11 Airfare Gotchas to Avoid at All Costs


Ticket passport


It’s no secret that airlines don’t care too much (or at all) about helping customers make informed  decisions. But have you ever felt like you’re up against their unspoken rules—or airfare gotchas?

11 Airfare Gotchas to Avoid

In the confusing world of travel booking, there are plenty of airfare mistakes you could make to benefit the carrier—ones that can spike your overall cost, or make traveling more difficult. You can blame some of these pitfalls on the fine print, but others are simply the stupid airfare gotchas we’ve all fallen into. Here are 11 to watch out for.

Hidden Ticket Fees

Think you got a great deal? Hidden fees—especially popular among budget airlines that love airfare gotchas—can inflate costs quickly. Bringing a bag, forgetting inflight food, choosing a seat, and even printing your boarding pass can cost you a lot on no-frills airlines like Spirit, Allegiant, and WOW. Make sure you know what’s included in the fare price, and hold off on paying fees until you determine there’s no other option.

For example, if the airline requires you to pay for selecting a seat closer to your travel companion on a long-haul flight (like TAP recently expected me to), wait until you arrive at the airport and simply ask at the customer service desk if you can change your seat. Unless the flight is completely full, you’ll typically be able to move your seat assignment without paying a penny.

Getting Tricked Into Basic Economy Airfare

When major airlines American, Delta, and United recently introduced Basic Economy fares, alleging to save you money by stripping basic amenities like overhead bin space or seat-choosing privileges, they expected budget-conscious travelers to jump for joy. But, lately, more are scratching their heads. Delta’s president said recently that travelers might avoid Basic Economy “when they see exactly what it is.” As SmarterTravel’s Tim Winship points out: Delta seems to be acknowledging that what is and isn’t included in the Basic Economy price is unclear to travelers.

Even worse, booking sites can sometimes group Basic Economy seats in with the regular economy fares, making it easy for you to mistakenly book a basic seat (often for not much less) even if you know the difference. Kayak now highlights differing types of economy fares in its air searches, but not all booking platforms have caught up. Make sure you’re able to differentiate between basic and regular economy fares on the search site you use. If not, booking directly on the airline’s site is a safer bet for clearer seat options.

Multi-Airline Trips

Booking airfare on multiple airlines for back-to-back legs might seem like a good idea if it’s the cheapest option, but you lose a lot of power should you miss a flight on a multi-airline itinerary. Normally, missing a connection due to the airline’s timing is no problem—the airline will rebook you, no questions asked. However, if you miss a flight with a separate carrier, the airline at fault for you missing the connecting flight has no responsibility (or power) to rebook you. You’ll likely have to pay a rebooking fee, and will lose what few consumer rights you have when the airline is at fault.

Skipping an Onward Flight

Impulsive travelers, beware. Pouncing on other modes of completing a leg of your journey (i.e. train, bus, or boat) is only a worthwhile adventure if you’re not skipping an onward flight. This is another one of those fine-print airfare gotcha: Airline terms and conditions establish that your airfare is only valid so long as you show up for your reservation. If you miss a leg of the trip and don’t contact the airline about rebooking, it can cancel the rest of your itinerary to give your seat to someone else. You could end up paying a rebooking fee, or need to book an entirely new reservation if the airline can’t accommodate you on short notice.

Buying with a Third Party

Before you book with an online travel agent, check the price on the airline’s website. As with most services, a third-party seller is wont to charge you more. Use a widely trusted search engine like Google Flights, Kayak, or TripAdvisor that will show you the airline’s price, or will take you directly to the airline for booking.

Nonstop vs. Direct

A sly trick that airlines seem to enjoy is the nonstop vs. direct guessing game to test your airfare gotchas knowledge. “Nonstop” and “direct” both sound like you won’t be experiencing a connection, but the latter actually means your plane will land to drop off and pick up passengers—which can take up a lot of your precious time. This may or may not make a difference in your travel planning, but making a rule of booking only nonstop flights will at least mean you don’t ever wake up mid-flight and frantically ask your seat partner why the plane is landing.

