Your first time in Paris.

Everyone remembers their first time. But if you don’t know what you’re doing it can be an awkward and unpleasant experience which may leave you feeling less than satisfied.

Luckily, there are plenty of people who have gone before you and have blazed the path for the best possible experience. Paris has a lot to offer, it can be a little daunting if you don’t know where to start. I get a lot of requests for advice from friends coming to the city of light for the first time, so I have compiled a few pointers.

Take notes, save this page for later, bookmark it, and keep it handy for when you are ready for your big trip to one of the world’s most beautiful and captivating cities.

Where should you stay?





The first question I get from newbies is always this- and knowing Paris I fully understand why this is such a common question. The amount of options is a little overwhelming, choosing between a hotel/ hostel/ Air BnB, choosing locations between the arrondissements, knowing how much to pay and if you’re getting a good deal. The possibilities are endless. Here’s a little breakdown.


Hostels in Paris are generally expensive compared to the rest of the world. For a bed in an 8 person dorm, for example, you will be paying anywhere between 25-35 euro. Sometimes these include a buffet breakfast which isn’t too bad of a deal if you can really take advantage of the food, but again finding a good hostel can be tricky, especially in peak season. Try for exploring hostels ranked by either price or ratings. This is probably the best option if you are a solo traveller keen to meet some new people and don’t mind a shared dorm.

Air BnB

My no.1 recommendation for couples or families coming to Paris. Air BnB has taken off here in a huge way and there are endless cute little apartments available for hire, sometimes for as little as 35 euro a night if you get lucky. Most apartments come with their own (small) kitchen so even if you are paying a little more you can save by being able to cook and eat a few meals at home after making the most of Paris’s fresh produce at the markets. Do be warned that most apartment buildings don’t have elevators so be sure to check what floor the apartment is on and whether it specifies a lift if you are not a big fan of stairs. Also, you will rarely find a place with AC, so in the summer make sure you choose somewhere with good ventilation! I’ll give you some ideas on the best areas to search for an apartment a little further down.


Obviously, Paris has no shortage of nice hotels. I bet when you think of Paris you imagine yourself arriving Carrie Bradshore A la Sex and the City style, checking in to your Plaza Athenee suit and walking on to your balcony with a view of the Eiffel Tower… Right? And it’s totally possible! If you are willing to spend a minimum of 1000 Euros a night that is… Unfortunately, rooms with that classic Eiffel Tower view are hard to come by unless your willing to pay mega Euros. However, you can get some pretty fabulous hotels here for a decent price and still feel like you are treating yourself to a little bit of luxury without going bankrupt.

Here are a few average priced hotels with great reviews

Balmoral Hotel

Hotel Royale St Honore

Citadines Tour Eiffel (Might actually get Eiffel Tower views with this one!)

Hotel Ares Paris (and this one too!)

Hotel Georgette

Hotel Signature St Germain Des Pres

Legend Hotel by Elegancia


Les Bains

St James Paris (getting up there in Price but totally worth it for a night of French decadence)

Be sure to check out for plenty more hotels sorted by reviews and price- the opportunities are endless! And if you ARE in to more luxury hotels and want that Carrie Bradshore experience, stay tuned for my post about the best luxury spots in Paris.


But what about location!?



Paris as a city is made up of 20 different areas or “arrondissements” which are mapped out in a spiral pattern. Each arrondissement generally has it’s own characteristics and defining features which Parisians know well. This little map bellow  is very useful in describing these characteristics and can be used as a handy map to help you decide where you want to stay.



15th and 16th – Mort/ Dead

This is a very beautiful area of Paris, with lots of big apartments and beautiful boulevards by the river, but there is nothing here except dying old people. However Some of areas of the 15th closer to the center and the eiffel tower definitely brake this stigma and are great for places to stay if you want a clean and safe area with a little bit of a buzz but not too crazy busy.




17th – Strollerland

Mainly families and 9-5ers living here.

