A trip to Paris is a dream come true for many travelers! As many as 30 million tourists have been known to visit Paris annually, making it one of the most visited cities in the world. However, if you were thinking of visiting Paris on a shoestring budget, you might be in for a nasty surprise: Paris is one of the most expensive European destinations of all.
While a trip to the gorgeous French capital city can be an amazing experience, it can also get expensive if you don’t plan well. Heck, even if you do plan well, visiting Paris on a tight budget is far easier said than done. Even on a mid-range budget, Paris can be prohibitively expensive compared to other European cities.
That’s why we have come up with some helpful tips to help you enjoy Paris without breaking the bank. Now let’s get started with our top tips on how to travel to Paris on a budget!
Essential Paris Travel Tips to Save Money
1. Save Money on Flights and Insurance
A big part of your budget is going to have to be devoted to flights, so if you can save money on plane tickets, the more money you’ll have for the rest of your budget. There are a number of sites that can help you snag cheap flights to Paris.
Going (formerly known as Scott’s Cheap Flights) is one site I highly recommend. Sign up, enter your desired destinations, and they’ll send you notifications on deals straight to your inbox.
While I’ll never tell you to forgo travel insurance or international travel, I’m actually a little bit reticent to even recommend cutting costs with travel insurance. Luckily, the market for budget travel insurance is about as good as it’s ever been and there are a ton of insurance companies out there that offer affordable insurance plans for any travel budget.
SafetyWing is one such insurance company I’ve been making use of as of late. Part of Safety Nest Inc., Safety Wing specializes in insurance for solo travelers and digital nomads. Plus they’re one of a growing number of insurance providers that includes COVID-19 coverage in their policies.
See Related: Best Cancel Anytime Travel Insurance
2. Avoid Dining in Tourist Traps
Paris is full of amazing eateries, but many restaurants are overpriced. Expensive tourist areas include the areas around major museums like the Louvre or famous landmarks like Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and Sacré-Coeur.
You could have dinner at Michelin-star eateries like Guy Savoy or Le Cinq, but you can expect to pay as much as $350 per person. Très yikes.
To save money, try to find restaurants away from these areas and opt for cafes or local bistros instead. Walk around and find some of the city’s hidden gems. One of the best areas to explore is the Latin Quarter – this area offers numerous restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, and bars that won’t break the bank.
The Latin Quarter is popular with locals and students as Sorbonne University is located there. For around 15 to 25 euros you can have a three-course meal at one of the local eateries. One popular spot in the area is La Palette – this quaint bistro has some great French cuisine and very reasonable prices.
Another non-tourist area with good picks is the 7th arrondissement. This neighborhood is a bit more upscale and has some pricier restaurants but there is something for every budget. For example, you can grab a croissant at the local bakery La Patisserie des Reves.
Check out Le Baron Rouge in the same area for some delicious seafood dishes and excellent Belgian beers. If you do venture over to the more touristy Notre Dame, Bertrand’s Paris is affordable for a quick bite.
3. Take The Metro/Public Transport
Paris has one of the oldest public transportation systems in the world. No matter where you’re staying, chances are you’ll be within a few blocks of a metro station.
Most importantly, it’s one of the quickest and most convenient ways to get around the city. Honestly, even with the most princely budget, you have no excuse for not using the metro.
You can even use its metro system to come in from the airport. Once you arrive at Charles De Gaulle Airport, take the RER B train line to Paris. It will take you about 45 minutes and cost around 10 euros for a one-way ticket. Once you reach the city center you can connect to any of the metro lines.
The best way to save money is to buy a carnet (10-pack) of metro tickets for about 15 euros instead of paying for individual rides. You can also purchase Mobilis day passes and Navigo week or month passes depending on your length of stay in Paris. These are great options if you plan on taking the metro or bus more than four times a day.
The Paris Metro system is a great way to get around quickly, cheaply, and safely. It’s especially useful if you plan to visit museums and major attractions located in different parts of the city.
The pass is sold in 1, 2, and 5-day passes at various price points. You can buy the pass at any of the ticket machines located in metro stations or from the information desk at any station.
See Related: How Much Is A Trip to Paris? Average Cost Guide
4. Take Advantage of Free Museum Days
Did you know that world-renowned art can be on your list of cheap things to do in Paris? If you are a fan of art and/or history, Paris is definitely the place to be. It has some of the most prestigious art museums in the world such as The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Pompidou.
Unfortunately, these entry fees can really add up. But don’t worry! There are plenty of days throughout the year when admission is free or discounted, not to mention a large variety of completely free museums in Paris.
