The City of Love (or as some call it, the City of Bread) has a lot to offer – but not everything is delicious croissants and romantic serenades. Like a lot of large and popular international cities, Paris has its share of scams and cons. The best way to avoid falling pray to one of these tricks is to do your research and be prepared – just know what to look out for. Before I went to Paris I read up on all of the most common scams – and while I was there I witnessed every single one of these happening. Some scammers came up to me, others I saw trying to scam someone else. Here are the most common Paris scams:
1. Ring by the Seine
The Seine is great for a river cruise tour or for walking along and enjoying the views. But beware of some scammers walking along the banks. They will spot a tourist to target and bend down and “find” a gold ring on the ground. I witnessed a man showing a gold ring to a couple right along a bridge across the Seine. Usually the scammer will show you the ring and ask if it’s yours, pretending that they just found it and it is very valuable. They will say they can’t keep it for themselves, and offer it to you. The scammer’s goal is to get someone to accept the ring and give him or her money in return. In reality, the ring is worthless. If anyone approaches you with a ring, simply walk away. Or, if you’re more daring, pretend you did lose the ring and thank the person for returning it to you.
2. Friendship Bracelets in Montmartre
I experienced this first-hand. On our way up the hill towards Sacre Coeur, on the stairs of Montmartre, there were men standing holding string. I knew this scam: they would try to tie friendship bracelets on people’s wrists and then charge them for it. There is usually a story behind the meaning of the “friendship” bracelet – they may tell you it is free at first but then won’t leave you alone before you give a donation. Also watch out for this to be a distraction while another scammer goes for the pickpocket. Don’t fall for this! My friend and I were probably a bit too aggressive in avoiding the men – when they came up to us we literally yelled “NO THANK YOU” and ran away. I think they were afraid they had scared us in some way. But we did avoid the scam!
3. The Cup-and-Ball Game Behind the Eiffel Tower
I witnessed this as we were walking through the park on the way to see the Eiffel Tower. In the shade of some of the trees, there is often a man sitting and hosting a game – drawing in a crowd. He will ask someone to play, and if you bet money and win, you can double your cash. The game is simple: he puts a ball under one of the cups, and he will mix them up to see if you can correctly guess where the ball ends up. You may think this is easy. But the trick is, some of the spectators are actually accomplices of the game master. They will go first and make it seem so easy. But then when you or another genuine tourist tries it, the game controller will move the cups impossibly fast so you can’t win the game. So to avoid this scam, don’t volunteer to play, and it’s probably best to not watch either – it could be another distraction for pickpockets.
4. “Activists” with Petitions
I noticed this happening a couple of times throughout my stay in Paris. I noticed women holding clipboards, and they approach people asking them to sign their clipboards in support of a petition of some kind. This may seem like a helpful thing to do, but once you sign they will insist you donate to the “cause”. Don’t put yourself in this uncomfortable situation and simply avoid women who may approach you with something to sign.
These are the most common Paris scams – I had read up on these before my trip and was actually surprised to see them all play out in my 2 days there. So keep on the lookout for these yourself! Still, although these are the most likely scams to witness, there are others, so be sure to do some research and be as prepared as you can! But remember, even if you do fall prey to a scam, try to not let it get to you. It can happen to anyone, and it may be hard to look past it but these scams are no reason to put a damper on your trip!
Water Bottles and Wine
Although this is not technically a scam, we found out about this from out Airbnb host and were truly shocked! Apparently you should never buy water (or wine, or champagne, or any beverage) from people selling them on the street. It is illegal, and so when the police come around the sellers stash them as quick as they can. But abiding the law is not the only reason to avoid these drinks – we learned that the men often hide them in sewers or gutters to hide from the police. They can be covered in bacteria from rats or sewage. People can get very ill from drinking the water. This is good to know because we may have fallen for this – water bottles can be expensive and hard to come by depending on where you are. But it’s not worth the risk of getting sick! Always buy your water from a trusted restaurant or convenience store.
This may be a lot to take in, and you may be thinking that a lot of people in Paris are out to get you. But most people are simply there to have a great trip in one of the most romantic destinations of the world, just like you are. As long as you stay aware and stay smart, you’ll have a great visit. There is a lot of beauty and wonder in Paris, and you’re sure to see some amazing things! Bon voyage!