To visit Paris on a budget seems like a far-away-dream to many, after all one of the biggest misconceptions people have about Europe is that you need a lot of money to visit. While Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the old continent -priceoftravel.com placed it in the top 10 of most expensive cities in Europe – if you’re willing to make some sacrifices, the city can be yours for $30 a day or less.
And when I say sacrifices, I mean maybe sharing a creepy old cement restroom with 6 other apartments full of strangers. Not just 6 strangers, six apartments full of strangers. That kind of sacrifice.
Planning for Paris on a Budget? Get the Expensive Stuff Out of The Way
If you’re not weak of heart and dream to see the city of lights read on for my full list of tips on how to make that dream come true. First things first:
Assuming you already have a way into Paris (I flew from NY with XL for $400), let’s talk about the two most expensive things when traveling after plane tickets: food and accommodation.
Food is actually not that expensive in most places, even in uber rich countries; if you’re an omnivore there’s always McDonald’s and grocery stores with pre-packed sandwiches. Accommodation on the other hand…
TIP #1 Build Your Budget Based on the Accommodation That Best Suits YOU
I lived in New York* for almost 6 months prior to this trip and decided, based on that experience and on entirely arbitrary numbers, that $10 a meal was the heftiest budget I could afford for food. I also read that Lindsay Nixon of HappyHerbivore.com (my favorite plant based blogger) had done Europe on a €30 a day budget + accommodation. So I decided to do the same for my “Paris on a Budget” trip.
In general I was looking for something:
- Close to the subway
- Solo-female-traveler friendly (i.e.: safe)
- Walking distance from restaurants, cafes or a supermarket.
Armed with that knowledge I set up a $50/day basic budget: $30 for food and $20 for a bed somewhere.
When I first started looking for a place to stay in Paris my go-to was hostels. Surely a shared bunk bed with 5 more people would be cheaper than everything else, right? Wrong! The average hostel price on the cheap side was €30/night. Not dollars, Euros. At the time of the search the conversion rate was not that bad but it was still a lot with taxes.
That was simply too much for my travel budget: I needed a $20 a night -or less- deal. Enter man’s greatest invention since sliced bread – AirBnB! A site where people rent a spare room or a whole place for a lot less than a hotel or a hostel.
Note: I was too much of a chicken to do couchsurfing, where you literally crash at a kind soul’s couch or spare bed for a few days for free. I applied to some rooms but the hosts that offered were all of the straight male variety, and made it seem like they expected me to get jiggy with ’em… for me that was a big NOPE.
AirBnB had a lot of options, from high-end luxury rooms or full apartments to weird tents in somebody’s backyard. Most mid-range ones were around the same price of a shared room in a hostel and when you factor in that it was for private rooms and occasionally private bathrooms, that is a way better deal than the bunk bed. At least if you put comfort and convenience above party mates and socializing.
I found an AirBnB that had a great location: 1 minute from Gare du Nord, 20 min walking distance from Montmartre, private bed and shower, stove and fridge, excellent Wi-Fi from the reviews and just one catch – a shared toilet. At less than $20 a night, including taxes and clean up fees, that was a no brainer.
TIP #2 Choose What Attractions You Cannot Live Without
(And Leave The Rest For A Future Trip)
Instead of not going because you can’t see everything, go because you can see something.
Paris is the capital of fashion, art, fine cuisine and love. Whatever it is that’s driving you there, there’s one thing you must accept: you won’t see everything in one trip, so pick the one or two things you can’t live without.
I chose the Eiffel Tower with a boat tour of La Seine and the Louvre. Those were my two must-see or I didn’t go to Paris things. What are yours?
After all my budgeting I was able to swing a spot to see the Moulin Rouge Show. I hated it. But that’s a different story, the important thing is that I was able to afford it.
TIP #3 Face Your Fear or Hatred of Cooking and #JustDoIt
I actually love to cook, but most people I know would rather visit a dentist for a potential root canal than spend 20 minutes in a kitchen. Even more so when they’re out on a trip in a different city; they don’t want to miss anything.
If you’re in the *I hate cooking, please make it stop* camp, perhaps this will change your mind: after walking around and checking out the different prices of fruit stands, super markets and bakeries I spotted one of those Leader Price stores that advertised everything for €1, I got some groceries for the week … for €26. While only a few things actually were just one euro or less, the prices were so low it didn’t matter.
I Made 6 full meals and 2 Snacks with those €26. I ate 6 times in a week with less than a day’s budget.
What did I get? Simple: canned lentils, mushrooms, bread, strawberries, cereal, almond milk, avocados, some potatoes, artichokes, tomatoes and some baby lettuce. I made healthy breakfasts or quick lunches with that and then gave myself a nice French dinner at night.
I’m a vegetarian, so I was pretty stoked to go to the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the city (Le Grenier de Notre Dame) and have a full veg-meal with a little wine.
If you’re a meat-lover, don’t worry there are tons of reasonably priced -and downright cheap- options all over the city!
TIP #4: Enjoy the Many FREE Sights the City has to Offer
Everything can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it:
- Walk a lot. If you’re afraid of getting lost -and you will- try sticking to the Seine, it will take you all the way to the Quartier Latin from the Eiffel Tower and vice versa… that’s a looong walk, but definitely worth it. Plus: the bridges are a sight on their own!
- There are also Free walking tours in most of the largest European cities, just remember to please tip your guide at the end. You’ll learn lots, may make new friends and get to see the city in a group (if the solo thing scares you).
- Get a tourist city map and go see the beautiful historic pieces all over, sit at a park bench and enjoy some pain au chocolat, watch the ducks and doves and just relax for a while. You’re in a city of kings and emperors, take that in.
- Visit La Défense the modern side of Paris, just as majestic and breathtaking as the old.
- Walk all the way up to Sacre Coeur, even if you’re not religious, it’s one of the most beautiful byzantine churches in France.
- Let the City Surprise You! There are always free events or passes if you Google enough.
In the end I managed to do Paris on a Budget of $485 including all meals, accommodation for one week, tickets to the Louvre, a Skip the Line Tour of the Eiffel Tower, Sunset Boat Tour Over the Seine, 5 restaurant dinners, Full Ticket to Versailles, The Moulin Rouge Show, All transportation, two umbrellas and souvenirs.
- Set up a Budget for Food and Accommodation Before Booking Your Trip: by researching the prices of the most expensive things to cover – what you’ll eat and where you’ll stay. Build up or down from there.
- Cut the Fluff: Those $137 I spent on an AirBnB could easily cover museum tickets or a fancy boat ride on La Seine if you couchsurf. Choose what you can live without.
- Cook Some Meals but Not All! Paris has one of the most amazing cuisines in the world, save up eating from baked potatoes stands or having cereal in the morning, but leave a little room for a cafe, a bakery and at least one nice restaurant.
- Book Online to Skip the Line: My ticket to the Louvre was €14, I picked it up at a tourist office near Pont Neuf and skipped a HUGE line. Worth it.
- Enjoy All the FREE Sights Paris Has to Offer: Just walking around is great, get a city map, find a free walking tour and just go.
What are you waiting for? Set up your budget, a date and make your dream come true. If I did it, so can you. Hit me up below if you have any questions or want some help with your own Paris budget 🙂