Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world – and for very good reason. It is brimming with art, history and culture and every cliché you’ve ever heard about the French capital is true – in the most delightful of ways. However, it’s also well renowned for being very expensive – both to live in and to visit – and there is definitely truth in this. But it doesn’t have to be that way for the savvy traveller.
There are plenty of ways to save money in this wonderful city; staying in hostels (Paris has some excellent ones) is one of the best, and many travellers choose this sort of accommodation because of the people they’ll meet and the friendships they’ll make – there is a certain ‘authenticity’ that comes with the territory.
For those who choose to stay in one of the city’s hostels, Paris is an open book for exploration on a budget. Here are a few ways in which you can save money while there.
Top Money Saving Tips
If you’d like to experience true Parisian cuisine, look for special lunchtime menus. These are widely available and you’ll pay much less than in the evenings when prices typically rise. However, don’t eat on the main fashionable boulevards at lunchtime. Generally the food will tend towards ‘international’ and still be pricy. Instead, go into the less fashionable side streets and tiny shopping arcades where you’ll find the real gems.
Assuming you can, take some evidence of your student status. Most of the main government-owned attractions will offer substantial discounts for students if you can show proof, although some might only accept French student cards. Try it and see, however – you’ve nothing to lose and savings to gain!
If you’re really economising on lunches but don’t want to make your own, check out chains like Pomme de Pain and La Mie Caline. They’re basically boulangeries offering great sandwich, drink and cake takeaway deals at very affordable prices. The quality is usually very good – it is Paris after all!
Check your map before hopping on the metro. The central attractions of the city are actually spread across a relatively modest area and it’s possible to walk between most of them. You’ll save on metro fees – even though, in truth, they’re not that expensive.
Look online for some of the tourist mega-attractions (like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre) and purchase advance tickets. You may get cheaper prices and you’ll certainly avoid (to a certain degree) some horrendous ticket queues at peak times.
Don’t buy metro tickets from touts at the stations. Sometimes it may appear to be an attractive proposition, given the queues you’ll avoid and the discounts they might offer, but in many cases it’s a rip-off and the tickets are defunct or possibly fakes. This warning also goes for any tourist attraction tickets.
If you’re looking for souvenirs and antiques, consider visiting the suburbs rather than those beautifully seductive Left Bank stalls and markets. You may think you’re getting a bargain but you’re likely to find the same thing at half the price in one of the “Banlieu”. These are the outer district suburbs of the city, and you’re advised to do some research first as some of them are genteel, upmarket and alternative but some are less than salubrious areas, not really recommended for travellers. If you’re not sure, ask the staff at the hostels – Paris is generally a very safe city, but there are certain areas that are best left unvisited. One of the best of these outer suburb markets is Marche aux Puces de Saint Ouen, which is safe and very popular (and, in fact, the largest market in Europe).
There’s no need to break the bank for a visit to the French capital, particularly if you avoid the main central tourist traps and stay in one of the excellent central hostels. Paris and budget travel can go delightfully hand-in-hand, as long as you keep your eyes, ears and heart open.