When staying in France, especially in Paris, many travelers book a vacation rental. However, there are some common mistakes that tourists unknowingly make when searching for and booking a vacation property in France, and making them can have a big impact on your trip.
In today’s lesson, I’ll explain 5 of these mistakes and how you can avoid them.
1) Understanding Room Count
Un deux-pièces (“two-room”) doesn’t often offer two bedrooms!
In French, une pièce is any room, such as:
- Le salon = The living room
- La chambre = The bedroom
- La cuisine = The kitchen
- La salle de bains = The bathroom
- La salle à manger = The dining room
- Un bureau = An office
- Une buanderie = A Laundry room…
- Une cave = a basement
- Un balcon = a balcony
- Une pièce de monnaie = a coin
- Une pièce de théâtre = a theater play
In listings, the number of “rooms” don’t include the bathroom and smallest rooms, but it does include bedrooms and living rooms, for instance.
So un deux-pièces, a “two-room flat,” is often simply a living room and a bedroom. If you want two separate bedrooms, you can simply ask:
Combien y a-t-il de chambres ? = How many bedrooms are there?
It’s a polite, formal question you can ask your host that will clear out possible misunderstandings.
2) Check for Elevators
French buildings often lack elevators, especially in older neighborhoods, especially in Paris. This can be a challenge if you’re traveling with heavy luggage.
Remember to check the listing for an elevator, so you don’t get surprised when you get there!
- Un ascenseur = an elevator
- Un escalier = stairs
- Des bagages lourds (un bagage) = heavy luggage (one piece of luggage)
- Un étage = a floor
- Le rez-de-chaussée = ground floor
- Le premier étage = “first floor” literally = the first floor above the ground floor → What you maybe call “second floor” !
3) Essential Amenities: Bathroom on the hallway?
Some vacation rentals might have des toilettes sur le palier (= bathroom in the hallway only).
This is specific to some of the smallest and oldest accommodations only. For instance, some (rare) former living quarters in the highest floor of old buildings – like “une chambre de bonne” (= “a room for a servant”), where the staff for the bigger apartments was housed in the XIXth century.
You might not enjoy having to get dressed and get out of the flat to use the toilet in the middle of the night, in a small room in the hallway with shared bathroom facilities. So check the description carefully!
And if you’re in doubt you can ask votre hôte (= your host.)
- Un hôte = a host
- Un hôte = also means “a guest” !
- Un invité = a guest, for a friend you invited over, at a party for instance,
- Un visiteur = a visitor, more broadly
- Un client = a customer or a client.
4) Check for Air Conditioning
Air conditioning (AC) = l’air conditionné = la climatisation = la clim (informal)
Air conditioning is actually relatively rare in France! It’s more common in hotels, but even then, you might want to check beforehand. For instance, you can ask : “Est-ce que l’appartement a la climatisation ?” or “Est-ce que l’appartement est climatisé ?” = does the appartement have air conditioning?
- Une canicule = a heat wave (more and more frequent in Europe)
- Un ventilateur = an electric fan, often the only ventilation in an apartment
- Un éventail = a (hand) fan (old-fashioned)
- Un courant d’air = an air draft
** Le truc en plus **
Several reasons why French buildings don’t have AC:
- In France, buildings are equipped for milder summers than in American deserts, for instance. Traditional architecture was often adapted to the local climate, reducing the need for additional AC.
- Retrofitting pre-XXth-century buildings with AC can be expensive, complicated, or illegal (for heritage protection)
- Many French people tend to emphasize the environmental downsides of AC, preferring natural ventilation.
- French people often prefer fresh air from windows, and believe that air conditioning can lead to health problems such as catching colds.
- In addition to these (or at their root), AC is simply expensive to install, and we might opt for more cost-effective solutions like fans or portable AC units for the hottest days of the year.
5) Pick the Right Neighbourhood
Le bon quartier = the right neighbourhood
I’ll focus on Paris, but I encourage you to do your own research for any French city you’re going to stay in.
Some guidelines about safety in Paris by neighbourhood:
- Paris Neighborhoods Guide
- Reddit question: safety for a solo female traveler
- Guide des quartiers (en français)
In the main French cities, nothing is too far off. Yet driving (or taking a taxi or Uber) can be slow and frustrating (and expensive). But walking (or taking the metro) a lot each day can be tiring. So staying near the places you want to visit can be a big plus!
And you depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll want to pick a quieter – or more festive – part of town. In any city, choosing the right neighborhood is not about picking the “best” one, but the one best suited to your lifestyle, interests, and budget.
- En montée = uphill
- En descente = downhill
- Tes centres d’intérêts = what interests you
- L’ambiance = the atmosphere, the animation
Keep practicing understanding spoken French, so you can enjoy your stay in France even more.
Click here to get your next lesson:
- “French words” that French people never use
- How to fill gaps in your French comprehension
- French people never eat alone (lesson in French)
- Order at the French restaurant
À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!
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