Hey, frenns! One of the things I've always wanted to do is provide different travel…
Hey frenns! It’s been a whirlwind of a time these past few months. I celebrated my evolution around the sun in a fantastic way- I WENT TO PARIS. This trip surprised me, but thankfully, my husband knew my organizational practices and didn’t surprise me too much. I learned so much as I prepared for this trip. I also learned things while there, I wanted to share them with you all, so consider this post your Paris travel guide.
As you all know, I am an avid traveler so travel, in general, is not stressful for me. But, going to another country in the middle of COVID restrictions presented its level of challenges. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but just two weeks before travel, the COVID regulations changed.
Tip #1: Check the travel regulations at the embassy. These will be your most updated regulations here.
At the time of my trip- a negative COVID PCR test was required 48 hours prior – regardless of vaccination status. Also, your airline will update you with regulations. I was able to go to a center and get a PCR test. Fair warning, pick a location that prioritizes your test results. I went to a place in Chicago that gave me PCR results in 15 minutes. When I went to a local pharmacy – I got my results as I was boarding- although I had gone there in enough time to get them in 48 hours.
Tip #2 Get a HealthPass. The pharmacies in the airport will give you a HealthPass. There are pharmacies everywhere in the city- but I made it a point to get this done before leaving the airport. I just wanted that peace of mind. The health pass is the equivalent of the CDC card in the US. It was around 35Euro. It’s a speedy process, and they know what to do. Just say HealthPass. They’ll ask for your passport and your CDC card. And in turn, they will give you a European Health pass.
Shout out to Paris as they give you a physical health card and a QR code you can save down on your phone. At the time of my travel, SOME (not all) places asked for the Health pass. Some have said they could get in places with their CDC card, and some businesses don’t ask at all. From my own experience, when we were about to do a tour, someone got turned around because the person at the door was NOT playing around about the Health Pass. You can also take your COVID test to return to the United States at the pharmacy.
Please note: This is not an invitation to get in my comments and argue about the vaccination.
Tip #3 Know a few phrases in French. ‘Hello;’ ‘How are you?’ ‘Do you speak English?’- Were my go-to phrases. The vast majority of people are bi-lingual. It really inspired me once again to get better with my French. But do not be alarmed. You will be just fine if you do not speak the language. Most restaurants have bilingual menus.
Tip #4 Good Walking Shoes are a must. In Paris, prepare to do a LOT of walking. I live in Chicago, and I’m used to doing a lot of walking. But even this was a lot for me. I was so thankful that I had read a lot of tips that said bring good walking shoes. LADIES, hear me out. If you’re going in the winter- do not get uncomfortable boots. If you’re going in the summer- cute sandals ain’t gonna cut it. GET COMFORTABLE WALKING SHOES. I closed my apple activity ring every morning within the first few hours of the day from the sheer amount of walking. Paris is a large city. Even if you take Uber (which I did most of the time and suggest), you will still do a lot of walking.
Tip #5 Things Take a Long Time and be prepared to wait. Paris is a vast city. Simply by its size, the number of people, the number of tourists, the crowds, the process of doing things- THINGS TAKE A LONG TIME. I felt like time was moving at a warp speed while in Paris. Something that I envisioned to take 30 minutes took an hour or more.
Tip #6 Plan Your Trip and Be Flexible. As an avid traveler, I know what I want to do, things I have to do, something I would like to do, and things I can do without. You should probably look at your Paris wishlist the same way. I’ll admit that my trip to Paris was short by comparison to more extended vacations (I was there 5 days), but even if I had been there 3 or 4 more days, you could not do it all. You just cannot. For example, a visit to the Louvre took about 4 hours. And of course, I did not see it all. A visit to the Les Galeries Lafayette took equally as long. We stood in line for about an hour, just waiting to go into Louis Vuitton.
