Last week I was walking through the Latin Quarter when I heard something wonderful. A beautiful mix of languages was echoing down the narrow streets. With the borders opening last month, it would seem that people are finally starting to visit Paris once more. The New Paris. A Paris that has adapted to life with the coronavirus. Things are different now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your stay. You just need to be prepared for the changes. Here are the top five things to know when visiting Paris during COVID-19.
Masks, Masks, and More Masks
For reasons I will never understand, this seems to be a controversial subject in other countries. In France, however, it is a non-starter. It’s also the most important thing to know when visiting Paris during COVID-19. Masks are now mandatory in all enclosed public spaces, including shops, museums, cultural spaces, and cinemas. They are also mandatory on all forms of public transit, including taxis and car services. It is recommended that you wear a mask outdoors, but there are places like Disneyland Paris where a mask is required at all times, outdoors or not. Failure to wear a mask will result in fines, being barred from entry, and/or refusal of services. And if you rack up multiple infractions, you risk going to jail. Bottom line, if you’re coming to Paris, don’t forget to pack a supply of masks.
Sanitize Those Hands
Hand sanitizers are now commonplace all over the city. In fact, most bus stations are now equipped with sanitizing dispensers, which is very convenient when you’re just walking around the city. Some shops require you to sanitize your hands upon entry, and if you’re planning on visiting Disneyland, be prepared to sanitize both before and after you enter a ride. I recommend travelling with a bottle of sanitizer, but if you forget, nearly every cashier station in every store had a bottle next to it, so be sure to take advantage of them.
Get Your Card Ready
This is a good one to know if you plan on buying anything while in Paris. A lot of shops and restaurants have gone contactless in an effort to reduce exposure between people. This means that cash is no longer accepted and cards must be tap to pay. No more entering a PIN into a machine. It’s important to note that this is not standard across the city. Many places still accept cash, but just in case, check before you travel that your card has contactless payments enabled.
Book in Advance
Paris has some of the most visited attractions in Europe, including the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Versailles. These sites are usually packed with people, but as a result of the coronavirus, they have all severely reduced their capacities. In order to control numbers, nearly all major attractions now require advance reservations. Many of them have eliminated the option of buying tickets on site altogether. If you’re visiting Paris in the coming months, be sure to check the guidelines online for each attraction you want to visit. It will mean less flexibility with your schedule, but the lack of crowds will more than make up for it.
Keep Your Distance
I know everyone is probably tired of hearing this, but it’s still important to maintain social distancing. Paris has taken this advice to heart, and there are guidelines everywhere to help people keep their distance. There are lines on the ground to mark out queues in shops. Grocery stores have implemented shopping routes to control the flow of people throughout the store. And indicators have been placed on all public transit to help people space themselves out. These aren’t just suggestions either. If you find yourself in Paris in the near future, obey the markers and keep your distance. If you don’t, there’s a very high probability that you will be shouted at in French.
Welcome to the New Paris
I know that for many people it will be a long time before they feel comfortable travelling overseas. For others, it may be a while before they are even able to do so. But if you are planning on visiting Paris during COVID-19, the New Paris is ready to welcome you, so long as you do your part to keep everyone safe. So come to the city of light, drink lots of wine, and eat lots of cheese. But also remember to book your tickets in advance, use plenty of hand sanitizer, and keep your distance. Most importantly, wear a mask.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.