A Layman’s Guide to Paris

by Ugly Travel
December 9, 2021 | 11 min read

A Layman’s Guide to Paris

Ahhh, the city of love. No doubt you’ve heard stories from friends who have visited Paris. Some will say how they fell in love with the city, or how charming and romantic Paris is. Others will tell stories of the magic of Moulin Rouge, or the first time they set eyes on the Mona Lisa and how small she is. They’re all right; Paris has that special something about it – something intangible – that you don’t really get, or can’t really see until you’re there yourself. Get lost down the side streets, marvel at the Eiffel Tower, enjoy that first bite of an authentic french croissant – these are the memories waiting for you in Paris!

Plan Ahead

It’s really easy to get caught up in the romance and charm of Paris. So easy, that you can spend a day doing nothing but roaming the streets, wandering in and out of cafes, walking along the Seine river and capturing glimpses of the Eiffel Tower in between the beautiful old buildings.

While this is all well and good (even encouraged by me!), most people are only in Paris for a set amount of time, so if you’re wanting to maximise your time you’ll need to plan things in advance. We missed out on a lot of things that we wanted to see, simply because we were enjoying walking around too much!

While you don’t want to plan everything down to what bathroom you’re going to use and when, you’ll want to be at least semi-familiar with some of the names of the suburbs, where your accommodation is, what trains and bus stops are in your area, and a general outline of what you want to do for the day.

Also, if you’re wanting to do something that needs a ticket (going up the Eiffel Tower, the Catacombes, The Lourve), it’s best to book ‘skip the line’ tickets for these, as simply turning up will mean you have to wait for ages. We had to skip the Catacombes, as we didn’t plan in advance and the lines were looooong

Getting Around

Good news! Paris is super easy to navigate. Now, a lot of what is on offer can be within walking distance, but if you were to walk everywhere it would take you forever. Luckily the public transport in Paris is very good, so you’re able to get where you need to be relatively quickly, which means more time to enjoy everything!

Public Transport

Paris has a metro (underground trains), buses, and the RER trains, which service the outlying suburbs and other places of interest, like Disneyland and the airports.

Buying tickets works on a zone by zone basis – zones 1-2 are the inner city and where a lot of what you’re going to want to see will be. As it’s all pretty close together, tickets for the metro and bus are cheap within these zones, and will cost more the further out you go.

There’s heaps of options ticket wise, and depending on what you’re doing and how long you will be in Paris will determine what kind of ticket you want to purchase – a single metro ticket costs €1.90, or a group of 10 will set you back €16.90, which can be bought from any metro station.

For us, the best option was the Navigo week-long pass. This gives you unlimited travel on the Metro, Bus and the RER trains, which was great as we went to Disneyland and then flew out of Orly Airport at the end of our trip. The Navigo pass costs €28 (this consists of €22.50 for the pass and €5 for the card), and the funny thing is you will need to attach a little passport sized photo to the card (there will be little booths that you can get a photo from).

Erica from Travels with Erica has a cool post about 10 Tips for using public transport in Paris that you should definitely check out. She even mentions how she used the wrong ticket on the Metro, so try not to be like her!

The Navigo Pass

Hop on hop off bus

Another good option, depending on how much time you have in Paris. Hop On Hop Off tours will take you in a circuit around Paris, stopping close to the main attractions. It’s a great way for you to get your bearings of the city, while not having to walk too far to find the big attractions.

I like Big Bus tours, as they have options for a Seine River Cruise and a Night Tour, which are some extras that you don’t get from other Hop On Hop Off tours.


As mentioned above, Paris is great city for walking around and getting lost. Give your self plenty of time to mull about the city, taking in the sites, the sounds and the pastries and bread as you go. The best news? Paris is relatively flat, city wide with the exception of one or two places (The Sacre Cour is one of these!).

The Food

If there’s one thing you’re going to remember about Paris (aside from the Eiffel Tower), is the croissants! Now, I’m sure you’ve had croissants or baguette at some point in your life, but they will pale in comparison to the real thing in France. I’m not sure if the French have been a bit cheeky and kept an ingredient secret from the rest of the world, but these just seem to taste a million times (give or take) better than the ones you’ll find in your own city.

What about the pastries and little baked goods? Just as amazing. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t even sure what kind of pastries I was eating at some point. All I know is they were sweet, they were delicious, and they were very moreish (as in, you want to eat more!). I recognised some macarons at one point, and the flavours were sooo good and so melt in your mouth – delicious!

