While I have enthusiastically claimed that “Paris is amazing city” because of all the public space they dedicate to architecture and art, my first impression of Paris was a dismal one. When we arrived at Gare du Nord via Eurostar, our first two interactions was rather shady. I guess it had something to do with us arriving in Paris rather late. I think it was 11pm by the time we got here.
1) When we walked out to get a cab, a man, standing next to a bunch of taxis, loudly asked us if we needed a cab and told us to come with him. Being a careful traveller, I did not take the bait. I felt something was off. Then I noticed a long line of people waiting for taxis right next to where this man was standing. Confused, we walked back into the station to look for directions. When we couldn’t find any directions so we went out to look for a cab again. Again the same man offered to get us a taxi. At this point my wife asked him how much it would be, to which he replied “maybe 10 euros”. This was alarm #2 for me. I had called the hotel earlier, and they told me a ride to their location would cost 40 euros. How is this man offering us a ride for 10 euros? And what’s with the long line of people he’s not helping?
Confused, we asked him another question, I can’t remember what we asked him, but it was something stupid like “is this where you wait for the cab?”, at which point he shushed us. WTF. If this guy was some sort of legit cab director, like the ones you find in front of SFO, why is he shushing us for asking him a question? Is he afraid of getting caught for doing something illegal here?
And again, what’s with the long ass line of people waiting for cabs right next to him?
Needless to say, I did not feel comfortable dealing with this shady character, and he seems to be getting very agitated that we were not responding to his pitch. We went back inside the station.
2) Inside the station, we were just walking along when a random lady came up to us and asked us if we needed help. She said we looked lost, so she wanted to help us. After the incident with the taxi driver outside, my “Vietnam” travel instinct immediately kicked in. I didn’t not even stop to acknowledge her, although my buddy did. To which we had to pull him away from talking to her. Later I went online to read that several people have been scammed “helpful” strangers at Gare du Nord. Apparently the scam is to help them buy train tickets, and have them pay for it in cash. The scammer would give you fake tickets, and pocket the cash.
After these two experience I was very disappointed at the lack of security at the Paris train. There were plenty of police officers and gate attendent around, but they all seemed to ignore the chaotic scene going on around them. I wished the Paris police would be more proactive in chasing away these scammers so tourists like my self do not get taken for a ride as soon as we step off the train.
But not all is lost. The metro ride from the train station to our hotel was surprisingly uneventful, and busy, considering the late hour. It’s funny to think that riding the metro at midnight is safer than hailing a taxi…