Budget Paris or Paris on the Cheap
There is no category for Budget Travel so this seemed like a good place to put it. It is easy to fall into the "tourist" trap of thinking Paris is too expensive to visit. It can be very expensive, but it doesn't need to be. We consider Paris to be our favorite budget destination. Here are a few suggestions to make a trip to Paris less expensive.
Go ahead, stay in the center of town. It's okay. You can find a nice hotel right in the center of Paris for a very reasonable price. You may spend a lot of time looking for it, but you will save money so check the booking.com web site and see what you can find. Booking.com web site
I've made a list (constantly changing) of hotels in Paris that either I've used or have been recommended by other VTers that fall in the budget range. Several are under 100 euros a night and if you check for specials, they can sometimes be well under 100 euros. Keep in mind that if there is a fashion show or some other event in Paris that all hotel rates skyrocket so try to be flexible with your dates. Oddly, July and August are low season and lowest rates in Paris. Cheap Hotels Do Exist in Paris by Beausoleil
You will be told you can stay in the outskirts of Paris and take the Metro anyplace you like. This is true, but you will be paying for that Metro and you will be spending time going through dark, underground tunnels instead of wandering through the lovely parks of Paris. Save sightseeing time and transportation money and stay in the center of town.
Food is another problem for the budget minded. Relax, even budget travelers eat well in Paris. Of course you can spend 200+ euros on dinner if you like, but you can also spend less than 10 euros. It depends on when, where and what you eat.
First, know that the government requires all restaurants to post their menu outside so you can look at it before you go in. It's good to check prices and also to see if they are offering anything you want to eat. If the only menu is in French and you don't read French, slip inside the door and ask the waiter if you may see a copy of the menu in English. Most places will have at least one copy of their menu in English. One word of caution here: The menu translations are not always completely accurate so it's a good idea to learn the foods in French so you can order off the French menu. If you know what it is in French; you know what will arrive on your plate. The important thing here is that the prices are on the menu so if you can't afford it, don't go inside.
Unique Suggestions: If you are visiting a major tourist attraction, walk away about two or three blocks and the prices will go down dramatically and often quality goes up. Ask people you meet where they eat, not what they recommend but where they actually eat. We've found some great places this way.
Boulangeries and patisseries (bakeries and pastry shops) often have quiches, pizza and other portable foods for sale and these are very good and very inexpensive.
Street vendors can be terrific. If you see a vendor with a long line, you will get good food. There are a lot of street creperies if you like crepes.
Generally hotel breakfasts are overpriced. Unless you have a B&B arrangement at your hotel, skip the hotel breakfast (and make sure it is not on your bill) and go to the nearest bar or café for a very inexpensive breakfast.
If weather permits or if your hotel room is large enough, visit street markets, epiceries (groceries) or supermarkets and buy picnic fare. Pick up a baguette to go with it and perhaps a bottle of wine and you have a meal fit for a king. You can even eat it in a park fit for a king or perhaps the Pont des Arts watching boats go under the bridge while you eat.
Dinners are more expensive than lunches. We eat our main meal at noon and picnic in the evening unless we're so stuffed from lunch that we can't eat anything in the evening.
Finally, look for the daily special. These are often called a "Menu" or a "Formula" or simply the "Special du Jour" and they are invariably excellent and much less expensive than other things on the menu. A few even include your drink and those are real bargains.
Fun Alternatives: Finally, sightseeing. The former Mayor of Paris, Delanoe, decided the city-owned museums should be available free of charge. Therefore, here is a list from the Mayor's office of free museums in Paris. Free Things to Do in Paris by Beausoleil
Remember parks are free. Churches are free and often have great art and music. Walking through the city is free and you'll see some of the best architecture in the world.
So, go ahead. Take that trip to Paris. You'll save so much money that you'll want to go back very soon.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Place Dauphine - Ile de la Cite
This triangular square ("tres charmant, tres pittoresque, tres tranquille") that I'd read so much about is cute but didn't exactly live up to my expectations. Lovely leafy trees, to be sure, but with no grass to temper the crunchy gravel/dirt/mud underneath.
The Surrealists loved the Place Dauphine due to its suggestive V-shaped area; they called it "le sexe de Paris"!
UPDATE: I've changed my mind now about Place Dauphine and can at last say I understand its charms. Check out the night photo!
Photos: April 2003 & Feb 2006
Unique Suggestions: Nearby is the statue of the Vert Galant, King Henri IV.
Fun Alternatives: Square du Vert Galant (the tip of the Île de la Cité)
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Where to leave your luggages ?
