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Paris Passes Summarized

Paris is one of those cities where a museum and/or transit pass can make a big difference in your experience.  Depending on the one you get and what you are after, it can either be a good value or more expensive than you need.  For many people, getting a transit IMG_2324pass and then the Paris Museum Pass is going to be the best value.  I’ve included all the information so that you can determine the best value for your own needs.

 

Why a pass?
The biggest advantage for any of the passes is that you won’t have to stand in line to buy tickets for any museums covered by the passes.  Keep in mind that this “skip the line” option still means you have to use the security line, which can be pretty long depending on how efficient that location handles security (or the latest security measures).

Let’s look at price.  I went through and grabbed several of the prices for museums.  Most cost between 7 and 15 Euros.  That means that if you are getting a 2 day Paris Museum Pass for 48 Euros, you’ll need to see at least 2 museums a day to make up the price of the pass.  For example, if you go to the Louvre (€15) and Musée Rodin (€10) on one day and then Musée d’Orsay (€12) and Centre Pompidou (€13) the next day, you’d be spending €50 on tickets.  That makes the €48 for the 2 day pass a good value.  But if instead you went to cheaper museums like Musée de Cluny (€8), l’Orangerie (€9), Panthéon (€8.5), and the Conciergerie (€8.5) that’s only €34 in tickets and the 2 day pass looks over valued if you are looking strictly at the prices.  Combining all of these into a single 4 day itinerary and you’d be at €84 in tickets vs €62 for the 4 day pass.

Freedom is a big part of a pass.  Maybe you get into the Pompidou and you realize you’re just not that into modern art.  Maybe you’re right next to the Montmartre museum and it starts pouring on your way up to Sacre Coeur.  And maybe you’re in need of a public toilet when there’s none to be found except in that museum across the street.  If the security line is short enough, just pop in and check out the museum.

And of course skipping the ticket line is priceless.

Which pass?
The chart at the bottom of this post has a list of all the prices, links and differences for as many passes as I could find.

For starters, all passes (except one) include the basic Paris Museum Pass (but not for all of the days for all of the passes).  Buying just the Paris Museum Pass on its own is easy and may be just what you need.

Do you want to get on one of those buses (often double decker) that go around the city and you can hop on and off it at various sights?  You can either buy a pass that includes that or buy it a la carte (the hop on/off bus tours run in the 30-40 Euro range per day).  Or do what we did and just use the city buses to tour the city (free with our transit pass and we didn’t have to listen to a canned sight seeing recording that no one can quite understand).

Do you want to take a cruise on the Seine?  You can either buy a pass that includes a cruise or buy it a la carte (some range in the 15 Euro range).

Need a transit pass?  The Paris Visite included in many of the passes is not what you should use for price comparison since it’s not a very good value a la carte.  I’ve written a separate post of the different transit options here:  Paris Transit Passes & Tickets.  For comparison, if you plan to use a lot of transit, the Mobilis or Navigo passes are your best choice depending on the number of days you are in town.  If you’re planning to walk almost everywhere (which can be done by fit people with plenty of time) or you plan to take taxis, then this is a waste of your money.

Let’s see where we stand for a 2 day pass:  Paris Museum Pass (€48) + 2 1 day Mobilis passes (€14.60 ) + river cruise (€15) + hop on/off bus (€35) = €112.  That would make the a la carte method cheaper than most except for the Passlib’.

And for a 6 day pass:  Paris Museum Pass (€74) + 6 1 day Mobilis passes (€37.80) + river cruise (€15) + hop on/off bus (€35) = €161.80.  That would make the a la carte method cheaper than most except for the 5 day Passlib’ (which only includes a 4 day museum pass.)

If you don’t plan to do the hop on/off bus, then a la carte is the clear winner.

If you can match up your stay with the Mon-Sun calendar week, you save even more with the €22.15 weekly Navigo.

