Paris on a Budget
Shopping: In July and January, look for “Soldes” signs on shop windows. During those months, retailers are allowed to sell goods at below cost.
Communications: Buy a telecart (phone card) at a tabac or newsstand if you need to call home. Use it at a phone booth. Stay away from expensive France Telecom cards, opting instead for Delta Multimedia and Kertel. Internet cafes are the best way to stay connected, especially in student areas.
Entertainment: Check out local gardens, parks and churches, such as the Jardin de Luxembourg and American Church in Paris, which often hold free concerts. Theatregoers can find half-priced tickets at kiosks on the Place de la Madeleine or in front of the Gare Montparnasse. Shows in the recently renovated Opera Garnier, or the modern Opera Bastille run as low as €12, If you don’t mind standing, a last-minute ticket at the Bastille can be had for as little as €5. Many of Paris’ museums are free to the public on the first Sunday of each month.
Discounts: If you are a student or a senior, carry proof. Student cards and AARP cards are sometimes necessary. Discounts are generally available.
Touring: Every day, Sandeman’s New Europe tours offers free walking tours beginning at 11 a.m. in front of the St. Michel fountain. No reservations needed, just show up. These English language, 3-hour tours are said to be thorough and highly entertaining. Guides work for tips only, but the value is a no-brainer.
Avoid taking a taxi from the airport.
Purchase a booklet of metro tickets.
Before you leave home, buy a Paris Visite card, which will give you unlimited travel on the métro and RER trains and SNCF Ile-de-France buses and the bus Parisiens (RATP) networks.
Walk everywhere you can.
Food and Drink: Did you know that it’s cheaper to order a coffee (and drink it) at the bar rather than at a table of a café? In addition, a seat on the terrace may cost you twice the price!
Bakeries are everywhere and make for an inexpensive breakfast or dessert. Shop in a market for ready-to-eat food, wine and cheese and have a picnic. Eat off the “tourist menus” that are 3-course prix-fix, usually quite a bit cheaper than a’la carte. Cafes, Bistros and brasseries are cheaper than restaurants. Grab a bite from a street vendor and enjoy some people watching. Better yet, have you’re a’la carte street food while watching the Eiffel Tower’s free light show every hour on the hour after sunset.
Lodging: Consider basic accommodations. A hostel may not be for you, but cheaper apartments or rooms are sometimes available at significant savings. How much time will you actually spend in your room? If you are staying a week or more, an apartment will contain a kitchen, allowing you to keep (and prepare) some meals at home.
Of course, try to plan your trip during the “off” season, from November to April, when lines are shorter and prices on airfare and hotels are lower.
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