Basic Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting Paris

Paris is the second most visited city in the world, and it’s not difficult to see why: it has some of the best architecture, the finest museums, mouth-watering pastries, and memorable shopping experiences. And like any other tourist-frequented city, the Parisian locals are not coy enough to point out the mistakes that vacationers make.

From dressing inappropriately to not bothering to learn even basic French phrases, here are 10 mistakes to avoid when visiting Paris.

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girl with peace sign

10 Mistakes to Avoid as a Tourist in Paris

Before we dive into the mistakes, let’s take a moment to know that even the non-Parisians who visit the capital make mistakes and are often unsure about social etiquette. The bisous that the French follow (the double kiss on each cheek) is different in different places.

In some regions, they begin with the left cheek whereas, in other regions, the number is higher than two. And while you won’t be the only one making the faux pas, it’s always a good idea to come prepared, whether it’s your first visit or your fifth. So, let’s get into it!

Not greeting shopkeepers

When in France, do as the French do. Parisians and French people in general are very mindful of manners and politeness. So when you enter a store and do your business while neglecting the shopkeepers, you’re bound to receive some hostile vibes.


A rule of thumb, no matter who you encounter in France, go ahead and say Bonjour (or Bonsoir, if it’s the evening) before diving into a conversation. You’ll get much better service or help when you begin your interaction with a hello.

Not learning basic French

Paris is an international hub and it’s true that a lot of people here speak English to cater to the tourists. As a tourist, it is your responsibility to learn at least a few basic phrases to slide into a conversation. You don’t have to be perfect but your effort will be recognized and locals will be more willing to help you and give you their time.

Here are a few words that are a must:

  • Bonjour to say hello at the beginning of a conversation (or Bonsoir if it’s the evening)
  • Merci to say thank you
  • S’il vous plaît (how to pronounce) to say please

Bonne journée or bonne soirée to wish them a good day/evening at the end of your interaction

Dining near famous places and paying for water

A lot of tourists love to eat near popular spots like the Louvre, the Champs Élysees, or the Eiffel Tower but that could be a mistake. A lot of these joints are ridiculously overpriced, don’t have the best meals on the menu, and usually have a touristic vibe to them.

To get an authentic Parisian dining experience, move away from these popular dining restaurants and cafes, and head to other arrondissements where you can find reasonable rates as well as local cuisine.

Woman with glass of water at table indoors

When it comes to water, tourists often buy a bottle of water at restaurants and cafes. In Paris, tap water is perfectly safe to drink. Instead of spending money on bottled water, just ask for a ‘carafe d’eau’.

Similarly, while traveling, keep an eye out for public water fountains – they’re spread all around the city (there’s even a water fountain that contains fizzy water!). Just carry your water bottle with you and fill it up when needed.

Tipping at Restaurants

In France, servers are paid a respectable salary and don’t have to depend on tips. Your bill in a cafe or a restaurant includes a service charge (usually given as a tip in the US) so the final amount on the bill is the amount you have to pay.

You can leave a small gratuity (3-5% of the bill) in coins if you really appreciate the service but it is completely acceptable to not do so if you don’t have any cash on you.

Avoiding public transport

Paris has an excellent network of buses, and underground and surface trains. If you want to explore the city like a local, ditch those pricey taxis and stagnant traffic for the Parisian Metro. If you’re planning on traveling a lot, take advantage of the carnet (a booklet of tickets) or a weekly pass, depending on your itinerary.

Waiting for the Paris Metro
Waiting for the Paris Metro

This will save you money in the long run and will get you places faster than a taxi. Just remember to retain your ticket until the end of your journey (to be precise, until you’re out of the bus or completely out of the metro system, not just the train). There are random ticket inspections and you don’t want to pay a fine and mess up your budget!

Another great way to learn more about the city is by walking. Paris is a beautiful city with charming Hausmann buildings and cobbled streets. There are dedicated pedestrian and cycling paths, and most tourist spots are within reach of each other, especially in the 1st Arr. If the weather is good, take out your walking shoes and get ready to unravel the hidden gems!

Not checking opening times

Paris is not a 24-hour city and places often have odd timings. Always, always check when shops and museums will be open to avoid disappointments. During the summer, particularly in August, many places shut down for holidays for the entire month.

Paris Orsay Museum and Eiffel Tower at Night

Museums and other popular sites have days when they’re closed to the public. Opening and closing hours also vary according to the seasons, so be sure to cross-check the official website before planning.

Dressing inappropriately

Paris may be the fashion capital of the world but Parisian streets are not runways for the entire year. Parisians tend to dress nicely no matter where they go but most of them have a certain wardrobe style they stick to.

You’ll mostly see women wearing neutrals or dark colors with boots or shoes that are comfortable to walk in. In order to not stand out like a sore thumb, pack tasteful clothing in neutrals and dark colors that can be paired with other items in your wardrobe.

When touring the city, ditch those heels and invest in some good walking shoes. After all, Paris is best explored on foot. Some areas have cobbled streets or metro vents that can be a hazard for spiky heels.


What to Wear in Paris by Season

Tips for Packing for Paris (+ Packing List!)

Planning everything at once

There’s no doubt that Paris has innumerable things to visit and experience but you don’t have to do all of them during your trip. It might seem like you have to try everything, especially if it’s your first trip, but this would just result in you running from one point to another without taking the time to actually enjoy it.