And what exactly is all the extra money with the Paris Pass getting you?  The extras include a wine tasting, the Grevin Wax Museum, Montparnasse Tower, the Paris Aquarium and a few others.  I wouldn’t say none of these are on the a-list for most tourists, but ask yourself if they add up to roughly €75 for a 6 day pass?  If you check the 50+ list of museums for the Paris Museum Pass and you don’t see enough to do in those 6 days, maybe the Paris Pass is worth it for you.  I know many people don’t end up seeing anywhere close to everything they want to see in one visit.  Having time for people watching, strolling the streets, restaurant meals and relaxation (this is a vacation, right?) will make your visit more memorable.

(Scroll to the right to see more detail about what is included for each pass)

Please note that some prices are dollars and some are euros (although the exchange rate makes them very similar these days).  Sometimes you may find sales, especially on the Paris Pass.  All prices are for adults that do not live in the EU.  Teen and child rates are much reduced (although many museums have free entrance for youth).  Senior, handicap or financial hardship rates only apply for European and/or Parisian residents with the proper identification and paperwork.

Some passes will allow for delivery to the United States or a hotel in Paris for a fee.  All allow for picking up passes at a particular location.  Some still charge for pre-ordering and picking up the pass.  However the Tourist Info counters in most concourses at the airport and other locations throughout the city have at least some of these passes.  The Paris Museum Pass is available at most museums that are covered by it (but not necessarily the smaller ones.)

Note that the Eiffel Tower is not included in any of the passes, unless you get an add on.  Also most churches don’t charge, so the passes don’t include them either (however the Notre Dame Archeological Crypt is included with the museum pass, but isn’t the actual church.)

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Taking Taxis in Paris

Even if you have no French language skills, taxis in Paris are easy to use.  Just do a bit of preparation and a bit of research.  The best preparation you can do is to write down (either on your phone, a post-it note or even a scrap of paper) your destination.  By writing it down you help them make their way through your accent.

Bonjour!  Emmenez-moi ici, s’il vous plait. = Hello! please take me here.

On my trip, I always seemed to forget to prepare for my taxi rides.  We hopped into a taxi on our way to the Musee Renoir from the Rue de Rivoli right next to the Louvre.  Probably one of the most English speaking areas in town.  I’d been dealing with mostly English speaking people and let down my guard and almost asked for the Renoir Museum so I felt pretty good about actually switching to use “Musée” instead.  But the complete lack of understanding on the taxi driver’s face was a big surprise.  I reviewed all of my pronunciation in my head and repeated myself, trying harder.  He was just starting to make hand signals for me to write it down when his face lit up with “ghhRgghenoir!”  I’d fallen into a lazy American “r” (like my good Midwestern high school French teacher taught us) and not the throat clearing “r” that I was just starting to become less self-conscious about.

I apologized for my poor pronunciation (in my bad French).  He completely understood since he was Finnish and constantly having trouble with his French pronunciation.  The rest of the drive was spent talking in our combined bad English and French (and I showed off my one bit of Finnish) and laughing about the misunderstanding.

Bonjour = Hyvää päivää = Hello

Overall, the taxi drivers had pretty good English.  They always thought it was far worse than I found.  It was far better than many Parisians and definitely better than my French.  Conversations on my end were French words mixed with English and gestures when I ran out of vocabulary, while they did pretty well speaking in English with just a few French words and gestures thrown in.

And very important:  A licensed taxi will have an illuminated roof sign on the outside and a meter inside.  Lit and green means they will pay attention to your waving hand, while lit and red means they have a fair.  Unlit means they are off duty, don’t bug them.

Finally, although tipping is pretty much expected in the United States, is it uncommon in Paris.  Do not feel bad about keeping the change, they will not be upset or expect a tip.  Handling luggage or other extras deserves a tip.  Getting you to where you want to go does not.  Save the money for the luxury of another taxi ride.

And of course, please remember that a good “Hello” (Bonjour), “Thankyou” (merci) and “Please” (s’il vous plait) will get you farther than an air of entitlement.

