. 10 ways to save money in Paris on a budget : Budget Travel Adventures

Paris on a budget – 10 ways to save money

Eiffel Tower Paris FranceParis is the city of lights and one of the best places in the world to fall in love.

Romanticism aside, this is a time to celebrate.  While the city may be popular, it’s also expensive.  However, you can still experience Paris on a budget.

While the French Revolution, fighting, and the storming of the Bastille brought freedom for the French citizens, Paris is much more peaceful these days.  As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, many people have a love-hate relationship with Paris.

Named one of the top 20 most expensive cities in the world, Paris isn’t cheap and the French aren’t always popular with tourists.  For many who visit, Paris is a city to be loved or loathed.

However, celebrating and honoring Paris on Bastille Day is all about a love affair with France.  And here are ways to enjoy Paris on a budget, find new ways to fall in love with the city, and all without breaking the bank.

Free things to do in Paris

Food, shopping, entertainment and Paris hotels can all be quite expensive.  However, not everything you do in Paris has to cost money.  There are ways to save money on the necessities but there are also free things to do in Paris that won’t cost you anything at all and will help you experience the city.

Remember that budget travel is not about how little you spend but about getting the most out what money you have.  It’s what budget travel adventures is all about.  Be creative, connect with other people, and find ways to experience Paris without spending a lot of money.  Here are some ways to experience Paris on a budget.

1.  Wander the neighborhoods of Paris - In Paris, the city is divided into 20 arrondissements, or neighborhoods (for government purposes, administrative districts).  While the 3rd through 7th arrondissements are popular and expensive, you don’t have to stay in a hotel near the Champs Elysees to experience local life in Paris.  While these arrondissements contain many of the cities most popular attractions, many of the best neighborhoods are away from the popular tourist areas.  Wander through the markets on Rue Cler or experience the culture and diversity in Montmartre.  It won’t cost you anything (just the fare on the Paris Metro) and you will get to see a little of every day life in the city.

Luxembourg Gardens Paris France2.  Enjoy the city parks of Paris – One of my favorite experiences in Paris is taking a stroll through Luxembourg Gardens.  Paris has a number of great parks where locals and tourists alike walk among the flowers, take a stroll during lunch, or enjoy a picnic.  The city has parks throughout the 20 arrondissements so there is no excuse for not getting some fresh air and relaxing in between all the museums and attractions.

3.  Take the kids to the playground - While families may think of Disneyland Paris when it comes to amusement, many of the parks and gardens spread throughout the city offer a free way to let the kids run around and have fun.  Not only do kids need a break from sight-seeing with the parents, taking the kids to the playground gives them a chance to have fun as well.  And who knows, your child might even make a new friend – possibly even a French one!

4.  Meet a local - While many people may love the streets, parks, and playgrounds idea, I may have lost a few people with this one.  While many French people may seem to turn their noses up to foreigners, meeting a local isn’t as hard as you think.  Memorize a few French phrases – it can be a great way to break the ice.  I tried this in Paris once by asking “what time is it?” in French (Quelle heur est-il?) and ended up spending my day touring the city, eating Lebanese food, and taking a visit to the doctor with a woman who hadn’t spoken English in 6 years and was eager to practice!

Don’t worry about butchering the language!  Get some great tips on speaking a foreign language from an average guy who has learned how to master foreign languages – Benny Lewis!

5.  Paris markets and food - Part of the fun of walking through the neighborhoods of Paris is seeing all the local markets and food stands spread throughout the city.  Many of these vendors have been around for years and even know many of the locals that visit each day.  Try some of the different foods, buy from the local merchants, or just talk to the people who choose to do this for a living.  Sampling local food and items is great but understanding why these people love what they do is even better.  And while you are traveling, here are some other ideas for cheap meals on a budget.