You do not know where to leave your luggages ?
Unique Suggestions: Ask to you hotel if they can keep your luggages.
Sometimes you can leave them at the Airport, the hotel or some big stores in Paris in a big SAFE, called "Consignes Automatiques".
Fun Alternatives: AUTOMATIC LUGGAGE BOX (in 2003):
check at www.sncf.fr (Consignes a Bagages)
* SNCF Station:
Angers, Avignon-centre, Bordeaux, Cannes, Lyon-Perrache, Marne ?la Vall?e Chessy, Marseilles, Nantes, Nice, Toulouse.
* Stations of Paris:
The rate is depending of the size:
3,40 Euros (1), 5 Euros (1) ou 7,5 Euros (1) for 72 hours.
MANUAL LUGGAGE BOX:
* Dijon, Lille-Flandres, Lyon-Part Dieu, Metz, Mulhouse, Rennes, Strasbourg. Ouverture p?riodique en gares de Saint-Raphael, Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Moutiers et Saint-Gervais-les-Bains.
Rates: 4,50 ? (1) per lugage (valise, colis), for 24 hours.
Rates: 5,30 ? (1) bike, fauteuil roulant for 24 hours.
(1) Rates on 01/08/2002.
* ATTENTION: for security reasons, it may be closed.Add to your Trip Planner
Dancing Mickey and Minnie
I had read about this scam, so I was fascinated to be able to see it in action outside the Musée d'Orsay.
The street vendor sells cardboard cut-outs of Mickey and Minnie Mouse that dance magically on the pavement. Tourists buy them for 5 Euros to take home to their children or grandchildren and find out later that they've been conned.
The figures are actually suspended on clear fishing line and are attached to the vendor's backpack on one side and to some other object on the other side. There's a motor inside the backpack that jiggles the figures around so that they seem to dance.
When a police officer started walking toward the Musée, the vendor quickly packed his things and melted silently away.Add to your Trip Planner
Paris Story (9th)
Paris Story is basically a multi-media show of the type that was considered cutting-edge technology in the 1980s. It uses several slide projectors and two or three film projectors or beamers to project several still or moving pictures simultaneously onto a large screen. Typically three pictures are on the screen at the same time, and they keep fading in and out. Also there is a sound track with music and text, and the whole thing is presumably run by a computer.
If you are a fan of outmoded technologies, as I am (see my ‘personal page’ on Cutting edge technology of bygone decades), then you might enjoy Paris Story as a funky retro experience, as I did.
If you have been visiting Paris off and on for half a century, as I have, you might enjoy identifying the places and people in the rapidly changing photos.
But if you are a first-time visitor to Paris you will probably not find Paris Story to be very helpful or enlightening. For one thing, the city map that they show several times has west at the top and north off to the right, which is confusing since it differs from our customary map-making conventions. The word ‘orientation’ (related to the word ‘orient’) originally meant knowing which way is east, but I imagine some people come out of Paris Story thinking north is east and east is south.
The show lasts about fifty minutes and uses thousands of pictures, some of which appear more than once, to illustrate the history of Paris from Roman times to the present. Some of the pictures are identified, some not. For instance there is a photo of the Canal Saint Martin near the Hôtel du Nord which is shown twice and not identified either time, so unless you happen to have been there (or read my tips about it), it probably won’t mean anything to you.
On a separate screen off to the left of the main screen they show film clips of an actor playing the role of Victor Hugo and reciting some of his more or less profound pronouncements about Paris. The ones I recognized were texts that Hugo wrote during his nineteen-year exile from France between 1851 and 1870. In this phase he understandably felt homesick and tended to idealize Paris more than when he was actually living there.
I read later that the Victor Hugo clips were from a holographic projector, but I’m afraid the holographic aspect was lost on me.
Before the show there is a woman who runs around the lobby asking everybody (in English) where they come from and proudly pointing out that they have their choice of thirteen languages on the headphones, English, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Swedish, Korean, Portuguese, Danish, Russian, Polish, Chinese and Japanese. Before paying I asked if there was any way to hear it in French, and she said that was the easiest. You just don’t put on the headphones, because the French version is what comes out of the loudspeakers.
I liked the music on the sound track. It is mainly French classical music from various centuries, but also some catchy Jacques Offenbach tunes to set the mood for the Second Empire in the nineteenth century, and some snatches of songs by Edith Piaf for the twentieth.