For more research beyond this, read my post about taxi prices to and from the airports in Paris and why a licensed taxi is important.

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/65953976/posts/1470667675

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Taxi Prices between Paris and Airports

The idea of hauling all of your baggage around on a train (or bus) from the airport to ParisCapture and then taking yet another train or bus to near your lodgings and then walking to your lodgings can make even the cheapest people look at taking a taxi or finding something with less hassle.

The good news is that there is a special rate to and from the airport for official taxis.  These rates do NOT change based on vacations, time of day, construction or traffic.  To the right is a snap from the Paris Airport web site.  Follow this link for the full page, more info and other destinations.
http://www.parisaeroport.fr/docs/default-source/passager-fichiers/acces/forfaits-taxis-cdg.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Here’s an example web page (in English!) describing this from G7, one of the larger taxi services.  Other sources confirm this as well.
https://www.g7.fr/en/paris-taxi-fares

Some definitions:
CDG = Charles De Gaulle Airport or Roissy CDG
Orly = Orly Airport (smaller and not as common for U.S. arrivals)
Right bank = Rive Droite = Paris north of the Seine (on the right as the river flows)
Left bank = Rive Gauche = Paris south of the Seine (on the left as the river flows)

CDG to Right Bank = €50 = Cinquante Euros
CDG to Left Bank =  €55 = Cinquante Cinq Euros
Orly to Left Bank = €30= Trente Euros
Orly to the Right Bank = €35 = Trente Cinq Euros

In addition, you’ll pay €4 for immediate bookings or €7 for advance bookings (if you want the taxi at your hotel at 8am in the morning, you’ll want an advance booking).

Some understandings are that this is for 4 passengers (so a really good deal when you have four people) or at the minimum 3 passengers.  You will definitely pay extra for the 5th person.

If you have the cabbie handle your baggage, it’s appropriate to give him €1 for each bag.

Tipping is not expected for cabs, unless you count the baggage.

To get a taxi, it is important that you go to the official taxi stand at the airport.  There will be gypsy cabs who will try to convince you otherwise.  DO NOT BELIEVE THEM.  A licensed taxi that will honor the rate will have an illuminated roof sign on the outside and a meter inside.

Think you can get a better deal from a gypsy cab?  Think the 5 guys pointing to the gypsy cabs must be right since how could they possibly be working together?  WRONG!

In spite of all my research in advance, I let my guard down after the long flight and the little gang of gypsy cabbies convinced me that the official stand was for suburban travel.  We should not have gotten in the car once I realized it was a town car and not a taxi.  Once we were underway, it was too late.  My confirmation that the fee was Cinquante (sankont) Euros to the right bank was met with “Vacance”.  He was trying to claim that the rate didn’t apply for holidays (a week before Easter at that!)  He even called a more English speaking friend of his to tell me that they used meters for holidays.  (And seriously, a week before Easter is a holiday?  I’d already researched holidays and even the French don’t have that much time off.)

Interrupting the story to point out that much of what I was saying in French was coming off of my Google Translate app with French predownloaded where I would type in the English I was wanting to say and it would give me the French.   Arguing with a cabbie in French and English is probably not going to happen if your only French is from the app, but it helped refresh my hazy memory from high school and college French classes.

Luckily we had just picked up our INSIDR phone (for my TripAdvisor review:   https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187147-d11749475-r483295667-Insidr-Paris_Ile_de_France.html) and texted with them about the situation.  They confirmed by calling the G7 taxi company that there were no special holiday rates and that we were literally being taken for a ride.  INSIDR called our hotel and warned the valets of the situation as we were arriving.

The ride continued with fast speeds and scary traffic, however using the fastest possible route (I think he knew he was going to lose the argument and didn’t want to waste more of his time than necessary for the trip).  It gave us a very healthy caution the rest of our trip any time we were crossing a street.

