With low cost airlines, Eurostar trains and highways all around Europe; travelling has never been so easy, fast and cheap as it is nowadays. Cheap travel costs allow students and young adults to visit even the most expensive European cities without breaking the bank. However, hotel prices, entrances and other expenses can all add up.
According to a Post Office Travel Money found survey, published on thisismoney.co.uk, the average price of a weekend in the ‘City of Light’ is around £311 (390€), without taking into account the cost of a flight. The price only includes one 3-course meal per trip, which is surely not enough for the weekend giving the delights of French cooking. Summed up, 2 nights in Paris for 2 people could easily cost over £900. But hey this is Paris, after all, the 3rd most visited city in the world?
So how do you not break your budget and still the get full experience? Here is my guide on how to get the most from visiting Paris on a budget, from where to eat and what to see, to the best ways to save on accommodation.
Plan your trip in advance
Most often repeated, but yet the most important advice for all travellers on a budget. Plan your trip at least two or three months in advance. This can often reduce the price of your trip by 50%. With low cost airlines such as Ryanair buying tickets in advance can save you up to £100 for a one way ticket.
Planning your trip in advance will ensure you get the most from the time you are going to spend in your destination. It will also save you some money on public transportation. In Paris, most of the sightseeing attractions are within walkable distance, so instead of spending your time in the murky subways you can explore the city and its streets.
Image queueing for the Eiffel Towel. Alexandre Duret-Lutz via Flickr.
One of the most annoying things for most tourist’s is indeed waiting in lines. Spending valuable time of your trip queuing is obviously not ideal. Average queuing time under the Eiffel tower fluctuate between 2 to 5 hours, depending on weather conditions and current season. Lines in front of Louvre Pyramid entrance are not much shorter either. Without the proper preparation and planning one can easily spend half of their trip waiting. Here are a few tips to avoid wasting your precious time:
Eiffel Tower: You can buy your advance ticket online for the Eiffel Tower and choose the option to take the stairs to get to the second floor. If your schedule is really tight, you can skip the visit of the top floor. It may save you about 1-2 hours of waiting time for the top floor elevator and tickets are half priced. Views from the 2nd floor are just as amazing.
Louvre: Buy advance tickets online for the Louvre, the most visited museum and use the “secret” entrances – from shopping centre The Carrousel du Louvre or from a few other entrances on side wings of the Louvre. Through those you can get inside the museum directly, without unnecessary queuing. If you are younger than 25 and resident of EEA (EU, Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein), you have free admission and no booking in advance for you is required. Just do not forget to bring some identification.
Decide what you really want to visit and see, prioritise.
Be aware that you will probably not be able to visit all the “top ten tourist attractions” and “must-see” museums in Paris during one weekend. Unless you are the ultimate art lover, you can stay away from most of them. You have to make compromises. Do you want to see that famous portrait of Mona Lisa or walk around the magnificent Luxembourg gardens? Do you prefer to go shopping on the Champs-Élysées or enjoy the views from the Arc de Triomphe? Choose the places that attract you the most instead of just blindly following travel guides.
Save on accommodation
Apart from plane tickets, accommodation is usually the biggest part of your budget. It is also the item on which you can save the most. There are many possibilities on how to cut the cost from comfortable Airbnb starting at about 15€ per night for 2 persons, to popular Couchsourfing that is free of charge.
Image Airbnb Paris.
Food and drinks
Indeed it would be a shame to visit Paris and not to try what French cuisine has to offer. If you do not want to survive on kebabs but still cannot afford to splurge on fancy food, try to check www.lafourchette.com. Site offers promotions up to 50%, from hundreds of restaurants all around Paris. Just remember that you should print out the voucher. A good tip is the Bistrot Victoires, near the Louvre, for decent prices. Steak frites and deserts are highly recommended. 6 rue La Vrillière, 1st arrondissement
There are many bars that offer free food (usually couscous or chips, sometimes unlimited) with beer (£2). Most bars also have ´Happy hours´ (5pm-9pm) when beers and drinks are half of the usual price.
If you want to try real French pastries for a good price, try to avoid the most famous chain bakeries or ones close to main tourist areas. Instead try to search for the ones hidden in little streets.
Following these simple steps could save you 2/3 of an average estimated budget for a weekend in Paris and still have an amazing experience…leaving you wanting to return again soon.