12th, 13th and 14th- Ennui Total/ Absolutely nothing

No explanation necessary

5th and 6th-Richoux/ Rich people

If you tell people you live in the 5th or six the general reply will be something along the lines of “ohh tres chic!” then they will laugh and turn there nose up at the end. These arrondissements in the Rive Gauche are beautiful with grand boulevards, expensive apartment buildings and many streets filled with luxury shops and fabulous restaurants. A great place to stay for those wanting the classic, chic Parisian experience. The 5th and 6th also are home to some of the most famous tourist hot spots like St Michel, the Latin quarter, Luxembourg gardens, Rue Mouffetard, The Pantheon, Montparnasse, and Notre Dam is just a stone throw away over the river. I know I am biased because the 6th is my “arro”, but I really do love this area.

It's all about details #grandmosque #paris #travel

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7th,1st and 4th-Tourists

Obviously, if you ARE a tourist this is not a bad place to stay. These arros’ include all the big monuments and museums, so it’s great if you want to be somewhere central and able to walk just about anywhere. The downside is these areas are always busy, and it may be difficult get that genuine Parisian experience while shuffling through busloads of Chinese tourists waving their selfie sticks in your face.






8th- Gros Gros Richoux/ very very rich people

Think Champs-Élysées and billionaires. it’s that kind of place. Beautiful, but only fun if you have a LOT of money to spend. Nice place to stay but it just doesn’t have that true Paris feel to me.


9th 10th & 2nd – Gens qui mangent sans gluten / people who do not eat gluten

I’m not really sure what this is about, because to be honest Pigalle (famous for its sex clubs and cabarets) doesn’t really seem like the kind of place that would be against a giant pizza at 3am. But maybe the rest of the area’s are a little more health conscious. This is a great area if you want a more relaxed, local and genuine experience. It’s still close to the main attractions and has lots of reasonably priced bars and restaurants and that aren’t full of tourists.

3rd & 11th- Bois des coups/ Drinking

Great restaurants, bars, nightlife with a casual and friendly feel. This area is generally a little cheaper (and sometimes can be a little rougher). Bastille in the 11th is the party hub with streets filled with clubs, bars and cheap eats. If you’re here to cut loose on a budget this is the place to go.




If you have been thinking about coming to Paris the name Montmartre should ring a few bells. This beautiful bohemian village surrounding the hill where the Sacre Coeur cathedral towers over Paris, is one of the most sort after places to stay in. Home to many famous past artists and stories of debauchery in its heyday, Montmarte has a reputation for being one of the most charming and characteristic parts of Paris. Obviously a beautiful area for your stay, and it definitely has more locals living here than other main tourist hubs. Still busy… But so charming! Even if you don’t stay here, you must go here for a visit and have a coffee in the artist square.



10th Touristes perdu / Lost tourists

Again, an arrodissement for locals and the tourists who have wandered a little too far away from the Sacre Coeur. Great Asian food, good local vibe for drinks, and the beginning of Hipsterville.


Top of 18th & 19th- Clopes pas cher / Cheap cigarettes

Yeaaahh I wouldn’t really advise staying here.

10th, 19th, 20th -Hipsters

The name says it all really. This is the part of Paris in gentrification. It’s still cheap, a little dirty and rough, but just oozes cool in every corner. Think street art, young poor artists, cheap mojitos, expensive coffees, picnics by Canal St Martin and funky bars. This is the place to stay if you’re young and cool. But probably not for you if you are looking for that chic, elegant Parisian experience.


20-Annexe de hipsters/ House of hipsters

Less-cool than the other hipster areas where the hipsters actually hang out, this area on the outskirts of Paris is cheaper to live in but a pain in the ass if you want to stay there as a tourist. Too far out and on a metro line which often faces disruptions.

Traveling around Paris



Traveling around Paris is a breeze. Public transport options can get you anywhere you wish to go, and are nothing in price compared to London or Amsterdam. Download the ever handy RATP app for smartphones and it will show you the quickest transport options, what lines to take etc.

You may be surprised to find that despite how many incredible historical monuments and places there are to see here, Paris is actually a very small city. It’s only about 10km from one side to the other at it’s longest point and to walk from say the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dam is a breezy and beautiful  50 minute walk along the Seine. I highly recommend walking when you first arrive in Paris, as it gives you an idea of where everything sits, and is a great opportunity to see so many things you would normally miss by taking the metro.

