11.DON’T RELY ON TAXIS LATE AT NIGHT
You can spend an hour looking and still not find a taxi; and even if you do, you may still get attitude or the runaround from the driver. Unlike New York and other major cities, you can’t depend on flagging down a taxi in Paris, and the taxi stand system is maddening and unreliable, even in the daytime. Smartphone car services, like Uber, LeCab, AlloCab, and others operating in Paris, have become an excellent alternative. Increasingly popular (despite semi-successful attempts by taxi drivers to have them legally abolished), they provide fast, reliable service—in English—and are almost unfailingly courteous. And you won’t have to worry about the meter ticking away while you pass the same monument for the third time.
12.DON’T THINK TOURS ARE TOO TOURISTY
There are tons of excellent tours—on foot or bicycle—that can show you sides of Paris you may not see on your own, offer insider tips and historical facts, get you through the lines and into VIP places, and enrich your entire experience. For 20 years, Paris Walks has offered a series of enticing strolls, led by friendly, knowledgeable experts, that explore everything from fashion and chocolate to churches, along with specific neighborhoods and historic themes. Underground Paris gives an insider’s initiation into Paris’s rich street art scene. Bike About has a great range of discovery bike tours, for groups, family, or private groups, in off-the-beaten path neighborhoods, as well as Versailles and the Champagne region. Fat Tire offers day and nighttime bike (or electric scooter) tours in Paris and beyond that gets you through the lines. For more about recommended tours, see Paris’s Best Insider Tours.
13.DON’T SKIP PRE-TRIP PLANNING
Paris is smaller than many major cities, but wandering around the city—an absolute must—can be frustrating if you don’t understand its layout and street plans. Familiarize yourself with the arrondissement system and have some idea of the neighborhoods before going, or cram on the plane ride over. Once here, hands down the best investment you’ll make is a plan de Paris—a small, inexpensive map by arrondissement (Paris L’Indispensable is a good one, €6.50, at any newsstand) that lists every street, monument, and museum. Don’t neglect guidebooks and apps, including French apps in English, like the superb Visit Paris by Metro app (RATP), which offers accurate metro schedules down to the minute and detailed itineraries. The apps can save a lot of time, money, and frustration. Guidebooks can be invaluable for getting the most out of a neighborhood too—and you won’t incur roaming charges!
14.DON’T PASS UP VÉLIB’ RIDES
Paris’s bike-for-hire system Vélib’—for velo (bike) and liberté—is one of the best and cheapest in the world. All you need is a credit card with a chip and you’re off. Rentals are easy, stations are everywhere, bike lanes are safe and Paris-wide, and rentals are 24 hours a day, all-year round. Here’s how it works: go to the terminal at any Vélib’ station; follow the on-screen instructions in English; select your subscription (1-day, €1.70; 7-day, €8) and bike; wait for the green light and go. The first 30 minutes are free, the second half hour is €1, the third costs €2, and every half hour after costs €4. Last June, Paris inaugurated P’tit Vélib,’ for kids ages two to eight (with adorable bikes of the appropriate size), which can be rented at the Berges de Seine, Canal St-Martin, and the Bois de Vincennes.
15.DON’T LEAVE YOUR KIDS AT HOME
Paris is an amazingly kid-friendly city, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you follow basic rules, you and your kids and will have a great time. For starters, every museum, foundation, arts center, and park in the city has a tantalizing list of activities for kids, some in English. Paris’s top hotels—including Le Bristol and Meurice—have added new attractions for kids, including cooking classes and tours, leaving parents some free time to hit the spa. From Guignol puppet theaters, historic merry-go-rounds, playgrounds (the Luxembourg Gardens has all three, for example) to interactive museum exhibits (Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, Cité des Enfants, Palais de la Découverte) and amusement parks (Jardin d’Acclimatation), your children will be well-entertained during their visit.