Have you always dreamed of visiting Paris? It’s one of the most romantic cities in the world, and it’s packed with history, culture and food. But it’s also one of the most expensive cities in the world. Don’t let the cost prevent you from taking the trip of a lifetime. Pack your suitcase, grab your passport and visit Paris on a budget with these five tips.
When to Go
Romantics visit Paris in the spring, and vacationers descend on the city in the summer. Budget-conscious travelers find cheaper rooms, discounted airfare and shorter lines during the off-season between November and April.
Where to Stay
You won’t find a hotel room for less than $170 a night—unless you can find a room at the APPI Hotel. The most affordable options for places to stay usually include couch surfing, a house swap or bedding down in a youth hostel. Choose one of these affordable housing options—and be ready to sacrifice privacy and convenience—for the chance to enjoy everything Paris has to offer while not putting yourself into debt for the next decade.
How to Travel
After you find a discounted deal on airfare from one of the many online sites, enjoy affordable public transit from the airport to the city. Then walk around the city or rent a bike. Vélib’ bikes can be obtained at rental and return kiosks throughout the city, and you get the first 30 minutes free. It’s an affordable way to get around when your destination is too far away to walk.
What to Do
Simply watching the free Eiffel Tower light show at night is enough to make the airfare worthwhile. But Paris offers so much more, and you can afford to explore the city on a shoestring budget with these free activities.
- 14 museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and Victor Hugo’s house
- The Louvre on the first Sunday of every month and on Bastille Day (July 14)
- Les Puces, Paris’ largest flea market and the world’s largest antique market
- Nuit Blanche (White Night) festival in October
- Paris Plages (Paris Beach) summer festival
- Photographing famous locations, including the Notre Dame Cathedral
- Picnic lunches at any of Paris’ numerous parks
- Strolling through the quaint streets
- People watching
Where to Eat
You can’t visit Paris without trying the numerous edible delicacies, but you also don’t want to blow all your cash on coffee and pastries. You can find affordable eats at ethnic eateries, including ones that serve falafels or Japanese noodle soups. And be sure to ask the locals where to eat. They’ll have dozens of suggestions, although you might need directions to find the affordable eateries located off the beaten path.
If you must enjoy a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, go for lunch. You’ll dine on high-quality food without the high price tag. You can also look for stickers from “Le Routard,” a French backpacking guidebook, attached to restaurant doors. Those establishments serve tasty and filling food that fits a smaller budget.
How to Prepare
Before you leave for your trip, make sure to create a comprehensive budget that includes all possible expenditures, including major items like hotel and airfare as well as smaller things like souvenirs and cab rides. It’s crucial to do this so you can be sure you won’t run out of money while abroad. Also, look into purchasing an international medical insurance policy to cover you in the event of an emergency. Finally, make two copies of your passport and other important travel documents; leave one at home with a friend or relative and pack the other in your luggage separate from the original documents. This way, if your passport gets lost or stolen, you’ll have a backup as well as a last-resort copy in the hands of a trusted individual back home.
Now that you’ve learned how to visit Paris on a budget, what’s keeping you from scheduling your trip? The adventure of a lifetime awaits, so dust off your French dictionary and start making travel plans today.