Sacre Coeur Paris France

5 ways to save money in Paris

Since Paris is an expensive city, there are going to be things that you have to pay for – hotel, transportation, food, and sightseeing.  However, it doesn’t mean you can’t save money.  While these tips range from flights to local transportation, here are a few ways you can make of the most out of your trip to Paris – even when some of the things you do are going to cost money.

1.  Travel options for France - Being creative may allow you to save money while experiencing more of France.  While most people may fly into Charles De Gaulle, here are some creative ways to find cheap flights to save you money.  Maybe you can fly into a different city and take the train or even a ferry to France.

2.  Stay outside the city center - Some of the most expensive hotels are located in the 3rd through 7th arrondissements.  While you don’t need to stay in the Paris suburbs, check out some of the other areas of Paris which might have accommodations which are a little cheaper.  Hotels near Montmartre are popular and may be cheaper than what you will find along the Champs Elysees or near the Eiffel Tower.  Another great option is to explore apartment or vacation rentals.  The key is to do your research and even explore some non-traditional accommodation options.

3.  Save money on public transportation in Paris - If you stay outside the more popular areas of Paris, the Paris Metro will become your friend.  Rather than buying a ticket each time you ride the metro, buy a carnet – a packet of 10 Metro tickets.  They will save you money and the hassle of buying a ticket each time.

Palace of Versailles Paris France4.  Free museums in Paris and the Paris Museum Pass - If you are going to spend a few days in Paris, check to see if there are any days where museums are free.  Here is a quick guide to free museum days in Paris but always confirm before you go.  Another great option is the Paris Museum Pass which can pay for itself with just a visit to a few museums.  You can get a 2 day (35 euros), 4 day (50 euros), or 6 day (65 euros) pass and save lots of money on over 60 museums and monuments in Paris.

5.  Go on a picnic in Paris - While French food is delicious, it is can also be expensive.  Splurge on French cuisine – just not every meal.  Be creative and enjoy a picnic in one of Paris’ many parks.  Wander the local markets to get some bread, cheese, fruit, and wine.  Not only can you still enjoy French food and save money, a meal like this can be a lot of fun if you are traveling with kids.

Experience the best of Paris on a budget

While France can be expensive, there are plenty of ways to save money and enjoy free things to do in Paris.  If you are on a budget or just want to experience a different side of Paris, wander, explore, and be creative.  Taking the Metro, meeting a local Parisian, wandering through the parks of Paris, or enjoying a cheap meal may be some of the best experiences you may have in Paris.

While Paris is the city of lights and romance, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to make some great memories.  I hope sharing my experiences in France will help you save money in Paris.  If you travel to France on a budget, here’s a great way to experience this beautiful city regardless of what your budget is!

What are some of your favorite travel tips for Paris?

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  1. Jeremy from Idelish.com says:

    Great post, Jeremy. Your post reminds us of our budget trip to Paris many years ago while we were still in college. We kept our costs as low as we could but still ended up spending almost all the money we earned working throughout the semester. Paris sure is expensive!

    • In the 2010 report on most expensive cities, Paris ranked 16th. When it comes to Paris, there are definitely some much needed tips on how to save for the cash strapped! :)

  2. Jim says:

    A city I would love to get back to Jeremy. We were there in ’74, broke, sleeping in tents in the snow, freezing our butts off. Luckily we could zip our sleeping bags together otherwise we would have frozen lolipops in the morning.
    Expensive then too, couldn’t afford a thing. Starved.
    Going to go back and have an expensive latte in one of those main street oitdoor restaurants!

    • Jim, that’s roughing it in Paris! There’s saving money and then there is freezing! YIKES! Hopefully, you get a chance to go back and enjoy Paris with a nice bed this time. :)

  3. Renee says:

    I spent lots of time in the Monoprix buying picnic fixings….definitely a must do. I got my best deal in getting to Paris by purchasing a package deal (hotel and air) via gotoday.com. I spent 1700 for two people….not bad, so I would definitely check out that option. Can’t wait to go back!