Choosing a Difficult Airport

Don’t put on blinders when choosing a destination airport. Yes, you probably know what city you’re flying into—but do you know how many airports the city has, and which one is the best option for your preferred airline or time schedule? Make sure that your flight search is narrowed only to the general city you’re visiting, not to a single airport.

For example, when booking a flight to Washington, D.C., flight search engines should list “WAS (all airports),” in addition to the three separate airports in the D.C. area: Dulles, Reagan National, and Baltimore-Washington International. It would be unwise to assume you should select the one with “Washington” in its name, especially since, in this case, Reagan National in Virginia is the closest option to the city.

Foregoing Points

A golden rule in travel and in life: If an airline owes you something, hold them to it. The simplest way to do this is to enroll in rewards programs with every new airline you fly, and use the points you rack up. You don’t need elite status or a travel credit card to get money off flights here and there—simply keep tabs of your miles and use them where you can. It would be the airline’s dream for you to forget about what is essentially free money lying around.

Buying Too Early (or Late)

Too many airlines—and even some travel experts—champion the cause of “buying early” to get the best deal. But, “early” means different things to different people, while the window of optimal time for buying cheap airfare is surprisingly narrow. On average, seven to eight weeks is the optimal amount of advance time to buy your airfare. So, if your idea of “early” is six months, you’re probably going to end up paying a premium.

Airfare starts at sky-high rates and comes down as the date approaches—until demand picks up, usually a little less than two months before the flight. Buying well before (or after) that window will usually cost you.

Not Clearing Cookies

Clearing your cookies, or search history, is a good habit to have as you browse bookings, research suggests. This fact is considered by some to be a myth, or at least an unsupported claim—but it turns out there is some truth to it when it comes to hotels, so it could potentially be among the pesky airfare gotchas out there as well.

Northeastern University researchers have found that some popular hotel booking sites present slightly cheaper results to users without any hotel search history stored—though only by an average of about $12 to $15 dollars. Still, why not simply clear your history every now and then if it might save you a few bucks?

Not Knowing Your Rights

Have you read up on airlines’ terms and conditions, or studied public passenger rights laws and agreements? Probably not, but knowing what you’re entitled to is often the only way the airline will give it to you.

Luckily, we did the research for you and created a guide to lost baggage refunds, reimbursement for getting bumped, airline contracts, government-enforced passenger rights, and more. Download and print our Passenger Rights Guide fold-up card to keep your rights in your pocket and avoid airfare gotchas.


What Are Your “Rights” When You Fly?

Not as many as you might think, Airfarewatchdog has found. Herewith a survey of recourses when your flight experience goes awry.

There’s the Bill of Rights, and Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But what about your “rights” when you fly?  What recourse do you have when a flight is canceled or delayed, or the airline changes its schedule or loses or delays a checked bag? Even though the U.S. Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) and European regulators promulgate and enforce consumer protections, there are probably fewer “fly rights” than you think, and these vary depending on the country you’re flying within, to, or from; which airline you buy your ticket from; and which airline is actually operating the flight.

Delta’s contract of carriage, which you agree to when you purchase a ticket, is typically restrictive concerning its obligations to passengers: “Published schedules, flight times, aircraft type, seat assignments, and similar details reflected in the ticket or Delta’s published schedules are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract. Delta may substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, delay or cancel flights, change seat assignments, and alter or omit stopping places shown on the ticket at any time. Schedules are subject to change without notice. Except as stated…Delta will have no liability for making connections, failing to operate any flight according to schedule, changing the schedule for any flight, changing seat assignments or aircraft types, or revising the routings by which Delta carries the passenger from the ticketed origin to destination.”

Which doesn’t mean you have no rights at all when you fly, so read on.

Bumping (involuntary denied boarding)

Scenario: The airline sells more fares than it has seats on your flight. Someone’s got to stay behind and that someone is you.

Recourse: You may be entitled to cash compensation. If you’re bumped from a domestic U.S. flight and the airline rebooks you to arrive an hour or less from your original arrival time, there’s no compensation. If you arrive two to four hours later, you are entitled to as much as $675 (the actual amount will be up to 200% of the applicable one-way fare); or if over four hours later than scheduled, up to $1350 or 400% of the one-way fare. You’re entitled to receive payment in cash. Do not accept a travel voucher since these often come with restrictions and extra hassle.

