Money Matters, Paris
The cool thing about the museum pass (Carte Musées et Monuments) is not only can you pay one fee & use it to get into many museums & attractions for free BUT you can also bypass the long lines - especially helpful if traveling with anyone under age 18. They get in free already & this way you can also bypass the boredom of youngsters. Personally, when I'm traveling my time is very precious to me so it's worth it spend the money on a museum pass. Also, I love museums & I know I'm going to visit a ton of them while in Paris so I know I'll get my money's worth.
The current 5-day pass costs 62€ or about 21€/day. Considering that many museums now charge on average a 7€ entrance fee than you can see that if you plan to visit 3 or more musuems per day than it is already saving you money. Please remember, too, that this includes small museums (such as the Panthéon, Nôtre Dame's towers, etc.) as well as large museums (like the Louvre or the d'Orsay).
So say you're in the Île de la Cité area. This is a small area with loads of attractions. Maybe you've decided to see Ste-Chapelle, the towers of Nôtre Dame, the Crypte Archeologique & the Conciergerie. All are covered by the museum pass, all will get you in past the line (excluding the security line you'll have to pass through to get inside the courtyard of the Conciergerie & Ste-Chapelle). Already you've saved money!
Keep in mind, too, that the card is in use from the 1st time you get the stamp. So if you get a 5-day card you'll want to cluster your museum visits in that 5-day period in order to get your money's worth. I used their list of all museums & attractions in Paris that accept the Carte Musées et Monuments to decide which attractions I'd see & created my itinerary around that. Usually, I'd do one large museum & 1 or 2 museums in one day & then a cluster of small museums on another day.
Fondest memory: Sample itinerary
Day 1 - 7th
Musée de l'Armee
Musée national de la Legion d'honneur et des ordres de la chevalerie
(all in the same area)
Day 2 - 7th
Musée d'Orsay (morning)
Musée des Egouts de Paris (Sewers)(afternoon)
Day 3 - 3rd/4th
Maison de Victor Hugo
Day 4 - 3rd/4th
Musée des Arts et Metiers
Centre Georges Pompidou
Day 5 - 5th
Musée de l'Institut du Monde Arabe
Musée du Moyen Age, Thermes de Cluny
A lot of the smaller museums can be seen in an hour or 2 (Maison de Victor Hugo, Panthéon) so these itineraries can easily be done. Note also that types of museums are mixed up in order to add some flavor to the day. Who wants to spend the whole day looking only at Modern Art?
Also, please note that you may pick up the card from Métro stations (bought mine at the Métro St. Paul) or from smaller museums.
Photo: August 2005
The Paris museum pass covers 60 museums and monuments and allows an unlimited number of visits.
It exists in 3 versions : 2 days, 4 days and 6 days (consecutive calendar days)
You can buy it in advance (the valdidity starts when you enter the 1st museum)
It costs 30 € for 2 days, 45 € for 4 days, 60 € for 6 days (to compare : one single museum ticket costs 8 or 9 €)
Even, if you are a moderate museum fan, the pass has the interesting charateristic to allow you to skip the tickets lines (and, for some museums like the Louvre , to use separate entry gates) . This make a huge difference in high season when the queues are important.
Nota : the pass doesn't allow to skip the security check (the only place where it makes a difference is the Sainte Chapelle)
Fondest memory: Most parisian museums are freee under 18 years old, but if the parents have a pass, the acompanying children can use the same line (and skip the tickets line too).
The pass even allows you just to enter a museum to use the (generally very clean) toilets (even if you don't visit it)).
You can buy your pass in the museums (chose a small one with next to no queue to do this, like the Conciergerie or the Cluny) but also in the Paris tourist office (25 rue des Pyramides), in the shopping mall under the Louvre (Caroussel du Louvre) or in one of the FNAC shops (www.fnac.com).
I spent 3 days in Paris and purchased this pass for the grand total of 30 Euro. I really wasn't sure whether or not my investment would pay off but I was very pleasantly surprised. This pass covers sooooo many sights in Paris that there are far too many to list. The major monument excluded from this pass is the Eiffel Tower it is worth noting.