    • Renee, this is why we are both budget travelers! :)

      A few years ago, I got a great deal to Paris for Thanksgiving which included flight and hotel and I spent a little more than you did. However, I went at Thanksgiving for a week so for traveling during the holidays, it was a great deal (although it wasn’t a holiday in Paris).

  4. Marlys says:

    There are so many ways to enjoy Paris without going broke. These are good ones. Except for the advice to stay out of the centre of Paris. If you are in Paris for a 7 day visit or even less, you would want to stay IN the city, not outside it. When you get outside of the peripheries of Paris, you’ll feel like you’re in a foreign country. And transport could be a problem (particularly if are unlucky and there’s a strike going on) DON’T STAY IN A HOTEL! Stay in a vacation rental where you can prepare your own meals and save massively.

    • Marlys, just to clarify – by staying out of the center of Paris I mean the 3rd through 7th arrondissements. These tend to be the most expensive. Staying in Montmartre is outside of the city but still within the city and offers a few less expensive options. I know what the suburbs are like and I wasn’t recommending this. Just finding a place within the city but not in the most expensive areas.

      If you are staying for a while, an apartment or vacation rental would be a great choice. I’ve suggested that many times and will update this to include that as an option as well. Thanks for your input!

  5. Ah yes, the City of Light doesn’t come cheap but I loved your article explaining how cheaply one can soak up the culture and experience the vibe!!

    Wonderful tips my friend.

  6. Great list Jeremy. There are a lot of ways to save money in Paris. Picnics are great. We bought “sandwiches” (baguette with meat and cheese) and my kids thought this was the greatest! I agree with Marlys about not staying too far out. We stayed out by the Opera and it was fine. The metro and carnets are great and efficient. Just make sure you hold on to your ticket because if they do a check and you don’t have yours, it is very expensive!

    • Picnics in Paris are great, especially with so many parks. As for accommodations, my recommendation was that you can stay in the city but can avoid the most expensive 3rd – 7th arrondissements. You can find some deals in those areas but you may be able to save by staying in other areas.

      And yes, hang on to those tickets! That is the same nearly anywhere you go though because if they check and you don’t have a valid ticket, then it will be a big fine!

  7. Paris can be very expensive if you let it be. These are great tips for Paris on a budget and just goes to show that if you plan ahead, do your research, and think smartly about saving money – it can be done on ANY budget.

    Being a foodie, my favorite tip for those who want to splurge on a nice meal, is to go for lunch instead of dinner – and look for prix-fixe options, which are generally a great value. I also love to frequent wine bars.

    • I think the key to any trip in order to save money is research. I know a lot of people like to be more spontaneous and there should be that in every trip. However, don’t skip out on the essentials or else you will pay more.

      While I am not much of a foodie, it’s a good idea to splurge on lunch. The French love their long lunches and it’s a far more important meal than dinner. Like the idea of the prix-fixe options but with your suggestion a good lunch and picnic dinner may be the way to go!

  8. Great tips! Loved the metro, found my way around so easily and inexpensively, I surprised myself (I’m described as being directionally challenged!).
    I found a great hostel/hotel about 30 minutes by bus from the Gard du Nord. Got a map and did a lot of walking.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Marcia

    • The Metro in Paris is one of my favorite public transportation systems. The city is so spread out and big but it’s easy to you. Like you, I am directionally challenged but it wasn’t hard to get the hang of it.

      As for Paris, I actually walked from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower. That is a LOT of walking. I love walking when I travel as it is a beautiful way to enjoy a city and get some exercise as well!

  9. Annie says:

    These are such great tips! I wasn’t able to make it there when I was in Europe so now Paris still holds that romantic mystery for me. One day I’ll make it there and I will definitely need some tips on how to save money!

    • Paris is a must see for everyone who wants to visit Europe. For many people, they either love it or hate it but hopefully these tips can help people save as well as help them connect with the city a little more.