The crooked cabbie pulled just around the corner of the hotel.  I refused to get out unless he deposited me in front of the hotel (where the valets were waiting….)  He complained that there hadn’t been room at the curb (there was) and he would have to go all the way around the block (I rolled my eyes).  This is when he gave me the €147 meter amount.  Of course I said no and that I wanted to be in front of the hotel (to get the valets involved).  He tapped away as though he was calculating a discount and came up with €110 or so.  I continued to refuse.  He threatened to call the police.  I urged him to call the police, all the time repeating Cinquante Euro.

It was right around then that I realized we were locked into the car.  We couldn’t get out without him opening the door for us from the outside.  It became clear that I was the one paying and he let my travel companion out of the car.  My friend went around the corner to notify our heroes: the valet and security at the hotel.  I’d just gotten the cabbie down to €55 (he was trying to claim we were on the Left bank, but I think he was just trying to get out of there at that point) when the valets arrived.  I’d paid €50 and with them watching gave him 50 more Euros to break for change for the baggage.  Total price €55 including baggage.

Lesson learned!

If you find yourself in a similar situation anything like this, a few key points:

-Repetition helps, yelling probably not so much (a small vocabulary may have helped me with this).
-Having accurate information gives you more stability in the argument.
-Have a working phone.  If he had been more than just crooked, we would have been in a really bad situation.
-If you’re staying at a hotel, keep the phone number of the hotel handy before getting into the taxi and use it if you have similar issues.  The police phone number would also be important.  Even if you have to use roaming charges, that’s still better than being unsafe.
-The INSIDR team was the main reason this turned out so well for us.

For my review of INSIDR, see here:
https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187147-d11749475-r483295667-Insidr-Paris_Ile_de_France.html

Tips on taking Taxis in France:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/65953976/posts/1470689080

 

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Paris Transit Passes & Tickets

There are several tickets or passes you can buy for getting around via the Paris transit system. The system includes buses, the Metro (subwayIMG_2310), funicular, RER rail trains and more. Most people will end up putting together a patchwork of the different passes, depending on how long they are staying, the days of the week and how much they plan to use the transit system. I’ve included the whole group below so you can patch together whatever works best for you.

For our stay Thursday 4/6/17 – Friday 4/14/17 we bought the Navigo Découverte so that we used the 4 days (Thu-Sun) of the one week and then the 4 days of the next (Mon-Thu). In order to save the wear and tear of transfers and lugging luggage, we used a taxi to and from the airport. We brought our own passport photos from the U.S. for the fastest setup of the pass. I’d intended on getting the passes at the airport train station, but was happy that the Concorde metro station (our first ride on the system) had a very helpful ticket counter clerk.

We had very good luck with English being spoken by the ticket counter clerks and the U.S. credit cards that need signatures were no problem that way also. If you have questions about using the different options, they are probably the best choice. Don’t rely on bus drivers or other passengers speaking English. And NEVER give your credit card or money to someone else to help you buy tickets at the machines at the stations.

All of the options take into account zones.  Examples of zones: The entire city of Paris (zone 1), Versailles (zone 4), Disneyland Paris (zone 5), Airport CDG (zone 5), Airport ORY (zone 4).  If you aren’t planning to go to any suburbs and only stay in Paris, zone 1 includes everything.

However, my research kept looping back on itself for which passes include which kind of transport to and from the airports and from which stops. Someone who is fully bilingual and is good with red tape will have to help you decipher that piece.  I suspect it’s a bit of a moving target depending on the publish date of the information. If you want to go directly to and from your lodging without transferring or walking distances and stairs with your luggage, consider other options like taxis or shuttles (taxis are coming in another entry).

Keep in mind that being a clueless tourist does not give you an excuse if you do not follow the system.  They will fine you if you do not properly use a ticket or pass to get through the turnstiles at the Metro stations.  They also expect that you have enough tickets, etc. if you cross between zones.

