Money Matters, Paris
We've always liked to be as prepared as possible before every departure in order not to miss a thing.
Also this time, I collected all the information available on Internet regarding the passes in Paris, both for Paris Museum Pass and Carte Orange.
But even on the official web sites the indicated prices were much lower (up to a difference of EUR 10-) than the ones we have found in Paris.
So when doing your budget for the travel, it's better to be prepared for everything.
Warning: Don't use the LCL (Le Credit Lyonnais) ATM machines at 14 Rue Rambuteau in Le Marais in Paris. When I was there at Christmas 2006, I asked for 200 euros from one of their machines, and only 90 euros came out. The receipt, however, listed the withdrawl as 200 euros.
I had just arrived after a long flight from the States and naturally I was upset. In my fractured French I explained the problem to a bank officer (most ATMs seem to be outside their home banks), and she told me that at the end of the day when they settled accounts, they would realize there was "too much" money in that ATM and would give me a credit. I didn't believe her and went back a few minutes later with a friend who spoke much better French. He found out that this is NOT the first time this has happened at these ATM machines. We wrote out a long letter and they copied all my information from my debit card and promised they would credit my account. Of course, when I got back to the States, none of this has happened and the withdrawl is still listed at 200 euros.
I am currently contesting this with my American bank, but I don't think I will ever see the lost 110 euros (about $150) in my lifetime.
I can't say for sure, but I think my mistake was not to press a button for a set amount, but rather use the option to ask for a custom amount to withdraw. The rest of the time in France, I was very careful to just use the set amount options, and of course, I never used an LCL machine again.
By the way, when I told this story to my counsin's daughter, who is living in Toulouse, she told me the SAME THING happened to her at an ATM there. She never got a refund either.
UPDATE: The banks honored my request for a refund and I recovered all my lost funds. Still, I would NEVER ask for a custom amount again at a French ATM--only the amounts posted. Also, keep your hands free and withdraw your cash QUICKLY.
If you need to take money in cash machine, be careful if some is under your back. If your card is into the machine and you can't take it, don't leave. Ask some one to go in bank, or do opposite immediatly.
In restaurants or anywhere don't allow someone to go away with it. In fastfood, it's better to pay with cash...
The streets surrounding the Lido and the Moulin Rouge are full of 'clubs' that feature hawkers to get you into the 'club'. What you need to know and what you aren't told until you are inside is that there is a 1 drink minimum. This doesn't sound to bad until you find out that a very weak Vodka Tonic cost 80USD. A Bourbon and Coke (not the good stuff, either) is 85USD. What a shock we had when we found out. You can't just get up and leave, either. They have 'bouncers' to prevent this. BE CAREFUL!
I just got my statement from Bank of America and was shocked to see a "Foreign Currency Conversion Fee" on there. When I called BofA, I got the runaround as to why they charge 3% per transaction. That 3% added up quick... and I should have used American Express or MasterCard, neither of which charges this ridiculous fee. Visa was no help either. Their guy hardly spoke English and just transferred me back to BofA. Basically, this is the "we'll bend you over 'cause we can" fee. I asked where that 3% goes and one lady said it goes to the time it takes to convert the currency. I'm sure it doesn't take a computer much time to compute the conversion!!! Unbelievable!
If you've got AmEx... use that card instead!!!
This is another mistake I made. Two other friends and I were having drinks at a popular café that has a daily happy hour. I had finished my drink and was thirsty so I ordered a bottle of Badoit. I had thought that I would receive a small bottle, but she came with a big opened bottle. Dumb me, I didn't think to tell her a small bottle. So she brought a bottle for the table. Of course she didn't also bother to ask me if I wanted a small or large so as far as I am concerned we are both at fault. But I ended up paying. So who cares who is at fault.
So when ordering water you must specify: caraffe d'eau for fawcett water, petite bouteille d'eau, or grande. And say it twice for good measure.
Be carreful to take an official taxi at the airport : if men come to you at the landing proposing you a taxi, say NO. You don't know how much you will pay (surely too much) and where they will get you !
True taxis are waiting outside the airport, queuing for passengers (or the contrary), where indicated.