For international itineraries, if you’re flying on an aircraft owned by a U.S.-based airline, the same compensation levels apply, but the lower amount applies to arriving one to four hours after your original time and the higher amount to over four hours. However, if you’re flying internationally on a plane owned by a European-based airline, even if you bought the ticket from a U.S.-based airline under a code-share arrangement, then European Union law (EC Regulation 261/2004) applies. It stipulates compensation of up to 600 euros (about $700), along with a requirement that airlines pay for hotels and meals if required.

Taxiway/Runway Delays

Scenario: You’re stuck on the plane for more than three hours before take off or upon landing.

Recourse: If leaving from a U.S. airport, you have the right to request to deplane after your domestic flight has been delayed on the taxiway, tarmac, or runway for more than three hours; or four hours if it’s an international flight. Some restrictions apply, such as if deplaning you would cause a safety hazard.

Delayed Flights

Scenario: You’re off to a wedding, an important meeting, or Uncle Sid’s funeral, but your flight is delayed for hours or canceled and you’re not going to arrive in time, so why go at all?

Recourse: Under most U.S.-based airlines’ contracts of carriage, even if you’re flying on a non-refundable ticket you can get your airfare and ancillary fees refunded. Delta, for example, stipulates in its contract that, “in the event of flight cancellation, diversion, delays of greater than 90 minutes, or delays that will cause a passenger to miss connections, Delta will (at passenger’s request) cancel the remaining ticket and refund the unused portion of the ticket” but U.S. regulations don’t require cash compensation. However, if flying on an aircraft owned by a European airline, even if departing from the U.S., and even if the ticket was bought from a U.S.-based airline, EU delay rules apply with compensation up to 600 euros (about $700).

Canceled Flights

Scenario: Your flight is canceled.

Recourse: There’s no U.S. regulation that requires compensation, but if your flight is operated by a European-based airline (even if you purchased it from a U.S. airline and even if you’re departing from the U.S.) you are entitled to compensation of up to 600 euros (about $700).

Lost Luggage

Scenario: An airline loses your checked bags.

Recourse: The U.S. D.O.T. requires the airline to reimburse you up to $3500 per incident. However, the airline may ask for receipts for claimed items, may depreciate the value of the suitcase and its contents, and will not compensate for electronic items such as cameras, computers, jewelry, or cash except as noted below.

A different set of rules applies for international travel, even if a portion of the trip was on a U.S. airline, and the liability limits may be considerably lower.  Most foreign airlines follow “Montreal Convention” rules, which limit reimbursement to 1,131 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), a basket of international currencies whose value changes slightly day by day (at time of writing 1131 SDRs is $1858). However, the U.S. D.O.T. has stated that an airline that adheres to the Montreal Convention may not refuse to reimburse passengers for electronic equipment, jewelry and other “valuable” items in lost luggage. Furthermore, the D.O.T. has ruled, if you buy an airfare from a U.S.-based airline on a code-share flight (you buy from American Airlines, for example, but the flight is operated by British Airways), the more generous D.O.T. compensation rules (rather than the Montreal Convention limits) apply.

Delayed Luggage

Scenario: The airline hasn’t declared your bag “lost” yet but it sure didn’t arrive at the luggage carousel when you did.

Recourse: A U.S. D.O.T. advisory states that, “carriers should remain willing to cover all reasonable, actual and verifiable expenses related to baggage loss, damage or delay [emphasis added]” up to the same maximum lost bag compensation limit of $3,500 on domestic flights. For flights operated under the Montreal Convention, the same 1131 SDR (or $1858) compensation for a lost bag also applies to a delayed bag.  So if you’re attending a meeting and your business clothes are in the delayed bag, then yes you can buy a replacement and be reimbursed. In past years, airlines have offered $25 or $50 to buy a toothbrush and toiletries, but that is no longer acceptable (the U.S. D.O.T. has heavily fined airlines, both domestic and foreign-owned, for such thinking otherwise).

You Buy the Wrong Flight

Scenario: You hit the “buy” button on the airline’s website and immediately realize you chose the wrong dates or destinations, or buy two seats when you only wanted one.