 

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Bare Vocabulary for French Restaurants

http://www.maceorestaurant.com/Maceo_English_Home.html
Lovely table manners at Macéo

My biggest tip for those visiting Paris is to get Google Translate on their phone and download French.  This will give you the option of typing the English words or the French words and then seeing the reverse, even if you have no connection.  If you are connected with Wi-Fi or a data plan you get the ability to hear the words, translate the words someone speaks into the microphone or (this one always feels like magic) translate into English any text you shoot with your camera.

The most important thing with Google Translate is to practice with it before you leave.  The web has lots of info and instructions on how to use it better, or at least get comfortable with the basics.

What you’ll find is that many words, especially on menus, don’t translate.  If you were trying to translate “pastrami” into French, there’s really nothing you could use other than “pastrami”.  This is where doing a general Google search of the word will help you get a better sense of things.  (Just imagine how much menu Italian most Americans know these days.  And only some of it transfers to Italian restaurants in France.)

Here are a few key phrases and words that may help you get started:
une carafe d’eau = A carafe of tap water (yes tap water is safe to drink)
L’addition s’il vous plait = Please bring the bill
Où sont les toilettes, s’il vous plait = Where is the toilet

You will find things go better if you do not assume the staff speaks English (even if you hope they do).  English menus are extremely common, but not always.  And even with the English menu, you’ll still be caught with trying to translate those items that have no direct translation.

The structures of the menus may throw you at first since you expect that you are familiar with many of the French words.  You ask for a menu and they may translate that to a set combination of courses (it’s basically a special that often includes a starter, main dish and dessert.)

Carte = menu (or map if you are translating directly)
Menu or Formule = a combination of courses, usually for a cheaper price
Entrée = The first course or appetizer or hors d’oeuvres.  The advantage of getting one is that you will have a better paced meal.  The kitchen can get your main course started and you can enjoy your meal properly.
Salade = Salad.  (Although different restaurants have different interpretations than you expect.)

Plat = Main dish.  The size of the main course may be a bit smaller than you are used to, since you are expected to have more than one course.  So seriously consider getting that first course.
Dessert = Dessert.  They’ve got to throw one at you that you recognize.

For vegetarians or vegans, here are a few key phrases (having your particular dietary phrase written into Google translate before you order can help them understand your pronunciation.)  Meat is very common and even if they do not describe meat in the description, they may include it, even in salad.  Always double check, unless you are flexible.
Je suis végétarienne (or végétarien if you are male). Je ne mange pas de viande, poisson, ou poulet. Oeufs et fromage OK. = I am vegetarian.  I do not eat meat, fish or chicken.  Eggs and cheese OK.
Je suis végétalienne (or végétalien if you are male). Je ne mange pas de viande, poisson, ou poulet. Je ne mange pas non plus des oeufs et du fromage. = I am vegan.  I do not eat meat, fish or chicken.  I also don’t eat eggs and cheese.

Gluten free is still making its way into Paris restaurants.  There are several restaurants, if you research, that have gluten free options, even baguettes.  I’ll try to include a few in future blogs.
Sans Gluten = Gluten Free

For those with shellfish allergies, you may find these helpful:
Poissons = Fish
Crustacés =
Shellfish
Fruit de Mer =
Seafood 
Gambas or Crevette
=
Shrimp
So you would be able to eat Poissons.  If it says Fruit de Mer, then you need to check further.  A lot of starters include shellfish, so if this is a serious issue, be sure to mention it.

As with all encounters in France, begin your encounter with “bonjour“, treat the staff with respect and leave entitlement at home.  I witnessed a restaurant turn an American group away since they were not trying to meet the staff even close to half way.  The Americans were specifically looking for oysters and hadn’t even bothered to look up the word in the dictionary.  We had a lovely meal with friendly wait staff who could barely speak English, but bent over backwards to attempt to communicate.  The other Americans were turned away to search out another restaurant.

