When the wanderlust strikes, it’s hard to avoid its siren song. For globe-hopping travelers, there are few destinations with the near-universal allure of France. Whether you’re out to experience the food, culture or just all of the benefits a French vacation has to offer, these tips will make an already enchanting vacation even better
Protect Your Money
There’s nothing worse than being in a foreign country and losing access to all your money. It’s a terrifying kind of stranded, which is why your first step should always be protecting your money. Call your financial institutions — like banks and credit card companies — in advance to let them know when you’ll be out of the country, where in France you’re going and the best way to contact you just in case something arises.
While you’re traveling, be careful about when and how you use your debit card. Use your credit cards as often as you’re able, since they provide more recourse should they get compromised. Try to only use your debit or check card at ATMs, and be wary of anyone who gets too close or can see your PIN. Your privacy and security should be your first priority. Don’t forget to jiggle the card insert on ATMs to make sure there isn’t a false cover scammers use for cloning cards.
Be aware of potential scams. Give out card information only when absolutely necessary. Scammers will often try to catch you off guard or at inopportune times, like the middle of the night. If you get a call from your hotel and think something is suspicious, go to the front desk and verify with a manager.
Be Aware of Security Issues
Safety is of the utmost importance, and whether you’re going to Paris or Calais, be aware of the world around you. Calais offers beaches, arts, haute-couture lace and the local amber beer, the “Bourgeoises” of Calais. It’s also known for an immigrant crisis including migrant gangs and a shanty town called the jungle. Calais is a beautiful city with a rebounding tourism market and conveniently located between England and the rest of continental Europe, making it a worthwhile stop if you’re planning on visiting other countries — as long as travelers pay heed to any safety warnings that might pop up.
Pickpocketing is common in Paris, so secure your valuables, never leave anything unattended. Subway cars can be crowded and provide the perfect opportunity for thieves. You might want to check into traveler insurance, a portable safe, or a money belt just to be safe.
Above all, trust your intuition. If something feels wrong, it probably is.
When in France…
For travelers looking to get the most out of their French experience, a handful of tips and tricks will elevate you from tourist to a connoisseur of a foreign land. First and foremost, celebrate the French, their lifestyle and their culture. Embrace it! Speak as much French as you’re able to, even if it’s a quick bonjour before asking if they speak english. If you can communicate with the French in their own language, you’ll experience a greater camaraderie. Even if you’re not terribly fluent, give it your best go. Chances are they’ll appreciate the effort.
Be adventurous! Walk, take public transport, explore. If you have a set itinerary but see something interesting, give yourself the freedom to be curious. Don’t go to the Louvre and make a beeline for the Mona Lisa. Take day trips out of Paris to explore the rest of the country.
Do some research ahead of time. Learn when the worst times are to go to France (August) and the least expensive (January). Book tickets to events or exhibits in advance whenever you can.
Combine Work and Play
Balancing work and play is hard for a lot of people, especially when the urge to chuck everything out the window and travel strikes. The benefits of living in an online world means that you can travel without sacrificing your goals, education or career. Digital books and documents can help you continue to study or work on the fly. Students can bring their student IDs for discounts in France — after all, there are a lot of celebrated tourism spots based on history and the arts. Make sure your flight and hotel have good internet access. And if nothing else, read a book in the park and enjoy some of the best people watching Paris has to offer.