Why I Don’t Recommend Solo Travel to Paris
This is one of those posts where I share my heart and opinion. It's not meant to offend, but it is meant to be honest and give perspective. Moral of the story? Paris is not all rosé and baguettes. There's a lot of beauty to the city, but there's a lot of cons.
These photos were taken by Flytographer, which was an amazing experience. I have a discount code "ADAATUDE50" which is valid for $50 off for the rest of the year (until December 31st, 2019). It can be used towards a Flytographer shoot or gift card. You're welcome!
I had several shitty experiences, but I tried to rule it out to the fact that I wasn't prepared or communicating properly. We always blame ourselves, since surely not everyone around us can be an asshole. Wrong.
The French are not kind to Americans. End of story. People had warned me about this, and others had said it's gotten better. Some people on my stories told me the French would be kind because I was traveling alone, and I'm a female. None of that mattered.
I was traveling alone, and 90% of people tried to take advantage of me in some way. Since I like to share my trips in a lot of detail on stories, if you follow over there you likely saw some of this. Let's dive into the sequence of events of just one day.
5:00 AM: I woke up early since I had to take the underground subway to get to the train station for a 2 hour train to Bordeaux.
6:00 AM: As I approach the subway, I see that the train I need to get on is actually not running. I walk back to my hotel and speak to hotel staff (the front desk attendant was super helpful so shout out to 25 Hours Hotel Terminus Nord.)
6:20 AM: After speaking with him, he gives me the specific sequences of trains I need to take to bypass the train that isn't running at the moment. I'm now back in the station and have a new path to take. I'm looking for the specific line, and I can't find the entrance. I ask a train station worker where this station is and he asks where I'm going, and he says I have to take another train to get to the original path that the hotel staff instructed me to take. I told this train station worker that the hotel staff told me to take this specific path, and he said to me "Listen, you need to listen to me because you asked for MY help. The entrance to the station is right down there and make sure to enter the side going in this direction."
Someone else had walked up to him and waiting to ask for instructions, so I wrapped up my conversation and as I was walking away, he said to me "as always make sure to guard your personal belongings since you are in the subway" as he looked at my bag. Why didn't I think twice about this strange exchange? Honestly I was so tired, and just wanted to get to the train station so I could make this train to Bordeaux so I didn't think twice. My mistake.
6:45 AM: I go into the specific line and direction he specified to me, and there was no one down there. While it is early, if the line is running there should be someone else here, right? Why didn't I ask him how quickly this train was coming? There's also no one on the other side, so I feel a little nervous now and I slowly start to panic on the inside. I was able to get into the platform, so the line has to be running. Right? People will come. 5 minutes pass, and a man comes in on the opposite platform. He calls out to me and asks if he's heading to a specific station based on the side he's on. I told him I was told by the train station worker to enter on this side and I think he's on the wrong side. Then a group of people walks in on his side and he asks them and everyone's going to the station I am supposed to go to as well, so they tell me to come over to the opposite side which means I have to get out of the platform, climb up the stairs and re-enter the station on the opposite side. Then the thought occurs to me that the train station worker purposely told me to go in on the wrong side. He works at the train station, and it wasn't an innocent mistake especially given the attitude he had about me listening to him since I asked for his help. When I posted about this experience on stories, everyone said he called a friend to come rob me. Thank goodness I talked to the people across on the opposite platform, and I head out of the platform I was standing on with some relief knowing there are people down here.
6:55 AM: I haven't even mentioned the worst part. As I go to leave the platform, I can't get out. All the exits are red and have an X on them which means I can't get out because the doors won't open (even when I enter my ticket.) I start to feel claustrophobic and panicked. Actual panic. That fight or flight kicked in and I started to kick one of the doors. Why did it let me in, if I can't get out? The doors wouldn't budge and I considered breaking through it, but I figured the cameras would hold me liable and I'd be fined for damage so I started to think how I can climb on top to get out. There is a small opening in the side and at that point, I didn't care if an alarm went off so I crawl through it and get out.
7:00 AM: After that entire scene I said fuck this, I am taking an Uber to the train station.
7:20 AM: I make it to the train station and I'm still a little early. What a morning. I'm annoyed I woke up so early to take the subway when I could have just planned to take an Uber initially.
10:00 AM: I arrive in Bordeaux. As soon I get off the train station, I head to the bathroom. The sign reads 0.90 Euros to use it, and I give the woman 1 euro, meaning she would give me 10 pennies back. She looks at me and said "no, no" and I pointed to the sign and "1 euro" and she kept saying no. So then I did the only thing I could think to do, and I gave her 2 euros. She then gave me 40 pennies back which means she overcharged me for the bathroom. It is common in other countries to pay to use the bathroom (I know some people found this odd but it is common especially in Mexico and highly trafficked places in Europe.) I didn't pay 0.90 euros. Instead I paid 1.60 and I'm assuming she pockets that extra money, thinking she can overcharge me because I'm foreign.