Metro is by far the most common form of transport in Paris. Although the map of Paris’s metro network may be a little daunting at first, once you get your head around it you’ll soon be riding it like a local. A single journey on the metro will cost you 1.80. If you don’t plan on taking the metro or buses too often you can buy a “carnet” or a book of ten tickets for around 14 Euro, giving you 10x single rides.  Tourists  staying  a little longer in Paris or who are planning on travelling a lot can buy a Navigo card for 5 euro, then top up the card with 20 euros for one week or 70 euros for one month. This includes unlimited travel across all zones and on all public transport. Navigo passes must be purchased from the person in the office at larger metro stations (not all stations sell Navigo cards). The small hassle of purchasing a Navigo pass is certainly worth it considering a trip to the Airport and back will cost you 20euro anyway.

The RER is the bigger and faster trainline traveling across Paris to outer towns. There are several RER lines going in different directions. You probably wont need to use these if you are just traveling within Paris, however if you plan on going to Versailles, or some of the beautiful towns on the exterior Paris you will need to take one of these lines. Also the RER B is the line you will need to use to get to/ from the airport. A ticket for this trip will cost you ten Euros unless you have purchased a Navigo Card.

I have never really done buses here as I find it quicker and easier to walk or metro. But buses are always good to keep in mind (especially when the metro closes and only night buses are available). Your Navigo pass or normal metro tickets can be used and should be validated when stepping on the bus, though to be honest, I’ve never seen anyone actually do this.

Taxi & Uber
Taxi’s don’t have the best reputation in Paris, and it’s mainly because of this that Uber has been so hugely successful in the city. If you can manage to even find a taxi you may be lucky enough to find a nice driver who will take you where you want to go hassle free. Otherwise the Uber app works wonderfully.

Other important things to know.

  • Sometimes on the metro or RER there will be lines closed or delayed for a colis suspect or a “suspicious package”. Don’t panic! This happens every time someone leaves behind a bag or item (a lot) and is just a precautionary procedure.
  • Since the November 13th attacks larger shopping stalls and buildings have put some basic security measures in place so be prepared to show security guards whats inside your bag before you go inside.
  • Take care of your personal belongings in crowded and tourist areas. Never leave your wallet or phone in your back pocket, always make sure your backpack is firmly zipped up and if you go through a crowd bring it to your front.
  • Please, please, please for your own good learn some basic words in French. Too many times have I heard tourists coming to Paris complaining about how “nobody speaks English”,  when they go into a restaurant full bore in heavy American accents yelling at the waiter like they’re stupid. In actual fact, MOST Parisians speak English, you just have to give a little to get a little. Be polite, show them you are trying and that you’re not afraid to embarrass yourself, and they will always appreciate it, and in turn many will then feel comfortable enough to try out their English. Remember… you are in France! Here’s a few basic words and phrases to get you started…
  • Unfortunately the rumors about Paris being “dirty and smelly” can be quite true, especially if you are coming from somewhere like New Zealand. Be prepared for a few whiffs of piss in almost any underground area and multiply this x 10 in the summer. Oh and watch out for the dog poo (it’s everywhere).
  •  There is a lot of homelessness in Paris. When you see people begging in the Metro there is nothing against giving them money or food. Be careful around the Eiffel Tower and Montmarte for Gypsies trying to scam and pickpocket naive tourists. They will often pretend to be deaf then ask you to sign a petition, then will ask you to give them a donation, or will distract you for long enough for someone else to swipe the valuables in your pocket. So if you see someone coming towards you with a clipboard asking if you speak English, just shake your head and keep walking.
  • It’s totally okay to drink in public here! Picnics with wine, beer and champagne are a very strong part of the summer culture and are one of my favorite things to do. Hot spots for tourists are the Champ de Mars (in front of the Eiffel tower) and the Seine River side. For a more local spot try Canal Saint Martin or  Parc des Buttes Chaumont
  • Give in to every indulgence and temptation. I mean how many times will you be in Paris, really? Macroons, croissants, gourmet chocolate eclairs, cheese, baguettes, cheap wine, champagne, the list of delicious delicacies is endless, and you will not want to leave with regrets because they will never taste the same anywhere else.

If you want some ideas for things to do while in this magical city, stay in touch! Another post coming soon…





About The Author

Ainsley DS