8 Tips to Explore Paris on a Budget (and Still Have a Magical Experience)

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Paris on a budget? Sounds kind of crazy doesn’t it. But, from someone who has been four times I can tell you that it is possible. And possible in a good way, not the sleep in a 20 bed dorm and eat packaged noodles kind of way because, let’s be honest, that’s never fun.

So, how do you do it? Well, I’ve picked up plenty of little tricks over my visits that I’m happy to share. Now, of course, visiting Paris will never be ‘cheap’, especially in comparison to places in Southeast Asia like Vietnam, but it can be affordable. Here are 8 ways to explore Paris on a budget.

Paris on a Budget: Shop at Markets and Boulangeries

Cheese vendor

Let’s be honest; if you are coming to France you are coming to eat. Baguettes, croissants, pastries, crepes, cheeses… I could go on and on. France has good food. Paris has good food and you definitely have to take advantage of it. So, what can you do? Well, I’m all about treating yourself to a good meal in a restaurant but some of my favourite finds in Paris have been the simple things that I can pick up from a market or a bakery.

When I visited in 2017 I took a local food market tour with a chef (you can read about that experience here). It was one of the best tours I’ve done. Not only was it fun, but it also introduced me to a couple local food spots and markets. We had delicious, flavorful cheeses, fresh crusty breads, and ripe and juicy fruit all from the local markets. Not only was it delicious, but it was so easy to buy. Cheese was sold by weight, fruit was sold in small baskets or per piece, and bread…well there’s a lot but it’s cheap and delicious and you can always wrap up what you don’t eat and save for later (I actually travel with a couple of zip lock bags for things like this). The tour was a ton of fun, but it proved that you can find some great local food at affordable prices. Plus, since having a picnic in Paris is a ‘must’ anyway, you’re basically just having the ultimate Paris experience.

While markets are great, they aren’t the only places you can find affordable, good food in Paris. There are tons of little sandwich shops and bakeries that serve mini quiches, salads, or sandwiches that are perfect to take to go. Even in the cafes, most of them have cheap food options that are perfect for budget travellers. A ham and cheese crepe will only put you back around 5 euro and it’s an easy way to sit down, relax, and enjoy a meal in a restaurant.

Trying the local food in Paris is part of the experience and just because you can’t afford to dine in the elite restaurants doesn’t mean that you can’t eat delicious things.

Paris on a Budget: Plan Around Free Admission Times

Saint Chapelle

Paris is known for its museums and galleries and while most of them come with price tags (sometimes pretty hefty ones) there are times and days where you can get free admission.

The first Sunday of every month is your best bet, assuming you are in town. On this day, Paris’ top museums are free to visitors. This includes Musée du Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, and Musée de L’Orangerie.

There are also several museums that are free year-round including Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Petit Palais. Additionally, if you are under the age of 26, you are allowed free access to some Paris attractions including the Louvre and Sainte Chapelle.

Planning your Paris itinerary? Check out my 3 Day Paris guide here.

Paris on a Budget: Stay at Hostels or Small Hotels

Hotel Diana, Paris, France

When I was in my early 20s I loved hostels. Not only were they cheap and affordable places to spend the night, but they were also ideal for meeting fellow travellers and making friends. Now, in my early 30s, I’m not as eager to share a room with a bunch of strangers or climb a ladder to get into bed after a night out. However, I will always have a soft spot for hostels and recommend them to younger travellers. Especially in more expensive cities like Paris. Staying in a hostel dorm can be a great way to see and experience Paris on a budget. After all, if you plan to be out exploring all day then you just need a clean, safe space to sleep for a few hours. 

Thinking of travelling to Paris alone? Read why I love Paris for solo travel here.

Paris has lots of great little budget hotels as well. Sure, the rooms are small and you aren’t getting an Eiffel tower view, but when all you want is your own bed and bathroom and some quiet, then they are perfect. Check out my list of cute and cheap hotels in Paris for my top picks.

