Do you think Paris is way out of your budget? Well, probably. It is among the world’s most expensive cities after all.
From luxurious hotels to extravagant haute couture and lavish spreads of gourmet food, if you’re not careful, you’ll be spending more than what you can afford.
But for the savvy traveller, a little research goes a long way. There are a bunch of practical (and not-so-known) tips that will help prevent you from burning a huge hole in your pocket.
Take this list perhaps. We have compiled some of the top ways to save on your next Paris trip. Because hey, living la vie parisienne need not empty your entire life savings.
Here we go.
1. Pick a less expensive season. Being the top tourist destination in the entire freakin’ planet, Paris is full of mobs of tourists all year round. BUT — the winter months could provide lower-priced airfare and lodging. This is because winter crowds are considerably fewer than summer months. So consider booking your trip on winter, or if you can’t stand winter travelling, opt for Fall or Spring travel.
2. Avoid Paris during Fashion Week. Unless this glamorous event is exactly why you want to be there in the first place. But if fashion week isn’t in your bucket list, you might want to choose a different time. The lavish parties and shows that will take over the city can certainly burn an asteroid-sized hole in your bank account.
3. Holidays and festivals are out. While winter season is less expensive than summer months, the travel costs still skyrocket around Christmas, New Year, and other holidays. For budget-conscious travellers, there are lots of other days of the year to pick.
4. Consider booking a package. Scour the net and talk to your friendly neighbourhood travel agent for a budget-friendly hotel, airfare, and tour package. Make sure to do extensive research and compare the different prices. This is no time to be lazy if you wish to save on your trip.
5. Look for Groupon and LivingSocial deals. Weeks before your trip, sign up for Paris deals in Groupon.com, Livingsocial.com, and similar sites. You can find fun activities and save up on bargain meals this way.
6. Set your travel so that it falls on the first Sunday of the month. Why? Because — FREEBIES!!! Several museums such as the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou, the Musee Rodin and the Musee National du Moyen Age offer free admission every first Sunday of the month. Amazing? Yes!! So go ahead and make sure to insert a whole day of (entrance-free!) museum-hopping in your trip itinerary.
7. Book an affordable hotel. By affordable hotel, we mean the small family-run inns or 2-3 star hotels located in historical buildings. Some of these do not have elevators and air conditioning, but if you’re going to be out most of the time, that’s hardly going to matter. Check out this list of affordable Paris hotels.
8. Pick a budget-friendly neighborhood. Hotels located near the main attractions are generally more expensive than those out-of-the-way locations. The “far-flung” neighborhoods could also offer you unique (and surprising!) attractions.
9. You can also do away with hotels and choose a rental or an apartment instead! Read more about vacation rentals here. If you’re planning to be in Paris for at least a week, this could be a good money-saving option for you. The weekly rates are definitely lesser than when you opt for a per-night room. Check out sites like Airbnb, FlipKey and HomeAway for Paris accommodations that are way below regular hotel rates.
10. Book hotels in advance. While spontaneity can be considered quite cool, it tends to be costly, too. If you wish to cut on expenses, choose your hotel (or vacation rental) in advance. High-rated budget hotels quickly get fully booked months before, so beat the line and book as early as humanly possible.
11. Say goodbye to your dream of staying in a room with an Eiffel Tower view. While this could be brought out by years of watching movies that invariably feature the Eiffel Tower framed in a picturesque hotel window, actual hotels that offer this have prices as high as the renowned tower itself. If you want to scrimp on costs, let the dream go.
12. Hello, public transpo! Once you arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport, you’re better off taking the RER B Train to Paris or the city’s airport bus. If you opt for taxi cabs, be prepared to shell out at least 5 times that of the train or bus fare.
13. Walk. Get a city map, guide book or put your expensive smartphone to good use by using it to locate the places as you walk. Not only does it burn a lot of calories, it will also help you explore more places. Take a long stroll along the Seine or download some audio guides or walking tours on your android or iphone.