  10. These are great tips. When I went last year, I was able to find a great deal on a hotel (that’s right, no hostel for me in Paris) in an excellent location (Latin Quarter) because I put in some time. And I took advantage of many of the free/ cheap options you mention here.

    • Doing research is the key to saving money when you go to a place that is expensive. While many people like package deals and stuff like that, there are some other ways to save money. I like the free options plus it’s a great way to experience the city.

  11. The picnic option is a good one and one that my friends employed for lunch when we visited in college. Food is expensive as you say, but it is pretty cheap at bakeries and grocery stores compared to restaurants. We bought a baguette, cheese, wine, and some fruit and hit a park. I remember those lunches better than the more expensive restaurants we ate at.

    • I should have gotten poor college kids backpacking through Europe to write these tips! :)

      No matter where I go, there is always at least one meal I eat by going to the grocery store. Did that in Spain and Portugal and nearly every trip I have taken. I think the great thing about picnics that you and I can enjoy is that you get to be outdoors while enjoying the cheap meal!

  12. Grace says:

    I like where you website is going =) I haven’t been to Paris so this will come in handy when I do. A picnic sounds so good- cheese, wine and some fruits.

  13. Sailor says:

    You have some amazing tips for saving money as I am planing for my next vacation in Europe.

  14. Norbert says:

    Great tips Jeremy! They are so easy to achieve yet so good when it comes to save money. I would have never thought about doing a picnic, yet it makes all the sense in the world! It’s Paris!!!

  15. robin says:

    having lived relatively close to Paris all my life I have never been! On my budget, if I ever go, these tips will be VERY useful.

  16. Ann Marie says:

    great article!
    We are planning a trip to Paris and surrounding area over Thanksgiving break (husband starts grad school this fall) for our 10th anniversary! We went to London and Paris for our 5th, but being the Francofile that I am, I need more time in Paris!
    Since we are now poor seminary students, this will definitely have to be a budget trip for us. We have freq. flyer files for our flight, so that helps our budget immensely! :)

    We love taking advantage of public transportation wherever we travel, and Paris is very easy to navigate that way.

    I’d love some recs on a vacation rental or a good B&B style place to stay in Paris!

  17. Lisa says:

    Jeremy, lots of great ideas. I love the picnic idea and the parks and gardens. I hope to make it to Paris one day.

  18. Great tips! I love wandering around Paris neighbourhoods. It’s pretty amazing compared to London. Anyway, the Museum Pass is also very useful. Skipping queues is a major thing. The queues are horrendously long so its worth paying the premium.

    • I loved using the museum pass in Paris. It did save so much time. However, you just need to make sure you visit enough museums to make it worth the price. However, as you stated, saving time in lines alone may be worth it!!

  19. Sahana Sri says:

    Hi Jeremy,
    Lovely tips on travelling Paris in a budget.
    Thank you so much.
    When I visited Paris, I took Metro for moving about and this app was too good.
    It has options to go to the ‘Most visited tourist places’ in Paris by metro & ‘Paris Airport transfer’ section. This app gives choices of the shortest route, the minimum connection, or I could even opt for the minimum walk route. This app even told me which direction of the metro should I take. Plus, this app also has a
    facility of currency conversion!
    And ALL THIS WAS OFFLINE & FREE, I did not need data at all!!! All I paid was 99 cents for this app.
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/paris-by-metro/id459403677?mt=8

  20. gbuddha2012 says:

    10x to paris and it only gets better… started taking a small hot plate & a coated aluminum skillet to use in our hotel room (great omelets for breakfast) — sometimes you just want a little home cooking

    • Wow, that’s pretty awesome! I’ve only been to Paris twice but I know I will go back. Totally understand the cooking thing. I would love to rent an apartment, go to the markets and get fresh food, and have dinners overlooking the city. That would be a nice twist on home cooking!

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