When I first visited Paris in the 1990s, I stayed in a convent dormitory and ate baguettes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Luckily I’ve been able to visit the city many times over the years on a variety of budgets, and here’s what I know: Paris can trash your pocket if you’re not careful.
The good news? There are so many freebies, cheapies and insider secrets in the city that tourists – no, not even backpackers – have to suffer for their “vacation”.
Consider the following tips to get more bang for your buck on your next trip.
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Use public transport
While it’s tempting to hop into a cab – especially at Charles de Gaulle Airport – there’s no quicker way to empty the contents of your purse. Hop on the RER B train instead – a 60-minute journey to central Paris. Sure, it will take longer to get to your accommodation, but it will cost you about a quarter of the price of a taxi.
While you’re all about “public transport,” you should also buy a “carnet” (a 10-pack) of subway tickets. It’s cheaper than buying them individually.
Hit the parks
Nobody designs a landscaped park quite like the French, so take a day or two to enjoy the Jardin des Tuileries or the Jardin du Luxembourg. Of course, depending on how luxurious you want to make your day, it won’t be an entirely free experience. Expect to shell out a few bucks for a bottle of wine, a baguette, and some cheese from a grocery store beforehand.
Be selective when visiting museums
Got a lot of time up your sleeve? Many museums offer special offers such as free admission on the first Sunday of every month or reduced admission for early evening visitors. So take the time to visit each museum’s website to see if you can fit the discounted hours into your plans.
If you would classify yourself as a culture vulture, it’s worth getting one Paris Museum Passwhich includes over 50 museums and monuments in the city.
Consider some freebies
There are many free museums and activities throughout the city. Be sure to look at such Museum of Modern Art and Maison de Balzacand if you feel like it, make time for a free walking tour of the city New Europe hiking tours and Paris Greeter.
Stick to cheaper suburbs
We all dream of staying in a fancy hotel room with a view of the Eiffel Tower, but Paris — even if you’re really far from the tower — isn’t exactly known for its cheap places to stay. Your best bet is to book an Airbnb in a less expensive arrondissement like Le Marais, the Latin Quarter, Montmartre, or Montparnasse — or, if you don’t mind some travel time, you might even consider staying outside of Paris city limits and taking the metro Get on and off the train.
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Avoid sitting down
In Australia the advertised menu price is the advertised menu price whether you are seated, standing or swinging by a chandelier. In Paris, expect to pay a hefty fee to sit down to eat or drink at any establishment. your best bet? Grab and go wherever possible, or accept the price of taking a table. Some consider it “rent”.
Decide on a bouillon
Those steak fries and a bottle of red wine don’t have to cost the earth. Skip the elegant brasseries and bistros that line the main thoroughfares and head to a neighborhood bouillon instead. Traditional restaurants specializing in classic French dishes at low prices, you can expect to spend less than 15 euros for a main course, side dishes and a cheese board.
Focus on lunch
If your budget only calls for one restaurant meal a day, make it a lunchtime event when prices are lower. Many restaurants offer a prix fixe menu (a two or three course meal) during lunch, and often this is a far better deal than what you’re likely to find when the sun goes down.
Don’t forget you can use apps like La Fourchette (known to most of us as The Fork) to check for discounts at restaurants across the city.
Shop in the most unlikely places
Okay, browsing the Champs-Elysees will always have its place, but just because the prices scare your heart a little doesn’t mean you can’t afford to shop here. If you happen to be in town over the weekend, be sure to check out the city’s famous flea markets (they’re dotted across the city and are a fantastic find for everything from vintage clothing and old-school costume jewelry to antique prints and art deco furniture). Check out vintage stories like that too kilo store. Yes, the price you pay depends on how full – and heavy – your bag is.
Finally, remember that when it comes to spending money in Paris, it’s not all bad news. Non-EU citizens who are spending, spending, spending can easily apply for one VAT Cash Refund.
For more information on visiting Paris, see Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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