Exploring Paris on Seriously Tight Budget

Budget travel is more about value for money and quality experiences than just going for the cheapest (and sometimes nastiest) options available. It’s about getting the best experience out of the amount of money you do have. 

 

 

If 5 star accommodation, fancy restaurants, theatre, opera etc is what you have in mind for your trip to Paris then frankly the words ‘Paris’ and ‘budget’ are not going to work in the same sentence.

 

Paris is one of the more expensive European cities but if you have a limited budget and you don’t mind toning things down a notch, then have faith my friends – I assure you it can be done!

 

Paris breakfast

Grab a pastry and coffee to go from your local Boulangerie for a cheap, delicious and totally unhealthy breakfast!

 

 

All of my visits to Paris have had very little cash to spare so these are some of my tips for getting the most of out of Paris on a budget:

 

Accommodation

 

I personally think you need a week in Paris at the very minimum, so the ideal option is to rent an apartment. I know it sounds kind of pricey but it can actually cheaper than staying in a dormitory in a Paris hostel; and often cheaper than a hotel. Obviously, the more people you have travelling the more you will save.

 

The centrally located apartments are generally more expensive so check out some areas a little further out. Montmarte have some real cheapies.

 

Make sure you factor in transportation into your costs if you stay further out. It may be cheaper to stay central and avoid travelling in and out of the centre.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

 

For 60 Euros a night (30 Euros each) two of us stayed in a lovely little studio apartment 2 blocks from Notre Dame. It was cosy but nice and it was my first experience with the European shower-over-toilet set up.

 

Try Paris Sweet Home for apartment accommodation options.

 

Fancy a drink?

 

Cocktail happy hours are your best friend! Look for half-price cocktail signs during the day while you are wandering and take note their locations for popping back in the evening.

 

 

Entertainment

 

If want to see some Opera in Paris you can sometimes get heavily discounted last-minute tickets for shows on the same day. Get these tickets for shows at the Opera Garnier or Opera Bastille from kiosks near Place de la Madeleine or Gare Montparnasse.

 

Weave your way along the streets of the Right Bank in the late afternoon to end up at the Eiffel Tower for the spectacular light show that happens every night just after sunset.

 

 

Eiffel Tower at night

Eiffel Tower at night

 

 

Museums: Some of Paris’ major museums are free on the first Sunday of the month including the Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Rodin Museum.

It’s worth noting that in the peak seasons the lines for these museums can be unbearably long – avoid this and many other unpleasant crowded situations by travelling in shoulder/off-peak season.

Notre Dame is always free.

 

Instead of paying for the view atop the Eiffel Tower, climb the stairs to the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur above Montemarte to enjoy one of the best views in Paris!

 

 

Getting Around

 

Bring some reasonably sensible shoes and walk everywhere!! Well, almost everywhere. Walking won’t cost you anything and you can easily walk around all the inner quartiers. For a short and cheap metro ride you can easily reach the outer arrondissements and explore on foot even more.

 

 

Paris Metro

 

 

If you plan on taking the metro more than a few times buying a pack of 10 Metro tickets (a carnet) is a cheaper option.

 

 

Sustenance – Cheap Eats

 

Have a picnic: Grab a 3 euro bottle of wine (or cheaper if you’re brave!), some Camembert and crackers from one of the many open air food markets and head to the Luxembourg gardens for a picnic. There are plenty of other gardens to explore in Paris too.

 

 

Rue Mouffetard

 

 

When you are on your way to watch the Eiffel Tower light show, grab a freshly cooked crepe with your topping of choice from one of the street stalls along the Right Bank nearby. Cheap and delicious.

(Tip: make sure the vendor you choose is cooking them fresh in front of you – stay away from the pre-prepared ones.)

 

 

Paris crepes

 

 

Look out for menus of the day. You can often get a good 3 course meal for around 10 -12 euros. Choose carefully though. The general rule that if there are lots of people eating there it’s probably ok, if it’s empty at meal times…walk the other way!