After the show a man from the audience asked me if the loudspeaker had been working on my side of the room, which it had. He said on his side the loudspeaker didn’t work so he had trouble hearing the French text. On the other hand, one of the ladies from the Netherlands said the French version from the loudspeakers (on my side of the room) was too loud so she had trouble hearing the Dutch version on her headset.
In the lobby (fourth photo) there is an interactive model of Paris – interactive in the sense that you can push buttons and things light up, sort of like the big maps they used to have in the Métro stations.
All in all, I wouldn’t really recommend Paris Story for most people (certainly not for first-time visitors to Paris), even though I personally found it rather enjoyable. And I must admit that it was cool and comfortable down there – a nice place to have a break on a hot summer afternoon.
As of 2013 the price for admission to Paris Story was € 10.50, which I think is too expensive for what you get, but most people seem to come with some sort of discount coupons.
Address: 11 bis rue Scribe, 75009 Paris
Directions: Across the street from the Opéra Garnier
Vélib’ 9106 or 9032
Phone: (+33) 1 42 66 62 06
Next review from July 2013: Galeries Lafayette
Add to your Trip Planner
Avoid the internet cafes on Rue D' Odessa, Paris 75014. They charge a fortune. For 55 minutes it cost me 8 euros. Try instead the one across from the Monoprix on Avenue General LeClerc at Metro Denfert Rochereau. It's not fancy but it is very reasonable, the people are nice, and it is reliable.
Or you can go to the internet cafe on Boulevard St. Michel across from l'Ecole des Mines at Metro Jardin de Luxembourg.
If you have a laptop with WIFI, you can go to any number of places including MacDonalds and Starbucks.Related to:
- Study Abroad
- Budget Travel
New Year's Eve in Paris
We didn't want to get dressed up and pay big money to eat out on New Year's Eve so we headed to Champs Elysses with about a million other people. Anticlimatic is not a strong enough word for this street celebration in Paris, had I not looked at my watch, I would not have even known that midnight had arrived.
No countdown, no fireworks and the increase in noise level at midnight was imperceptible!
Another note, certainly not unique to Paris, virtually all of the restaurants increase their prices for NYE starting around dinner, some under the pretense of a price fixed menu, some blatantly gouging by plastering prices that are double over the usual price on the menus. The only restaurants that didn't seem to be gouging were fast food and the take away places (crepes, Greek, pizza).
Unique Suggestions: Stay clear of the metro close to midnight unless you want to be one of the sardines in the metro car.
The metro going back was very unpleasant, people pushing and shoving to get on the next train, I even thought their might be a possibility of someone getting trampled on. If you can avoid getting on at the stops on the Champs Elysses (FDR or Concorde) do it!
Fun Alternatives: Have a really nice lunch and then go to the supermarket like many of the locals seem to be doing, buy yourself a picnic dinner and a bottle of champagne and have your own celebration in the comfort and warmth of your hotel room.Add to your Trip Planner
Non-English speaking Parisian
It would be nice if you learned French before you went to Paris. Because definitely, that is a good thing. Most of the Parisians don't speak English. Asking directions will be futile. Make sure that you don't roam around without a map, a recent map.
Just a very good tip. Learn how to say "Please" , "Excuse me" and "Thank you" in French.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure to bring a travel map. You can get them at your hotel. Make sure that it has the bus and train map.
Fun Alternatives: Don't roam around at night because definitely, it is hard to find the streets. The signage of the streets are not good especially when you are driving. The cross streets are not shown directly to you.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Consume ! Achetez !
Remember John Nada : he saw the extraterrestrial invasion of the world that has already begun... Subversive messages that you can't even guess : Consume, Buy, Reproduce, Don't think.... Ugly monsters dressed like us and hidden thanks to mental micro waves... but above all, he was a hell of a wrestler !!! Stil... Be careful in Paris, the "consume" message is everywhere !!
Vous vous rappelez de John Nada, ce catcher qui voyait tout a coup que l'invasion extraterrestre avait deja commence ? Leurs messages subliminaux s'affichaient partout : achetez, buvez, mangez, reproduisez-vous ? D'horribles monstres se cachaient dans la foule grace a des micro-ondes agissant sur les esprits ? Attention a Paris : le message "achetez" est partout !!!
Unique Suggestions: Please be patient and compare the prices, if you really want to buy something ! Generally, any stuff is cheaper in the "2-figures" districts of Paris (beginning with number 10) rather than in "1-figure" district (beginning with... number 1 !).
Soyez patients et tentez de comparer les prix si vous voulez vraiment acheter quelque chose : tout est generalement moins cher dans les arrondissements a deux chiffres plutot que dans ceux a un chiffre !