14. Use a bike! Velib is a bicycle-share system in Paris that allows you to save on transportation expenses. By joining the program, you can get access to 1,800 Velib stations in Paris and surrounding areas. The idea is simple: buy a 1-day ticket for 1.7 euros or a 7-day ticket for 8 euros, pick up a bike in the nearest station, and drop it off at any station. For more info, check out their website: http://en.velib.paris.fr.
15. Take the Metro. The highly efficient Metro system in Paris can be a very affordable transportation option. One ticket costs 1.7 euros, but if you buy a 10-pack ticket called a carnet (car-nay), it is even cheaper and costs only €12.70. Remember to grab a free map at your hotel or use your phone as a guide.
16. Look for free museums. Paris is a museum lover’s haven, but admission fees can seriously make a huge dent on your wallet. Not to worry though, aside from the previously mentioned tip about free admissions on the first Sunday of the month, there are also museums that offer free entrance. This includes Musee Carnavalet (the Paris History Museum, the Musee de la Prefecture de Police (the Paris Police Museum) and the Fragonard Parfume Museum. If you do a bit more scouting, there are plenty of other free places, too. Just be patient and work on your sleuthing techniques.
17. Buy a Paris Museum Pass. If you’re a hardcore museum enthusiast and the previous options aren’t enough for you, then get yourself a Museum Pass. The pass will grant you access to over 50 museums and sights around Paris and is definitely less expensive than buying individual passes.
18. Hang out in parks. Parisian parks are oozing with grandeur and brimming with lush greens and Instagram-worthy plazas. Take leisurely strolls in parks such as the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Parc de la Villette and surprise surprise, it won’t cost you a thing at all!
19. Check out the nearest Monoprix. Monoprix is a French version of Target or similar chain of stores. It contains reasonably priced clothing, accessories, makeup, houseware, souvenirs, and everything else you would wish to buy or bring home to friends.
20. Visit flea markets. For bargain finds and quirky fun purchases, you might want to drop by the different fabulous flea markets. Trust us, you won’t regret it!
21. Shop at the department stores. Big stores like Printemps or Galeries Lafayette often have discounts for tourists. This could be 10% off discount for each purchase and an additional value added tax reimbursement of 12% once you have reached a certain amount. Tourist discount cards can give you up to a whopping 25% off. The department stores carry fashion lines like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Gucci, and also lower budget brands, and the items are often the same as their outlet stores.
22. Forgo hotel breakfasts. Most hotels do not provide free breakfast, so you’re better off looking for other options outside and save about half the price.
23. Reserve lavish meals for lunch. A visit to Paris won’t be complete without sampling the famous Michelin-starred restaurants. However, the highly popular and celebrated spots will cost you hundreds of euros just for one dinner. Opt for lunch instead which is a lot more affordable.
24. Take advantage of set lunch specials. From 11 am to 3 pm, you will usually see a “prix fixe” menu being advertised in chalkboards outside cafes and restaurants. This already includes full course meals comprised of appetizer, entrée, glass of wine or coffee, and even dessert. You’ll end up paying less than half of the usual a la carte meals.
25. Stay away from brand name wines and champagnes. Instead, opt for lesser known local brands, high-quality wines from French food stores, or even supermarket-bought wines.
26. One word: baguette! Baguettes can be found all over Paris, and this could already be a simple, affordable meal for you. Just add cheeses and fruit and you’re good to go!
27. When eating out, say “une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plait“. The waiter will bring you a carafe of tap water. Remember that tap water in Paris is safe to drink, and not ordering a bottle of mineral water will save you up to 7 euros each meal. Just remember to say the magic words to the waiter, otherwise you will be charged for a bottle of water.
28. Don’t buy euros before your trip. You’ll get a better deal in money exchange counters in Paris than you will in US banks. Also, you can just opt to withdraw from the ATMs all over the city. This way, you will get a good exchange rate and be charged with the same ATM fee as you do at home. You can also travel with your own currency or use your credit card.
29. Forget euro denominated traveller’s checks. These are rarely accepted in hotels and shops.
With a little research, lots of patience, and a zest for adventure, you’ll definitely get more bang out of your Euro. So plan your trip wisely and travel smart!
Let us know your tricks to save money in the comment section.
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Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +