Paris Travel Tips: 3 Must-Have Apps for Exploring the City
Within the first few months of moving to Paris, we had about a dozen visitors come to town, so I quickly became a travel consultant for friends who were excited but overwhelmed by this massive, glorious city. For first-time visitors, it can be especially daunting to even know where to begin.
There are a few really simple tips & tricks to making your trip to Paris more enjoyable, and for distilling your wishlist into a doable itinerary. Here’s a few basic tips I share with everyone who’s planning to visit:
Arriving in Paris: Unless you are on a backpacker’s budget, plan to take a taxi from the airport, which will take about 45 mins vs. ~2 hours on public transport (that’s accounting for the time it takes to figure out the metro system if you’re not familiar with it!) Your Airbnb host or hotel may have a recommended driver they can arrange for you. It’s usually about 50-60 euros from the airport to anywhere in the city. SO worth it after a long-haul flight!
Once in the city, buy a “carnet” (10-pack) of metro tickets. You can buy them at the metro stations or at “tabac” corner stores. It’s about $15 for 10 tickets, and you can use them on the bus system too. There’s literally nowhere you can’t go on the metro & bus, and it’s the fastest and cheapest way to get around the city.
Group your to-dos by neighborhood, and leave plenty of time for wandering and getting lost (one of the simple pleasures of being in Paris). One common pitfall of Paris travel planning is this: over-planning, and rushing all over the city from attraction to attraction. I recommend picking an “anchor” activity each day (say, a museum or special restaurant you want to go to), and leaving the rest of the day fairly open for exploring. Believe me — you will spontaneously stumble upon plenty of interesting things you couldn’t have planned!
On that note, there are 3 apps I always recommend to make transport and exploring Paris a little easier:
CityMapper — This is the best app for navigating the city via metro/bus/on foot — much better and more detailed than Google maps. It gives really explicit instructions, which is especially helpful for the metro.
Mapstr — I love the simplicity and utility of Mapstr, it’s essentially like Yelp + Google Maps in one, and allows you to bookmark places on a map, and add tags to remember why you saved them. It’s like a visual to-do list for all places you want to visit. So, as you’re researching places and getting recommendations from friends, you can quickly add them to your Mapstr app and see them visually on a map. The tagging feature is also really handy. For example, I have tags for “sidewalk cafe”, “wine bar”, “kid-friendly”, “vegetarian” etc. so whatever I’m in the mood for, I can quickly pull up all the places I’ve saved with that tag. You can also add friends (via Facebook connections) and see the places they’ve tagged, too.
Kapten — same functionality as Uber, but nicer cars and sometimes less expensive rides. Of course you can use Uber here too, but I like supporting this European brand. You can use my referral code: DOMFAR5 for 5€ off each of your first 3 rides.
Being a tad overwhelmed by the abundance of things to do & see in Paris is totally normal. Trust me: these tips & apps will help make the planning and navigating exponentially easier.
What have you found to be a lifesaver while traveling in Paris? Feel free to share your tips in the comments below. Bon voyage!