I don’t know whether I was just incredibly unlucky or scams are very common in Paris, but I was at the brunt of many in my short trip there. Overall, I had an amazing visit to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, we managed to get so much done in such a short space of time. I wrote about my short trip to Paris here. Though to help some of you avoid the tourist traps, here are a few scam stories from my visit.
Our first-hand experience of this was near the Eiffel tower. As our hotel didn’t have a cafe or restaurant, we went on a hunt for a quick coffee and croissant on our way to the tower. We struggled for a while to find anywhere open, with it being a quiet Sunday in November many places were closed. Eventually, we found a nice looking cafe that advertised breakfast so we sat down inside, relieved to get out of the heavy rain that morning. A waiter provided us with a menu with no prices, but as it was a small basic cafe we assumed it would be reasonable. We tucked into a very average croissant and coffee that came from a coffee machine with us then to be greeted with a bill of 38 euros! The breakfast was definitely not worth anywhere near that price so we challenged it but the hosts were not having any of it. So we just paid and left. Additionally, we heard a couple complaining of an insect in their coffee, so I think the whole place was just a tourist trap. They didn’t seem to care about the products they were selling or the customer.
Top tip to avoid: Do your research beforehand, TripAdvisor and other tourist websites are excellent at finding great places with your tastes and budget. Also, avoid cafes and restaurants that are conveniently located right by tourist attractions. They usually sell very basic food for inflated prices.
The Metro Ticket Scam
This scam is common at stations all over the city centre, but the scammers usually target tourist hubs such as Gare de Nord and metro stations near the sights. We didn’t get caught out by this but did see it in action. A local will offer to give assistance with the ticket machines and help you purchase the correct ticket/s. They will press cancel to make sure your ‘foreign’ card doesn’t work, then offer to pay for you. These scam artists will then proceed to use the machines in french, paying for the cheapest ticket. This will usually be a child ticket and will not give you access to the zones you require or the length of time you asked for. As any ticket will give you access through the metro barriers, you will not know that is the incorrect one until it is inspected or it won’t let you through the exit barriers at your final destination.
Top tip to avoid: All the machines have an English option and are relatively easy to use. Research what ticket you need beforehand and always pay yourself, don’t give cash to a stranger.
1 Euro Eiffel Towers!
You haven’t been to the Eiffel Tower if you don’t know about the 1 Euro Eiffel Towers! Littered around the tower are sellers with hundreds of French souvenirs, laid on giant blankets on the ground. Every time you walk nearby, they will shout 1 euro, 1 euro, 1 euro repeatedly. A lot of the souvenirs on display are huge Eiffel Tower ornaments, some which light up. So you may think you have found a bargain and a great souvenir from your trip. Though not all is what it seems. When you approach them, the only thing that is 1 euro is a few incredibly tiny Eiffel Tower keyrings and sellers can be quite pushy in making you buy the other more expensive items. It is actually illegal to sell on Paris’s streets without a license so when they see any sign of the police they will whip the blanket over their back and run. So you may give them your money, then all of sudden they are gone with your cash and souvenirs!
Top tip to avoid: Buy any souvenirs from the small shops, where you can find better quality items and aren’t pressured to buy.
Pickpockets in Busy Locations
The Paris metro does get extremely busy at peak times. We were, unfortunately, travelling to and from our hotel at these times so had the addition of our suitcases to contend with too. With crowded trains, comes pick-pocketers and when they see people struggling with luggage, you are their prime target. I am usually quite aware of these things, but when we left the metro I saw that my backpack zip had been opened and some items were gone. Luckily they weren’t valuable as I had my phone and wallet in my pockets, but it could have been a lot worse. Pickpocketing is also quite common in the busy tourist areas where crowds are waiting for attractions etc.
Top tip to avoid: Try travelling at off-peak times, the journey is a lot more comfortable too! Be aware of your surroundings and keep a tab on your valuables.