Ahhh Paris, city of light – it’s so romantic, so beautiful, so chic, so…expensive. Is a cheap Paris vacation even possible? Money’s tight for a lot of people right now, and ‘Old World’ tourist destinations can be notoriously pricey – but does that mean we must give up our long-awaited vacations? Of course not! Just get a little crafty, as there are plenty of ways to cut the cost of a vacation without feeling the pinch. Below are some of my Paris local’s tips for getting more with less.
Lodging in Paris, France
Youth hostels are a great way of saving money on accommodation and are also an easy way of meeting people if you’re traveling alone. Check the hostel policies carefully for annoying things like age limits or a curfew. Hostels don’t have to be Spartan, I recommend Village Hostel in Montmartre. Okay, it’s not a luxury hotel in Paris, but it’s clean, friendly and comfortable.
It’s also possible to rent a room in an apartment, rather than book a hotel. It often works out cheaper, under 150 Euro, and is comparatively larger than what you’d get for the same price in a hotel. More space for less money! What’s not to love? It also means you can self-cater and save a little that way, just frequent a local shop for the ingredients of a cheaper, simple lunch: the French trinity of bread, wine an cheese. Two top websites for finding Paris apartments are Rentals in Paris and Paris Apartments.
Eating in Paris, France
Restaurants must be chosen carefully- everyone wants to eat well on holiday, and you’re often more likely to if you travel off the beaten tourist path. Instead of expensive restaurants, try out a neighborhood bistro and go for the formule (the set menu is a cheaper option). It’s the best value for money around- 3 delicious courses for dinner, often under 30 euro. Sometimes they’ll even throw in a glass of wine too. Can’t say fairer than that. If you are desperate to test one fancy ‘name’ restaurant in particular, be smart and check it out at lunchtime-it’s a well known secret that prices double for dinner.
Oh, and it may be stating the obvious, but never breakfast at the hotel. You’ll get the same (coffee and a croissant, the French breakfast) for a third of the price at a neighborhood café or boulangerie (bakery) where a butter croissant will be 0.90 centimes, max.
If you just want a light, quick snack for lunch, head to L’As du Falafel on rue de Rosiers in the Marais. So it’s not traditional French cuisine, but it’s the best falafel outside the Mediterranean (and I’ve lived in Turkey).
Getting Around Paris, France
Avoid cabs. Central Paris is very compact, so it’s often possible to walk between sites, and cabs are very expensive in this city. Take the Metro if really pressed for time; a carnet of 10 tickets will set you back just over 11 euros.
When going shopping be sure to take your passport along for the trip. If you do spend more than 175 Euro in one place, ask the assistant to fill out the détaxe refund form, which entitles the customer to the entire VAT (value added tax) back. This can be a significant discount*. Don’t forget to go to the DÉTAXE (tax back) desk at the airport to hand in the form, before checking in. They will sometimes ask to see the goods.
Do a little research on the museums or galleries on your itinerary before you get there. Many places in Paris have certain days or times for free entry-perhaps the most useful one to know is that the Louvre is free the first Sunday of every month! Ask also about discounts, many places have senior citizen discount, under 25’s (you don’t even need to be a student), and a teacher discount.
ParisGal Amy Barnard is a writer passionate about dance forms, theatre, gig attendance and travel. A former resident of Istanbul, she currently resides in Paris, where it’s her job to profile the insider secrets of the city. She is a staff writer for www.girlsguidetoparis.com an online travel guide to Paris. Her work has also appeared in Blackbook, Suite101.com and Divine Caroline.
*around 15% at time of writing