Recourse: As long as you make the change within 24 hours and the flight leaves at least a week from the time of purchase, you have the right to either cancel your fare or rebook different dates, according to the U.S. D.O.T. This rule applies to all carriers, including American Airlines, which allows you to put a fare on hold up to 24 hours for free without paying for it.

Seat Selection

Scenario: Well ahead of the flight, you reserve an aisle seat but on the day of the flight you’re moved to a middle seat.

Recourse: None. Airlines reserve the right to assign you to any seat they choose. They can even put you in an economy class seat if you paid for business class.

Routing Changes

Scenario: You buy a $130 round-trip fare from New York to Denver on a nonstop flight. A few weeks before departure, the airline informs you that you’re now flying with a connection and with different departure and arrival times, even though it still flies the route nonstop (but now the nonstop fare is $700).

Recourse: You can insist on a refund of the fare, but you have no contractual or governmental right to be rebooked on the original flight. However, sometimes persistence pays off if you ask the airline to put you back on the nonstop.

Schedule Changes

Scenario: This is different from a flight delay. For example, you booked a flight in June for a trip in December, and in October the airline informs you that your flight will leave at 11 a.m. rather than 6 a,m, but that means you’ll miss an important meeting; or the airline changes its schedule from daily service to five times a week, which means you will be forced to spend an extra night at your destination at your own expense.

Recourse: This is a tough one. Passengers in these situations can apply for a refund and are free to find flights on a different airline, although alternate flights might cost considerably more.

Sharing Your Seat with a “Passenger of Size”

Scenario: You’re in the dreaded middle seat and a clinically obese passenger sits down next to you, raises the armrest, and spills over into a portion of your seat.

Recourse: While some airlines have language in their contracts stating that they will refuse to transport passengers who cannot fit into a single seat, or require them to buy two seats, these rules are rarely enforced. You can request to be reseated (perhaps in business or first class if there are no seats available in economy class), or to be put on the next flight out, but that’s about it. In Canada passengers of size are not required to buy two seats under disability clauses, so you’re out of luck

What You Should Do If There’s a Terrorist Attack When You’re Traveling


terrorist attackIn the wake of the explosion on the London underground, which officials confirmed is being treated as a terrorist incident, and addition to the frequent tragedies across Europe and the Middle East, travelers are exercising caution, and with good reason. But should you continue to travel (and you should continue to travel), you need to be prepared.

We spoke with Patricia Aguilera, State Department Division Chief for Europe and Eurasia about what travelers should do if they find themselves in a terrifying situation. Below, her tips.


Do your research.

Your preparation should start before you leave home. “Unfortunately, terror attacks are unpredictable and it makes it impossible to protect yourself absolutely, so the most important thing is before you go is read up on your destination. We tell everybody to go to travel.state.gov to learn about the situation on the ground.”

Is there a travel warning or a travel alert? If there is one, the State Department asks that you reconsider if that travel is important. “We tell our people to really seriously reconsider going, and if they don’t need to, not to.”

Plan your trip with safety in mind.

When organizing your itinerary, consider safety. Avoid stops in high risk areas or airports. Try to stay away from large crowds. Consider when you visit tourist destinations.

“Terrorists are trying to make the greatest impact,” explains Aguilera. “If you can avoid certain destinations or large crowds, it limits your vulnerability. Terrorist attacks are the result of careful planning. You want to stay away from the political gatherings, and any rallies that could erupt into violence. Stay at a hotels with identifiable security measures in place. Consider traveling when it’s not a peak time—pick a time when it is less congested, less busy.”

Enroll in STEP, the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Through the program, you’ll receive travel and security updates about the destination in which you’re registered. Should there be any demonstrations or security situations that you should be aware of, it will keep you updated. You can sign up at step.state.gov.

Purchase insurance.

Travel insurance is a good idea regardless of where you’re going, but should you find yourself in a bad situation, it can be life-changing. Certain types of insurance will help pay for medical care, evacuation, or unexpected flights.

