Frequently Asked Questions about Paris
How safe is Paris?
Pickpockets are the most common danger in Paris, especially as they target foreigners. A person who bumps into another in a public place may well be searching their body for valuables. Generally, locals are trustworthy, but being a foreigner can make a person a target. Taxis are notorious for ripping off tourists. If spending a considerable amount of time in prime tourist areas, money should be kept in a variety of places, such as an ankle pouch, bag, wallet and even underwear.
Do I need a car?
No. Paris and France have the highest density of public transport in the world, making cars a genuine luxury. If personal transport is needed, the Velib bicycle system allows rapid movement in areas otherwise not covered; bicycles are well-respected and accommodated for on the roads. Using a combination of services can move a pedestrian around Paris faster than any car could go.
What is the cost of living in Paris?
The cost of living in Paris is one of the highest in the world. However, it must be said that a resident who knows the tricks of the city can live reasonably well without paying the same prices that tourists face. Salaries tend to match the high cost of living, and expats who manage to find employment in Paris will enjoy the highest salaries in all of France.
Do I need to be able to speak French?
Yes. The French appreciate even the smallest effort. Moreover, fluency in French is essential to succeed in the working world. While being able to speak a foreign language is a valuable skill, fluency more importantly gives expats the ability to form worthwhile interpersonal relationships and greater social networks in Paris.
How do I get around the city?
The train system is split in two: the Metro covers the city centre and the RER travels out into the suburbs.
The Navigo smart card has replaced the Carte Orange that used to be the standard month-long pass. This pass allows the user onto any of the Parisian transport systems, including the subway, express trains, trams, buses and even for the Velib bicycle system.
On the Velib, €1 will grant you access to a half hour of bicycling. However, if the bicycle is exchanged at another Velib site, the timer resets, meaning that it is possible to travel across the whole of Paris on €1. The Navigo can be linked to a bank account, which will then be charged every month, or as a pay as-you-go smart card. A month pass for the whole of Greater Paris, zones 1-6, costs around EUR 125, but the price varies according to which zones are crossed. For most expats living close to the city, a cheaper ticket for only zones 1 and 2 is sufficient.
Can I see the sights cheaply?
Since April 2009, the French have experimented with allowing free entry to certain sites for those under 25 years of age. Expats are advised to buy cards that allow access to a large number of museums and galleries. This can make a real difference, as paying at each exhibition can end up costing a considerable amount. Admissions to permanent collections that belong to the City of Paris are often free to public, whereas temporary displays will always have fees.
Are Parisians rude?
Disturbing or interrupting Parisians often elicits a rude response, but this is certainly now unwarranted. For instance, stopping people on the street is often followed by an irritated reaction. However, if help is needed, approaching a local store clerk in basic French will prove worthwhile and will make for a congenial encounter. Parisians do not like conversing in English, as it is an effort for them to speak. Expats are advised to learn as much French as possible, but at, at a minimum, must be able to say "Bonjour, parlez-vous Anglais?" (“Hello, do you speak English?”) More often than not this will elicit a helpful reply, and it will show the locals the respect they expect.