Things Not To Do in Paris: 33 Tourist Mistakes

Things Not To Do in Paris

While its charm is irresistible, with cozy cafés, glittering shops, and an unparalleled artistic atmosphere, Paris can sometimes lead visitors astray with tourist traps and commonplace disappointments.

To truly fall in love with Paris, avoid the common pitfalls many first-timers face such as congested tourist spots, getting on Parisian’s bad side, unexceptional dining experiences, and lengthy queues at popular attractions.

Let this guide serve as your compass: here are things not to do in Paris and what you should know before you go

1. Don’t Buy Tickets at the Door of Famous Attractions

Do not buy tickets at the door of attractions or famous museums

Many of Paris’s most famous cultural treasures, such as the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, or Centre Pompidou, offer the option to buy tickets online.

These e-tickets are your golden ticket to bypassing the long queues, leaving you with more time to marvel at masterpieces rather than the back of someone’s head.

Some of these attractions and museums can also be sold out, so buying your ticket beforehand allows you to skip disappointment as well.

Tip: Check out our Paris travel guide for more tips and tricks for free museums and discounts.

2. Don’t Expect Metros To Have Elevators or Escalators

While navigating the Paris metro system, it’s important to set the expectation that not all stations are equipped with elevators or escalators. This can be particularly challenging for those with mobility issues, heavy luggage, or strollers.

The Paris metro, one of the oldest in the world, was built at a time when accessibility wasn’t a primary consideration, and though efforts have been made to modernize it, many stations still lack these facilities.

If you require an elevator or escalator, it’s crucial to plan ahead. The RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens), which manages Paris’s public transportation, provides information on station accessibility on its website and through its app.

You can find out which stations have been updated to include elevators and plan your route accordingly.

3. Don’t Rely on English

“Bonjour” can open more doors than “hello” ever will. 

Embarking on a Parisian adventure with the expectation that everyone will cater to your English is a recipe for raised eyebrows and potential misadventures.

It’s a city that takes pride in its language like it does in its wine – with passion and a touch of stubbornness. So, arm yourself with a short crash course in French – “S’il vous plaît” (please) “Merci” (thank you), and “Pardon” (sorry/excuse me) can be your trusty sidekicks. 

A translation app can also come in quite handy, but expect some waiters to heavily sigh at its sight. 

4. Don’t Expect Paris To Be Perfect

Don’t expect Paris to be perfect

Some visitors arrive with visions of an idyllic Paris plucked straight from glossy brochures, only to be greeted by the less glamorous realities of urban life.

This phenomenon, known as “Paris syndrome,” leaves starry-eyed travelers disenchanted when they encounter the occasional graffiti-splashed wall, littered streets, and pee-smelling metro stations. 

It’s important to remember that Paris, like any major metropolis, has its share of grime and grit that coexists with its beauty. The key is to anticipate the chaos amidst the chic. 

Embrace the city’s imperfections as part of its charm – the way the Seine flows smoothly past both the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower and the smelly trash-filled quay.

5. Don’t Try To Only Do Off-the-Beaten-Path Things in Paris

Attempting to dodge Parisian cliché is like refusing to eat croissants because they’re ‘too mainstream’ – you’ll miss out on the buttery goodness that is traditional Paris.

In Paris, there’s a reason why the classics are classic. The Eiffel Tower isn’t just a pile of iron, a moonlit Seine river cruise isn’t a tourist trap, and sipping coffee at a sidewalk café is more than a pastime. So go ahead, embrace the clichés!

Read: Unusual things to do in Paris.

6. Don’t Take the Train During Rush Hours

Taking the train in Paris during rush hours can be a daunting experience. As one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, Paris sees a significant influx of commuters every morning (typically between 8:00 AM and 9:30 AM) and evening (from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM).

During these times, the Metro, RER, and other public trains can become incredibly crowded, making for an uncomfortable and stressful journey.

If you’re looking to travel around the city with ease and avoid being packed like a sardine, it’s advisable to plan your train trips outside of these peak hours.

7. Don’t Wear Uncomfortable Shoes

Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes

Wearing uncomfortable shoes in Paris is a decision you’ll make with every step—quite literally.

The city is best explored on foot, with countless alleys, staircases, and cobblestone streets that are unforgiving to the ill-shod traveler.

8. Do Not Book Accommodation Too Far From the Metro

When you’re selecting a place to stay, consider its proximity to a Metro station. Being a short walk away from a station can greatly enhance your Parisian experience, providing quick and easy access to the sights and sounds of the city.