It covers things like entry to the Louvre, Musee de Orsay and Georges Pomidou Center and no lines people!! Others included Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame amongst many more. After all the museums and monumnets I visited whilst in Paris it more than paid for itself and the convenience was really wonderful... just flash the pass and you are through.
Carte Musées et Monuments for 1 day : 15 Euros
Carte Musées et Monuments for 3 days : 30 Euros
Carte Musées et Monuments for 5 days : 45 Euros
It is has unlimited visits and unlimited validity and you can purchase the card online or I bought mine from the ticket office at Gard du Nord. A brochure listing all the details is distributed with the card.
1) Louvre Museum - Free entry on the first Sunday of every month. And all other Museums
2) Marks & Spencer - 88 rue de Rivoli - free food sampling from around the world Monday - Friday at 12 noon sharp.
3) Walking tour booklets - Free at any of the 20 "Mairies" in Paris (town hall in each district).
4) Museum de la Liberation - See the history of France and France at war, resistance and deportation. Free entry Monday - Saturday 2-5pm.
5) Museum Fragonard - See the history of perfumes!
6) See Paris for free - Monde Arabique and Samaritaine mall
Some people advise against buying euro before arriving in Paris. They cite that it's too expensive due to the fees.
I, on the other hand, being on the conservative side, advise to buy approximately 200 euro. To me the small fee I pay to buy the currency is small in relation to the unforseen hassles if the ATM machines CDG are busy. I want to have on hand upon arrival some cash to pay the taxi and to buy some snacks or whatever incidentals that are needed. You don't want to use your credit card 100% and sometimes it is not possible to do so.
ATMs are easy to find in Paris, there is at least one at CDG and they are scattered all throughout Paris.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Paris, they bring a little machine to your table in most restaurants. American cards still have a swipe strip instead of a chip like European cards but most places can still process the strip cards, I only had to explain that to one clerk at an Ibis hotel outside Paris. The place I seem to have trouble using them is at metro stations, my card has worked at some stations but not in others.
Cash is, of course, accepted everywhere, the currency used is the Euro although prices can still be quoted in the old currency of francs, I only saw that once in September 2011.
If you're worried about the tipping, please be advised that the rule of thumb for tipping the chambermaid is to leave 1€-2€/day at the hotel which may be given each day or as a lump sum at the end of the stay. Some feel that tipping each day ensures excellent service such as clean, fresh towels or extra shower gel & soap. I usually, though, just leave the sum at the end of the trip on my pillow or on the desk.
Even this trip, staying at a budget hotel that was only 41€/night, I made sure to leave 2€/day.
Photo: March 2001
If you are going to call anywhere whilst you are here, be sure to buy a telephone card, you can buy them in most general stores and from the street kiosks too.
I bought one which was 7.50 euro, and I called the UK twice - it lasted ages!
Most public telephones will actually only take cards not coins anyway.
Be sure to get a 4-digit ATM PIN number long before you leave for Paris.
If you are a Bank of America customer you can use the BNP Paribas ATM's without incurring transaction fees. There are numerous BNP Paribas ATM's all over Paris so you will always find one easily.
As usual be aware of your surroundings while using the ATM machines.
There are 2 passes that cover 2 theatre chains:
Le Pass - This is the movie pass for the Pathé/Gaumont theatre chain which costs about 20€/month.
UGC Illimité Pass - Covers all the UGC theaters which costs about 18€/month.
Since movies cost about 8.50€ each then the pass is paid for in 3 visits. Sweet deal!
I've heard that there is some buzz about the passes only being for Parisians. I wouldn't worry too much about it being only for the locals. How would the sales people know if you live there or not? I've heard similar murmurings about the coupon jaune, the weekly & monthly metro passes, but I've never had a problem purchasing them.
Fondest memory: If you're a real movie buff, take David Sedaris' advice like I did and take a bit of time to watch some films while in Paris!
Photos: February 2006
(work in progress)
I love Paris. However, Paris is quite expensive and my money goes away faster than it should. Here are a few tips for spending somewhat frugally in Paris.
Hotels- Select a two star hotel in a good location. In busy seasons the difference in price will be significant. You can find good hotels for 95-125 a night without getting too spartan.
1. you can forget about coming into Paris on the train if you have any significant amount of baggage. There are no elevators in the rail stations and you will be schlepping your stuff up and down and along long corridors. some things are just not worth a few dollars savings. take a shuttle or a cab instead.
