Moving to Paris (or anywhere) can be stressful, confusing and quite difficult if you don’t have anyone to share experiences with. That’s why I started this series of post about moving to Paris. You can find the previous posts about moving to Paris here.
So when you’ve booked an apartment and when you’ve figured out what you want to do with your time in Paris it’s time to start organising, planning and trying to figure out everything that you need to do both before you leave and when you finally get there. These things will of course depend on the length of your stay and also on what you’re going to do there. But a few things that can be good to check of your list are the following:
If you’re planning on staying for a longer time in Paris, it can be good to get yourself a French phone number. I felt totally handicapped without having proper 3G on my phone while in Paris. This made everything so much harder! The maps on my phone didn’t work properly unless you “loaded them” before you left the apartment, if you forgot to transfer money to your bank account before going out you were in a little bit of a jam when your card didn’t work in the register and if you didn’t check your transportation route before you left (and didn’t have a paper map at hands) you could also run into some extra problems. Gosh, it’s so easy to get used to this convenience that technology provides us… Anyways, you have to options here: either you’re very organised and plan these things ahead or simply manage without them. Or you can get a cell phone plan that includes 3G in the city. Let me just say that I’m going for the 3G option next time!
It can be pretty confusing when choosing a cell phone plan in French (if you don’t know the language too well) so try to find a person who speaks English to make this little adventure a bit easier. If you buy a prepaid phone card you can also ask them to help you charge the card for the first time and make sure that everything works (which I of course learned the hard way). Three companies that you can visit to get a cell phone plan/French phone number are: Orange, SFR and Bouygues.
If your apartment doesn’t have internet you have to fix this on your own. If you’re staying for a shorter amount of time I would absolutely recommend renting an apartment with internet, since this could be a little bit of a hassle. Most often the same companies that can fix your cellphone plan can also help you with internet in your apartment, otherwise check out Orange, Alice or Free. Again, make sure to speak with someone that knows their English if you don’t feel comfortable taking this in French.
Buss & métro card
If you’re planning on taking the métro or the buses while in Paris, a metro card is a must. This will save you a ton of money if you’re used to take the public transportation. A métro card will cost you around 62 €/month (if I remember correctly and the prices haven’t changed) and you can reload the same card every month. You reload your card in the métro, with the help of the machines that you’ll find located on the walls. They accept both cards and cash.
If you’re buying the card for the first time first of all you need a photo of yourself, similar to the one you have on your driver’s license, passport or ID. You can find several photo booths in the bigger métro stations that are very easy to operate. When you have your photo you need find a cash-counter that can help you with purchasing a métro card for the first time. These are also located in the bigger métro stations. I think I got my first card at the métro station Grand Boulevards. There they will help you with attaching your photo to a card, charge it with one month’s credit and you can pay directly to the cash-counter. The next time, when it’s time to charge your card again, you can do this at one of the machines in the métro. You don’t have to go through this process again, as long as you don’t loose this card.
If you don’t think that you’ll need a métro card, you can just buy tickets. You can do this in both the machines and at the cash-counter, located in the métro as well. Be aware of the fact that in some metro stations there are only information counters and not a cash-counters that will be able to help you with your purchase. So if you want personal help instead of the machines you should go to one of the bigger métro stations.
The métro card is valid on both the métro and on the buses, and so are the tickets. For more information visit the RATP website, where you can plan your trip ahead as well, which can be really really helpful.
If crowded public transportation aren’t your cup of tea you can always get around by bike in Paris. And if you don’t have one of your own, you can rent one through the Vélib stations that you’ll find all over the city. You can also get a card for this but since I haven’t done it yet, you’ll have to visit their website for more info. My plan was to bike everywhere during my time in Paris but once I saw the chaotic traffic I changed my mind. So perhaps this is a purchase that you don’t have to do before you arrive, in case you actually change your mind.
As I mentioned in the my previous apartment post, you have to take out an apartment insurance for your stay in Paris. This protects both you and the apartment during your stay. You can talk to your landlord regarding which company you should use for this. During my stay I used the company called AutoFirst which worked out great (although I didn’t have any problems so they didn’t really come into the picture all that much).
If you’re staying for a longer time, or if it’s necessary for some reason, it could be a good idea to set up a French bank account. This can be a little bit tricky and is most often the most annoying thing to fix out of everything — especially if you don’t speak the language. I, fortunately, came in contact with an (so so) English speaking gentlemen that helped me with everything.
First of all you need to set up a meeting with a bank man. You can do this both by phone before your arrival or visit the bank once you’re in the city. This can be hard since some people won’t be that excited to assist you. I had to make three phone calls to get the receptionist not to hang up on me in the middle of a sentence. You need to be though and not get offended by rudeness. For both their and your convenience, have all the papers that you need ready to go before you arrive to your appointment. Once you have your meeting with the bank man they’ll help you with everything, and most often it’s just a lot of paperwork you need to fill out. Read everything before you sign!
But remember, they aren’t that happy to set up bank accounts for people staying a shorter amount of time (which is totally understandable), so perhaps this is something you should do if you’re staying for a longer time or really need it. Some of the bigger banks in Paris are: Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, LCL and Caisse d’Epargne.