How to Handle Money in Paris, France
If you're taking a trip to Paris, France anytime soon, you'll want to know how to handle your money while there. While France is a lovely country and is very safe for the most part, there are inherent monetary risks while traveling in a foreign country as well as certain customs that you should be aware of.
The French use the Euro like much of Europe and you will need to exchange your native currency or withdraw Euro at an ATM. Keep up to date on the exchange rate before you go by using this website, which provides you with up-to-date information.
Read on to discover the best ways to keep your hard-earned money safe in France!
Where To Get Currency
You have a couple of different options when it comes to exchanging currency. The first one you will probably encounter is the Bureau de Change, where you can exchange your currency for the Euro. While these are legitimate and can be found in airports and across France, they charge expensive additional rates for their services.
If possible, you can save a lot of money by using an ATM. ATM's are easily found on most streets in Paris and your bank will usually charge a flat fee (5 dollars per withdrawal from Chase Bank for example) which will save you a lot of money in the long run.
How to Carry Your Currency in Paris, France
It is important that you carry your currency in a safe, concealed location on your person. I highly recommend a money belt. While they can sometimes be awkward to get to, they will protect your money, credit cards and other small, important personal items from thieves and pickpockets.
The money belt to the above right was the one I used while in France and it worked well. Don't wear tight, revealing clothing and make sure to tuck it down beneath the waist of your pants if possible. It's a little pricey, but beyond storing money in your bra (uncomfortable) or directly in your pocket (an easy target) it's the best way to keep your currency safe while in Paris.
If you must carry a wallet, be sure to keep it in your front pants pocket. If you carry a purse or briefcase with a strap, keep the strap across your body instead of hanging it off of one shoulder. It is much easier for someone to grab a bag when it is hanging from one shoulder. Be sure your bag is zipped at all times. If you choose to take the metro, keep the bag in front of your body and if possible keep a hand on the zipper.
The French word for Pickpocket is: Pickpocket! It's pronounced peek-po-ket, so if you ever see someone being robbed or face the fleeing back of a thief, you can quickly alert those around you.
How to Keep Your Currency Safe in Paris, France
While France has successfully cracked down on pickpockets and thieves in recent months, you can still be targeted if you aren't careful. The following tips will help you protect yourself and your belongings:
- Don't Donate: If you take the metro, you will frequently be approached by the homeless. They may simply stretch out their hands or place a card on the seat next to you asking for money. These types are usually harmless and will move on quickly. It may be tempting to give them some change, but this can quickly make you a target. For example, men playing instruments often get on the metro to collect money, but they are not alone.
Oftentimes they have a partner who slips onto the same car a few doors away. He or she will then carefully watch to see who pulls out a wallet or money to give to the panhandler or musician. By doing this, they can see where you keep your money and you have unwittingly made yourself an easy target. Resist the impulse to be charitable and hold onto your money.
- Withdraw in Groups: When you go to an ATM to get money, go in groups of three or four. While you withdraw money, have your friends stand on either side of you, blocking you so that others cannot see the amount of money you are withdrawing or what you pin number is. Have them watch closely for people who may be watching you or waiting.
Do NOT withdraw on streetcorners. Thieves often wait just around the corner for you to walk by, still fumbling to put your cash away. Take your cash immediately and put it in your money belt. As a female, it's easy to stuff the cash into your bra until you can find a safe place to move it elsewhere. If you withdraw a large amount of currency, it's best to go immediately home instead of wandering around the city.
- Check for Skimmers: If you use an ATM, be sure to run your fingernail just around the inside of the card reader. Look closely to make sure that a skimmer hasn't been attached. Thieves in France often attach them to ATM card readers. When you slide your card in, the skimmer steals your card number and data and the thieves have direct access to your account. A friend of mine lost 250 dollars and had to cancel her card while in France because of skimmers.
To help avoid this problem, don't use ATM's in the metro and try to find ATM's inside of banks where they are much less likely to have been tampered with.
- Avoid the Following: Avoid anyone with a clipboard and pencil, trying to get you to sign. They will tell you that you are signing a petition to help a random group of disadvantaged people (the deaf or orphans perhaps). However, you will probably not notice the fine print on the paper saying that by signing you agree to donate some amount of Euro. They will hassle you, follow you and accost you if you refuse to donate or follow through.
Sometimes they will have partners who will actually pickpocket you while you are distracted by or signing the clipboard.
Also avoid groups of small children who seem to be unchaperoned or unkempt. France unfortunately has a problem with Rom (or gypsy) children being used to steal. Small groups of children, or individual children are often sent to weave through large crowds or case rich-looking tourists. Be wary of your belongings when you are in crowds and be wary of wandering children. They have nimble fingers and often escape notice.
Avoid people on the metro who don't carry any belongings. This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, but many pickpockets on the metro don't carry any personal belongings so that they can make a quick getaway. Use your instincts and look for men or women who simply create a bad vibe. Men who pretend to be drunk and sway around on the metro are often stealing things as they bump into people. A woman who faints on your car often has an accomplice waiting to steal from those who are distractedly trying to help.
It's unfortunate that these people exist and that you must stifle your usual charitable or helpful responses to be safe, but it's the only sure way you can protect yourself and your money.
French Money Customs
While in Paris, France you may notice certain currency customs that shopkeepers follow. If you visit a boulangerie for lunch, you will most likely not be handed your change. Instead the employee will place your change in a dish for you to pick up. The bills may be handed directly to you, but the French do not generally transfer the change directly to you.
Avoid talking about money. The French consider money to be a private matter and do not generally discuss it in any way with people they do not know well. Waiters rarely intuitively split bills or even ask about splitting bills for large groups and do not appreciate it when you ask them to split bills. Prepare to pay separately in change for your share of the meal.
Have exact change. If you're in a supermarket or store, you may be asked "Avez-vous une euro?" (Do you have one euro). The French do not like handling large amounts of change and prefer if you have exact change, or enough change so that they only have to hand you paper bills in exchange.
Don't Believe me?
I ran into this article the other day that shows blatant pictures of street crime in Paris. The captioned photos show you exactly how the thieves operate.