This convenience is especially valuable after a long day of exploring when you’ll appreciate a straightforward commute back to your accommodation.

Read: Best hostels in Paris.

9. Don’t Eat Near Tourist Attractions

Tempting as it may be to grab a bite at the restaurants and cafes crowding around Paris’s iconic landmarks, it’s an activity that often yields a bland taste of regret. 

These places come at the cost of both authenticity and your wallet. My rule of thumb is to cross at least two parallel streets to famous landmarks and neighborhoods before picking a place to eat.

10. Don’t Forget To Dress Well if You’re Going to Exclusive Restaurants

Wandering into a high-end Parisian restaurant in your well-worn sneakers and souvenir t-shirt is like bringing a plastic picnic knife to a culinary sword fight. You might not care about how you dress, but a lot of establishments in Paris do.

11. Don’t Buy Water (Always Ask for Tap Water)

In Paris, there’s no need to splash out on bottled water at restaurants – the tap water is top-notch and won’t cost you a centime. Just ask your server for “une carafe d’eau” (water pitcher from the tap) and you will be keeping your wallet empty and thirst quenched.

12. Don’t Over Tip

In France, a service charge is typically included in the bill as “service compris,” meaning that the waitstaff is already paid a service fee with the cost of your meal.

While this doesn’t necessarily mean that tipping is discouraged, it’s certainly not expected to the same extent as it is in some other countries, such as the United States.

For good service, it is customary to leave a small additional amount, but this is entirely at your discretion. A common practice is to leave the small change you receive back after paying the bill or rounding up to the nearest euro.

For a more substantial meal at a high-end restaurant, you might consider leaving a few extra euros, but rarely more than 5-10% of the total bill.

13. Don’t Rely on Taxis Late at Night in Paris

In Paris, the city that never sleeps might occasionally take a nap when it comes to late-night transportation. If you’re relying on taxis or rideshare services like Uber to get to the airport after dark, be prepared for a potentially long and lonely wait. 

Even if you’ve been proactive and pre-scheduled your Uber, don’t be surprised if your ride cancels at the last minute. To avoid this unwelcome plot twist, make sure you have downloaded alternatives like Bolt, which has a track record for more reliable service in Paris.

It’s also wise to arm yourself with a list of phone numbers for local taxi companies, just in case your app-based plans fall through. Above all, remember to build in a generous buffer of time for your journey to Charles de Gaulle or Orly.

14. Don’t Visit Popular Attractions at the Wrong Time

Visiting Popular Attractions At The Wrong Time

Visiting Paris’s popular attractions at peak times can turn a dream vacation into a less-than-ideal experience. The city’s most beloved sites like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and Sacré-Cœur Basilica attract millions of visitors each year. To make the most of these wonders, timing is everything.

To avoid the long queues and crowded viewing spaces, aim to visit these attractions early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the bulk of the tourist traffic has ebbed. 

15. Don’t Forget To Greet Shopkeepers and Waiters

Forgetting to greet shopkeepers when entering a store in Paris is a faux pas that can easily sour the famously refined French shopping experience.

In Paris, as in much of France, courteous greetings are not just a formality; they are an integral part of the culture. When you enter a boutique, bakery, or café, it’s customary to acknowledge the staff with a friendly “Bonjour” during the day or “Bonsoir” in the evening.

16. Don’t Board a Train or Metro Without a Ticket

Paris takes its public transportation rules seriously, and fare dodging can quickly turn your holiday into a costly affair. Ticket inspectors are plentiful and very vigilant.

Take it from someone who has tried to use the metro without a ticket: it’s not worth it unless you have €60 to burn.

17. Don’t Overplan Your Trip

Paris is a city that rewards the wanderer, the explorer, and the curious at heart. So while it’s great to have an outline of the places you want to see, remember to leave some blank pages in your travel diary for serendipity. 

Stroll without a destination in mind, let a street musician’s melody lead you to a hidden square, or find a cozy nook in a café to watch the world go by.

Sometimes the best memories come from the unplanned detours – a secret garden, a small art gallery, or a conversation with a friendly local.

18. Don’t Forget About Safety

Always be mindful of your surroundings and personal belongings, especially in tourist hotspots, crowded areas like the Metro, or any busy café terraces.

Read: best things to do in Paris at night.

Pickpocketing can happen, so it’s wise to keep your valuables secure and close to your body – consider using a money belt or a theft-proof bag.

19. Don’t Expect the Métro To Get You to Your Destination on Time

Anticipating punctuality from the Paris Métro is like expecting a perfectly timed soufflé – sometimes it rises to the occasion, and other times it may fall flat.

