Traveling on a budget is more popular than ever and we all want to get the most bang for our buck (or Euro). You may have heard that Paris is one of the most expensive cities to visit in Europe and it’s out of your reach, but if you do a bit of savvy planning and find the right spots, you will be amazed at how far your travel budget will go.
How to Get Around for Next to Nothing
Believe it or not, Paris is a city that is walkable (if you choose your attractions wisely). The area of Paris called "intra muros," (the area inside the ring road) is pretty small and offers a great deal of the best attractions that Paris has to offer. It’s even easier to get around if you book your stay in this area. If you must use the metro, a carnet of 10 tickets will set you back only $15 and should get you to spots you can’t walk to easily.
If you are looking for efficiency, the best way to get around is the Velib. Velib is a bike renting station with 1,800 stations dotted all over the city — and it’s cheap. You pay a fee of $2 for a day ticket or $9 for a week ticket and the first 30 minutes are free. The trick is to swap bikes every 30 minutes or you get hit with additional fees. Paris is not a real big city in terms of area, so, in less than 30 minutes, you can cycle easily between the major highlights within the triangle of Notre Dame, the Eiffel tower and the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
How to Sleep on the Cheap
The decision you need to make before you get to Paris is where you will stay. Don’t try to find a hotel when you arrive — book one in advance.
There are pros and cons to staying in central Paris versus lodging in the suburbs. If you stay in central Paris, the hotels are way more expensive, but you will save on transportation because many attractions are in central Paris.
If you stay in the suburbs, lodging is a whole lot cheaper and you have a bigger choice of accommodations, but you will spend more time commuting to the city to see the attractions. It can sometimes make a late night if you hit the nightclubs after dinner. Try to find a hostel or hotel near a train station and your trip to central Paris is that much easier. There are many budget-friendly options: budget hotels, apartment rentals, youth hostels, Airbnb and university residences are just a few opportunities for small wallets.
Hostels are a great low-cost way to stay in Paris and you can get a range of options from dorm style to ensuite double rooms. You can’t beat the services that they offer such as internet, laundry, breakfast and kitchens for you to cook your own meals. You will also make friends galore. Located in the chic 9th district you will find the hostel Le Regent Montmartre. It is surrounded by bars, pubs and coffee shops. Dorm style rooms go for just $26 per night and you can get a double room for only $65.
Try an Airbnb for an affordable place to stay in Paris. The best part is you get to stay with a local Parisian host that can help you navigate the City of Lights. Check out Nansi’s apartment for an unforgettable stay right on the Champs-Élysées for only $66 per night.
Inexpensive Epicurean Eats
It is a well-known fact that Parisian love to eat and have some of the most amazing restaurants in the world. From traditional French bistro classics and crepes to amazing foreign cuisine, it's not hard to find something to devour.
For a quick breakfast, tart or a quiche, head to Le Coquelicot in the heart of Montmartre, home to the best baguette in Paris. For a special treat, try their lemonade made from an old recipe or artisanal apple cider from a local farm. In a neighborhood full of crepe places, Crêperie Plougastel is the clear winner. Savory crepes and desserts will only run you between $9 and $11. The décor is warm and authentic and the ingredients used are prepared in-house in the traditional Breton fashion.
For classic French cuisine, check out La Petite Rose Des Sables in the Porte Saint-Martin neighborhood. Locals say that it is like eating at grandma’s house and it’s run by an old French couple who cook classic homemade French dishes. The Beef Bourguignon is only $13. The charm is its size, as it only seats 8-10 people. Show up early or make a reservation.
Hot Tip: Drink at the bar. Many Parisian cafés charge less for customers who stand at the bar than for those who get served at a table.
Parisian Things to See for Free
Paris is full of amazing sites and landmark attractions that you can see for free. If you are visiting in the summer, there are free concerts in parks and churches. You can find them advertised all around the city. If you want to catch a glimpse of a Rembrandt or Picasso, then head to Petit Palais or the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art. Entry is always free and both have a great collection from master painters.
You can also visit the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral for free, but if you want to see the crypts, you will pay a small fee. Probably the best free activity in Paris is a stroll along the world-famous banks of the Seine to take in the everyday lives of Parisians. A big part of the charm is the "bouquinistes," or second-hand bookstalls, that line the Seine. You can find old books, maps and prints to add to your collection.
Cap off your list of free things to do in Paris by wandering through the main courtyard of the Louvre. Admission is free for all visitors on the first Saturday of each month. Then wander up the magnificent tree-lined Champs Elysées to the great Arc de Triomphe, the 19th-century monument built to commemorate the victories of Napoleon. If you just have to see Paris from the Eiffel Tower, you can wait for 2 hours in line and climb the 704 steps to the second floor for $8.