Most European cities follow the same urban phenomenon as Paris – cities centers are historical and tourist centers, and tend to be safer than surrounding suburbs.
• Do not speak English loudly in public. You can be a target of pick-pocketing and harassment.
• Be VERY CAREFUL talking on cell phones in the street or in the metro. Do not use your phone or text from your phone in public! Thieves can snatch it and run away.
• Walk with purpose and discretion. You should always have a map of the city you are in with you at all times. You may get yourself in trouble if you get lost.
• Do not leave valuables in shared hostel rooms. Carry valuables with you at all times.
• While Parisians live in a relatively calm and welcoming metropolis by day, the tone changes at nightfall. Areas which seem perfectly safe during the day can be havens for both petty and more serious crime in late hours. Between 11pm and 4am, Paris shows its worst colors, with the Champs Elysées ranking number 1 in number of crimes per day.
• Your public language should be French. Learn to speak French as much as possible. If you are approached by someone who makes you feel uncomfortable, the best action is to not speak. Simply tilt your head and put up your hand to show that you are not interested.
• You may notice that many people out on the street do not make eye contact directly with strangers. Be careful to ‘gaze’ in front of you, not giving obvious attention to anyone in particular. Do not smile at strangers (it is a sexual invitation).
• In order to stay safe, try to ‘fit in’ to the crowd of people you will be around. Do not try to stand out as a tourist.
• Keep your valuables deep in your hand bag or back pack. Making them conveniently located for you will mean that they are too accessible to thieves.
• When at a café or restaurant, do not put your bag or coat in a chair next to yours. Hold onto your belongings or tie them to your chair. In the metro, hold onto your belongings in front of you. Do not keep backpacks on your backs.
• Do not place valuables on bistro tables.
• Should Carry: a small pocket umbrella, a small water bottle, a map of paris, your metro pass, a pouch of tissues, enough money only for the day, ID, a photocopy of your passport, only the documents you think are appropriate, a cell phone, 20 euros in cash (at least).
• Should Not Carry: all of your credit and debit cards, American store cards, American driver’s license, Passport, Plane tickets, more than 50 Euros in cash, valuable photos or mementos, expensive hand bags or wallets, American check books.
o Do not forget to buy adapter and converter from either Walmart or Target in order to charge your electronics.
o Bring extra batteries and extra memory card for your camera.
o Most places accept Visa in France. When traveling aboard, Visa and/or Mastercard are best because when you use it, there’s 0 charge. Also, do not forget to contact your bank before you leave the country and to inquire further of any charges when used for transactions.
o Before you leave the country, make sure to pick up euros (500€ or so and split it up in your luggage) from either Chase or Zions Bank, there is 0 charge in exchanging money. When you try to exchange money in France, there will be service charge.
o You do not have to tip when riding taxi or when eating at a café or a restaurant. Although if you would like to, you can. Taxes on things and objects are already included on the prices you see at stores.
o Most people in France speak English. However, they appreciate it if you speak in French first even if you know little of French.
o When you buy baguettes, it can be cheap as 97 cents at grocery stores like Monoprix. When you buy from bakeries (boulangerie) it can be as cheap or euro to two euros depending what kind of bread or size. Make sure to eat all of your baguette within a day as it dries up within that day.
o There are many varieties of wines. Some wines are cheap as 6€ but still good quality.
o When using your metro pass, make sure the door allows you to pass through. Otherwise you can be fined up to 50-100€ for not using the right metro pass if an officer catches you. (I was fined for 50€ before)
o www.timhotel.com is a hotel that can be cheap as 50-60€ a night, depending on location. (Popular areas are more expensive)
o Do not be surprised if there are long lines at museums and monuments. Either get up early to avoid long lines or stay in the line and to go through the museums and monuments. The French do not mind waiting for hours.
o Make sure to order carafe d’eau, this is jug of water that is free, all the other waters at restaurants and cafés are priced and pricey.
o Make sure to put your bag in front of your lap even when you’re eating at a restaurant or café, thieves can take off with it if you put it elsewhere. Do not put your cellphone or money on the table, thieves can snatch it and take off.
o Finally, have lots of fun and take many pictures!!!! ☺