How to Be a Perfect Guest in Paris or New York

Travel etiquette questions answered: from apartments in Paris to hotels in NYC.

September 22, 2009 — -- Q: What's the real story on parking tickets and rental cars? Do I pay them?

A: You might as well—you'll end up doing it eventually. Check your rental agreement, of course, but usually the person renting the car agrees to pay all tickets received while they're renting it. If you don't pay the ticket, the rental-car company will, but they'll pass that along to you via the credit card you used to pay for the car. They might throw in some extra fees, too, for their trouble.

This also applies to speeding tickets issued automatically by radar cameras… as my husband and I recently found out via our credit-card statement about two months after we returned from Germany. (Oops. FYI, there is a speed limit on some parts of the Autobahn.)

Q: Your last column about tipping housekeeping reminded me of my recent trip to New York. On my train out of the city, I found the tip I'd meant to leave for housekeeping in my pocket. I was there for six nights, so it was more than a couple of bucks. When I got home, I sent an envelope containing the cash to the hotel manager along with a letter requesting that he give it to the person who cleaned my room. I included my room number and dates of occupancy. Was there a different way to handle this? Do you think the manager will get the money to the proper person?

A: I think you handled that extremely graciously. Most people, upon discovering the money in their pocket, would've thought, "Shoot, I forgot to tip housekeeping… but hey, now I have cash for the dining car!"

The only thing I can think of doing differently, should this happen again, is calling the hotel to get the name of the person who cleaned your room so you could address the envelope directly to them. But I suspect most managers (in reputable NYC hotels, at least!) would do the right thing and pass on the money.

Living in Paris for Free

Q: I know that if you're staying with a friend, you should bring a gift, offer to help with housework, etc., but what if someone just loans you their pied-à-terre in Paris for a week?

A: Lucky you! (Note to self: Acquire similar friend.) You should definitely send a gift to your friend's current address. Time it so it arrives during your stay, or send it immediately upon your return. (And I do mean "immediately," not six months later. You got to go to Paris without shelling out for a hotel—even if you have 10,000 urgent e-mails to answer, you can make the time to do this promptly.) You never have to spend a lot of money on a gift, but when a friend has been this generous, you should spend a decent amount of time and effort finding something they'll love. And it goes without saying that you should include a thank-you note.

While it'll be fun to pretend you're a Parisien(ne) for a week, remember that this is not, in fact, your apartment. No rearranging furniture, having a wild party, etc. It is also not a hotel room, so hang up your towels and don't use the bathrobe hanging in the closet. Don't raid the pantry or the liquor cabinet. And leave some time for cleaning up and doing laundry on your last day—you should leave the place looking as if you'd never set foot in it.

Have a fantastic time!

Lesley Carlin has been writing about travel and etiquette professionally for more than 10 years. As one of the Etiquette Grrls, she is the co-author of "Things You Need to Be Told" and "More Things You Need to Be Told" (Berkley). Have a travel etiquette question of your own? E-mail Lesley at

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