Ways to Save Money In Paris
Paris, the City of Light. Too bad it’s not exactly light on the wallet. After having spent a few months living there, the French capital is without a doubt my favorite city. And while it’s not too hard to convince people to want to go to Paris, it’s a tad more difficult to convince them that they don’t have to go broke doing so. So to help those with dreams of seeing the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysées on a budget, here are my 11 favorite money-saving tips.
See Also: How to Save Money in Walt Disney World
Book hotels outside the city center. Generally speaking, the closer you get to the center of town, the more expensive real estate becomes. To save on lodging, pick a hotel in a less central neighborhood (arrondissement). For instance, a standard room at a Holiday Inn in Paris near Notre Dame (about as central as you can get) is going for $320 (€234) per night in early April. By comparison, a standard room at the Place d’Italie location in the 13th arrondissement is just $213 (€156) per night. Likewise, the standard room at the Gare de l’Est hotel in the 10th arrondissement is $230 (€168) per night. Both are less than two miles away from Notre Dame on foot, and both are incredibly close to metro stops -- though I can attest that the walk from Place d’Italie to Notre Dame through the famous Latin Quarter is quite lovely. (Prices are based on a conversion rate of €1 = $1.37.)
Buy a multiday metro pass. A one-way ride on a metro train or RER train in Zone 1 will cost about $2.30 (€1.70). But if you expect to ride multiple times per day, a Passe illimité (unlimited travel ticket) or Navigo Découverte card will be the way to go. Unlimited passes are available from all metro ticket machines and manned ticket booths, and they offer unlimited rides for one day ($15/€10.85), two days ($24/€17.65), three days ($33/€24.10) or five days ($47/€34.70) in Zones 1 through 3, with reduced prices for children. The one-day pass pays for itself after six rides, the two- and three-day passes make sense after about five rides a day, and the five-day pass is the way to go if you’ll ride more than four times a day.
Navigo cards can also be purchased in most metro stations; make sure to have the $7 (€5) card fee and a small photo (such as an extra passport photo) to hand over. Navigos are good for a full week at a time, but the week always starts on Monday. So if you get to Paris midweek, it’s best to pay for single rides or buy an unlimited pass until Monday rolls around again. The Navigo Découverte is $28 (€20.40) for access to Zones 1 through 2 for the week. When you add the card fee, the Navigo pays for itself after 15 rides, or about two rides per day.
If you don’t think you’ll ride the metro that much, another option is to buy a book of ten tickets (carnet de 10) for $19 (€13.70), which drops the cost to $1.90 (€1.37) per ticket. But when you consider that a train ride from, say, the Eiffel Tower to the Centre Pompidou will cost $2.30 (or less), compared with approximately $120 (€14.50) for a cab, it only makes sense to take the metro.
Rent a bike. Get some fresh air and get around town in mild weather with the Vélib' bike share program. You’ll be able to rent a bike from any of the 1,800, 24-hour, self-service kiosks, then return it to the same station or any other.
Subscribe online at the Vélib' Web site or at any of the terminals using your credit card. (Some locations accept only chip-enabled cards.) These temporary memberships cost $2.30 (€1.70, or about the same as one metro ride) for a day or $11 (€8, or about four metro rides) for a week. Rides of 30 minutes or less are free, but after that it’s $1.40 (€1) for the first additional half hour, $3 (€2) for the second additional half hour and $5.50 (€4) for every half hour after that. The additional charges are automatically deducted from the card you signed up with.
Buy a museum pass. Take advantage of 60 museums and monuments around town with a Paris Museum Pass, which offers unlimited entry for two days ($57/€42), four days ($76/€56) or six days ($94/€69), without having to wait in line. Entrance fees to Parisian landmarks range from about $9.50 to $27 (€7 to €20). So the two-day pass will save money if you think you’ll visit about four or more sites in those two days. To make the four-day pass worthwhile, you’ll need to visit one or two sites a day, and the six-day pass starts saving you money after one site a day. See where to buy a Paris museum pass.
Note free museum days. If your trip happens to coincide with the first Sunday of the month, the Journées du Patrimoine (national heritage days in September) or the Nuit Blanche (an all-night art festival in October), then you’re in luck. Most of the museums in Paris are open free of charge on those days. Check out a list of museums you can visit free on first Sundays from Time Out Paris.
Skip the top of the Eiffel Tower. Want to get a view of Paris from on high? Do so from the steps of the Sacré Cœur at the top of Montmartre -- it’s free. If you still want to say you climbed the Eiffel Tower, get a ticket for the second-floor observation deck. While a trip to the top will cost an adult $20 (€15), second-floor access is just $12 (€9) for adults and $10 (€7.50) for youths. If you’re okay with a little exercise, take the stairs instead of the elevator and the ticket price drops to $7 (€5) for an adult and $5.50 (€4) for a youth. Speaking of youth…