While the Métro is generally reliable and an efficient means of traversing the city, it is not immune to delays caused by maintenance work, strikes, or unforeseen circumstances that can disrupt service (especially line 8, if you know.. You know).

It’s wise to allow for some flexibility in your schedule when planning activities around Métro travel. 

Hostelgeeks tip: download Citymappers and rely on it instead of Google Maps, it offers more accurate timetables.

20. Don’t Expect the Bus To Have the Same Schedule As Google Maps

When using Google Maps for bus schedules in Paris, it’s important to be aware that actual bus arrival times may not always match the predictions. 

Traffic Conditions: The congested streets of Paris can significantly delay bus travel, especially during rush hours or in the event of an accident or roadwork.

  • Weather: Inclement weather, like heavy rain or snow, can slow down public transportation.
  • Events: Public events, demonstrations, or strikes can lead to rerouted bus lines or additional delays.
    Vibes: Sometimes there aren’t any reasons, it’s just the bus vibes, plan, and expect delays or inaccurate timetables.
  • Have a Backup Plan: Know alternative routes or modes of transportation, such as the Metro or walking, in case your bus route is experiencing significant delays.

21. Don’t Expect To See Everything at the Louvre

The Louvre is less of a museum and more of a cultural labyrinth, with art-filled corridors that could stretch from the Champs-Élysées to the Seine if laid end to end.

With its vast and varied collection, you could spend weeks wandering its halls and still discover new treasures. To avoid museum fatigue and truly appreciate the experience, it’s best to highlight a few iconic pieces or specific galleries that resonate with your interests.

Treat the Louvre not as a challenge to conquer but as a fine wine to be sipped; each visit is a chance to taste different notes and nuances.

Read: Free things to do in Paris.

22. Don’t Forget About Vélib’ Rides

Don’t Pass up Vélib’ Rides

Vélib’ Métropole is the city’s expansive bike-sharing service, boasting thousands of bikes and hundreds of stations scattered across Paris and its suburbs.

This service offers a convenient and eco-friendly transportation alternative that provides both flexibility and accessibility for tourists and locals alike.

Before you set off, it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with the city’s cycling lanes and rules to ensure a safe trip. Additionally, downloading the Vélib’ app can help you locate nearby stations and check bike availability in real time.

23. Don’t Skip Pre-Trip Planning

Pre-trip planning is the secret ingredient to a magical Paris adventure. It’s not about scripting every moment, but rather about sketching a loose outline to avoid the common tourist trap of spending more time in lines than actually enjoying the sights.

Researching ahead allows you to uncover local favorites, book tickets to must-see attractions in advance, and even stumble upon that quaint café where the croissants are just a little flakier and the coffee a touch richer. It’s about knowing which days the museums offer free entry and which areas come to life at night.

24. Don’t Rent a Car

Renting a car in Paris is about as practical as using a baguette as a paddle. The city’s streets are a web of one-ways, narrow lanes, and unpredictable traffic that can test the patience of even the most seasoned driver.

Add to that the challenge of finding parking, which is as rare as a quiet moment at the Louvre, and you’ll understand why locals favor other modes of transport. 

25. Don’t Stick to Restaurants (Picnics Are Very Nice)

Do not stick to restaurants (picnics are very nice)

The Parisian dining experience isn’t limited to sitting at a table with a menu. Balancing restaurant visits with the casual spontaneity of picnics can enrich your trip.

Dining under the canopy of trees in the Jardin du Luxembourg or along the Seine as the city glides by offers a different flavor of Paris. It’s also the best way to eat near famous landmarks without having to sell part of your liver.

26. Try Not To Travel During the High Season

The high season, typically from June to August and including major holidays, sees the City of Light at its busiest, brimming with tourists and accompanied by longer queues at attractions and higher accommodation prices.

To savor Paris with a little more breathing room and potentially lower costs, consider planning your trip during the shoulder seasons – spring (April to May) and fall (September to October).

During these times, the city is still vibrant, and the weather is often mild, yet the crowds are thinner, making it easier to navigate museums, landmarks, and restaurants.

27. Don’t Wait in Line at the Eiffel Tower

Queuing for hours at the Eiffel Tower can eat into precious time that could be better spent exploring the City of Light. To ascend this iron marvel without the long wait, smart travelers opt for skip-the-line tickets.

28. Don’t Stay Outside of the City

Staying outside the main city limits of Paris may seem like a budget-friendly option, but it comes with its own set of challenges that could detract from your overall experience.

