Out of the ten cities I booked accommodation in last year, Paris was by far the trickiest. As such a popular tourist destination with plenty of great neighbourhoods to stay in, I thought it would be the easiest. I was wrong!
In my experience, Italian hospitality is naturally better or more reliable than French hospitality. I loved everywhere I stayed in France, but it involved a long search for the right places – not too far out of town, available in August, clean, secure and not too expensive.
I’m not a super fussy traveller, but I’ll admit I have higher standards than a backpacker, for example. I don’t want to share a room with strangers, I want a door that locks between the world and me (& my stuff). I want a clean room and a good night’s sleep where I feel safe.
Focus on this:
From my experience, these three things are what determines whether I have a pleasant or uncomfortable stay.
Clean. Safe. Free Wifi.
I’m really fussy about finding places that are clean and secure – fairly basic requirements, but not always easy to find, especially in Paris. For some reason, lots of places I read about would score poorly for cleanliness. I might be a typical Gen-Y, but WiFi is a must, so I can contact my family and friends for free using the Viber app (the call quality is amazing!), look up maps and back up my photos during the trip.
If the reviews say it is clean, secure and has decent WiFi, then I’m in! When you’re in Paris, it’s not worth being picky about big rooms, modern furniture or whatever else. Even free breakfast, although a nice addition, doesn’t save you too much money because street food in Paris is super cheap.
When I say security, I also mean the safety of the neighbourhood. I wouldn’t stay in Pigalle (red light district) or Montemartre because I felt like I was going to be pick-pocketed all the time. Accommodation in this area boasts proximity to the Moulin Rouge or Sacre Coeur – this is not necessarily a good thing. There are nice-ish parts of Montemartre, but it’s hard to judge over the Internet.Arrondissements 18 and up don’t have as good a reputation for safety. The 16th seems like the safest, but you’d probably need to be a millionaire to stay there.
The perfect middle ground?
Montparnasse. I’ve said it a million times, but this is by far my favourite Parisian neighbourhood. It overlaps the 14th and 15th arrondissements, is not very touristy but has great proximity to the 7th arrondissement due to the snail-like layout of Paris’ neighbourhoods. You can be in the neighbourhood next to the Eiffel Tower, Hotel des Invalides, Musee Rodin and Musee D’Orsay and also have Tour Montparnasse nearby. I’ve stayed there twice, once a student living at Cite Universite and I liked the area so much that I booked again for August last year. I’ll review the hotel I stayed at in Montparnasse later this week 🙂
Don’t stress about this:
If it doesn’t affect my hygiene, safety or your sleep, I’m generally not fussed.
I don’t care if I have to sit sideways on the toilet because it’s SO close to the wall in a tiny bathroom (I’m only 168 cm, I feel for anyone taller who stayed there), if the decor is from the 1970s or if the view is rubbish – I’ll be getting plenty of better views outside. I’d also chill out on whether it’s close to the Eiffel Tower – you’ll always pay more for that view if you can see it from your window, and you will be seeing it from tonnes of vantage points all over Paris anyway.
You’ll read so many complaints on review websites, but don’t get caught up in negative language or emotive reviews. Look at the EXACT issue and leave the whinging behind. People love to write rants but people are less inclined to write a glowing review – ranting is more fun!
An example of a crap review vs. my wonderful experience
I’ve stayed at the hotel for the review below, and while everyone is entitled to an opinion, I find it really interesting how their perspective was so different to mine. I’ve used this excerpt from the review as an example, because I’m glad I didn’t let one person’s perspective influence my choice to stay somewhere.
If you believe every negative review you read, you’ll never book anywhere.
i.e. “When we arrived we were surprised that it did not look well kept or inviting. The one-man elevator held only one bag as well. When we arrived at our floor we still had to manoeuver some stairs which was a challenge. The winding staircase between floors was narrow,and quite rickety. Our room was small and faced the street which had public metro right outside our window. The street was also extremely busy with auto traffic. We suspected trying to sleep would be impossible.”
Appearance not up to their expectations – It’s not a flashy hotel and has quite a humble appearance but I think it looks nice enough
Small elevator – welcome to France, have a giggle at how the French use these thing every day! Maybe this is why they don’t get fat – it’s nicer to take the stairs.
Small room – welcome to Europe, better get outside and see Paris.
Stairs – Yes, there are about 4 or 5 stairs on a circular staircase leading to a little landing for each level. Not a picnic, but an odd thing to complain about since you take your luggage up and down once. These were the easiest stairs of my trip, especially compared to the back-breaking, endless, near-vertical staircase in Cinque Terre.
Room faces the street – I thought this was the room people wanted? Surely a street view is preferable to facing the back of another building? I feel like the hotel couldn’t win on this one
Public Metro right outside – There’s no metro stop right outside, but the metro does pass by (the metro is a minute’s walk down the street). I counted this as a bonus, I wanted to be close to public transport and not need to walk far when we came home each evening. I never heard the metro.
The street was extremely busy with auto traffic – It was a quiet street every time I was walking on it, especially compared to other areas of Paris. It might have been busy when he arrived, but from his description I’m imagining tonnes of traffic and car noises..not my experience at all (and maybe the conditions were different, I’m just saying this was completely unlike my experience so I’m glad I didn’t take his advice.)
We suspected trying to sleep would be impossible – But, they never found out as they didn’t stay the night…
I hope this person found a hotel they were happy with in the end, but it really highlights how you need to separate fact from drama.
Making the right choice for you
I hope the above illustrated how two people with different priorities, expectations and mindsets can have a completely different experience. It’s important to try and work out how young or old the reviewer is and if they have a cranky-pants attitude or were genuinely offered poor service by a hotel.
I find that a lot of people have a problem with the French service or hospitality, so take the “French are rude” complaints with a grain of salt.
I’ve found the best way to make a good call on a hotel, B &B or hostel is to look at the overall rating of a place. I really like using Venere because their ratings are very easy to understand
i.e.. “5.9 – Ordinary” or “7.4 – Good.”
If you booked an ordinary place, don’t expect because it wasn’t bad that it will be great – expect ordinary!
I also really love that they get the travellers to classify themselves as a single traveller, mature couple, young couple, group, family with young children or family with older children. I’ve noticed that I don’t seem to be as worried about the issues that Mature Couples complain about (in great detail) and often take the approach of the young couples or single travellers. There are fussy and easy-going people in every age group of course, but I know that my grandparents would have totally different expectations to my parents, and then again they’d both be different to my expectations.
Plus, the younger travellers seem to stress the importance of good or bad wifi in their reviews – a traveller after my own heart! 😉
Finally, on Venere you can easily search by neighbourhood – Hallllllelujah! This makes it so easy to filter the price, star-rating, accommodation type and neighbourhood to suit you.
I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion when booking online! I know it can be a real pain, but it’s worth organising in advance for peace of mind and so you have a chance of staying somewhere pleasant. Help everyone else out and leave good reviews where they are due and fair drama-free critiques where warranted.
What do you look for when you book travel online? Let me know below, in the comments!