Every romantic in the world wishes to visit Paris at least once in their lifetime. The city of love, the city of lights… well, the city is breathtakingly beautiful. The only problem is that the French capital is one of the most expensive cities in the world. While you can probably travel to other areas of France on a cheaper budget, Paris makes sure to drain you of your last euro. But, if you plan ahead instead of deciding in a rush, you don’t have to rob a bank to fall in love with the enchanting city. Here’s my take to discover Paris but on a budget!
The first tip is to decide what you want to splurge on and where you want to stay frugal. Giving an example, I’m a history buff so visiting the Louvre was on my wish list. I require a clean bed to sleep on at night so it doesn’t matter whether I’m in a five-star or a hostel dorm. If shopping or eating delectable deserts is your wish, go right ahead but decide where you can cut your expenses down.
The second important tip is to book tickets in advance of the attractions on your wishlist just to save time and not stand in the long queue. With internet available everywhere, it really shouldn’t be difficult as Visa and MasterCard is accepted everywhere.
You can either fly into Paris or make your way there from other European cities. If you decide to travel by bus (Eurolines), you’ll find tickets that cost less than 10 euros for an overnight journey. The catch: You have to book at least three months in advance. (I got a ticket for 8 euros when travelling overnight from Amsterdam to Paris this summer). If flying in, look for roundtrip deals or promotions which every travel website offers.
It’s lovely to be waking up to the magnificent Eiffel Tower everyday but let’s face it, it’s kinda steep. It’s easy and pocket friendly to be living in the suburbs. The cardinal rule to staying in Paris is book in advance. While hostels and BnB’s are popular, one can get a deal for less than 15 euros a night if booked in advance. I suggest you scour websites like crazy to find a good deal. Important tip is to read the reviews of fellow travellers before booking. If two or more reviews talk about bed bugs, it’s better you give that particular hostel a miss.
The second option is couchsurfing. It’s a fantastic way to get to know the locals and understand their city. I lived in the suburbs of Paris, in Le Pre Saint Jervais, for five days thanks to my kind host Camille. Not only did I make a new friend but also tried to understand the city from the point of view of a local Parisian.
At Camille’s snugville, just 200m away from Paris!
Travelling within the city
If you’re on a budget forget about the city cards. While the Paris Pass or Museum Pass or any travel pass may give you a list of free museums, sights et al, they are of no use. It’s physically impossible to cover so much in say two days. Decide on the attractions which require payment and then buy a carnet (set of 10 tickets) for the metro. Priced at approx. 14 euros, they are individual tickets which don’t limit you to a respective zone. Once you reach the metro station, get up and walk. It’s a gorgeous city you’ll uncover so many things which you never thought existed.
It’s important to remember that if you’re 26 and under and holder of the international student/youth card, discounts are plenty. Secondly, most attractions offer free/discounted entry for the press. If you’re in the media, make full use of it. DO NOT forget your press card.
When you’re hungry…
Paris is cheap if you know where to look. Coffee and croissant for breakfast, baguette, meat and wine for lunch, then a delectable macaroon for desert after a hearty pasta dinner, the city has cheap eats for under-10 euros if you search. If you’re budget is really tight, I suggest you visit a supermarket to buy cheese, meat, olives, wine and anything else under the sun. Make a sandwich with fresh bread and your lunch-on-the-go is done under 4 euros. Warning: do not miss the nutella crepes for about 2-3 euros near Rue de Montparnasse!
We all love free things. And Paris offers so many which will leave your head reeling:
Notre Dame Cathedral
One of the finest examples of gothic architecture, it’s one of the biggest cathedrals in the world. However, there is a charge to go up the towers and the treasury.
Located outside the cathedral, it’s the official centre of Paris. Gives you a Robert Langdon feeling!
Visit the graves of Jim Morrison, Edith Paif and so many others in one of Paris’ most famous cemeteries.
Jardin des Tuileries
The historic park with manicured lawns and blooming flowers between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde will bring a smile to your face.
Picnic on the banks of Siene
Pick up crepes, baguettes, beverages or whatever you fancy. Sit on one of the banks and see the world pass by.
Important: Many museums are free all year round. Eg Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris and Musée Carnavalet. However, on the first Sunday of every month, major museums have free entry.
Time to splurge
The entrance free is approx 12 euros but it’s a must visit destination. Remember to wear walking shoes and spare a whole day to see the masters.
For the bravehearts, do not miss the seven million skulls and bones beneath the city.
Many say its unnecessary to spend 14.50 euros to go right to the top but you must. The trick is to go up just before dusk and take the last elevator down. The way the city transforms right before your eyes is breath taking. If you weren’t in love with the city before, you will be once you do this!