Everyone dreams of traveling abroad. The first destination that pops into many people's minds is Paris. The city of love. They think of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame cathedral and the Louvre. I was so excited to get to see all of those things. Of course, you should definitely visit, but there are other places in both France and Europe that are safer, save you money, and are just as cultured and full of art and beauty.
1. Illegal street vendors
In super touristy areas and near popular attractions like the Eiffel Tower, you'll find lots of young men, typically immigrants from Africa, India and the Middle East, selling cheap souvenirs. Some are harmless, just trying to make a living, but they are often a pest to tourists who just want to enjoy sightseeing. Some can even be aggressive, and they may lower the price until you can't walk away without buying it. The worst part? They operate illegally.
2. Pickpockets and beggars
When our group was in Paris, one of the girls from another school in our district was pickpocketed by Gypsy children on the metro. The French police were able to return her wallet to her (which was untouched except for the Euro bills), but many people never get their valuables back. Homeless people and beggars run rampant on the streets as well.
3. The metro isn't super clean
The Paris metro was my first experience with public transportation (as I've never used Columbus' bus system), and I was excited at first, but by the end of our three days, I was more than excited to get to Barcelona and leave the Métro behind. Sure, it's incredibly efficient, but many of the stations and trains we were in were pretty filthy. Add pickpockets and no personal space to that. By comparison, the Madrid metro was pretty clean and nowhere near as crowded. I felt much safer there. Also, if you lose your ticket or don't validate it and the officials on the metro catch you, you'll pay a hefty fine.
4. A high risk of terrorism
Pretty much anywhere you go in Europe or the Middle East is suspect to terror attacks these days, but France seems to have been targeted much more than its neighbors Italy and Spain. With Paris being the largest city in France and one of the largest in Europe, the chances of an attack are much higher. While security forces around the city were obviously much stronger than before (except at the Gare de Lyon train station, where they didn't even check our bags), I was still a little nervous. Once we got to Spain, I felt much safer. Knowing all of those horrible events had happened in Paris had set me off a little bit.
5. The top of the Eiffel Tower isn’t worth it
Pretty much all of my group paid the ridiculous amount of money to go to the top of France's biggest landmark, but I stayed behind (mainly because I'm deathly afraid of heights). First, it's expensive. Second, there are other fantastic views of the city you can find, such as the one from Montmartre.
6. Strikes are common, especially with transportation
If the French are known for something, it's going on strike. Just this week, French air traffic controllers went on strike, causing one third of Europe's flight delays. Strikes are also common in the rail industry, causing people to miss their train rides to London, Spain, Germany or the south of France.
7. You often have to pay to use the bathroom (although this is common in other European countries)
In the US, you can basically walk into any public place and use the restroom, whether it's Starbucks, a gas station or Walmart. In France, as well as other parts of Europe, you typically have to be a customer to use their toilettes, and public restrooms often charge a small fee, usually €0.50-€2.00.
8. Smoking is allowed in public, and it’s everywhere
Paris is seriously polluted. Not just from industry and being a big city, but also from everyone who smokes. The smell isn't too pleasant, and there usually aren't separate designated areas for smokers to do their business.
9. It's expensive
Need I say more? Go to a European country with a lower cost of living, like Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece or the Czech Republic.
10. The language barrier
The dilemma: French people get pissed if you try and speak French to them (unless you're fluent), but if you approach them in English, they'll act like they've never learned un mot d'anglais in their entire life. France doesn't have a ton of English speakers, so if the language barrier is a problem for you, go to an English-speaking country (like the UK or Ireland) or a region where lots of people are bilingual (like Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands or Switzerland).
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