10:20 AM: I've looked at the signs in the train station and realize I need to buy a bus ticket outside the station. I go outside to the kiosk and there's a man standing there who says he has to use the machine for me (and I know he is only there wanting to make money from tourists.) At this point I'm already fatigued with all the thievery so I go with it, buy the bus ticket and throw some change his way for helping me.
11:00 AM: I go to a local bar, order a cappuccino and some snacks. I start chatting with the bartender about the day's experiences from my perspective and he says "I'm sorry that happened, but welcome to France." Is that really how France wants to be known?
Throughout the day, I realized more and more how isolated I was in such a beautiful place. People weren't warm, or social. Waiters treated me like a burden. I mean I was paying with the same money everyone else was, so the sheer lack of customer service really surprised me every single time. Knowing this is how cold people are, I will definitely change my attitude towards the French people in the future.
7:00 PM: I get back on the train, and it's a full house. There's a girl sitting in my seat, and I get up to her and I say "I think this is my seat" and she says "yeah, okay just wait" (quite rudely stated) and she takes her time getting her things together and moving into the seat next to her boyfriend. She then proceeds to take over the shared space underneath the tables even though I clearly have things with me too that need to be stowed. She also had a mean mugging face the entire time (yes for 2 whole hours during the train ride.)
French kindness throughout.
I had done a little research and several people told me not to engage strangers in the streets. Turns out some people only have one way to make money, which is to pick pocket and do conniving things to make a few Euros from tourists.
As I walked out of my hotel one day, I was surrounded by 3 women who didn't speak French, and they barely spoke English. They asked me for money, and I told them I didn't have any. Then they asked for American dollars, and I said I only have credit card as I made the card swiping motion. The 3 of them were talking to me as a little kid was standing behind me attempting to pick pocket me. Luckily my bag had a hook closure and I had my hand on it the entire exchange, so there was nothing the kid could do. Several of you warmed me that they play tricks on you like wrap a string around your finger and tighten it until you agree to give them money. You either loose circulation in that finger or you pay them a few Euro, but either way tricks like that are prevalent which is so sad.
The sketchiness is even worse around train stations and popular tourist locations like Champs-Élysées. Always keep your bag covered when walking through large crowds, or wear a cardigan or jacket over it making it harder for someone to snag it. I even watched a man "fall" on an American man in the train and when he was falling he unzipped the American's backpack and took whatever was in the pocket. Another women noticed this happening too and she decided to go vocal and started screaming about it and told the man to check his backpack. Luckily the man who pick pocketed him told him "it fell out of his backpack" and gave him his items back but if the woman hadn't screamed and said anything, I don't think the man would have gotten his PASSPORT back.
was atrocious. There I said it. What is actual French food? Most of the cafes I went to (throughout Paris) had pizza and pasta. That's Italian food, not French. When I looked up French food, I saw ratatouille, snails and chocolate soufflé as results on Google. I wasn't in the mood for snails... really ever but none of the restaurants I popped into had these specialities. I ordered a beef tenderloin at a restaurant as the server told me it was amazing, and it was the worst beef tenderloin I've ever had in my entire life. It was so hard to chew and everyone around me ordered the same thing, so I told them to say something before the food was brought out. It was also a $30 tenderloin, and I told the server and he said "I'm so sorry, everyone else liked it and it was okay for them. I cannot do anything." How about comp the meal since I legit ate 3 bites and didn't even enjoy them? No concept of customer service. At all.
The croissants and coffees were good, and the Italian food I did have in the various cafes I popped into, was okay. Overall I was not impressed by the food. If you've had great food in France, please let me know where it was and if someone tells me L'Avenue I will lose it. That spot is ridiculously overrated. There has to be more than one restaurant in Paris that everyone recommends, so let me hear these fabulous recommendations. I'll be sure to check them out next time.
The Fashion World's Depiction of Paris
I know I will ruffle feathers by chatting about this, but if you think Instagram is real life your feathers need to be ruffled a little bit.
Seeing your favorite fashion bloggers in Paris looks so posh, so luxurious and so dreamy. Listen, I have seen their photos for years and I thought the same thing. I can tell you that fashion bloggers being chauffeured around in a black car from fashion show to fashion show is not real Paris. It's not about high end purchases, and it's not about going from cafe to cafe. That's vacation, and not everyday life. But did I need to tell you that? I don't know. All I can tell you is the stories I've seen myself, I was misled. Getting around Paris is not easy and being there for work is different from being there to experience more than just the inside of 5 venues putting on the fashion show. Not to mention, most of the fashion bloggers go to the exact same restaurant to eat everyday so of course the staff remembers them and treats them well, especially if the tip the day before was generous.
I was on the subway immersing myself into the real Paris, trying to understand how normal people commute every single day. On one of the days, I even took a 2 hour train to Bordeaux to do a wine tour. While I know I may be more adventurous than some, I think it's part of the magic of visiting a destination. You can't go to the same 2 places and think this is Paris. It's just not.
