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Paris is one of the most popular cities in the world. Known as the city of light and the city of love, many people dream about heading to the capital of France. What’s interesting is that the city is not that expensive to visit. In my guide on how much does it cost to go to Paris, I show you why it’s cheaper than many other European destinations. But, what if you have limited funds? Is it possible to see Paris on a budget? 

Ignoring airfare to get to Paris, visiting the city can be done at a reasonable cost. Paris has great public transportation and there are many cheap eats to be found. Best of all, what makes Paris interesting is just walking around, so you won’t have to spend much on attractions. Here’s how to see Paris for as little money as possible.

Paris on a budget transportation

Paris on a budget – Transportation

Getting to Paris is often the most expensive part of your journey. If you’re flying from within Europe, you likely won’t have any issues finding a discount carrier to get you there. However, if you’re flying from anywhere else, you’re at the mercy of whatever flights cost at that time. May and October are great times to go since the weather isn’t bad and you’ll be avoiding the peak tourist seasons. Here are the main modes of transportation you’ll use while in Paris.

RER

If you’re coming from Charles-de-Gaulle Airport (CDG), you’ll want to take the RER train to get you into the city. The cost is 10.30€ (US $12.65) and takes about 30 minutes to get you to Gare du Nord station. The Roissybus is another option, but it costs more and takes longer.

Walk

Paris is a very walkable city. Plan out your days based on neighbourhoods and attractions you want to see. Once you plot things on a map, you’ll likely realize that many things are very close to each other so you can just walk to all of them. Be sure to include breaks in your planning as you will get tired.

Metro/Bus

Once you’re in the city, you can take the metro or bus to get you anywhere. Realistically speaking, tourists should just stick to the metro since it’s easier to read the map. Tickets cost 1.90€ (US $2.35) each or you can buy a carnet (10 tickets) for 16€ (US $19.60) which is the best value in my opinion. There’s also the Paris Visite travel pass which could offer good value. You can get it for 1,2,3 and 5 days for a cost of 12€, 19.50€, 26.65€ and 38.35€ respectively.

Paris on a budget accommodations

Paris on a budget – Accommodations

Finding Paris cheap hotels will be futile if you want to stay in the city centre. Although there are budget hotels and hostels in great locations, they can still be expensive for those who are trying to keep their costs down. That said, if you’re flexible and you’re willing to stay a but further out from the main attractions, you can save a bit of money.

Hostels

Even though hostels in Paris are a bit more expensive compared to other parts of Europe, the quality of the rooms is excellent. It’s not hard to find rooms that have a max of 4-6 people which gives you a little bit more privacy. Most hostels also have restaurants on-site that are inexpensive so it’s a cheap way to fill up. Here are some Paris Hostel recommendations:

Budget hotels

For those who want their own room and still want to keep costs down, you’re going to have to look for a budget hotel. If you look in one of the further arrondissements, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find something in your price range. You’ll obviously need to take the metro to get anywhere, but at least you’ll be saving. Here are some Paris budget hotel recommendations:

Apartments

Although apartments aren’t the cheapest option available in Paris, they can be of good value. Price-wise, they’re about the same as mid-range hotels, but you get a little more space. You’ll also get access to a kitchen and some apartments may even have laundry available. Here are some apartments in Paris worth checking out:

Paris on a budget attractions

Paris on a budget – Attractions

Even though you may want to spend as little as possible when visiting Paris, the city has multiple museum passes that can be of good value. I personally think the Paris Museum Pass is the best value at 52/66€ (US $64/61) for 28 or 96 hours. That’s not cheap, but you get access to 50+ museums and monuments so you can easily get more out of it than what you paid. 

There’s also the Paris pass that includes 1-Day Big Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour and a Seine River cruise. Some people will find this to be a good deal, but it really depends on what your goals are. Regardless of which pass you choose, it allows you to skip most of the lines which is an incredible time-saver.

If you have no interest in spending money on attractions, that’s okay. You can still enjoy them from the outside. Notre-Dame Cathedral sits right on the Seine river, so you can admire the church and then go for a walk. If you start at the outside art at the Palais-Royal, you can then walk south to the Louvre. From there, head west and check out Place de la Concorde, Champs-Élysées, and the Arc de Triomphe.

Don’t forget, exploring neighbourhoods is also a lot of fun. My favourite one is Montmartre since you can get free views of the city from Sacré-Coeur. Be sure to explore the streets behind the Basilica as that’s where you’ll find many local art galleries and shops. Just west of Montmartre is Pigalle which is where Moulin Rouge is located.

Other free things to do in Paris include Parc du Champ de Mar/Jardins du Trocadéro (for views of the Eiffel Tower), Père Lachaise Cemetery (where many famous people are buried), Canal Saint-Martin, and rue Dénoyez (for street art).

Paris on a budget food

Paris on a budget – Food

If you’re not sitting down at restaurants and mainly getting takeaway, your meals won’t cost you too much in Paris. That doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice quality as there are a lot of great take out places. It’s also worth noting that wine is usually cheaper than soft drinks and there are free water fountains (including sparkling water) found throughout the city. Here are some cheap local eats to look out for.

Supermarkets

For those looking to keep their costs as low as possible, then visiting grocery stores for all your meals is the way to go. Look for brands such as Carrefour, Monoprix and G20 as they have locations everywhere. A lot of these supermarkets also have a hot counter with inexpensive eats.

Bakeries

The French are famous for their baked goods, so you won’t have any issues coming across one. My personal favourite is Paul where I purchase croissants and apple tarts for breakfast. Every bakery has a wide selection of buns that you can fill up on for cheap. Better yet, buy some salami and cheese from the supermarket and get a fresh baguette from a bakery. You’ll spend less than 3€ (US $3.70) per sandwich.

Crepes

Another famous French food is crepes. For whatever reason, the batter is perfect. It doesn’t matter where you get a crepe from in Paris, it’ll always taste good. For less than 10€ (US $12.25, you can get a sweet or savoury crepe. For example, hazelnut and banana or ham and cheese.

Sandwiches

Speaking of sandwiches, there are many cafes around the city that sell pre-made sandwiches for 3.50-5€ (US $4.30-$6.15) which is a way to fill up for cheap. These shops are often found in tourist areas so you won’t have any issue finding them.

Gyros/shawarma

For 5-6€ (US $6.15-7.35), you can get gyros/shawarma on a pita with fries. For another 1€, you can usually get a drink. This is honestly my favourite meal since shawarma is so tasty. These types of restaurants will usually charge you extra if you dine in, so get it to go. That said, if you do dine-in, you can use the facilities and take a much needed break.

Asian food

If you find yourself near the neighbourhood of Belleville, you’ll be in Chinatown where there are plenty of cheap eats. It shouldn’t be too hard to find BBQ pork on rice, ramen, pho, dumplings, banh mi, and more for less than 10€. 

Lahmacun

Sometimes referred to as Turkish pizza, lahmacun is a flatbread with meat and vegetables on top. Most Turkish places have this as a daily special for less than 6€, so you can mix things up throughout your visit.

Final thoughts

Paris is a reasonably priced destination, but you can also do it on the cheap if you so desired. I personally think you should pay to go inside some of the attractions since Paris has some of the best museums in the world. If you’re looking for other destinations to travel to on a budget, check out my guides on Dubai, Japan, Bali, Amsterdam, Italy, and Disney World.

Paris on a Budget
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About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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