Why go to Paris?
The "City of Lights" boasts stunning architecture, great food and world-renowned shopping
Few ships dock there; most dock in Le Havre (2 hours, 20 minutes) or Rouen (1 hour, 45 minutes)
If your heart is set on checking out Paris, make sure your ship actually docks there
Good to Know?
When using mass transit, validate your ticket in appropriate machines. On the buses, there's one at the front and one more to the rear. It's an honor system, so the driver has nothing to do with how you pay -- nor does he care if you punch your ticket or not. For the Metro, the machines are at the line's entrance. Keep your ticket until you reach your destination, since plain-clothes inspectors check at random on both systems to make sure you've canceled ( used) it. They are seriously rigid about fining offenders, including tourists and senior citizens.
Taxi drivers very, very rarely take more than three passengers at a time, and there's a charge for luggage, sometimes large packages and absolutely for fourth passengers.
Paris is basically divided twice, first into 20 municipal quarters called arrondissements and second by the Seine, which divides the city into the Right Bank to the north and the Left Bank to the south, linked by 32 bridges. Two of those bridges connect to two small islands at the heart of the city: Ile de la Cite, the city's birthplace and site of Notre-Dame, and Ile St-Louis, a moat-guarded oasis of 17th-century chateaux. The quarters spiral out like a snail, beginning with the first arrondissement. Included in these 20 "neighborhoods" are well known areas like Montmarte, Montparnasse and the Marais.
The Champs-Elysees, running from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde (where important historical events have taken place, including the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette), is considered the "main thoroughfare" of the Right Bank -- and has 12 of the city's most famous avenues fanning out in an etoile (star) from the Arc (e.g. Haussmann, Kleber, Foch, Wagram, Victor Hugo).
Walking is the transportation of choice. Still, if you need to hop on to something, the Paris Metro is a no-brainer. For minor stair climbing and line changes, take the bus. As a matter of fact, buses can't be beat for economical sightseeing. For a spin past many Paris landmarks, climb aboard No. 69 or 94. There's also the Batobus -- a boat service up and down the Seine that stops at all the best attractions. Service begins at 10 a.m. and stops anywhere from 6 to 9 p.m., depending on the season.
Public transportation is not 24/7. What's more, some buses stop running after 8 p.m. Timetables are posted at bus stops, so check before you find yourself waiting a very long time for a bus that will never come. The Metro is sealed tight from 1:15 - 5:30 a.m.
Taxis are plentiful, but in general, you can't "hail" one. They're marked by large blue signs, and taxi stands are never far from Metro stops. Cabbies abide by the system and really never pick up "renegades." Taxis can also be ordered by telephone -- a system well used by both locals and visitors. Just take note that the meter starts running at the phone call, so depending on how far away the driver is...well, you get the idea. Usually it's not really more than a few dollars extra (and the convenience is usually worth the extra fare). You don't have to tip drivers, but Parisians often round up to the nearest euro. A receipt ("re-sue" for recu) is available upon request.
The best way to find an address is by checking out the arrondissement first, which is indicated by a number followed by "e" or "er" which in English means "th" or "st" (i.e., 7e, 1er). It's also indicated by the last two digits of a postal code (i.e., 70007 = the 7e). Pick up Paris par Arrondissement -- the official street guide -- at any travel bookstore in Paris or the U.S. You'll be glad you did.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The national currency in France is the euro. Currency exchange can be made in most banks, post offices and train stations. In France, a sales tax of 19.6% (VAT) is tacked on to almost every purchase; however, if you spend 175 euros or more at any one participating store, you can get the VAT refunded (with some exceptions). ATMs and credit cards make traveler's checks nearly obsolete. For the best exchange rate, use ATMs found almost everywhere.
Note: Many French ATMs display only numerals on the keypad. For pin codes that include letters, commit to memory or jot down the translation to numbers. Credit cards are widely accepted in Paris.
French. Although English is understood and generally spoken throughout most of Paris, it's not uncommon to find that many waiters, shopkeepers and taxi drivers don't speak English. It's considered impolite by the French to assume everyone speaks English, so it's best to begin by first asking if English is understood. The gesture is appreciated. Monsieur, madame or mademoiselle (for young girls) should follow bonjour. Merci should always precede a departure from any shop, whether you were helped or not.