New to Paris? France’s cosmopolitan capital is brimming with charm, culture, and joie de vivre, but it’s all too easy to stumble into tricky tourist traps which can leave you feeling far less enamored of this romantic city. It’s vital to know how to live your best life in Paris without breaking the bank, being taken advantage of, or putting yourself at risk. Worried? Don’t be – we’ve got your back. Here’s the lowdown on tourist traps to avoid as a newcomer to fabulous Paris.
Understanding Parisian tourist traps
One of the most iconic cities in the world, Paris attracts around 35 million visitors each year, representing a staggering source of potential revenue for those within the tourism industry. Sadly though, not everyone is out to make an honest buck. Tourist traps are places and people providing overpriced services, food, souvenirs, and entertainment with the goal of reeling in as many tourists as possible and then mercilessly taking their money.
Centered mainly around major landmarks and attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, and Champs d’Elysée, these tourist traps can be easily avoided as long as you do your research and use your common sense, leaving you free to enjoy Paris like a local.
Tips for avoiding tourist traps in Paris
Scams and safety
Go to any major Paris landmark and you risk being targeted by scammers. Beware of anyone who puts jewelry around your wrist, as they will then try and force you to pay for it. Some of these scammers also work in tandem with pickpockets who steal from you while you’re distracted. If anyone approaches you or attempts to touch you, avoid eye contact, firmly say no, and walk away.
When sitting outside never leave your phone or other valuables on your table, and choose tables further back away from the street, as this makes you less of a target. Numerous individuals have witnessed thefts and pickpocketing firsthand on restaurant terraces – including people who had their watches stolen right off their wrists.
Be especially alert in areas around the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, the steps of the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre, and the Arc de Triomphe, all of which are notorious spots for thefts and scams. Instead of visiting main attractions during the day, wait until the crowds have cleared to avoid long waiting times and being hassled by hawkers. We recommend climbing the Eiffel Tower after sunset – it means you beat the crowds and the glittering night-time panoramas are magical – just make sure you pre-book your tickets online before you go.
Paris is a foodie paradise – so make the most of it! Stay away from restaurants in major tourist areas as they are overpriced and usually mediocre at best. Avoid restaurants touting for business on the street, as well as those with large menus written in English. Stick to restaurants on quieter side streets away from the hustle and bustle, head elsewhere entirely, or check out personal recommendations.
Instead of an evening meal, eat at lunchtime when it is cheaper. Most restaurants also offer a ‘formule’ or set menu for significantly less than ‘a la carte’ options. Don’t get charged extra for water; waiters often place expensive bottles of mineral water on tables – ask for a carafe of tap water instead.
If you’re tempted by street food, make sure it’s freshly prepared in front of you, and make the most of the delicious offerings available in Parisian bakeries. Do as the locals do and grab a croissant or a baguette with jam for a tasty breakfast on a budget.
Museums and galleries
The largest museum in the world, the Louvre houses a stupefying wealth of art and artifacts, but fighting your way through the snap-happy crowds can get tiring. Trying to get close to Da Vinci’s diminutive Mona Lisa is almost impossible, and for many, not worth the hassle. To get the most out of the Louvre, it’s best to plan multiple shorter trips here, or you could just explore the city’s abundance of smaller museums and galleries, many of which are free.
Paris has extensive travel networks, including tramway and bus routes, although locals mostly get around by Metro and RER as it’s cheap, fast, and easy to navigate. However, watch out for groups of thieves working with children to steal your phone right out of your hand, and always keep your valuables safe. When using the Metro, always allow for a little extra time to reach your destination, as holdups between stations are fairly common.
If you decide to take a cab, watch out for unlicensed taxi drivers preying on tourists by charging overpriced fares. Never get into a taxi other than a ‘TAXI Parisien’ with a working meter. Better still explore the city on foot – it’s the best way to discover hidden treasures off the beaten track.
Chic Avenue des Champs Elysées is one of the most famous shopping streets in the world, but the reality is that this crowded 8th arrondissement fashion mecca is financially inaccessible for most shoppers, and unless you’ve got the cash to splash out on haute couture, it’s really not worth it.
Check out up and coming designers in the Marais district instead, shop vintage (Kilo Shop and Free’P’Star are personal favorites), or browse local flea markets and car boot sales for bargains – it’s cheaper, much more fun, and arguably just as stylish. If department store shopping is more your thing, Printemps and Galleries Lafayette in the Opepra district are brimming with affordable fashion.
If you’re looking for gifts or souvenirs, stay away from touristy areas such as La Place de Tertre in Montmartre, where goods are normally poor quality or fake and way overpriced.
Paris comes alive at night, and it’s the perfect moment to meet people and make new friends. Kick off your evening like a local with an apéro of delicious french cheeses and charcuterie in a traditional brasserie, or head to one of the city’s sensational cocktail bars. Head to Gambetta or Belleville districts for affordable, more authentic bars away from the tourist crowds, or to the Marais for its dynamic and diverse night scene. Bastille, with its mix of dive bars, clubs, live acts, and traditional cafés is another must. Steer clear of touristy areas these are popular with rowdy holidaymakers and rife with pickpockets. Night buses run all around the city to make sure you get home safely, although check timetables before you leave as not every route runs all through the night.
The Moulin Rouge may be a Paris institution, but it is sadly well past its prime. Ticket prices are painful for what has become a rather tasteless and tacky affair catering to tourists. We strongly suggest giving it a miss and taking in a show at Aux Trois Mailletz instead. This tiny venue near Notre Dame features a cast of sexy, quirky characters, with talented performers from far and wide. Even better, you’re unlikely to bump into many tourists here.
Rental prices can be crazy in Paris, so you’ll need to do your homework to ensure you get a good deal. Unfortunately, foreigners are often taken for a ride by unscrupulous scammers claiming to offer a fantastic apartment at a bargain price. Research rental prices thoroughly to determine the average cost for a standard apartment – if a property looks too good to be true, it probably is. Countless people fall fowl of fake properties every day in Paris, sometimes losing thousands of euros. Beware of owners asking for deposits or rent before you have signed a contract, and never send money by bank transfer. It’s a good idea to run an internet search on any potential landlord, too.
Alternatively, consider co-living or Cohabs as a fairly priced solution without the risks. Cohabs offers a carefully curated selection of rental properties in the nicest Paris districts, shared with like-minded people with similar interests and ideas. Sharing a coliving space with others helps lighten the financial load and is better for the environment! Plus, you’ll always have great company to hang out and share new experiences with, exchange tips and advice, and brush up on your languages.
Final thoughts on the traps to avoid in Paris
Learn French! The quicker you get to grips with the language, the less likely you are to find yourself in a difficult situation or taken advantage of. It also opens up a whole new world of possible connections to be made, recommendations, and insider scoops on the best this city has to offer. Download an app, take a class, or just get out and get talking – there’s no wrong way to learn.
For every major tourist attraction and popular district, Paris is teeming with less well-known but equally interesting places and experiences to enjoy without the hassle of crowds, scams, and overinflated prices. Get out there and explore – you never know what you might discover!
Moving to Paris? Check out some of the most gorgeous coliving spaces ever, located in the best neighborhoods of the city!