From Paris Pickpockets to Friendship Bracelets, Here’s What You Need Before heading To Paris


Noor Aishah Karim •  Jun 22, 2023

Paris, the city of love and romance, has long captivated the hearts of travellers worldwide. With its iconic landmarks, rich history, and renowned cuisine, it's no wonder that Paris remains a popular destination.

However, not all experiences in the French capital are picture-perfect. We share the personal experiences of two travellers, Sheila and Suzana, who had contrasting encounters in Paris. From encountering scams and pickpockets to enjoying the city's cultural offerings, their stories shed light on the realities of visiting this famous city. Based on their experiences, we also provide some valuable tips for readers to enhance their Parisian adventures.

Sheila's Perspective: Paris Scams And Pickpoketing

Photo credit: Sheila Rahman

For Sheila, her visits to Paris were far from ideal. The strong smell of urine that greeted her upon exiting the train station during her first summer visit was an unwelcome surprise. The city's reputation for scams and pickpocketing proved all too true for her. Sheila recounts two harrowing incidents she faced during her trips. At Sacre-Coeur, scammers approached her and her friend, forcibly placing "friendship bracelets" on their wrists and demanding money. Another time, while walking with her family, they were surrounded by a group asking them to sign a petition. Despite their refusal, the group persisted and even separated Sheila's family, leading to a tense situation. Thankfully, they escaped with minor losses, but the experiences left them on edge.

"They were holding “friendship bracelets”, claiming that they were free. My friend had her hands just swinging right by her, and one of them managed to grab her hand & quickly tied a bracelet on her wrist. They then insisted on a 'donation', " shared Sheila.

Sheila learned that language wasn't a significant barrier, as most locals reluctantly understood English. However, she noticed that knowing basic French and respecting the language and culture could garner a more positive response. Sheila advises travellers to remain vigilant against scams, use anti-theft bags, and avoid engaging with strangers offering free items or requesting signatures. Additionally, she emphasises the importance of choosing safe accommodations and being cautious at popular tourist attractions, as these spots tend to attract pickpockets.

Suzana's Perspective: Finding Joy Despite Challenges

Contrasting with Sheila's experiences, Suzana's visit to Paris left a lasting positive impression. She enjoyed exploring the museums, savouring delectable pastries, and indulging in retail therapy.

However, her journey took an unfortunate turn when she and her husband were theft victims on their first day. While on a crowded train, they were separated, and her husband's wallet was stolen. Although they were shaken, they remained cautious throughout the rest of their trip, sticking together closely and taking necessary precautions.

Photo credit: Sheila Rahman

Suzana found Saint-Germain-des-Prés a safe neighbourhood to stay in, providing a lively atmosphere and convenient access to various attractions. She also discovered that Parisians were not always outwardly warm but helpful when approached with questions. She suggests that tourists respect cultural differences and try to learn basic French phrases as a sign of politeness.

"We stayed in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and it was always lively with locals and tourists. Plus, we could get around by foot to a number of attractions!"

Tips for an Enjoyable Parisian Adventure:

Photo credit: Sheila Rahman

  • Stay vigilant: Be aware of potential scams and pickpocketing, especially at crowded tourist sites. Use anti-theft bags and keep valuable items secure.
  • Choose safe accommodations: Research and select reputable hotels or well-reviewed Airbnb listings in safer neighbourhoods, such as central Paris or family-friendly areas like Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
  • Be cautious in public transportation: Remain alert and stick together when using public transport. Avoid crowded spaces, especially during peak hours, and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Learn basic French phrases: While English is understood, learning a few simple phrases can help create a positive interaction with locals and show respect for the culture.
  • Embrace free walking tours: Joining free walking tours is an excellent way to explore the city, meet fellow travellers, and learn about Paris from knowledgeable guides.
  • Stay confident and assertive: If faced with a potentially threatening situation, trust your instincts and remove yourself. Stay with your travel companions and seek help from other people or authorities if needed.

Paris, with its unique charm and undeniable allure, offers a blend of memorable experiences and challenges for travellers. By being aware of potential scams and pickpocketing, respecting the local culture, and taking necessary precautions, visitors can navigate the city with greater confidence. Whether you encounter moments of frustration or delight, Paris has much to offer in terms of its rich history, cultural heritage, and exquisite cuisine. By heeding the insights and tips shared by Sheila and Suzana, you can make the most of your Parisian adventure and create lasting memories in the City of Love.