Come up with a realistic itinerary and plan each day thoughtfully with activities and sightseeing you really want to do. Forget the Centre Pompidou if modern art is not your thing. Scared of heights? You don’t have to climb the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. Plan a trip to see and do things that you really want to do.

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Falling for popular scams

Like any big city, Paris has its fair share of scams and they’re quite easy to fall for. Here are some of the most common ones to look out for:

  • At the base of Sacre Coeur, some men try to tie a bracelet around your wrist for ‘free’. They will either ask for money later or someone will try to steal your wallet while you’re haggling.
  • When standing in line, if someone comes to you with a petition, don’t sign it. These are usually groups working together to steal from you while you’re busy chatting about the petition.
  • Keep your belongings safe at all times, especially if you’re standing by the door of the metro with your phone in your hand. People often snatch the phone and get out just when the doors are about to close.
Thieves playing shell

Only visiting the popular sites

Paris is more than just Mona Lisa or the Eiffel Tower or Montmartre. There are so many neighborhoods with hidden gems that are often overlooked. Paris has some of the best parks, from Buttes Chaumont and Monceau to Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne.

If you’re keen on exploring the history of Paris and different types of arts, head to some of the lesser-known museums like Carnavalet, the Fairground Museum, and Arts et Métiers.

Visiting Paris can be an amazing experience and everyone should treat it as the special destination that it is. Keep these tips in mind when you plan your trip. By simply following a few gestures of respect, you'll have an unforgettable time visiting Paris.

Bon voyage!

How about you? Do you have any common mistakes to add based on your experience? Do share!


Andi Fisher

I am married to a French man, lived in France for 3 years, and have been to Paris more than 50 times. I am always a tourist so the information, tip, and tricks I share are created to help you!

Don't forget to pin this for later!

  • Flights
    • Look for fares using sites like Skyscanner or Expedia.com
    • For France (Paris) coming from the West Coast, I typically fly Air France or United. From the East Coast, I typically fly Air France or Delta.
    • If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. Not only will you have a spot to relax before your flight and charge your devices, but you can eat and drink for free (without paying crazy airport prices!)
  • Accommodation
  • Transportation
    • For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. When traveling in Europe, I use AutoEurope to make reservations. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. I typically book with Sixt.
    • For transportation from the CDG airport to anywhere within Paris, consider pre-booking with Get Transfer. It is one way to be stress-free and you can request an English-speaking driver.
  • Tours + Atractions
    • I book tours with companies like Viator and GetYourGuide. Both have a wide variety of activities for every travel style. Other companies to look at include Tours by Locals and Withlocals.
    • If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City.
    • Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities.
    • If you are looking to buy tickets to attractions, check out Tiquet.
  • Don't Forget Travel Photos
    • One of my favorite things to do is to get photos taken of me while on vacation. Flytographer is a great option with photographers all over the world.
  • Peace of Mind
    • It’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. I always travel with insurance and would recommend SafetyWingSquareMouth or Travelex Insurance are good options.
    • Should you have any trouble with flight delays to the extent you feel you deserve compensation, I encourage you to check out and use AirHelp. I used them and for 1 claim I got compensated (transparency: a 2nd claim did not, but I was still glad I tried!).
  • Planning

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  1. Amber Myers says:

    I need to keep these in mind. We hope to make it there in 2025!

  2. Tara Pittman says:

    This is good info to know. I never knew about the tipping one.

  3. I can’t wait to go to Paris someday. Lucky for me my husband is fluent in French and spent a month there, so he’ll be the best tour guide!

  4. wow! So many awesome tips that I will use for my next trip in Europe this summer! It’s nice to learn basic words when travelling!

  5. Beautiful Touches says:

    These are great things to keep in mind when going to visit anywhere whose language or culture may be different than what you’re used to!

  6. These are all really great and very helpful tips! I’m gonna save this and share it with my friend who’s going to Paris.

  7. Rose Ann Sales says:

    My brother and his wife are planning to go on a trip on Paris! This is so informative and this will surely help them a lot

  8. I would imagine it is easy to make some of these mistakes. It is good to be prepared especially when it comes to a popular city such as Paris.

  9. I really enjoyed reading your article on the basic mistakes to avoid when visiting Paris. Your tips are practical and insightful, and they will certainly help travelers make the most of their trip to this beautiful city. Thank you for sharing your expertise and advice.

  10. This is great advice. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  11. Paris is one of my favourite cities to visit. The kids and I know some basic conversational French, and often find that if we’re struggling, the locals will speak English to us. They definitely like that we’ve given the language a try, though! A top tip I would give other visitors is that if the language barrier is particularly bad for you, type what you want to say into Google translate on your phone, and then let the shopkeepers or waiters etc read it. We’ve got ourselves out of a pickle or two this way! XD

    Oh, and definitely don’t be afraid of the metro system. It seems pretty scary at first, but if my 9-year old son can grasp it, anybody can!

  12. Christy G says:

    This is a wonderful guide. I wouldn’t of had a clue on tipping at restaurants. Here in the states it’s customary because waiters don’t make much.

  13. Thank you for the tips. I need to learn how to pronounce those words or phrases. 🙂

  14. thanks for these tips; i have learned that people love it when you speak to them in their language (no matter how bad your attempt is, it is the fact that you try that matters so much)..