Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but without a doubt (much to the dismay of backpackers and penny-pinching travelers) one of the most expensive. But don’t despair, with a few changes you can get to the city and explore all that the French capital has to offer without spending a fortune. Here are some tips to do Paris low cost.
1. Fly with a low cost airline, but be careful at the airport
The city has three major airports, each served by several low cost airlines. When you search for low cost flights to Paris, keep in mind the extra cost for transport to reach the city center. From each airport here are the cheapest options:
Paris Beauvais: is the furthest airport from the city (nearly 90 km to the north), used by the low cost airline Ryanair.
Cheapest option to get to the center: bus + train (RER): take the #12 bus outside the terminal to the Beauvais station, and from there to Paris take the RER train which stops at Gare du Nord.
Duration: 1 hr 20 min. Cost: about €13
Paris Charles de Gaulle: is Paris’ main airport and one of the largest in Europe. It is located in Roissy, about 25 km north east of the capital. It’s used by the low cost airlines like easyJet, Vueling, and Air Berlin.
Cheapest option to get to the center: train (RER): from 5:00 am to 11:30 pm every 15 minutes. Duration: 40 minutes. Cost: €9.25
Paris Orly: is located 14 km south of Paris (about 30 minutes away) and is the second most important airport in France. It is used by low cost airlines easyJet, Air Berlin, and Transavia.
Cheapest option to get to the center: take bus # 285 (from the Orly Sud parking lot), to the last stop Villejuif-Louis Aragon, then from there take the metro line 7 to downtown. Duration: about 50 minutes. Cost €3.40 (2 one-way tickets at 1.70 each).
2. Avoid periods of high tourism
Though it’s probably obvious, during summer vacation and holidays prices in France can increase up to 30%, and services may be of lower quality. So if you have the chance, try to go in the off season in September or during spring when the city is still as fantastic as always but prices are lower.
3. The importance of virtual word of mouth
Before leaving, take some time to browse forums and traveler review pages, like Tripadvisor, and look for where to go for the best value for your money. You can also get a guide with tips for spending less, we recommend Frommer’s “Paris Free & Dirt Cheap” that you can buy on Amazon.
4. Stay in cheaper neighborhoods
The most central districts are the most touristy, and therefore more expensive. These districts are: the fourth (Marais), the fifth (Quartiere Latino), and the sixth (Saint Germain-de-Pres). If you want to beat the crowds and the high prices, it is better to choose an accommodation in districts outside of the center, like the seventh or the third, which still have many of the benefits of staying in the center without the outrageous prices.
FranceGuide, the official website of the French Government Tourist office has more information including the average cost of a night in a budget hotel in Paris, which is € 52.
5. Picnic vs. restaurant
A trip to Paris wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t take advantage of the gourmet delicacies of French gastronomy. Remember, you’re in the land of pastry shops and bakeries, so why not grab some baguettes and sandwiches in a boulangerie and organize a picnic with views of the Parisian monuments? Two favorite picnic locations are the quais de la Seine (river embankments) or the Canal Saint-Martin. Too add some vitamins to your picnic, you can stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables at one of the many farmer’s markets going on in the city daily too.
6. On foot, the best and cheapest way to explore the city
Paris is a city so full of wonders that the best way to get around is on foot. Get yourself a pair of comfortable and durable shoes and walk til you drop. If you need ideas, check out Discover Walks, a company offering walking tours with local guides. Alternatively, you can scout out the sites on bus and metro, a 10 ride pass costs € 13.30. Another option is to rent a bike.
7. The views and atmosphere are free
There are tons of free experiences in Paris, here are just a few of them we recommend:
- Free entry to museums on the first Sunday of each month, some museums are free all year: list of free museums in Paris
- Walk through the beautiful parks: Le Parc du Luxembourg, les Tuileries, Les Buttes de Chaumonts, le Parc Montsouris…
- Visit the cemeteries of Père Lachaise and Montparnasse in search of the graves of famous people who have come before us: Edith Piaf, Jim Morrisson, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Baudelaire, Beckett…
- Walk all 4.7 km of the unique and pleasant Promenade Plantée.
And you, have you visited Paris? What are your tips for low-cost travel in this city?