A few “extra credit” etiquette points:  silverware at 4 and 8 o’clock on the plate means you are still eating, silverware together and pointing at 10 o’clock means you are done.  You may not get a bread plate for your bread.  It’s expected that you’ll put bread beside your plate on the table after you break off a bite sized piece to put in your mouth. Also, in America we keep our hands in our lap at the table, while in France they keep their hands above the table.  No one corrected us for any of these faux pas, and I’m sure tourists get more of a pass than 8 year old children, but if you see others doing what might be considered rude in America, realize they just have different etiquette.

Finally, it is considered rude for a server to give you the bill without you asking for it.  Yes, in America you get the ticket at the end of service, but in France they won’t give you a bill (l’addition) until you ask.  They don’t want you to feel rushed.  And it is required by law that they process your payment in front of you.  Most restaurants have wireless card readers that will print out the receipt for you to sign.  But they may ask you to go to the cash register if they don’t have the wireless type.

 

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Bathrooms in Paris

IMG_1253_smaller

First off, the current phrase is “les toilettes” (WC or double vay say for water closet is old fashioned).  It is plural, even if there is only one (and there often is just one unisex toilet in restaurants).

Où sont les toilettes s’il vous plait? = Where are the toilets, please?

Assume most stores (even grocery stores and department stores) do not have toilets.  All restaurants we went to (from the upscale to the downscale) all had toilets and were for the most part clean.  Stairs, tight spaces and odd layouts meant that most could never be considered for wheel chair access (except for the exceedingly accessible automated public toilets).  They were all much nicer than my childhood memories from around 1970 when the toilets were far more ramshackle.

IMG_1252_smallerThe automated public toilets are free.  We had very good success in using them, except for the small wait for the cleaning between each person.  And of course I discovered after getting back that Google maps shows the public toilets (or at least some of them).  Each had plenty of toilet paper, a sink with soap dispensed automatically before the water flowed and then a blow dryer for your hands.  No toilet seat, but the porcelain, the floor and the sink are cleaned after each use.

To figure out the public toilets, find the button and then under that are lights showing: vacant, occupied, wash cycle, out of service.  If it’s “vacant” just push the button IMG_1254_smallerand go in once it opens.  Inside you can push the door close button or just wait for it to close.  The flush buttons above the toilet do not flush right away, that’s during the wash cycle (lavage).  Hold your hand under the panel above the sink and it will dispense some soap and then turn on the water.  When you’re done, move your hands over to the panel that has the blow dryer.  Once you’re done washing up and are ready for the world again, push the door open button and it will open for you.  The next person needs to wait for the flush and wash cycle before they go in.

The only pay toilets I ran across were next to Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur which were manned (yes, they were men).  They took a euro or two for access to the turnstiles for the toilets.  The advantage is that they were very clean (a far cry from my vague childhood memories in 1970 Paris).  The sinks in each stall usually were not available and I needed to use the sink in the open area.  An adult could easily stand watch for a child on their own.

For the most part, the various toilets I encountered had two flush options (small or full) but there were several that took a bit of searching to find and figure out the flush mechanism.  The worst was one restaurant that had a rope in an odd spot that you pulled up on to flush.

I found only two situations with no toilet paper:  a McDonalds in Rouen and the CDG airport out bound area (3 stalls had no toilet paper, but the fourth did.)  In spite of not needing it, except the once, I still love the option of easily carrying toilet paper without worrying.  Yes, this is not a camping trip or a third world country, but traveling in the United States has taught me that even the most civilized places can be out of toilet paper.

Since I just found the coreless toilet paper options, I brought two options on my trip, but only carried the first listed below for daily use since it was thinner but longer and fit in my purse nicer.  It has a plastic shell that you can use for deployment as well.  The second is fatter and isn’t quite as long, and comes with a plastic bag to protect it.  They both have no center hole, so they are very space efficient.  I didn’t consider price in my decision, since this is a priceless commodity when you truly need it and convenient carrying in your own bag is the most important decider.

Toilet Tissue To Go

2 Ply Tissue-On-The-Go Coreless Toilet Paper Roll