Fun Alternatives: Enjoy Paris throughout its monuments, its landscapes and its people (unbelievable but possible !) !
Profitez plutot des monuments, des paysages et des gens (incroyable, mais possible !!) !Related to:
You have always heard about the people, tired of the deprivation of human rights and needing bread and liberty storming the mighty fortress, the Bastille. You envision it is a mighty, dark foreboding place. You are coming out of the subway station, thanking your lucky stars that there is a subway stop almost right in front of the mighty fortress. When you get out, its not there!
There is no more Bastille, its just a place that used to be. Demolished, gone.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Using Travellers Cheques Can Be Tricky
Travellers are always told to carry a mixture of money and travellers cheques in case there cash is lost or stolen this is good advice. However on our lastt trip to Paris in January 2005 we had i an absolute nightmare of a time trying to cash my American Express Euro travellers cheques. The problem is that recently they have started doing in most countries what has been happening in america for years that your travellers cheque can be used just like cash. I was advised that most hotels restaurants and shops would cash them no problem by the seller when i bought them but this led to a very embarassing situation in a restaurant on one of the evenings of our stay after eating we tried to pay with said travellers cheques to be told that it was only ordinary american express cheques with gurantee cards they accepted and guess what we never had enough Euro cash to pay the bill so after about 10 mins of the restaurant manager phoning her american express broker and me almost dying of embarassment in corner it was resolved and she could take the cheque they had made a mistake this mistake however wasnt the restraunts fault it was caused by a lack of information from third parties. Be careful because every where we went including our hotel would not cash them as they where euro cheques the only place i knew of that would cash them was the american express bank. Next problem it was sunday and we had very little euros left.
Unique Suggestions: I would however still recommend travellers cheques if you are planning on carrying large sums of money. Ask at the restraunt before eating as just because it says on the door it takes american express travellers cheques they may still be unsure. To save yourself any embarrassment go to the american express travel agent its near the opera any day but sunday.Related to:
- Budget Travel
It's a stinker
While it's not high on many peoples list, I think many people have heard of the Paris Sewers. I had dreams of some large catacomb type structure, something out of the “Phantom of the Opera”. But lo and behold it’s pretty much what it says, The worlds largest sewer. The most entertaining part was the gift shop and the end. I’ll leave it your mind to imagine what they were selling
Unique Suggestions: go on a cold dayAdd to your Trip Planner
At Paris I came across a very tricky method of begging by a group of people that seems to have really a huge number of members. I came across two or three new faces in every street that I walked on. Its simple. You are walking with your map on the street looking for your way to the next tourist destination, a lady, between 20 to 55 years of age comes up to you and asks you in english showing a golden ring as to whether this was yours. If you are not greedy, you say no. But then she says, that it must be your luck and that she is not greedy for it and so you must have it. You take it and see that she walks away. But moments later she will return to ask you for a sandwich or a coke. If you are generous, you pay her for her food, because she is not greedy you think and you also got a golden ring from her. If you don't she takes away the ring. Funny. Many tourists fall prey to them. When the first one had approached me I was confused as to what to do but then a nice fellow tourist prompted from behind that it was a trick and I refused to accept the ring. On my turn, I prompted this word of information to many other tourists. They are not dangerous but are definitely disturbing elements.Add to your Trip Planner
The Wrong Place?
This is St. Germain l'Auxerrois, but not the big St. Germain l'Auxerrois near the Louvre!
There is a Grand Cathedral called Saint Germain l'Auxerrois. Beautiful, big and seeped in history. It is near the Louvre. I didn't know that at the time of my visit and mistook this smaller offering, which is also called "St. Germain l'Auxerrois." I took photos and later found out that I had missed the chance to see the big one.
Unique Suggestions: The truth is that Paris is too big and fantastic to see everything worth seeing during a holiday. However the time is spent and whatever is seen, the trip is worth it. So, it is always easy to turn a "mistake" into a grand experience while visiting the city of Paris.
Fun Alternatives: Just place your "mistakes" in the "Off The Beaten Path Tips" instead of "Must See" tips and soon others will discover the charms of the lesser known offerings of Paris.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
- Religious Travel
Duty refund at CDG airport.
If you plan to get your duty/tax refund from purchases, when you get to CDG Airport (Paris), allow a LOT of time. The queue is very long and takes ages to process.
I'd have missed my flight had I stayed in the queue, so I missed out on the refund.
Unique Suggestions: Allow an extra hour or even more, if you want to successfully retrieve your refund before you leave France.Add to your Trip Planner
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