Paris is one of those cities that has become almost legendary — incredible architecture, art and history, rich in culture and filled with romance. If you are lucky enough to visit this great city in your lifetime, here are our tips to make your travels run smoother and help you get the most out of this great destination.
South African passport holders need a visa to visit France, for both short and long stays. This includes having your biometric data recorded, so be sure to have a look at the French Embassy’s website for more information before planning your trip.
Touted as the fashion capital of the world, Parisians definitely have an appreciation for the chic and the suave, so use it as an opportunity to pack clothes that are comfortable, season-appropriate, and stylish. While choosing your shoes, do remember that touring involves a lot of walking. Don’t forget to pack a universal charger for your devices.
Flights from South Africa can range from 11 hours to around 16 hours, depending on who you fly. After a long flight, and especially if you land up in Paris at an odd hour, it is advisable to book an airport transfer with a reliable service beforehand. This will ensure a comfortable and safe transfer to your accommodation. While you are touring the city, it is better to ride public transportation, as Paris has a great network of buses and metro trains. Avoid taxis as they can be very expensive.
Given the huge number of tourists visiting each year, there is a great selection of hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels and accommodation options to choose from. It’s always recommended to make an advance booking, and this is also the best way to find a great deal. Staying within the city is worth it. Research an area where you can walk to the places that interest you, and you’ll create moments to absorb the atmosphere of Paris.
Paris has variety of passes, from transport travel cards to museum passes so you can skip the line. Opt for the one that best suits you. There are countless free phone apps that feature Paris maps, food guides, tourist attractions and so on.
When in Paris, there are sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and The Louvre that cannot be missed. Before you hit the roads of Paris, plan your itinerary for the day. Keep in mind the visiting hours and location of each tourist attraction and avoid overbooking your days. After all, enjoying un café while people watching is a favourite pastime in Paris.
Tours of Paris with a knowledgeable guide or activities with a twist can turn a great visit into a greater one. If you love cooking, there are a multitude of culinary classes from renowned chefs on offer. There are many types of city tours available; culinary, art, history, whatever takes your fancy!
Practice Your French
Predominantly, Paris is a French speaking city, so it will certainly be an advantage if you could practise a few general phrases. Though many people in the city speak English, learning casual greetings such as Au revoir (Farewell), Bonjour (Hello), Merci (Thanks) and Sil vous plait (Please), will be much appreciated by the locals.
Drinking & Dining
Paris is a treasure trove of culinary gems. There are food tours that take you through popular boulangeries and bakeries. Paris also boasts a variety of African restaurants like Le Petit Dakar and Le Comptoir General. A brunch at the street-side cafes is a must, but if you can book a table in advance, as dining joints can get pretty crowded during busy hours. Since every meal in a restaurant can add up to be quite costly, an option is visiting a local supermarket and purchasing a fresh baguette, wedge of local cheese and some french wine. Enjoy in a nearby park or by the river as a charming picnic.
The luxury brand outlets offer expensive merchandise, but during the bi-annual sales, you will surely grab good deals. And, if you have a knack for bargaining and treasure hunting, go for the shops that are hidden in the smaller alleys.
While Paris is certainly an expensive city, there are lot of free things to do. Many museums offer free visits on the first Sunday of the month and there are many art studios that offer free entry. Most of parks and gardens have no admission prices, and exploring the streets costs nothing but is priceless!