Paris on a Budget: Bring a Water Bottle   

Paris Fountain

I always bring my own reusable water bottle when I travel (as should you!) to save money and the environment, but Paris makes it extra enticing to do so. Not only is the tap water safe to drink but there are also about 800 water fountains spread across the city making it really easy to fill up during the day. As someone who drinks a ton of water (I’m basically a camel who’s just finished a desert trek) this is something I really appreciate.

Paris on a  Budget: Check the Tourism Office for Discounts

Notre Dame in the Fall

I hadn’t visited the Paris tourist office until my third visit when they actually partnered with me by supplying my friend and I with City Passes. As I waited for the woman behind the counter to find my envelope, I noticed a wall filled with tiny little cards. On a closer look I noticed that these cards were all for local attractions and restaurants, and most of them offered a discount of some sort or a freebie. Since the tourist offices are pretty central anyway, it’s worth your while to pop in and see if there are any discounts for things you are interested in. You can find an office near Hotel de Ville and another at Gare du Nord.

Wondering is the Moulin Rouge is worth it? Read why I think so here.

Paris on a Budget: Use Public Transit From the Airports

Paris Metro

Getting to and from airports is always the most annoying part of travel. When you arrive you’re tired and jetlagged and just want to get to where you need to go. When you leave you end up in this panicked rush that you’ll miss your flight. (That’s not just me, is it?)

Sometimes, it’s just easier to hail a cab, toss your luggage in the trunk, and hop into the back seat while letting the driver do the work. Unfortunately, this is also a hideously expensive option, even when there is no traffic.

One of of my visits to Paris, I had early flight to Israel and I didn’t think the train would get me there in time so I took at taxi. It cost me 50 euros for twenty minutes (it was really early so no traffic). That’s $75 Canadian. For twenty minutes. Yes, I wanted to die.

Which is why I always recommend taking the local public transit. From Charles de Gaulle Airport you can take a train to the city center (Gare Du Nord). It’s about 30 minutes and costs less than 20 euro. Once you reach Gare Du Nord you can hop on the metro (it’s still included under your ticket), if you are lost or have tons of luggage, at this point hail a cab to take you the rest of the way.

There is also a bus from CDG called the Roissy Bus. It’s an even cheaper option (around 12 euro) and takes approximately one hour. I took this the first time I ended up in Paris and got completely lost so it’s not my top recommendation but, if you are savvy with directions and tight for money, it’s worth it. 

Paris on a Budget: Buy Metro Passes in Bulk

Paris Metro Station

I’m a big fan of walking as much as possible in cities (I prefer being above ground because I think it’s a better way to see and experience new place. However, while I absolutely recommend walking around parts of Paris, it is impossible to see all of Paris by foot. Paris is huge. 

The best alternative; the metro. Paris actually has a really good metro system that’s easy to use. Maps and directions are well marked in every station and the stations themselves are always easy to spot as well. Plus, it’s cheap. But, to make sure you get the best deal on the Paris Metro, you’ll want to buy your tickets in bulk. As of January, 2022 a single ride ticket is 1.90 euro while a pack of 10 is 16.90 euro. No, it’s not a lot but it can add up if you are travelling a lot. Besides, when you are in Paris on a budget every euro counts! 

Also, for those wondering, the Paris Metro is pretty safe. If you have a backpack I do recommend wearing it on your front while you ride, but I’ve never had an issue or felt unsafe while using the Paris metro.

Paris on a Budget: Follow Your Feet

Shakespeare and Company, Paris

As mentioned above, I love exploring cities by foot and Paris is one of the best places to do so. In fairness, I’m not really a museum person and I’d rather be outside anyways, but with so much beautiful architecture and tons of cute cafes and boutiques, I really think that the best way to experience Paris is just by walking and exploring the different neighbourhoods. The best part? It’s free! Well, free until you see a new macaron shop and decide you need to try them even though you already have two in your bag from other bakeries you passed earlier. When in Paris, right?

Paris may not be known as a cheap travel destination, but if you follow my tips and tricks above you can explore Paris on a budget! For more tips on Paris, check out my list of things not to do in Paris.

A Note on Travel Insurance in Paris

Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.

Think Paris is expensive? It can be, but there are ways to explore Paris on a budget. Here are my tips. #Paris #France


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