One of the primary concerns is the reliance on the RER, the regional express network that connects Paris to its suburbs. While it can be an efficient means of transportation, the RER system can also be quite confusing for first-time visitors or those not fluent in French.

Additionally, staying outside the city can incur higher transportation costs and longer travel times.

While central Paris is quite walkable, staying in the suburbs means you will depend more on public transit, which can add up throughout your stay. 

29. Don’t Avoid Asking for Help

While the myth persists that Parisians are unfriendly, the reality is often quite the opposite. When approached respectfully, many Parisians are more than willing to offer assistance or direction.

The key to breaking through this stereotype is understanding the importance of politeness in French culture. A simple “Bonjour” (hello) followed by “Excusez-moi” (excuse me) can work wonders in initiating a positive interaction.

When choosing whom to ask for help, look for someone who is not obviously in the middle of something or rushing somewhere.

People sitting in parks, browsing in shops, or waiting at a bus stop are more likely to have the time and inclination to assist you. Parisians, like anyone else, are more receptive when they aren’t feeling pressured or interrupted.

Don’t Throw Away Your Ticket When You Take a Train or Subway

In Paris, it’s crucial to hold onto your ticket until you’ve exited the station at your final destination. This is because ticket inspectors conduct random checks to ensure passengers have valid tickets.

Getting caught without a ticket can result in a hefty fine, an unwelcome souvenir from your travels. Furthermore, this applies not only to the Metro but also to RER trains, where ticket checks can occur even after you’ve disembarked from the train, as you’re leaving the station zone.

30. Don’t Book Last Minute

DO NOT… book last minute

The allure of Paris is timeless, drawing visitors year-round, which means that everything from plane seats to the coziest hotel rooms is snapped up well before the travel date.

Delaying your travel arrangements can often lead to a premium on prices and a compromise on choices. Early reservation is the key to unlocking a treasure trove of options and often, more attractive deals. 

31. Don’t Fall for the Scams

Scammers often prey on tourists, capitalizing on their excitement and unfamiliarity with local customs. Here are some common scams to watch out for:

  • The Petition Scam: Someone may approach you with a clipboard, asking you to sign a petition for a seemingly noble cause. While you’re distracted, an accomplice might pickpocket you, or they’ll pressure you into giving a cash donation.
  • The Bracelet Scam: Commonly encountered around popular tourist sites like Montmartre, scammers offer to make you a friendship bracelet. Once they’ve tied the bracelet to your wrist, they’ll demand payment, often much more than the bracelet’s worth.
  • The Photo Scam: Someone might dress as a character or street performer and encourage you to take a photo with them, only to demand money afterward.
  • The Cup and Ball Scam: A street hustler will perform the classic shell game, and while you’re convinced you can win some easy cash by guessing where the ball is, the game is designed for you to lose.

Consider practicing a firm “Non, merci” and continue on your way without stopping. 

32. Don’t Take Pictures in the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore

Never take pictures in Paris’ famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore

Shakespeare and Company is not just a bookstore; it’s a cultural landmark, steeped in the history of expatriate literary life in Paris.

It’s a place where people come to browse, read, and immerse themselves in the written word, undisturbed by the click of cameras. Respecting this atmosphere ensures that the tranquility and timeless charm of the bookstore are preserved for all who seek refuge in its literary embrace.

33. Don’t Forget Your Phrases of French Politeness

Walking into a shop or café without a melodic ‘Bonjour’ is the cultural equivalent of wearing flip-flops to a fashion show. Remember, ‘Merci’ is your golden ticket, ‘S’il vous plaît’ is the magic phrase that opens doors, and ‘Excusez-moi’ can get you out of the stickiest of situations.

These simple expressions are the keys to the city, and their lack of use is the reason why many tourists find the French unfriendly…

We are 100% Independent: Some links on Hostelgeeks are so-called affiliate links. If you decide to book through these links, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support allows us to keep producing high-quality, independent content free of influence from hostels or external advertisers. Learn more here. 🙏

✏️ Read our Editorial Guidelines

Our Favorite Travel Resources 2024

👏 Booking Hostels: Always find better deals for Hostels on They compare prices from Hostelworld and

✈️ Cheap Flights: The first websites we always check are Skyscanner and Google Flights.

🤒 Travel Insurance Simplified: We always go either with Safetywing and Hey Mondo.

🤓 Smart Travel Tools you need to know: Find a list of our favorite travel tools.

Get your Smart Packing List (Free Printable): Knowing what to pack and what not to pack is key. Get our ultimate list of smart items to bring on your trip.

Download your Free PDF Packing List

Best Hostel Packing List