As one of the most famous and beautiful capital cities in the world, Paris is obviously not cheap, in fact it’s known for being expensive. I was recently asked what we spent on our 3 day weekend to Paris before Christmas, and aside from one expensive meal (Ralph’s – it had been on the bucket list for a while), I don’t think we did too badly. I’m not one for doing things as cheap as possible when I go somewhere, I prefer to save up so when I’m there I can splash out and make the most of it. Having said that, there are definitely do-able ways to save money in Paris.
This is literally just for while you are actually in Paris, and doesn’t cover hotels. I could never couch surf, go in a hostel, or such like. There are sooooo many people who do, pro travellers and solo travellers have a great time, so I’m not knocking it at all, it just isn’t for me. But like anyone, I want to get the most out of the money I’ve saved when I do go somewhere, especially Paris.
Here’s a few tips that I recently passed on to someone who messaged me asking for help, and none of them will impact on the quality of your trip to Paris:
Money Saving Tips for Paris
From the airport, take the metro instead of an airport taxi transfer, or even a pre booked transfer. While there are some really good value private/shared transfers out there, money can definitely be saved by getting the metro. It’s easily done from the main airports in Paris and costs a fraction of the cost – €10 instead of about €65-80 depending on time and where you’re staying. One word of advice though, rush hour on the metro is not a pleasant experience. I’ve done it once and never again. If you’re arriving at any other time, it’s a good way to save money.
Buy a Batobus one or two day pass. The Batobus is my favourite way to get around the main central sights of Paris, and the circuit around the Seine includes stops at the Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Musee D’Orsay and to name a few. The passes have unlimited use for the time you get them for, and are both time and money saving when getting about. Also, you get to see Paris from the river, amazing. At €17 for one day, or €19 for two days, it will save you a fortune in taxi fares, and time if you are only there a short amount of time.
This obviously brings me on to the tourist sights themselves. Many of them are free to simply go and see. You can walk around Notre Dame, the gardens around the Eiffel Tower, and the outside of the Louvre and pyramids free of charge.
If you want to go up the Eiffel Tower, up the towers to see the gargoyles of Notre Dame, or into the museums obviously this is going to cost you, but buying tickets in advance online will save you a few euros here and there. Also do some research into the museums if you want to go to a few. Many are part of a museum pass scheme that will get you a reduced price for entry into more than one. In addition to that there are some free museum days, usually Sundays early on in the month.
Don’t eat on the Champs Elysees. I personally wouldn’t want to anyway, but a lot of first time visitors panic and go there because they know it. Take the time to research the area that you’re staying, there are hundreds of smaller, family run restaurants and cafes that serve delicious French food at half the price of the ones on the Champs Elysees. They’re often hidden on the streets further back, but should definitely not be discounted. For a real French restaurant in the centre of Paris, try Flottes.
While I’m on about food, I honestly wouldn’t pre book breakfast as part of your hotel rate. One of the best things about Paris is the cafe culture, and while many can be expensive, there’s plenty that aren’t too if you just bother to research and find them. It’s sooooo much better to be enjoying a croissant or orange juice on a tiny street table watching the world go by, than in a hotel breakfast buffet. Even on Place Vendome (by the Ritz, Louis Vuitton, Cartier…you get the picture?), we found a tiny little crepe place that was so cheap. Nearly all cafes have the menu outside, so check before you make any snap decisions!
Try the street food! There are plenty and varied street food vendors about and they’re really good. At Montmartre you will often see bakeries and cafes open hatches to sell takeaway food to passers by.
Walk places! Obviously the batobus is great for ticking off the main tourist sites, but you can’t go to Paris without exploring the beautiful streets on foot. With French shutters, little balconies and grand doors everywhere you look you can really immerse yourself in the beauty of Paris just by wandering around. Also a great way to find the best, and cheaper little cafes.
Barter for souvenirs, especially if you’re buying street artwork or crafts. You may think you won’t want to, but once you see the beauty of Paris brought to life on a tiny canvas that would just look perfect in your home without being at all tacky, you will find yourself wanting every one you see. The artists are happy to negotiate, especially if you find a few you like.
If you really have to take home the Eiffel Tower paperweight, or something equally tacky, then don’t buy them from the official shops. They’re everywhere you look so, savings to be had! I’d also avoid buying them from the street sellers than hover around all the main sites, once you show an interest to one they will swarm around you to try pressure you into buying more.
Sometimes using the metro is unavoidable, like if you’re going to Montmartre, or the red light district for the Moulin Rouge. A LOT cheaper than taxis at less than €2, but also if you’re going to use it frequently for a few trips you can get a batch of tickets. A block booking if you like. They’re called a carnet, and cost €12 for ten tickets.
Plan your own itinerary instead of taking a walking guide. It’s such a big city with so much to see that you really should have some idea of what you want to see and do when. If you’re staying in the centre a trip up to Montmartre could take you the best part of a day, whereas some of the sights and museums could easily be done in one day together. Whatever you see and do, you will never have enough time in Paris, and you will be gutted to leave!
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