“We don’t advocate or lobby for any specific insurance,” said Aguilera. “But we ask people to read the fine print. It’s important because different insurance companies will cover different things, but usually for just a few dollars, it really makes a huge difference, if you’re badly injured. And we recommend this not just for terrorist attacks, but for any kind of trip because you never know what could happen, and it’s just a good thing to have. Better to be safe than sorry.”


Should you find yourself in immediate danger during a terrorist attack, follow the suggested protocol set forward by the British National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO). To summarize: Stay calm, and run. If you can’t run, hide. And once you are safe, notify the proper authorities immediately. Read their full instructions, here.


Contact your local embassy, but only if you’re injured or in need of emergency assistance.

Have the local embassy’s phone number on you in case of an emergency, or call 888-407-4747, which is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by the U.S. State Department. They will likely set up a specific email address for the crisis, so look for that as well. That being said, only do so if you are injured or it is an emergency.

“Usually when we have a terror attack or ISIS hits, we ask people that are injured to contact us,” said Aguilera. “During [last year’s attack in Paris], there was a very important lesson that was learned. We asked the media to disseminate a message, and they, I think in trying to disseminate it quickly, left out a key part of it, and it was ‘if you are an injured U.S. citizen.’ They just put if you are a U.S. citizen, please contact the embassy. We were inundated with calls, which meant that it was harder for us to triage and to find out people who were truly missing or injured or really needed our assistance. So we discourage people who are okay to call us, because we won’t have any further action.”

Let your loved ones know you’re okay.

This is the most important thing, according to Aguilera. Many of the calls or emails that we receive are from people that are worried about a loved one because they haven’t heard from them, and they knew that they were either transiting or they were in the city and aren’t too sure about specifics,” she said. So let your friends and family know that you are safe. Facebook’s Safety Check feature is useful if you can’t make a phone call.

Leave your family or friends with a detailed itinerary. “A lot of our calls for Brussels and certainly for the Istanbul attack were people who weren’t sure about their loved ones, whether they were already in transit or when they were leaving. If people could just give loved ones specific information, it’s incredibly helpful before they leave. And a good contact in addition to whatever cell phone you may have, to maybe your hotel or a friend or whomever you’re staying with.” Again, this allows the embassy to focus their efforts on the people who truly need their help.

Tune in to the local news.

“Watch local media and heed any kinds of warnings or anything that they recommend for people staying near the vicinity or in the city. Security is the most important thing, and we want you to be safe.”

For more information on travel safety, visit travel.state.gov.


Don’t Ever Do This With Your Boarding Pass

Frequent Fliers Take Note!

passport boarding pass

Instagram was basically invented for the humble brag. Oh this old outfit? Why yes I did bake this cake from scratch. And, of course, there’s the famous passport and boarding pass tease to an upcoming whirlwind adventure (even HGTV star Jillian Harris can’t resist). But this seemingly innocent act of sharing a pic of your pass on social media could have serious repercussions.

According to KrebsonSecurity, websites exist that can read the barcode on your boarding pass and then hack your personal information, like your phone number, frequent flyer number, and info about all future flights you book through the same number. That means they can then change your seat on your flight, cancel future flights, and even reset your account PIN entirely. Yikes.

So the next time you’re jetting off to somewhere fabulous, just mention your destination in the caption. We’re sure your followers will believe you — even without photo proof.

[via Smart Travel]

In Praise of the Sheet Mask

Sheet MasksI love sheet masks. I love them even more when traveling. Sheet masks are not considered a liquid, so you don’t have to take them out for the TSA, but they are skin savers after a long flight.

It never fails that when I take a multi-hour flight to Europe, my skin is always parched and feels gross. When I get into my apartment or hotel, I do a scrub to get all of the airplane ick off of me, and then relax with a hydrating sheet mask. Not only is it making my skin feel like skin again, but it gives me a couple of minutes to unwind.

Give yourself a healthy treat, bring a couple of masks on your next adventure and make yourself into a on-the-go Spa Girl.

Venice, Invaded by Tourists, Risks Becoming ‘Disneyland on the Sea’

Venice Invaded by Tourists
5 monkey st marks closer

I traveled to Venice, Italy in November. I always travel off-season because I don’t have to fight the crowds. I am often the only person around, but the bonus is I never wait for any museum  except the Duomo San Marco. I have been to Venice twice, but due to the cruise ships bring their passengers directly to St Mark’s in massive hordes, unless you want to wait for hours, you are not getting in.

When it comes to traveling, time is money and time shouldn’t be wasted. While others are waiting in line to get into the Duomo, take a vaporetto across the lagoon to San Gorgio and go to the top of the bell tower for the best views of the lagoon and St Mark’s.

3 venice 1

A word of warning, if you are in Venice during the ‘Alta Aqua’ or ‘High Tides’, the streets will be flooded in the morning. It can be an inconvenience, but it is also fascinating to watch the water swirling down into small drains that were cut into the stones hundreds of years ago. Part of the joy of travel is to learn about the local culture and speak to the native Venetians. Don’t give up on any opportunity to be friendly and engage a local. They love to talk up their love of this unique floating city.

5_peP1010942_pe All photos by Cynthia Cassell – Girls Travel The World


22 French Phrases Every Traveler Should Know


 France, Ile-de-France, Fontainebleau, Palace of Fontainebleau

Maybe you passed high school or even college French, but speaking like the locals is something quite different from what we learn in the books. I don’t pretend to speak like I was born here, but I generally get by sans problème.

We’ve talked about phrases that will save you money in Paris, but there are also a few essential words to know so you won’t feel totally lost when you’re exploring the city

Five vital French phrases

First, five indispensable phrases that will take you well outside the leagues of thoughtless tourists who never even attempt a word of French (and then complain of ill-treatment in France). Use these basics in almost every interaction and we guarantee that your entire trip will go more smoothly.

Best of all, they’re simple… and you probably already know them. Now use them!

1. “Bonjour / Bonsoir” | Hello / Good evening

(bone-jure / bone-swar)

Begin every human interaction with a simple hello or good evening. Don’t get caught up in the temporal boundaries surrounding both. Some people say bonjour until 7 p.m., others start bonsoir around 4 p.m. It’s a weird game, but as long as you use one of them when greeting a person, you’ll be safe.

Bonus: Entering a shop or interacting with a stranger? Show a touch more respect by adding “Monsieur” or “Madame” (miss-your / meh-damm). Thus: “Bonsoir, Madame.”

2. “Merci” | Thank you


Don’t be shy on this one. Thank people left and right, just like you would back home. A waiter places your coffee in front of you? Don’t remain quiet, say “Merci!” Someone holds the door? “Merci!” The nice lady hands you an ice cream cone at Berthillon? “Merci!”

Bonus: Add the “Monsieur” or “Madame” to class it up. “Merci, Madame.”

3. “Au revoir” | Goodbye

(or vwah)

You’ve entered a shop, bakery, or restaurant, said your “Bonjour, Madame” and responded with a “merci,” when your order was brought to you. Now, get out of there with all of your manners intact by saying “Au revoir.”

Bonus: You guessed it–class it up with Monsieur or Madame.

4. “Pardon” | Excuse me


Getting off a train, pushing through a crowd, knocking into someone while reaching for a jar of mustard at the supermarket – simply say pardon with a cheery assertiveness and you don’t need to feel bad about shoving someone around a little bit.

Don’t try to say sorry (“désolé”) because you don’t need to apologize for getting out of the Metro. Save that for when you do something really reprehensible in France… like cut bread with a knife.

5. “Est-ce que vous parlez anglais?” | Do you speak English?

(ess-ka voo par-lay on-glay?)

This one is a dead giveaway that you’re not French, but who are we trying to kid ? Asking if someone speaks English, preceded by a “bonjour” of course, is never a bad thing. Many French people will switch seamlessly into English. Others, not so much.

Here’s the thing: It’s respectful to ask someone in their own language if they speak your language. If you just barrel forth in English first thing, you’ll come off as obnoxious. Just ask, and everyone will be happy.

Everyday conversation

Learn these phrases to navigate everyday situations in Paris and throughout France:

6. “Ça va?” | How are you?


Forget the “comment allez-vous” of textbook fame. A simple, “ça va?” is all it takes to ask someone how they’re doing. Ask it with your voice going up at the end. And the response couldn’t be easier — simply repeat “ça va” with your voice falling. It means both “how you doin’?” and “I’m fine, thanks”, depending on your intonation.

So yes, you’re having an entire conversation using just two words. Really simple.

7. “C’est combien?” | How much is it?

(say comb-be-en)

When it comes to prices and asking about money issues, save the stress for the numbers themselves. “How much is it?” is all you need to know, so point, say the phrase, and then prepare to fumble over the numbers.

8. “Café / noisette / café crème / cappuccino / allongé”

(caff-ay / nwah-set / caff-ay krem / cap-oo-chino / eh-lawn-jay)

Know your coffee order! If you just order a café, that’s a little cup of black espresso and milk isn’t served alongside it. If you want a touch of milk, order a “noisette.” A larger black coffee? That’s an “allongé,” and with milk it’s a “café crème.

There are plenty of great cafes in Paris to test out your French, including these shops that serve excellent coffee.

9. “Je vais prendre…” | I’ll take…

(zh’uh vay prawn-dra)

At a café, a restaurant, or even at a market, this phrase simply means, “I’ll have…” followed by the item you’d like. You’ll hear more advanced (and proper) derivations (je prendrais, je voudrais, j’aimerais) but let’s just keep it simple.

10. “Où est…” | Where is…

(ooh ay)

Every Parisian knows that you should never ask another Parisian for directions – they invariably point you the wrong way, even if by accident. Still, if you need to tempt fate, a simple “Where is” followed by your destination is all it takes.

Bonus: Make it proper! Throw in, “Excusez-moi, Monsieur. Où est…?” And naturally, end with a “Merci!”

11. “Vous prenez la carte bleue?” | Do you take bank cards?

(voo pren-ay la cart bluh)

Using bank cards (“carte bleue”) to pay isn’t always easy in France. A lot of establishments require a minimum charge around €10-15, so it’s best to ask first before assuming they’ll take it. They’ll tell you it’s accepted “à partir de 10 euros,” or starting at 10 euros. You can also ask, “Vous prenez l’American Express?” but expect “Non” 90% of the time.

12. “Une baguette tradition, s’il vous plait.” | A “tradition” baguette, please.

(Oohn bag-ett tra-diss-eon, see voo play)

When ordering your bread, you always want the baguette that is called the “tradition” if there are multiple options. In Paris, ordering a regular baguette is possible, too, but it’s rarely as good.

13. “Le Métro le plus proche?” | The closest Metro?

(Le Metro le ploo pro-shh)

Asking someone in the street where the closest Metro should be easy. “The closest metro?” is all you need to help orient you towards Paris’ underground transportation system. Getting directions from Parisians on the street can feel hopeless, but they do know how to use their Metro.

14. “Une carafe de vin/d’eau” | A carafe of wine / water

(oohn care-aff de ven / doe)

Asking for a carafe of house wine or free tap water is one of our hallmark tips. In fact, buying a bottle of water when dining out is one of the biggest rookie mistakes you can make in Paris.

Don’t buy a bottle of wine or “mineral water” (Evian) unless you really, really think you need it. House wine and tap water are cheaper and perfectly good. Use this phrase liberally… well, in restaurants and cafés at least.

15. “Pourriez-vous me prendre en photo ?” | Could you please take a photo of me?

(Pour-ee-ay voo meh prawn-dra en photo?)

Ditch the selfie sticks, please. (Seriously, they get in everyone’s way and look silly.) Ask a stranger in the street if they can take your photo and maybe you’ll make a new friend. If nothing else, it’s a chance to use your French.

16. “Est-ce qu’il y a une grève aujourd’hui?” | Is there a strike today?

(Ess-kill-ee-ah oohn grev oh-zhor-dwee?)

This is an important one for anyone planning a day of travel. Asking if there is a strike (“grève”) today is always a good idea since the French are kind of known for striking. If there is a delay on the trains or a big crowd gathering, it can’t hurt to ask a passerby, though it just might be a “manifestation,” or a demonstration, unrelated to a strike.

17. “Non, je ne parle pas anglais” | No, I don’t speak English.