Free for all EU citizens and residents under 26 years of age and for everyone every first Sunday of the month, visitors can enjoy free admission to several museums in Paris. The Picasso National Museum, the Museum of Hunting and Nature, the Museum of Arts and Crafts, and the popular Musee d/Orsay are just a few that have free 1st Sundays.
If you’ve dreamed of visiting the Louvre, they offer discounted entry every Wednesday night. In addition, every Thursday evening from 6 pm to 9:45 pm most national museums offer free entry. This includes Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, and many more.
The permanent collections at Maison de Balzac, Musee Carnuschi, and Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris offer free admission year-round. In addition, each summer the City of Paris organizes “Nuit Blanche”, a night when several museums remain open to the public until dawn.
5. Have a Picnic For Lunch
Eating out in Paris can be pricey, so why not pack a picnic? Head to one of the city’s famous markets such as Rue Montorgueil or Marché des Enfants Rouges for some fresh produce and gourmet snacks. Monoprix is the most convenient supermarket and they have locations throughout Paris.
It won’t hurt your budget to pick up a bottle of wine, various kinds of cheese, fresh fruits, and some charcuterie to make your own picnic from a Monoprix or local market. Don’t you dare forget a fresh baguette! For about a euro or two, you can walk into any boulangerie and get a warm, crusty baguette or delectable, flaky croissant.
Then, make your way to one of Paris’s many parks and gardens including Jardin du Luxembourg, Parc du Champ-de-Mars, and Jardin des Tuileries. Enjoy a romantic picnic with your friends or family while taking in the picturesque views.
Alternatively, you can kill two birds with one delicious stone by signing up for a cheap Paris food tour or excursion! This way you great to experience a multitude of French and Parisian cuisine, see the city and take care of a meal in one fell swoop. For example:
See Related: Best Traditional Cafes and Brasseries in Paris [Historic Spots]
6. Purchase a Paris Pass
You won’t be at a loss for major attractions to see in Paris. If you plan to visit several attractions during your stay in Paris, the Paris Pass will be your best friend. Coming in three distinct flavors, consisting of Platinum, Gold, and Silver Paris Passes, these passes may seem like a big up-front cost, but they can save you a mint on top attractions and getting around the city.
While you may love planning your own itinerary, the Paris Pass is a great way to access cheap Paris activities and save money while making sure you don’t miss anything.
Plus, with your Paris Pass in hand, you’ll have priority access to popular attractions like Musée Grévin, The Louvre, and Musée d’Orsay without having to wait in line! If you’ve ever seen how the line can wrap around the Eiffel Tower, you’ll know that this is a great benefit.
The Paris Pass is your key to avoiding the long lines at popular attractions. Plus, you might get additional discounts at select restaurants or shops. Prices range from 59-199 euros depending on how many days you want your pass to last.
7. Purchase a Paris Museum Pass
Not to be confused with the aforementioned Paris Pass, the Paris Museum Pass is valid for 1, 2, 3, or 6 consecutive days and includes free entry to over 60 attractions and museums, walking tours, a Seine River Cruise, and more, depending on your purchase.
While this pass doesn’t include access to public transportation, it is significantly cheaper than the Paris Pass, and still covers many of the same museums, landmarks, tours, and attractions.
See Related: Best Museums in Europe to Visit
8. Purchase a Paris Passlib
Oh yeah, the passes just keep on coming! While the two aforementioned passes are more focused on access to attractions and landmarks around Paris, the Paris Passlib (the city’s official pass) leans more into tours. Buying one of these is a great way to tour a lot of the city in a short amount of time.
With a similar price point to the Museum Pass, it also includes entry to a host of museums as well as the cost of city bike rental. Best of all? It’s valid for a whole year after the first use! Let the savings flow!
9. Join one of the many Free Walking Tours of Paris
When looking for free things to do in Paris, why not start with a tour of the city? The best way to explore a new city is on foot, and there’s no better way to do that than joining a free walking tour. Most tours start in the morning and offer you an insider’s view of the city with knowledgeable guides who are passionate about their hometown.
These tours take you through some of the city’s most iconic sites such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, while also exploring its hidden gems even locals may not be aware of. The routes change every week so you can join multiple times and still always find something new.
Want to know how to find these tours? It’s simple. First check with your hotel, hostel, or rental to find out if they offer any free walking tours in the city. Some may even have their own tours! You can also try searching on websites such as Paris Tourist Office, Free Tours By Foot, Viator, and GetYourGuide for more options.
A great site for finding groups in cities around the world is Meetup.com You can search for Paris and scroll through the various meetups that are available or even start your own.
