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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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.