Paris is a fairly safe place to visit but all cities of the world have their troubles – pickpockets and scams are to be avoided. In part 2 of her look at how to avoid problems in Paris (see Part I here) travel writer Caroline Molinari gives her Paris safety tips for a hassle-free trip to Paris.
This one is a tricky one to avoid. The goal is for the swindler to wrap a handmade bracelet around your wrist. They may act in a forceful way and once it’s done, of course, they will ask you for money. You have to be careful, because it may be a gang “working” there. If you don’t want to pay and you protest, they may call their accomplices for some “help”. To avoid that, there’s unfortunately no magic formula, but try to spot them first and keep your hands in your pocket. If they can’t get your hands or wrists, they cannot do anything.
Sign my petition
You’re walking around, taking pictures when some person hands you some petition to sign. They pretend to be deaf-mute and will ask you not only to sign but also for some money. It is of course, a scam. Very easy to avoid, just ignore them, but still be careful about your belongings, you’ll never know if they will attempt to steal something while your attention is caught by the petitioner.
In the subway
The subway is a common place for scams but can be easily avoided. In the very touristic stations, there are often long queues at the vending machines and you could very quickly become impatient. You may find people trying to sell you tickets illegally. These tickets, if you buy them, are the price-reduced ones, but they will charge you at the same rate as a normal ticket. If you don’t have a valid document vouching for the promotion, you will have to pay up to a €45 fine. If you don’t want to be bothered, just tell them you have a Navigo pass. Remember this magic word “Navigo”.
You may encounter a woman crying, usually with a companion, and asking for help. What happened to the lady you may wonder? She lost everything because somebody has stolen her purse. She will ask you for money to buy a ticket. Don’t be deceived by the tears – advise her to go to the RATP counter to call the police and walk away.
Last one in the subway are the buskers in the subway wagons. The only authorized musicians are the ones in the corridors of the subway. They are specially auditioned and selected by the RATP once a year. You can give them some money if you enjoy their music.
As you may know already, there’s a taxi shortage in the capital and some unscrupulous people have decided to take an illegal advantage of this situation. If you’re waiting for a taxi and some random car arrives and offers you a ride for a bit of money, be careful. If you decide to jump in, you will notice that there’s no meter. The driver will charge you whatever amount he assumes necessary. You will end up, of course, paying much more than for a legal taxi. If there’s no mention of “Taxi de Paris”, don’t bother, it will be a scam.
At the café
After a long walk through the capital, you’ve decided to rest at a café to recover a bit. What’s better than a nice cup of coffee and the Seine close by. This nice feeling may not last long when you receive the bill if you are unfortunate enough to come across an unscrupulous waiter though this is rare. Ask for the drinks menu, if they claim they don’t have one, enter the café – there should be some blackboard with the prices.
To keep the price down, don’t order from the terrace but from the counter. The prices are different. If the waiter protests, just ignore him. I know it may seem rude but it is ok. Don’t hesitate to protest if you see the drink isn’t what your ordered. There is no such thing as one litre beer! If you want to order a beer, you can buy a bottled one, or if you buy directly from the tap, then you have the choice between “un demi” which is actually 0.25 cl and “une pinte” is 0.50 cl. Remember too – the drink/drive rules in France are strict.
As for the different types of coffee, here’s the list :
Café : strong espresso kind of coffee, in a small cup
Café au lait : Coffee with steamed milk. Sometimes you get your milk separately in a jug
Café crème : Coffee with hot milk or cream in a big cup
Café noisette : Espresso with a bit of cream, in a small cup.
Café léger : Espresso with double the water
Be careful, if you ask for a coffee and the waiter asks if you want some milk, he may charge you both the coffee and the milk, as two different items. Keep your bags close to you where you can see them to avoid pick pockets and bag snatchers.
All photographs by talented Paris photographer Marc Nouss
By Caroline Molinari whose passions are travelling and France, her country of birth, she runs the website: www.tripfactory.net