I made a big mistake tonight. I found a very cute Hungarian restaurant while I was out walking. The fomule was reasonable so I went in and sat down. The server was very pleasant. I ordered the poulet which was on the formule. After dinner I ordered the same dessert that was included in the formule. I also ordered the quartre pitchet of wine for 3.50. When my bill was brought to me, I was shocked to see that the dessert was not included with my poulet. Not only was it not included, but it was 10€ for two small stuffed crepes. I could have stopped at the crepe stand on the way home and gotten a large and very delicious crepe for 4€. Had I known these crepes were going to cost me 10, I would have passed on them. Okay they were stuffed with nuts and raisins, but I really would have been just as happy with the one with nutella at less than half the price.
The moral of the story is to make sure you use the word FORMULE and say which one, or you could be in for a shock.
When in Paris, I found that vendors give you the wrong change. I bought a cheese sandwich for 18f. I gave him a 50f note which was the smallest I had from changing my money at the airport. He only gave me 2f back and insisted I gave him only a 20f note. I argued with him and kept on telling him I knew it was a 50f note because that was all I had. Finally he gave me correct change when I said I was going to find a police.
So you need to be sure you know what you give them, point it out to them that you are giving them a 50f note, and be persistent. Don't let them cheat you. They assume you aren't familiar with their money and that they can get away with it.
I think France is now using the Euro. This was in 2000.
Indeed, when we returned in 2006, France is using the Euro which makes using money easier. We had no trouble with any of the places trying to cheat us this time which was refreshing.
Avoid a crepe/ice cream stand run by an older Middle Eastern man located within view of the S. Michel fountain. Creepy guy who just waits to see if you count your change. If you catch it, he will immediately pull the stolen bill out of the register and hand it over.
I can't say this is the only time a vendor/business tried to shortchange me. I experienced this a few times while in Europe.
Whenever you hear the buzzer sound on the metro, and you are at the stop rushing to get on it, just don't bother...I got trapped in the doors yesterday, it sure as HELL is not pleasant, I just thank God I wasn't squashed or that my hand wasn't torn off me. If you hear the buzzer just play it safe and wait til the next metro. They're frequent enough anyway.
While wandering around the park next to the Eiffel Tower my friend and I were approached by mulitple women collecting monetary donations for one cause or another. Some scams are easy to spot, but other are well concealed.
A well dressed lady showed us an official looking piece of paper that explained that she was collecting money for a foundation for the mute. You fill in your name (first only) and a few other bits of information (nothing that could jeopardize you) and how much you'd like to donate. My friend gave 4 euro and I agreed to give 5, thinking I had a bill in my wallet. When I looked I only had a 10. I reached for my change purse to count out euro coins instead, but the lady pulled out a 5 and made a motion to explain that she would give it to me as change for my 10. As soon as the bill was out of my purse she immediately snatched it and hurried away, taking my change with her.
I can only imagine how many times this scam has worked on unsuspecting tourists like us. I'm just thankful I didn't only have a 20!
Be prepared to spend more in France as well as all of Europe.
The exchange rate is VERY, VERY UNFAVORABLE for Americans at this time and most likely, it will remain that
way your entire lifetime.
It will cost you approximately 30% more to do everything in France than in the USA due to the sustantial decline
in the dollar. Plan your trip and make sure you know what you want to accomplish when you arrive.
If you're not careful, you'll find that drinks constitute the lion's share of your restaurant bill. In a shop, an ordinary sized can of Coke -- to cite one example -- costs 1 Euro. In restaurants, the absolute lowest price we found was 1.50 Euros. Usually they were 2.00 to 2.50, but in one place on the Champs Élysées they wanted 6 Euros! Considering that the Euro and the US dollar are currently about equal in value, these represent an unspeakable rip-off -- one that is very, very hard to avoid.
I don’t want to name the restaurant - but the story goes as follows.
We went to a restaurant and asked do u accept credit cards showing Visa card they said yes. We ate a good dinner and gave my visa card, the waitress said they wont accept that card because it doesn’t have a chip (the new card has a chip) , man we don’t searched each others pocket and paid the amount so before entering any place not only show the card, give the card to the place to verify that they will accept the card or not.