These walking tours are also a great way to meet other travelers and make new friends. So, if you want to explore Paris in a more budget-friendly way and learn about its history, then sign up for one of the many free walking tours available!
See Related: Best Paris Night Tours: See the City of Lights
10. Use Velib Bikes
If you’re looking for an economical and eco-friendly way to get around, then renting one of the city’s Velib bikes is the way to go. The Parisian bike rental system provides a cost-effective and convenient way to explore the city at your own pace.
Only in town for a day? Get a day pass for only 5 euros or extend your trip and get a 3-day pass for 20 euros. Occasional users pay low fees by the minute. For example, only spend one euro if you need the bike for 30 minutes or less.
You can rent and return the bikes at any of their numerous bike stations around the city. After renting, you just have to follow a few instructions on how to unlock your bike and then you’re ready to go!
The Velib system is perfect for those who are looking to explore Paris while getting some exercise. Enjoy the freedom of going wherever you please and take advantage of the bike lanes that will lead you to some of the most beautiful parts of town.
It’s worth looking into the various city passes I mentioned, as some of these also include the use of Velib bikes. So, if you’re looking for a cheap way to get around Paris and work off all that wine, cheese, and pastry, then the Velib bikes are just what you need!
11. Stay in Hostels
Finding accommodations in Paris is where people often spend the most money, after all, Paris is drowning in luxury hotels. However, don’t forget about the possibility of hostels.
Hostels offer comfortable accommodation at very low prices compared to hotels, plus they are often located in more convenient places that are close to the action. The best part is that there are a variety of hostels to choose from, so you can find one that fits your needs and budget.
If you’re traveling with friends, some hostels offer private rooms for two or more people. If you want to meet other travelers and make new friends, there are also the typical hostel dorm-style rooms available.
Many of these hostels also have women-only dorms if you’re not comfortable in a mixed dorm. While the amenities may vary, most hostels offer a kitchen, paid laundry facility, and a common area where travelers can socialize.
There are a few popular hostels that enjoy a central location in Paris, such as St. Christophers Inn and Generator Hostel, which are a far cry from the stereotypically, dank, dingy, and dirty hostels of yesteryear. That said, there are also plenty of smaller hostels if you’re looking for that quintessential hostel experience.
If you’re worried about privacy and overall grossness, some hostels such as St. Christophers often have beds with privacy curtains.
This chain also has its own restaurant/pub where residents can get a discount on good food and drinks. It’s actually a pretty cool spot to hang out.
In many cases, you can save even more money by booking on your mobile device or at the hostels’ website. So, don’t forget about hostels when it comes to finding accommodations in Paris! They offer great savings without sacrificing comfort and style.
See Related: Best Hotels in Paris With View of Eiffel Tower
12. Fill up your Water Bottle around town
Purchasing water on the go can add up quickly. To save money, you should bring a water bottle (like my sexy Yeti Rambler) and fill it up from one of the many drinking fountains located around Paris.
You’ll find them near public parks and squares, often marked by a blue sign that reads Eau Potable (that’s drinking water to you and me). These fountains are free to use and (unlike water in parts of the French countryside) the water is safe to drink.
You can also find public drinking fountains in certain metro stations, bus stops, and train stations, so you can fill up your bottle while on the go. If you have breakfast at your accommodations, you may also have access to a water station in the dining area before breakfast ends. So yeah, don’t forget to bring your refillable water bottle with you when exploring Paris and take advantage of all the free water.
13. Opt for Accommodation Outside of Central Paris
As mentioned earlier, the Paris metro goes all over the city – even to the suburbs and airport. This makes it easy to stay in a place that is outside the city center and still be able to access the city’s tourist attractions with ease.
Finding a cheaper room outside of the inner city can save you money as most areas further away from town tend to be cheaper. You can easily find accommodations ranging from private rooms, guesthouses, apartment rentals, B&Bs, budget hotels, and hostels.
When looking for a place to stay outside the city center, be sure to check how far it is from the nearest metro station. Staying in an arrondissement further away from the city center can be a good money-saving option. Heck, this branch of B&B HOTEL in Saint-Maur Créteil is just 20 minutes from central Paris and is less than $100 a night!
By staying in areas outside of the inner city and utilizing public transport, you can save money while still having easy access to all of Paris’ attractions. There are a lot of cheap hotels outside of the city center and who knows? You may come across a real hidden gem that keeps you coming back again and again.
As you can see, with a little planning you can find cheap things to do in the city of lights that will gel with even the most modest travel budget. Hopefully, this list of the best Paris travel tips for saving money on your budget trip makes a difference!