Travelers headed to a destination where they don’t know the language can often have a hard time feeling plugged into the local scene. Communicating with locals can be a challenge, and so can finding insider information like that off-the-beaten restaurant that serves the tastiest food in town.
In Paris, at least, three new services are trying to help non-French-speaking tourists get the most out of their trip.
This is a 4G smartphone and 24-hour concierge plus travel guide in one. You can rent one by the day, and it works all over Europe. Unlimited calling and texting within France and to other countries in Europe is included in the rental cost, while texting and calling to the United States and Canada is an additional 3 euros (about $3.70) a day. The phone is also equipped with Wi-Fi and works as a mobile hot spot to connect your other devices to the internet.
But Insidr’s most appealing feature is the on-hand team of employees ready to help with restaurant and hotel reservations, on-the-spot translation, airport transfers and more, all accessible on the Insidr phone.
Another draw is the included app, packed with guided walks around town, and the live messaging app that connects users with locals ready to share a list of their favorite spots in Paris.
The City Helpline
This is a mobile app for iPhones and devices running Google’s Android operating system, and gives travelers access to a concierge, either via live messaging or by phone, who can help them with a variety of requests.
The concierge, for example, can help them find the right bus and bus stop that will take them to the Louvre, recommend a guide who can give them a street art tour, connect them with an English-speaking baby sitter and even share a list of restaurants that serve dishes suited to their gluten-free diet. In addition, the concierge can assist in emergencies, such as if a traveler gets sick and needs to see a doctor.
Theatre in Paris
This service translates French theater performances into English in 10 playhouses in Paris. Those who buy tickets through Theatre in Paris are assigned seats that will give them the best vantage point of both the stage and the screen; they’re also met at the theater by a company employee who gives them a program in English. Tickets start at about 25 euros.
Carl de Poncins, the app’s founder, said that he came up with the idea for the projection screens because he had an Australian roommate who loved theater but knew little French.
“He never used to go to performances because he couldn’t understand what was going on,” he said. “Why should language get in the way of seeing the incredible theater Paris has?”