As some of you may know, I spent Summer 2018 in Paris, France. It was a true dream come true, but it also came with a lot of worries (mostly from my mom). I made some ground rules, I followed my gut as best as I could, and I had the most spectacular time. Here are some tips on how to travel solo as a woman in Paris:
- Give yourself a Curfew: It may sound absurd, but trust me, it’s a great idea! I turned myself into Cinderella and made a point to be home by midnight every single night. Now, you may be thinking, “It is not that hard to do that”, but, my friends, Frenchies love to go hard. They love hopping from bar to bar until the crack of dawn sometimes. I was also in Paris during their big World Cup win, so yeah…. it was pretty hard, but I’m glad I stuck to my curfew. I felt safer and happier.
- Location, location, location: Make sure you find a safe area to live in! While Paris is mostly safe, I knew I didn’t want to live right next to the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe (mostly because of pickpockets, but I’ll get to that). I lived in the 18e arrondissement and it was AMAZING. Sure, it was still a little loud, but it was incredibly safe. It took me a l o n g time to find a nice apartment in the right location with the right roommates, but it was worth it! Do you research and it’ll pay off. Also, if you have any questions, just send me an email!
- Turn yourself into a Parisian: When I came back from Paris, a lot of people asked me if it had been difficult to live there and if I had had any problems concerning my race. My response? Not really! There were SO many people who assumed that I was just a Parisian girl minding my own business. I had at least ten people ask me for directions and they all faithfully trusted me. This had been my NUMBER ONE mission, which I know realize sounds funny. After having lived in a mostly-white Midwestern city as a “racially-ambiguous” American girl, I knew wanted to blend in….and I accomplished just that! Paris is such an amazing metropolitan city with so many racially diverse groups. I honestly felt at home. I’ll share a whole article as to how I managed to “become a Parisian”.
- IGNORE everyone: Guys, I wish I could say that it’s common sense to ignore strangers and pickpockets, but I saw SO many people who just didn’t seem to have any ! I lived quite close to Montmartre and Sacre Cœur and I cannot begin to tell you of how many people I saw getting scammed. The number one scam in touristy sites is the whole “Can you sign this petition?” thing. They butter you up until you end up giving them your signature, your cash and sometimes your credit card number. If a stranger approaches you, just ignore them! My number one trick is the following: sometimes the scammers would ask me “Do you know English? or Vous parlez français ?” to which I would respond, “Ah, mais non. Pas du tout” OR “Oh gosh, not at all” and keep walking. Sure, I’m lucky enough to be a polyglot and I would use any iteration of that in any language I know until they would leave me alone. Make sure to also avoid street sellers. They end up putting bracelets around your wrist and then demand payment. Just ignore them and you’ll be fine!
- Plan your Routes: I would spend every morning mapping out my route for my after-work plans. It worked perfectly. I knew exactly where I was going. I was confident and I succeeded. I didn’t get easily lost and I felt safe and comforted because I knew what was what and where I was going.
- Big Crowds?: So, I already mentioned that I was in France for the World Cup (Allez les Bleues !), but did I mention that I was also there during the Tour de France? 14 juillet? Semi-finals? Finals? Les vacances? Yes, I was in France during pivotal times of the year (with the exception of the RATP grèves -strikes- thank GOD). However, I tried to not let this get in the way of my safety. France is actually pretty organized when it comes to huge events. I planned to meet up with a new friend or two before going to watch the finals or the fireworks by the Eiffel Tower. I felt nice to have a buddy even if I had just met them!
- But what about Public Transport? Great question! Public transportation is the best way to move in Paris. I used it every single day. When you’re taking the métro, you need to make sure you have all of your bags as close to you as possible. If you’re wearing a jacket, put your hands inside it. Do not give anyone a chance to steal your money because they will–especially if you’re on an incredibly full wagon.
Et voilà ! These are my tips for safety success in Paris. I do have to briefly mention that I used airbnb to find an apartment and roommates. It was the safest way for me to find an apartment and make a payment without it being a scam. I read up on tons of reviews and I talked to my roommate/AirBnb host multiple times before actually booking the trip. He was fantastic with me and I trusted him completely.
All of these tips, however, don’t matter if you don’t trust yourself. Trust your gut!!! I know it sounds absurd, but confidence was what helped me ignore scammers, and take the métro sans problème