The City of Lights is famously expensive, but a trip to the French capital needn’t break the bank. Here are some of our tips to save a few euro while still enjoying a wonderful holiday (obviously our first tip is to check out our range of accommodation, which starts at just £25 a night – and check out our guide to the city’s arrondissements to decide which district will suit you best).
#1 STAY LOW AT THE EIFFEL TOWER
Symbolising Paris for millions of tourists, this iconic tower on the Champ de Mars has been on every first-time visitor’s itinerary since it was erected in 1887.
- Cheap: It currently costs 15,50€ to take the lift to the top (increasing to 17€ in September 2015), but if you are feeling fit you can walk the stairs to the second floor for 5€ (increasing to 7€ in September). The views are still incredible from that height, and you will have a few more euro left in your wallet on the way back down
- Free: Have a picnic in the pretty park at the base of the tower at the Champ de Mars, or view it from across the Seine from the Jardins du Trocadéro
- Free: If you want a beautiful view for absolutely nothing, head to the Sacre Coeur and enjoy a beautiful panorama of the city from the top of the steps for zero cents
#2 GET AROUND FOR LESS
Paris has an easy to use and comprehensive public transport network, but it can be confusing and easily become more expensive than it needs to be. Make sure you are being as frugal as possible!
- Cheap: Paris’s underground system, the Chemin de fer Métropolitain or Métro for short charges 1,80€ for a one way journey of any length, so if you are crossing the city in one go this is an absolute bargain. Buy a carnet of ten tickets at any station for 14,70€ and bring the price down to 1,47€ per trip. If you are planning on making more than four journeys however, and are staying in the central zones, the 6,60€ day ticket might be a better bet – but this won’t take you to the Charles de Gaulle airport.
- Cheaper: A day’s use of the omnipresent Velib city bicycle hire system can cost just 1€ – but it is really easy to accidentally run up a much higher bill so make sure you know how it works! Check out this guide before setting off on two wheels
- Free: As always, there’s only one way to get around for free, and that is by foot! However, exploring Paris under one’s own steam is truly a delight, and the whole city can be crossed within a few hours.
#3 EAT YOUR MAIN MEAL AT LUNCHTIME
French workers take lunch seriously, and many restaurants will offer a two course menu for less than 12€, even in Paris. This is enough to set you up for an afternoon of walking, and you can eat more simply in the evening. These menus will be advertised in the window, and you will see the restaurants filling up as office workers start taking their lunch break. Take a look at this post for some other cheap eats in the city to get your mouth watering, from fries to falafel.
#4 SHOP AROUND FOR DISNEYLAND PARIS
Just outside Paris sits the magical world of Eurodisney, and if you are travelling with the family it is very tempting to build this in for a day or two. Check out this helpful article about finding cheap accommodation near the attractions, and also check out the deals that Attraction Tix offer on buying tickets. Visiting Disneyland is never going to be cheap, but it is possible to mitigate the expense!
#5 HANG OUT IN THE PARK
On a sunny day, just exploring some of Paris’ stunning parks is one of the loveliest ways to while away a few hours while spending on nothing more a few snacks and picnic goodies. Here are some of our favourite spots, all for the marvellous price of absolutely nothing!
- Bois de Vincennes on the eastern edge of Paris is the largest public park in the city and was created in the mid 1800s by none other than Napoleon himself. It has so much to explore, from an English landscape garden to lakes and even a small farm
- Bois de Boulogne is another large park on the western side of the city (about two and a half times the size of New York’s Central Park) and has some lovely Botanical Gardens as well as the tennis courts that the French Open is played on each year
- Parc de la Villette runs an open-air free film screenings programme during July and August. If you’re feeling flush you can sit on a deck chair for 7€
#6 FREE FIRST SUNDAYS
Time your holiday right and you could have free access to many of the city’s most popular museums and tourist attractions, including the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. Get a full list at the Paris Info website.
#7 KEEP MONEY EXCHANGE COSTS DOWN
Using a service such as TransferWise can save you a significant amount on foreign currency exchange, compared to the fees charged by high street banks.
HOW TO BREAK THE BANK BY MISTAKE: A FEW “DO NOT’S”
- Don’t get thirsty at one of the big tourist attractions – a coffee or beer at a pavement cafe around the Champs Elysées can set you back an eye-watering amount.
- French menus include the tip – don’t add another 15% as you might in a different country. It’s good manners to leave the change from your note though – if your bill comes to 19,10€ then a Parisian would always leave the last 90c on the table
- Don’t fall for a street scam! Paris has a number of people who are more than happy to liberate cash from the unwary either by pickpocketing or by running a card trick or similar on the street. Be careful with your wallet and keep your bag zipped up, especially in crowded places like train stations. And remember, if the trick looks too good to be true, then it definitely is!
Header image by Moyan Brenn via FlickrCC