How to enjoy a hassle-free trip to France


Former publishing executive turned author of ‘Intoxicating Paris’ and ‘Intoxicating Southern France’ P J Adams reveals the top mistakes that visitors make when they come to France 

1. Neglecting to Read Hotel, Restaurant, and Sightseeing Reviews. Travel smart. Trip Advisor, Zagat, Virtual Tourist, and various travel guides will clue you in on tourist traps to avoid (like Paris’s overcrowded Les Deux Magot) and tips for making your travel experiences easy and fun. Example: the Paris Museum Pass saves money and lets you skip the long lines.

2. Not Selecting a Gîte or Apartment. Paris apartments are typically fantastic ways to experience real life there; gîtes (furnished home or apartment) offer self-catering options and more freedom. You can get by without a concierge by heading to the town’s tourism office for advice and information.

3. Wasting Time on Far-afield Accommodations. If you plan to see more Paris Right Bank sights, stay near there to limit your time spent on buses or the metro. If you visit Provence, pick a central locale like Avignon but avoid rush hour when you travel to and from the town. To escape French Riviera traffic, stay on one end and walk or take the trolley to nearby offerings (for example Nice and Monaco); relocate to another accommodation (like St. Tropez) to visit the opposite end of the area.

4. Failing to Plan for Commute Time and Sunday Meals. Small towns in France get bogged down in farm traffic or local rush hour congestion while high-profile sights like the Eiffel Tour are a nightmare during peak hours. Go early or try late afternoon to avoid tourist hordes. In Bordeaux, take the wine bus, hire a wine guide, or secure a chauffeured town car to maximize your enjoyment. Remember that Sundays are cherished French family days and some dining venues close; book reservations or you may end up eating snack food.

5. Being Unprepared for Emergencies. Take copies of your credit cards, medical data, passport, and back up prescriptions. Also take adapters, cords, and batteries for any contingency. More important, get travel insurance. (They often provide an emergency number if you need assistance.)

6. Neglecting to Alert Your Local Banks and Credit Card Companies About Your Travel. Call the appropriate companies about your travel dates and be sure to have a copy of their non-800 numbers, as well as the toll free numbers, since toll-free doesn’t always work in foreign locales.

7. Forgetting the French Niceties. The French are pleased when you honor their customs and recognize they feel their workplaces are extensions of their homes. When you come and go, use some token French at least to make connections. Phrases like “Bonjour, parlez-vous Anglais?” (“Hello, do you speak English?”), “Au Revoir” (“Goodbye), and “Merci” (“Thanks”) make a huge difference in bridging the culture gap. I often add “Mon français est très mauvais mais je essayer de pratiquer.“ (“My French is very bad but I try to practice”) and I make a French friend (and language coach) for life.

8. Mispacking. You’ve heard the phrase “Layer, Layer, Layer.” I’d add “Ship it Home” and “Pack Light” as well. You can always find a La Poste post office in France that will give you one of their big orange boxes to toss in your bulky jackets (if the weather changes), your prized purchases, and even your dirty laundry to ship home. For around $50 or £33 the box will beat you home AND your luggage will be lighter. Also, avoid packing bulky sweaters and jeans; they take forever to dry.

9. Obtaining Currency from On-the-Curb ATMs. Go inside the bank to get your euros; thieves sometimes put credit-card readers in curb-side ATMs and steal your credit card number.

10. Falling Prey to Pickpockets. Get some literature on how to avoid pickpockets and purse-snatchers like the American Embassy’s “Pickpockets in Paris: How to Avoid Becoming a Victim” (many of whom are adolescents who work in groups). Also learn to forcefully say “Vous arrêtez!” (“You stop!”) to people who are crowding or bothering you.

PJ Adams ( – pictured at the top – is the best-selling author of several travel books including: Intoxicating Paris: Uncorking the Parisian Within and Intoxicating Southern France: Uncorking the Magic in the French Riviera, Provence, Languedoc, Dordogne, and Bordeaux

And coming soon: Champagne, Loire Valley, Normandy, Brittany, and greater Paris.

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