Another important food when you’re in Paris? Crepes! You want them sweet? No problem. You want them savoury? No problem! There are not many foods as versatile yet equally delicious despite the filling, as crepes are. If it was up to me, I would make a law that all travellers must try a Nutella and banana crepe prior to their departure.

Now, we did go to several restaurants during our time in Paris, and as stated above, if you’re looking for fine dining, Paris has some of the best restaurants in the world. However, if I’m being honest, most of our favourite moments food-wise in Paris came from the hands of street vendors and bakery/cafes. There’s something special about having a quick chat to a local as their getting your croissant/pastry/insert delicious treat here/cheese ready. And I haven’t even spoken about the cheese yet…. I could write a post about the cheese alone! All I’ll say is: the cheese is good. Eat all of the cheese!

Pro Tip – Try not to eat at a restaurant near any of the big monuments – they can be quite tourist trappy and you will pay quite a bit more than you would expect to pay in the rest of Paris. We stopped for a burger and chips a close to the Eiffel Tower and paid heaps for a pretty average meal, so be careful!


Again, lots of options here. Hostels start at about $25 NZ per night ($15 USD) and go up depending on where you want to stay and how close to the city centre.

For us, I wanted to stay somewhere a little bit nicer as this was the start of our trip, so we stayed in a hotel in the centre of Montmartre, and I can’t recommend this suburb enough. It’s beautiful, and regarded as one of the most romantic and artsy areas of Paris, with a who’s who of famous artists – some of them I even know – Van Gough, Picasso, Renior – have drawn inspiration from Montmartre. Priced at $120 NZ ($80 USD) a night, we didn’t break the bank, but it wasn’t particularly cheap either. Still, staying in Montemartre was one of the best decisions that we made for our trip to Paris.

As you may have guessed, there are many nice hotels in Paris, and if your budget allows, you’ll be able to stay somewhere significantly more luxurious. Essentially, you’ll find accommodation for any budget in Paris.

The Big Ones

Ok, let’s be honest, if you Google Paris, you’re going to get a long list of all of the attractions and places to see, so I won’t spend a long time re-hashing why you should go and see the Eiffel Tower. You’ll see it, and you’ll love it (spoiler alert, it sparkles at night!) Here’s a list of some of the main attractions in Paris:

  • Eiffel Tower
  • The Lourve – So much to see! Mona Lisa is how small?
  • Disneyland – The happiest place on earth, but in french
  • Moulin Rouge – Because who doesn’t like a bit of cabaret?
  • The Palace of Versailles – It’s gold AND a palace – yes please!

What Else to Do?

Some of the lesser-known, but equally as awesome sights so see:

  • Arc de Triomphe – Almost impossible to fit into a selfie with
  • Notre Dame – Under construction following the 2019 fire
  • Paris Catacombes – More than 6 million Parisian’s remains. Sombre
  • The Seine River – Fancy a casual cruise down the river?
  • Sacre Coeur – The jewel of Montmartre!

A really cool blog that I’ve recently found is Traveling Summer. She talks about the sights of Paris in much more detail than me, and has some amazing photography that you need to check out. Check out her post – Paris sightseeing beyond the Eiffel Tower

Is Paris Really that Expensive?

I mean, at the end of the day, it comes down to you. Being honest, my favourite experiences during my visit to Paris cost very little – walking through the charming little streets of Montmartre, people watching in front of the Eiffel Tower, buying a croissant or pastry and just generally getting lost walking around the city.

Yes, we went to Disneyland and while we really enjoyed ourselves, but those kind of things aren’t necessary to enjoy your visit to Paris. We would have loved to have gone to see a show at Moulin Rouge, however it just didn’t fit our budget. Similar with food, you can go to some of the most amazing restaurants in the world in Paris, but you can also be equally (or even happier) with buying some fresh bread, pastries and cheese, and have a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower!

What Would I Have Done Differently?

More time! Simply put, we didn’t have enough time in Paris to do everything we wanted. Now, the good news is that means we have a reason for wanting to come back. If you have flexibility in your schedule, I would recommend that you book at least one extra day longer than what you’re thinking you want to spend in Paris.

Another thing that I would want to do, and while it’s not really ‘Paris’ there’s a day trip that I would have certainly booked, had I known it was so close (close as in, it will take the whole day for the round trip).

Mont Saint-Michel! Look at this place! Looking at pictures of this place fills me with regret! It takes a little over 3 hours to get to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris, but I think that the travel time would be more than worth it.

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Any thoughts, tips or questions?

Rhod is a 30 something guy from New Zealand who has recently taken the plunge into the blog world with Ugly Travel, a page that looks at the less glamorous side of exploring the world.

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