Tip #7 Shopping is a MUST. Yes, Women be shopping. But…ladies, this is the place to be. I’d suggest having a list of places you WANT to go and going there. I stood in line for 30-45min for each location, so you can imagine how shopping long of an excursion shopping can be. But even with the wait, you save on the exchange rate and the VAT tax (around $300-500), so it’s worth it. I did *see* the world’s largest Louis Vuitton, but I did not go in. The wait in line was at an hour, and I had already gotten what I needed from another Louis Vuitton, so I didn’t go inside. When I revisit Paris and go again, I’ll visit the store. I do have a photo, though. lol
Tip #8 Do not stress about fashion. I consider myself pretty trendy, but I did not want to look like a slouch compared to what I envisioned the fashion would be like in Paris. I usually dress up pretty well in general but I’ll admit there was a moment or two where I wanted to make sure I served a lewk. While there was time for that, I saw all phases of fashion presented in general. There were some well-dressed people (and pets, lol) all over. But the style reminded me a lot of what I would generally see in Chicago. The streets are not a runway by far- and you will see some great outfits – but don’t compromise your style over comfort. Comfort OVER style, and if you can accomplish both- great for you.
Tip #9 Dress in layers. I went in the wintertime, and it was not freezing, but it felt very crisp. If you go in the winter months, do not let the sun of the day fool you. The day can get pretty warm but the evenings are very COOL/cold. I was so grateful I dressed in layers. Since I’m used to the cold winters of Chicago, it’s a high bar for me to be really cold. But there were some nights I was grateful I had a hat, gloves, a scarf and a coat. I ended up purchasing a hat and gloves while out the first night. I had left mine in the room, and I was so chilly. Learn from me!
Tip #10 Do not be an obnoxious American. I do not know why I feel the need to say this, but Parisians have a reputation for being blunt and rude. I didn’t experience that (thankfully- even as a black woman), but I also was very polite in almost every situation. Parisians are a very proud people; respect them. While viewing the Mona Lisa painting, they allow you to take selfies, but there are signs EVERYWHERE that masks are to be worn at ALL times. A lady in our tour group thought a quick selfie was the exception to that rule. Spoiler alert: it is not. She was almost PUT OUT of the Louvre and had the nerve to argue with 4 security personnel that she was just taking a picture. They were VERY CLEAR that the rules were obvious. In short- just respect where you are. The same goes for masks mandates, health passes, and reservations. The rules are the rules. No one cares what you do where you’re from- you are not there. So adjust.
Tip #11 Check the hours and make reservations if you can. We had a few restaurants that we wanted to attend. Some we could not go to because they didn’t have any available reservations. Others had really random hours. Others did not accept reservations, but the wait was astronomical when we arrived. This goes to my earlier point of being flexible with your itinerary.
Tip #12 Be careful and vigilant. Since I live in Chicago, I have a tendency to keep my head on a swivel. Do not allow anyone to get too close to you. Keep your purse close and closed. Do not be careless with your phone and belongings. I do not let people get too close to me. I am quick to extend my arm and say “No” (whether you speak English or not, a boundary is a boundary, and it’s understood). Street performers and others try to sell you things. My answer is always no. I do not get boxed in public places. I carried my fanny pack the majority of the time. It’s not worth it to be distracted in a public place. There is no need to be afraid but be aware. Most of the time, I felt “safe,” but there was one time at night when I was very aware of my surroundings and saw some unsavory activity (open drug use).
Tip #13 The restaurants sit you closely be prepared for that. Like…VERY CLOSELY. Things in Europe are TIGHT. The rooms are small. The bathroom stalls are smaller. The hallways are smaller. Everything is just smaller. There were a few times when I felt claustrophobic and a little anxious about the lack of open space.
Tip #14 A few cultural differences in no particular order.
- Bring a loofah. Washcloths aren’t standard in Europe. I brought a loofah as my washcloth and then threw it away at the end of my trip.
- The 1st floor in Paris is the 2nd floor to the United States. When I arrived at my air b n b it kept saying your condo is on the “first floor.” I thought I was jet-lagged and confused. But no- if something says “the first floor,” be prepared to walk up a flight of stairs.
- The hot water is HOT. Like boiling water hot. Be careful. Start cold, then add heat.
- Do not trust how long someone says something will take. If someone says “it’s 15 min away,” translate that to 30-45 min. If your tour guide says “just a few more minutes,” translate that to an hour. I’m not sure what the cultural reason is for this vast gap in time prediction, but it happened enough for me to realize it.
- Pharmacies are everywhere. We passed a lot of pharmacies trying to go to a specific one only to realize that they were all pretty much the same.
- Things close on Sundays. Always check the schedule and open hours at EVERY PLACE.
- All tours are not created equally. Read the reviews. I used viator.
- Get Euros from the ATM. Most places accept both Euro and Credit or Debit Cards.
I hope this guide was helpful to you. Feel free to ask me any questions! Check out my vlog below.