When it comes to major European cities, Paris can seem like an impossible dream for budget travelers. The City of Love has a love for the finer things in life, but that doesn’t mean travelers with light wallets should stop dreaming about Paris. Although this may be one of the most expensive cities in the world, with a little planning, the joys of Paris aren’t that far out of reach for those on a budget. Here’s how to make Paris possible on a $150 a day or less.
Your accommodations in Paris will be the biggest budget drainer. However, with a little planning, you can find budget options in the City of Love. If you prefer to stay in hotels, Paris’ centrally located hotels will always cost you more. By staying farther out in the suburbs, you can spend anywhere from $35 to $65 per night depending on the time of year. Some districts are more expensive than others. For example, staying in a hotel near the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and the Champs-Élysées will be the most expensive options while other areas like the Latin Quarter, Le Marais, Montmartre and Montparnasse tend to have more affordable hotels. It is possible to find hotel rooms close to town for around €80 per night.
Obviously, the most affordable accommodation options in Paris are hostels. Hostel prices can range from €15 to €50 per night depending on the time of year and if you want a dorm room or a private room. For families and groups, you are better off booking an apartment with budget options ranging from $70 to $100 per night as most hotels and hostels will charge per person.
You certainly don’t have to break the bank when trying to get around Paris. While taking taxis everywhere in Paris will cost you a small fortune, the city’s public transportation network makes it easy to avoid them. The Paris Metro allows you to get around the city with ease and without forking over an arm and a leg. Called a t+ ticket, a single one-way Metro ticket costs €1.90. If you plan on taking multiple trips, you can buy a pack of 10 tickets for €14.90. Those same t+ tickets also cover the RER, trains that connect Paris and its suburbs. Travel throughout Zone 1 costs €1.90 while further afield trips can run a bit more like the RER from CDG Airport to Paris for €10. The t+ ticket also covers the Paris bus system. Spanning the whole city, a single ticket again costs just €1.90. It is better to buy the ticket before you get on the bus as bus drivers charge €2 per ticket.
You can also traverse Paris perhaps more how your imagination would have it by pedaling on a bike with a baguette in your basket. The Vélib´ Bike Share Program offers 23,600 bikes through 1,800 stations. For a one day pass, you’ll pay €1.70. A one week pass costs €8. With stations every 300 meters, going by bike is one of Paris’ easiest modes of transport, and also the cheapest.
Food and Drink
Many travelers come to Paris for the food. You don’t have to have an enormous budget to enjoy Paris’ esteemed cuisine. Beginning with drinks, for your morning coffee, always stand at the bar. If you sit down, you’ll pay more. Tap water is always free at restaurants, so you don’t need to order bottled water when you eat out either. As you sightsee, carry an empty water bottle around with you; the city boasts over 800 water fountains where you can fill up for free. For something a bit stronger, you can visit grocery stores for affordable (but delicious) French wines without paying restaurant prices.
In terms of food, Paris is brimming with open-air food markets like the oldest in the city, Marché des Enfants Rouges. You can visit these markets for fresh produce, bread, meat, cheese and other prepared items for affordable picnics and lunches. For breakfast, do as the locals do and just grab a pastry at a local bakery or patisserie for just a few euros. When you want to eat out, look for the fixed price menu specials at restaurants. These often offer travelers the most bang for their buck with two or three courses for anywhere from €10 to €20.
Museums and Monuments
Most travelers come to Paris to experience well-known museums like the Louvre or to see monuments like the Arc de Triomphe. If you want to experience all of Paris’ museums and monuments, you’ll pay a fortune for each individual ticket entry. Instead, there are ways around these fees. If you plan on visiting loads of museums and monuments, it’s best to buy the Paris Museum Pass. Including entry to all of the big name museums like the Louvre, Centre Pompidou and Versailles, the pass costs €48 for two days, €62 for four days and €74 for 6 days. You don’t have to stand in line at over 50 museums and monuments and your pass includes an unlimited number of visits if you want to go back.
If you don’t think you will visit that many museums, you can instead plan your visit to Paris around the first Sunday of the month. Many attractions and museums are free the first Sunday of the month, usually in the low season including the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. You can also dodge full price admission by visiting museums after hours when many slash their prices.
Churches and Cemeteries
If you are an architecture fan, you can’t beat the value in popping in Paris’ churches. Many are free including the big wigs like the Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacre Coeur. Paris is also home to the world’s most visited cemetery, Cimetiére du Pére Lachaise. You can roam 70,000 ornate tombs like that of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde without forking over a Euro.
Gardens and Public Spaces
Paris is crawling in gardens and public spaces where you can spend hours or even picnic without having to pay an admission fee. Some favorite free gardens include the Luxembourg Garden, Jardin des Tuileries and Parc de la Villette. You can also just roam the Champs-Élysées, people watching and window-shopping along the way without opening your wallet. Paris is also loaded with street markets that can be fun to wander through for a taste of local culture and without an admission fee.
Are you a master at Paris on a budget? What other budget tips would you add to the list? Share your insights with us in the comments below.