1. Look for the menus of the day. You can find some pretty good deals for 10 euro. these do not usually include any drinks, just go for the water and you should be fine. Dinner will usually cost 15 euros and up, so take advantage of specials and menus
2. drinks- drinks are outrageously priced in paris. think of it this way, a small can of coke is 2 euro at the cheapest, mark that up depending on the neighborhood you are in.
3. breakfast- you will see most cafes will offer petit dejouner, it usually costs 7 euros and up.
hotel breakfasts range from 7-15 euros. Mcdonalds in paris will give you breakfast for 5 euro (drink, breakfast sandwich and fruit) which is a good deal.
4. A emporter- means to go. here you can get a standard ham and cheese baguette for like 3 euro. You can also get crepes, which run from anywhere from 2 to 7 euro, depending on what you have on them.
The Paris Museum Pass is a good deal only if you plan on seeing a lot of sights. However, if you plan to see the Louvre, Orsay, St Chapelle and a few others in a two day period, the card pays for itself. The best part of the card is that you get to skip the lines at a lot of places (not the notre dame towers) and in places like the Louvre that will save you at least an hour or more depending on what time of day you are there.
If you want to do the Paris thing and sit at a cafe and watch the world go by, or watch all the other tired tourists walking by, know that you will pay for the privilege of having a view. It will be cheaper if you stand at the bar.
coffee- most americans drink what the french call Cafe au lait, a cup of which will cost you between 3.50 and 4.50 euro at most places.
if you can handle it, the french call cafe (espresso) is much cheaper.
Visit the free Paris attractions.
Fondest memory: Paris is considered as an expensive city. It is almost true.
But I can prove it is possible to have fun in Paris paying only the Metro and maybe the 'Spectacles program'.
See my 'FREE PARIS TRAVELOGUE'. I take the commitment to update and complete it.
Update Sept 2013- Now more than ever the Paris Museum Pass is an excellent value. It will save you money if you are planning to see the major sights but more importantly it will save you a lot of time waiting in line. In places like the Louvre that can be significant. Please see my photo. The Notre Dame tower didn't allow you to go to the front of the line though. With the higher prices for museums and the infinitely longer lines now, this pass was a good investment.
The Paris Museum Pass offers free or reduced price access to more museums, chateaus and sights to see than you will possibly see in a few days visit to Paris! In the end the card pays for itself if you end up seeing a lot of places. You get to skip the lines, which at most museums wasn't significant, but at some places like the Louvre it was great. That said, if you are planning to visit Paris and only see a couple of museums or sights its not really worth it.
**Please note, the Pass allows you access to most of the best sights in the city, but some are not included, make sure to check the website carefully.***
The card allowed unlimited access to transportation and more than paid for itself over the time of my visit. It may/may not save you a huge amount of money, but the time saved will be good.
special exhibitions are not included. permanent exhibitions only
check which sights are included. Some major sites like the Eiffel Tower are not included.
Please note, their website doesn't seem to be working well. You can buy the card at any participating museum, metro station and plenty of other places around the city.
There are lots of puzzled questions as to what payment method to use while in Paris. In short, travelers's checks are passe. The best thing to do is withdraw euro from ATM's (please refer to my ATM tip).
The reason is that you get a slightly better exchange rate there and also merchants are very reluctant to accept traveler's checks nowadays.
However, there is one instance in which traveler's checks should be used. This is when there is an actual emergency such as the ATM system is not functioning. In other words, use traveler's checks as an emergency backup only and not as your primary form of payment.
There is a bit of a controversy on how many digits an ATM PIN number should be: four or six. For years the PIN numbers that Paris's ATM's accepted were four digits.
However, with the merger of many different banks, you may be required to have a six digit PIN number. For example, Bank of America always required a four digit PIN code. Nowadays the PIN code may be six digits long since B of A's recent merger with Fleet Bank.
I am a longtime client of B of A and my four digit PIN code is still acceptable. However, if I was a Fleet client my six digit PIN code is acceptable too.
The BNP Paribas ATM's that are affiliated with B of A in Paris usually accept four digits and may be accepting six now. Best thing is to verify with your bank as to the required amount of digits.