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Paris Tourist Scams: HiP Tips For A Hassle-Free Trip

paris-tourist-scamsStory by Maggie Battista, Haven in Paris Correspondent

I was lucky enough to live in Paris earlier this year. During my time in one of the fairest cities, I soaked up the language, tossed back (a few too) many glasses of red and practically inhaled the food. I also wandered, a lot. I’m the sort of tourist who likes to explore the nooks and crannies, those precious spots that are forgotten on a map but hold a special magic beyond the typical grand Paris sites.

Oh, I did fit in the requisite amount of “grand” though. Naturellement! I was a trooper, performing my tourist duty by visiting all of the major Parisian landmarks, leaving my gasps and wishes in the same spots you likely did. I gazed at the Eiffel Tower and marveled at the views from both Sacre Coeur (très vaste) and the Centre Pompidou (très spécial). I even strolled down Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore, a street speckled with bright shop windows that are filled with tiny sparkling items more valuable than my not-as-tiny house in the States.

I saw it all, hoping I blended in among the fashionable locals but knowing deep down, way deep down, that I still looked like the typical tourist – wide-eyed, a bit awestruck, mouth permanently agape, cheeks flushed from all the wine, and generally feeling quite blessed and lucky.

Alas, all that wine blushing up my skin totally gave me away. While I was living in a dream, a few unsavory locals easily spotted my tourist moves (you know, the wide-eyes, mouth agape, flushed cheeks) and attempted to weasel me with their foolish scams. I was forewarned by local friends and, fortunately, able to avoid the embarrassment. Many of my tourist brethren were not so lucky.

Luck, however, is on your side. I watched, appalled, as each tourist, high on the city of lights, repeatedly fell for scam after scam. I’m busting out the scams I discovered here so you don’t have to succumb to their same fate.

First and foremost, you must remember this key piece of information on your next stroll through central Paris: No one would sell you a real gold ring for 10 Euros. Not in Paris. Not anywhere. Not even your real grandmother would sell you a piece of 18-karat gold for 10 Euros. Just wouldn’t happen.

Photo by Supagroova

Photo by Supagroova

So when your sweet Parisian fairy godmother or godfather finds a pretty gold ring at your very feet, they’ll explain how they’re certain it belongs to you. When you insist that it isn’t, which naturally you will, they’ll start raving about how genuine the ring is and how they’ll be only too glad to sell it to you for whatever you’re willing to pay. Two words: Don’t pay. In fact, don’t bother. Just perfect a très Parisian scowl and move right on along. If they persist, shout at them, preferably in French, and, remarkably, they will vanish.

Now when strolling about the streets of Montmartre, especially around the gorgeousness that is Sacre Coeur, you’ll likely be on the hunt for a souvenir or two. Do me this favor. When the kindly gentlemen offer to help you mark your moment touristique with a simple string bracelet tied around your wrist, don’t accept. You may think it’s so cute and similar to the red strings worn all over Los Angeles, but after giving it away so sweetly, they’ll insist that you’ll now need to buy it, as the only way to remove it would be to cut the string (which damages the highly valuable product, I suppose). They’ll likely argue with you. It will turn into a désordre horrible. Keep in mind, these gallant men may not even ask permission; they may simply tie one on an outstretched arm. It’s just best to keep your arms to yourself and buy your souvenirs in a store.

My last sentence readily applies to this additional piece of advice I feel compelled to share. The vendors that dot the base of the Eiffel Tower are eager to move their miniature versions of the tallest building in Paris. In fact, they’ll follow you around as you gaze toward the sky, hoping to win your favor and your wallet. Here’s the tip: All of these eager salesmen likely paid just a few coins (on the Euro) for each.  When they start arguing about who has the best price and causing a general commotion to win your business, just move along. You can find the very same mini-statues in every corner shop in Paris. I hate to spoil your Parisian moment but the ones sold at the base of la dame de fer aren’t extra special.

I’m returning to Paris soon and feel so far more prepared than before, hoping that I won’t look like the tourist that I truly am. Though I could probably live in Paris for 10 years and still look like a tourist. Well, better me than you, oui? Now you can enjoy the city of lights stress-free, while I continue to scout out scams. I’ll share more soon if you promise not to giggle when I walk down the street – wide-eyed, awestruck and, despite these little nuisances, still feeling quite blessed and lucky.

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Written by Maggie Battista for the HiP Paris BlogLooking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris. Top photo by Daniel P. Fund on Flickr.

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4 Responses to “Paris Tourist Scams: HiP Tips For A Hassle-Free Trip”

  1. Cédric says:

    I like your post. Two years ago, a man did the “Gold Ring” trick to me, while I was waiting at the bus station near “les Champs-Elysées”. I told him in french : “Please wait, I’m calling the police to tell them what you just found here.”

    No answer, he was already running away :)

  2. Linda Donahue says:

    Love it!

    I had a woman approach me while I was cutting through the Tuileries one afternoon a few months ago, and the moment she pointed down to the ring on the ground, I just started laughing at her. What made it even more funny is that there were several fellow scammers trying to pull it off just a few feet away.

  3. TN says:

    Also I wanted to point out the women who ask if you speak English then promptly give you a letter in English saying they need money for medical reasons…my husband says that it is organized crime/begging and to just stay away from them.

    Also when paying for souvenirs please keep your money in different places on yourself…not all in your wallet. Don’t pull out a big wad. There are people in the touristy areas looking for a good opportunity!

    I have seen the ring scam also. Just say “Non Merci” and walk away.

  4. Vicki Archer says:

    You have to give it to them….those scams are cheeky….. But then I guess when we all pay a small fortune to sit in a street side cafe, sip and people watch….10 euro on a gold ring is probably not such a disaster….
    Loved reading this….xv

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