(Non, zhe ne parl paw on-glay)

This one is super useful when scam artists ask you if you speak English, trying to get you to sign their fake petitions. Telling them that you don’t speak English is a great way to get them to leave you alone.

18. “Est-ce que vous vendez [item] ici?” | Do you sell [something] here?

(Ess-ka voo von-day [item] ee-see)

Sometimes you need bandages. Maybe a certain brand of notebooks. Maybe you’re searching for The Cat in the Hat in French. Asking if they sell the item in their store will save you the time of searching through the boutique yourself – just don’t forget your bonjour!

19. “Ce sera tout, juste l’addition, s’il vous plaît” | That will be all, just the bill, please.

(Se sair-ah too, zhoost l’ah-diss-ee-on, see voo play)

Often ending a meal in France can be a long ordeal, but when you want to go, you want to go. Then there’s the issue of getting the ever-evasive bill. After your main course has been cleared, you’ll often be asked if you want a dessert, a coffee, a digestif, etc. Just respond with this phrase, and they’ll bring the check quickly… sometimes.

20. “Je suis crevé/Je suis fatigué/Je suis HS” | I’m exhausted / tired / “out of service”

(Zhe swee crev-ay / fat-ee-gay / ah’sh-ess)

If you’re going to be in Paris, you have to let everyone know that you’re tired. That’s just the rule. Ask a French person how it’s going (see phrase 6), and they’ll often tell you in one way or another how tired they are. Maybe they just got back from work, maybe they just got back from vacation – it doesn’t matter, they’re always tired or HS (“hors service” or “out of service”). If you want to fit in, use these phrases liberally.

21. “Je suis désolé, j’ai pas de monnaie.” | I’m sorry, I don’t have any change.

(Zhe swee day-sew-lay, zhay pa de moan-ay)

Often you’ll find yourself paying a small sum with a very large bill. The French aren’t huge fans of this because it requires them to count out change. Anytime I pay with a 50 euro bill, I always apologize first and say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any smaller money,” to let them know that I understand that it’s annoying, and it seems to prevent any feathers from getting too ruffled.

22. “C’est pas possible.” | It’s not possible.

(Say pa pose-ee-bl)

“It’s not possible.” Perhaps one of the most frequently used phrases to express irritation. When a crying child gets on the Metro, for example, you’ll say it to yourself to express irritation. It’s best muttered under your breath, but loudly enough so that others can hear. The French apparently think many things are not possible, even as they are witnessing said things happen.


Unpaid Tax Debt? You Soon Won’t be Able to Leave the U.S.

Check to Internal Revenue Service


It’s time to pay up, tax dodgers.

Starting in early 2017, the Internal Revenue Service will begin certifying tax debt to the U.S. State Department, which oversees passport applications and renewals. That means if you haven’t paid your federal taxes, don’t expect to travel outside the U.S.

The new rule, which adds section 7345 to the Internal Revenue Code, was signed into law by President Obama in 2015 as part of a five-year infrastructure spending bill. It reads:

Sec. 32101) Amends the Internal Revenue Code to require the Department of the Treasury, upon receiving certification by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that any individual has a seriously delinquent tax debt in excess of $50,000, to transmit the certification and disclose certain tax return information to the Department of State for action with respect to denial, revocation, or limitation of a passport for the individual. Prohibits State, upon receiving such certification, from issuing a passport to such an individual except in emergency circumstances or for humanitarian reasons. Requires State to revoke a passport previously issued to the individual; but to allows permitting a limited passport for return travel to the United States.

Authorizes State to deny a passport application or revoke a passport if the application does not include the applicant’s Social Security number, or includes an incorrect or invalid number willfully, intentionally, negligently, or recklessly provided by the applicant.

The IRS website vaguely states that it will begin notifying the State Department of unpaid taxes very soon.

“The IRS has not yet started certifying tax debt to the State Department. Certifications to the State Department will begin in early 2017, and this webpage will be updated to indicate when this process has been implemented,” the IRS website states/

If you’re seriously delinquent on $50,000 or more in federal taxes, plan to pay up or you won’t be able to fly internationally.

Unpaid Tax Debt? You Soon Won’t be Able to Leave the U.S.

IRS debt passport suspended