When you think of Paris, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? The Eiffel Tower? World-class art? High fashion? Or just a really expensive, out-of-reach vacation?
While the first three items are most certainly true, here are some tips for a splurge-worthy rendezvous in the City of Light without a hefty price tag.
One of the things I was most impressed with the first time I visited Paris was the city’s Museum Pass. With 2, 4 and 6 day options, free admission to more than 50 museums and monuments in and around Paris (pretty much everything except the Eiffel Tower) and the ability to skip the line at most sites, the pass is a great way to save both time AND money.
The Museum Pass easily pays for itself without feeling like you have to run a museum-going marathon to make it worth while (for example, admission to Versailles is 18 euros alone). On a recent trip, I opted for the 2 day option, visited 3 attractions each day and got more than my money’s worth. Just be sure to come up with a plan that clusters your must-see sites so that you aren’t jumping back-and-forth across the city.
You can buy the pass at participating museums and monuments as well as other locations throughout the city, at the airports or online in advance (my preference) to avoid lines all together.
If you’re arriving in Paris through one of the major airports, public transportation is a good option. Whereas most airport shuttle companies charge at least 20 euros per person, and taxis are upwards of 60 euros, a ticket on Paris’ RER line B to city is only 10.30 euro in comparison (prices current as of 2021). Although, if you’re traveling in a large group, have a lot of luggage or prefer the convenience of being dropped off at the doorstep of your hotel, one of the other options may be better for you.
Once you’re in the city, many of Paris’ main attractions are within a manageable walking distance from one another (and possibly even your hotel), but the city’s metro/RER/bus/tram network is an efficient and economical way to fill in the gaps. The best option here, especially if you don’t know how often you’ll require public transportation, is to purchase a carnet (pronounced kar-nay). This convenient little “10-pack” of t+ tickets costs 16.90 euros, whereas a single one-way ticket for zone 1 costs 1.90 euros (prices current as of 2021), and can be purchased at any ticket window or automated vending machine. The tickets are “universal” in the sense that they can be used for the metro, RER, bus or tram, so you can just stock-up, share and go.
There are other transportation passes out there, but they don’t always prove to be cost-effective. You can learn more about Paris’ public transportation network here. There’s also a super handy and free smartphone app to help you navigate the network.
Let’s face it, you have to eat so one of the best ways to save some money is to eat like a local. For breakfast, avoid your hotel and touristy sit-down restaurants and instead sink into one of Paris’ trademark cafes. Order a coffee and a pastry (they are all amazing, you can’t go wrong) and you’ll be on your way to feeling Parisian. For lunch or a mid-day snack, treat yourself to some of the city’s trademark street food, like a baguette sandwich or a sweet crêpe with Nutella made right before your eyes (I could eat these everyday). As an alternative, visit the local markets and shops to assemble the perfect picnic – a baguette, some cheese, fruit, pastries and of course, wine – and head to one of the many beautiful parks around the city for a laid-back lunch or early dinner.
When it comes to dinner, be a picky eater, but not in a 4-year-old “I won’t eat anything besides chicken fingers and fries” sort of way. There are so many amazing dining options in Paris, from traditional French cuisine to Asian fare, and most restaurants have the menu (la carte) posted outside, making it easy to find one that satisfies both your appetite and wallet.
With that, bon appetit and bon voyage!