 

Generally speaking, I’ve found the right bank is cheaper for eating. The Latin Quartier along and around Rue Mouffetard is a good place to start.

 

 

French Onion Soup Paris

French Onion Soup

 

 

These are only a few of the ways that you can experience the beautiful city of Paris on budget.

If you have any other suggestions please share them with my readers in comments below!

 

 

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Comments (15)
  • Avatar

    David Feb 4 2013 - 12:24 pm Reply

    I also noticed that some bars (in the 18th) had free cous cous nights too! I agree with your comment regarding apartments too. In fact, all over Europe we had great apartments at what I considered to be reasonable prices with all the conveniences. It is so nice to come home after a long day out and to put your feet up in privacy and to be able to cook something at home if you want to. We had a 3 storey townhouse in Paris that slept 10. In our case the cost split amongst 3 families was very reasonable. The townhowse was down a gated court and was just around the corner from a Metro and a supermarket (McD’s too but….) numerous boulangeries. Could not have wished for a better location. Ah Paris…..In Italy the bars that do aperitivo’s are great too….

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Feb 7 2013 - 9:58 am Reply

      Oh, your townhouse sounds fabulous. A little more glam that our studio apartment! 😉 Although I loved that I could walk of my courtyard and see Notre Dame every morning. Apartments are a great way to go in Europe. I love the sound of the couscous nights – I didn’t come across that when I was there…next time…

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    A Montrealer Abroad (@amontrealer) Feb 4 2013 - 6:34 pm Reply

    These are really good tips – and great photos too!
    A Montrealer Abroad (@amontrealer) recently posted..#FriFotos: UrbanMy Profile

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    Anne Feb 5 2013 - 3:01 am Reply

    Excellent post .. this is how I am when in Paris … WAlk , walk walk,,, eat away from the expensive tourist cafes and restaurants.. stay in an apartment .. shop at the markets .. too.

    Found you on Twitter , link put up by Andrea .
    Anne recently posted..Hi Friends …My Profile

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      Quiet Wanderings Feb 7 2013 - 9:54 am Reply

      Hi Anne. Yes, walking in Paris is just wonderful – I can’t imagine exploring it any other way. Think of all the things you would otherwise miss!! Thanks so much for stopping by :)

  • Avatar

    Larissa Feb 9 2013 - 1:30 am Reply

    Great suggestions Cherina. We’ve also found that having our main meal at lunchtime is a money-saver. Those menus du jour are even cheaper then.

    Also, having a kitchen in the flat rental (even if it’s the size of a shoebox :) ) makes it easy to take advantage of all the great prepared foods at many of the markets.

    Makes me want to go right now!!!
    Larissa recently posted..Free things to do in FlorenceMy Profile

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      Quiet Wanderings Feb 18 2013 - 8:09 pm Reply

      I know what you mean, Larissa – As I was writing the post, I was wishing I was there too :)

      Having a kitchen is a huge advantage of the apartments. Ours was definitely the size of a shoebox – very European – but it did the job! I love shopping at the markets in Paris too.

  • Avatar

    Michal Feb 10 2013 - 8:34 pm Reply

    Thanks for your advice. I’am going to Paris in few months so I will check it out. Especially I will go to the Opera with the last minute ticket. See you in Poland.
    Michal recently posted..Wroclaw guideMy Profile

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      Quiet Wanderings Feb 18 2013 - 8:06 pm Reply

      Have a fantastic trip, Michal. Glad you got some help from the travel tips. Good luck with the opera – let me know how you go!

  • Avatar

    Jono Russell May 5 2013 - 5:00 pm Reply

    Some great tips here! I yhink having a place with a kitchen is the biggest single way to save money in Paris. It is an expensive city for sure but you can actually holiday (and really experience it) without feeling like your missing out on anything or having to sit at home and eat toast. We have been living and loving Paris for under AUD $70 a day (including accommodation). Check out our top 5 things to do and a breakdown of costs here http://thenurseandthebuilder.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/our-top-5-things-to-do-in-paris-on-a-budget/

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