Practical Tips for Exploring Paris

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Ah, Paris! I’m so grateful that I had the chance to take such an amazing trip and can’t wait to post some recaps here (as if the 2477929 Instagrams I posted while away weren’t enough…!). But I thought first I’d share some of my practical tips, which will hopefully come in handy whether you plan to board a plane to Europe in the near future or are just curious about travel basics!

Note: I am no expert when it comes to international travel. The first time I traveled outside North America was the summer before my junior year of college, when my family took a two-week trip to England and Wales. It was an amazing experience and made me realize that I did indeed want to study abroad (I really, really enjoyed my time on campus, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave!)–and less than six months later, I boarded a plane for my semester in Edinburgh! While studying in Scotland, I took several weekend trips to other parts of the country and also did bigger trips to Prague, Paris, and London. But I’m certainly not someone who knows all of the ins and outs of travel by any means, so bear with me!

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When it comes to cell phones….This has all changed since I studied abroad and relied on my little British flip phone with T9 to get through the semester! Obviously you may make different choices when spending an extended time abroad, but for this trip, we all brought our iPhones and kept them on airplane mode the entire time. Since I was traveling with family, it was easy to arrange a meeting point if we did choose to separate (this could be more difficult with a big group/people who are unreliable!). This did mean that we couldn’t text or use internet unless we were in our apartment, but this wasn’t a huge hassle. Think of it as an opportunity to unplug and take everything in! Paper maps are your best friend, and if you download them in advance, Google maps will still track where you’re walking on your phone, so you can at least see if you’re headed in the right direction. I still took tons of pictures and Snapchats; I just didn’t post them until I was back on WiFi (which didn’t seem prevalent around the city, unfortunately).

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Should I get a museum pass? The Paris museum pass is great because it allows you to pay a flat rate to see TONS of places throughout the city, and you can wait in shorter lines (think of it as a Disney FastPass!). If you think you’ll take full advantage of it, it’s definitely worth the price, which varies depending on how many days you’d like your pass to be valid (we each did the six day option). While not everyone is a huge museum goer, the pass also works for things like climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which I’d definitely say is a must (the city views are insane).

What about my exercise? If you’re like me and are a bit anxious about missing several gym days and gorging on croissants instead, fear not! Everyone talks about how much walking you’ll do while traveling in Europe, but I don’t think I fully realized how many steps I got during my semester abroad because I didn’t have an iPhone or any other type of tracker. On this trip, my family and I compared step counts every day and always got a ton (one day I logged over 23,000, which is about 9 miles). I did see a few people running throughout the city, but you’ll get a good workout in just by going about your day!

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How should I get around? For places that are beyond walking distance, the metro is your best friend. They do have taxis, Uber (which I didn’t use at all!), and even UberPool in Paris, but the metro is very affordable and goes around the entire city. Like New York City, there’s a flat ticket rate whether you’re taking the train one stop or heading 45 minutes in the opposite direction. Metro maps are free at each station and definitely saved me a few times when I had to make multiple transfers!

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