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Visiting Paris on a Budget

Penny-Saving Tips and Tricks

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Paris has many free museums, a boon for budget Paris travel.

Being on a budget in Paris doesn't have to mean deprivation: attractions like the Musee Carnavalet are free.

©2006 Nelson Minar. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

Paris can be a very expensive city-- it is, after all, a world center for luxury goods, gourmet restaurants, opulent palace hotels and the like. So you may assume that seeing Paris on a budget isn't realistic, or would amount to a miserable, pauper-like experience. Luckily, a visit to Paris doesn't have to break the bank. It's entirely possible to eat well, find clean and decent accommodations, and enjoy discounted and free attractions while still having the sense that you're living it up in one of the world's most gorgeous cities. A (fun) budget Paris vacation doesn't belong to the realm of fairy tales, after all, as you shall see by reading the following.

Finding Cheap Flights or Trains to Paris

Transatlantic airfare has skyrocketed in recent years due to fuel price hikes and other economic woes among carriers. Train tickets to Paris can also be very expensive. Booking several months ahead of your trip to Paris is crucial if you want to secure a good fare, especially if you're traveling from overseas.

When booking a flight, you should also explore airfare/hotel package deals, as these can sometimes offer significant savings.

  • Consult Expedia's booking center for a quick and reliable overview of vacation packages to Paris.
  • Trip Advisor is a very useful site offering consumer reviews of Paris vacation packages.
  • Epinions is also a great resource for making a decision on a travel package to Paris.

Trains to Paris: Find current deals at Rail Europe (Book Direct)

Traveling During Low Season is Best

Nearly everyone fantasizes about visiting Paris in the spring or summer months. But low season has its charms and advantages-- namely much lower fares. Consult our detailed, season-by season tips on when to go to Paris for more information on the pros and cons of traveling to the city of light in a given time of year.

Getting Around Paris: Transportation and Tours

Paris has an excellent public transportation system, and tickets and passes are relatively inexpensive. Hop-on, hop-off bus tours are also fairly accessible options for getting around and touring the city. I also recommend using the Paris public bus system-- many of the lines have very picturesque routes, and more autonomous travelers may do well this way. Consult these resources for budget transport and tour options:

Budget Sightseeing in Paris

Despite its reputation as a center for luxury, Paris prides itself on being accessible. Dozens of free museums, annual events and other attractions are in store for the budget-conscious Paris visitor. Not to mention that many of the city's most impressive monuments and sites, including Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacre Coeur, or even the banks of the Seine, can be visited free of charge.

You can take in opulent settings without spending a fortune. Try reserving tea at the Ritz Hotel or at the nearby Angelina-- it'll set you back a few dollars to order tea or hot chocolate at these hallowed places, but in exchange you can soak up a little luxury and still stick to your budget.

Discount cards like the Paris Museum Pass, bus or boat tours and using public transport intelligently can also help immensely. See more:

Eating Out on a Budget in Paris

Paris may be known for its high number of Michelin-star gourmet restaurants, but it also offers plenty in the way of delicious, inexpensive fare. The trick is knowing where to go, since quality and price don't necessarily line up in Paris as you'd expect. You can afford to splurge on one or two nice meals if you manage to nosh on cheap and delicious Paris street food for a few meals, or even stock up on goodies at a local Paris food market and stage a picnic or two. Also check out our guide to student-friendly cafes in Paris for a list of cafes and brasseries offering inexpensive coffee, food and drinks, and, often, free wi-fi to boot.

In addition, restaurant discount cards like those offered by TheCityCase can also be a good option if you want to shave a few dollars off a nice meal-- or get a free glass of champagne or two. Check out these resources for budget gullets:

Budget Shopping in Paris

It may be one of the world's reigning capitals of fashion, but this doesn't mean shopping in Paris has to cost an arm and a leg. Consult our at-a-glance-guide to budget shops in Paris to find out how to make a steal, Parisian-style, on clothes or home items. You might also make time for a pleasant whirl at a Paris flea market-- and come up away with a couple of unexpected treasures in the process.

Budget Accommodations in Paris

Paris has hundreds of hotels, and in the budget to mid-range many are just as comfortable and pleasant as more luxurious counterparts (minus the glitz). Apartment rentals in Paris have become another popular option-- and will save you a lot of money on eating out assuming the apartment comes furnished with a kitchen. If you're really cash strapped, you might even consider a stay in a Paris hostel or find accommodations by couchsurfing.

Budget Nightlife in Paris

Check out our guide to the top Paris nightlife districts to find info on where to head for inexpensive drinks and reveling in the city of light.

Need More Tips? See About.com Budget Travel Guide Mark Kahler's helpful and concise piece on cutting down on costs while in the city of light.

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