Paris is famous for romance, style, and culture.
The city boasts exquisite gourmet restaurants, artistic masterpieces, and iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur. The nightlife is varied and exciting, ranging from trendy modern clubs to live music and theater, while annual festivals such as the White Night attract visitors from all over the world.
But with so many amenities, traveling to and about the city can come at a cost — and the high prices, plus apparent absence of budget options, oftentimes deter some folks from visiting.
It is possible, however, to explore this beautiful city on a shoestring budget. Here’s how:
A night in Paris doesn’t need to come at a hefty price.
For groups, the cheapest option is usually to browse sites like Airbnb and rent an apartment in the city. Excluding cleaning fees, you can find some options for $30 per night. If you’re willing to share a dormitory-style accommodation (similar to our article on capsule hotels, then you can even find some beds for $20 or less.
If you’re even hoping to pay zero dollars to spend the night, Paris has you covered.
For solo travelers or couples, the Shakespeare and Company bookstore offers free accommodation for up to four people per night, in exchange for stocking the bookshelves the following morning — proving both a money-saving accommodation and an original experience.
On top of this, Couchsurfing operates in Paris, and many hosts offer to take in both single travelers and couples for one or two nights. This service involves staying as a guest in somebody’s home, and while most hosts are generous, well-meaning travelers who want to provide free accommodation, you should still exercise some caution when approaching hosts.
An alternative option is to stay on the outskirts of the city and commute into Paris each day. You can reduce the price of this commute by using Bla Bla car; across Europe, many people advertise their daily commutes on this site and will transport you to and from the city for a small price.
Lastly, choosing when to visit Paris is a key way to optimize the value of your trip.
Travel deals are often cheapest in August because many buildings close for a summer vacation. If you travel outside of August, however, you can enjoy the full array of cultural delights Paris has to offer.
The best times to visit are in spring and early autumn, outside of school holiday dates, when the weather will be warm but accommodation and travel costs are still low.
There are a few options for getting around Paris.
Many of the main tourist sites are within walking distance of each other, and walking the streets of Paris is an adventure in and of itself. The architecture is beautiful, and the parks and fountains that dot the city are charming and inviting. If your walks begin to get a bit tiring, have no fear — a metro station is usually near.
The metro in Paris is reasonably priced and can take you all over the city. The cheapest way to use the metro is to purchase a “carnet,” which is a batch of 10 one-way tickets.
There is also a day pass option, but unless you plan to zigzag across the city, it is cheaper to buy the carnet. Some metro stations are home to beautiful artwork, so even the process of a hopping on the subway can become an aesthetic adventure. With that in mind, try planning your travel outside of commuter hours so that you can enjoy the stations fully.
Paris also has a self-service rent-a-bike scheme, with a daily or weekly charge. Renting a bike for one day costs approximately €1.70 and is an excellent way to enjoy the atmosphere of the city.
Some Parisian roads are incredibly busy and may be daunting or even dangerous to an inexperienced cyclist, so consider planning your route in advance to avoid main roads.
Let’s talk about baguettes on a budget.
Paris is home to hundreds of bakeries, where it is possible to buy delicious, reasonably priced pastries for an authentic budget breakfast. They also sell traditional bread rolls and baguettes, which form the foundation of a delicious picnic lunch. You can pick up fresh fruit and cheese at one of the many street markets; try the Marché d’Aligre for cheap, seasonal, local fruit.
There are tons of street vendors that sell delicious hot food for a fraction of the price of a restaurant. From falafel to noodles, pizza to traditional hot crepes, there is something to suit every palette.
The Pink Flamingo Pizza Company operates along the Canal Saint Martin; if you order at the shop, it will give you a pink balloon. Simply find a perfect picnic spot and wait for a waiter to cycle down the canal with your order. Another idea is L’as du Fallafel, known for its quality, good-value falafel, and is a favorite outlet with locals. If you are looking for a restaurant, Asian cuisine tends to be a cheaper option than traditional French food.
While in Paris, it’s good to note that Parisian bars and cafes operate a two or three-tier pricing system, where your drink costs more or less depending on where you sit.
The cheapest place way to drink is while standing at the bar. Venues will charge a higher price if you sit at a table, and some will charge more again if you sit outdoors. Watching the world go by from a Parisian street café is an iconic pastime, but you can save a lot of money by drinking at the bar and soaking up the atmosphere from a park bench.
Things To See
Museums and galleries are free for people under 26. Everyone can enjoy free entry on the first weekend of every month, but research the venues you wish to visit in advance, as some offer this deal either on Saturday or Sunday.
There is a museum pass that admits entry to 60 different venues for a two, four or six-day period, which works out as good value if you plan to visit many tourist attractions in a short time.
There are also many incredible things to do for free in Paris. The city’s parks are beautifully kept and provide a picturesque setting for picnics and people watching. Take a stroll through the enormous Cimitière du Père Lachaise, a cemetery famed for its Gothic grandeur and resident felines. Visiting Notre Dame Cathedral during evensong is an unforgettable experience, and the Place de Tetre, behind the Sacre Coeur, is a bustling explosion of color and creativity, as local artists display their work.
It might take some research and consideration to plan a budget trip to Paris, but it is worth the effort to enjoy such a beautiful, cultural location. The atmosphere is instantly captivating, inviting you to explore and play in this chic and romantic city.