History & Architecture
I've told you a lot of the negatives (and cons) but I will say the history and architecture is really the appeal of Paris. I found myself telling my friends, regardless of the people and the food, you still have to go to Paris because there's so much history. The buildings are so beautiful, and after my trip to Italy (specifically Rome last year) a lot of people told me Paris was dirty. I stayed in two different neighborhoods, and drove all around town for different events, attractions and shows, so I felt like I saw a good amount of the city. It was really clean and exceeded my expectations in that sense.
The points of interest that had some incredible architecture, and of course hundreds of years of history were:
Arc de Triomphe
Pont des Arts
While those were some of the more iconic buildings, truly every building I saw had incredible architecture. It wasn't just the palaces and museums, but every shopping area, hotel and little cafe has incredible architecture. There is just something so magical about the age and profoundness of the architecture, and all the gold detailing. Not to mention you can't hear the person next to you because the walls are thicker and so sturdy. The history is unreal, and truly inspiring. This is one of the most historic aged cities, and so much history has happened that has formed Paris into what it is today. Learning about the canal, more about Louis the 14th, and about specific battle decisions through various time periods, was fascinating. There's so much to learn about France, and I enjoyed going through the decades during a food tour from Eating Europe.
Have you ever been to France? Paris specifically? Most people I've spoken with love Paris for its history and architecture, but agreed that the people are not friendly especially if you're a stranger/never been before/need help getting around.
I loved Your perspective on your trip to France… I have Never actually been but everything you wrote I heard Through friends and family … perhaps traveling with others may have made it easier for you but I believe The French do loathe Americans whole heartedly. The sheer fact that you were able to take some set backs and would still encourage those to visit speaks volumes about your love of travel and history! I have Never had the desire to visit France like I have Had the desire to visit Italy, Ireland and Greece… but I won’t say never to France thanks to you! Thank you for sharing and always giving the true perspective in your experiences
So sorry that you had a bad experience on many instances. I grew up in Europe and I’m sad to say that many countries/cities are not nice to Americans. My experience was never quite like what I’ve heard from people born and raised in the US but I’ve heard stories like yours before.
I went to Paris a while ago with my mom and while it was cold and rainy, we loved it. We didn’t take the subway or stay out too late past dark but enjoyed walking and seeing the sights. Sorry you had such a bad experience!
I’m sorry to hear the trip had so many unpleasant experiences but I appreciate you sharing them…it’s crazy! As someone who loves to travel I think personal reviews are valuable. xoxo, Sarah
Sorry that your experience wasn’t ideal. I went to Paris last year for a quick 2 nights and it was beautiful, but felt like another big city to me. I felt safe but was also with my husband and we didn’t go out late at night. It was also raining the whole time which wasn’t ideal but I’d still love to go back!
I’m so sorry you had such a horrific experience in Paris. Thankfully, the history and architecture seems to have redeemed it to some degree. I’ve looked forward to visiting Paris my whole life, and still plan on traveling there with an open mind and positive outlook! 🙂
I travelled to paris about 3 weeks ago on a short European tour. I had just come from Amsterdam. When I tell you I hated it. I really did. Coming from the Caribbean and not speaking a lot of french did not help. It was difficult navigating the airport as most signs are in french or chinese. It took me and my girlfriend two hours to get the correct train to get to where we wanted to go. We end up going bck to our hotel to speak to concierge. The people are not so friendly. Well most of them. The language barrier was overwhelming. And we visited the lock key bridge and I swear I got swindled into purchasing a lock when the gentleman had no authority to be selling ( but that’s my fault). All in all that was the most frustrating part of my entire trip
There are definitely places that I dont like to travel alone either – thanks for sharning your experience!
WOW. Thank you for sharing more about your trip! I would have never thought about any of this.
This is a really interesting perspective and post! I’ve always wondered about traveling alone to another country since I’ve never done that before. This is a really helpful post on the topic! Xx.
This is a great post! I had something similar happen to me in New York with the subway. So scary! We also had a hard time finding food in Paris – our hotel had AWESOME food, just so pricey and luckily, we had this incredible crepe guy within walking distance but other than that, finding food was an issue. Granted, I didn’t research before. On my very first trip to Paris, my friend got pickpocketed on the metro and ended up with an injured wrist. Pick pockets are a problem. Plus the main attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero are FULL of gypsies and what not. It was hard to enjoy our evening with people constantly trying to sell us things. This history and architecture is the main draw for me and I just get a feeling of nostalgia when I’m there. It’s very romantic but it’s definitely not whaat most people would imagine. Also, the Moulin Rouge…. dare I say more? haha! Even then, I do love Paris but it’s definitely what is perceived in photos, especially by fashion bloggers and the like.
Amazing! I know nothing about traveling all over the country, what a wonderful looking place to explore.