Photo by Milles Studio/Stocksy. Design by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel.
It’s no secret that Paris is an expensive city to visit. It shows up on lists of the 10 most expensive places to visit every year, right up there with London, New York, and pretty much all of Scandinavia. So why, you might ask, would a budget traveler go anywhere near Paris? This seriously can’t be an affordable destination to visit?
In answer to the question:
1. Hello! It’s Paris — who wouldn’t want to visit?
2. It’s actually surprising what you can achieve in Paris on a limited budget.
In addition to the basics (using Airbnb or Couch Surfing to cut down on accommodation costs, and taking advantage of supermarkets to stockpile cheap food), here are a few easy ways to make the City of Light a little lighter on your wallet.
Skip the Metro, use free bikes
Although you can buy Metro rides in bundles to save extra cash, you’ll save even more if you opt for bikes instead. As in many cities these days, Paris has a robust bicycle-rental system, called Vélib’. More than 20,000 bikes are available all over town (stations are located about 300 meters apart), and the first 30 minutes are free. You can also buy a one-day ticket for 1.70 euro and use the bikes for 24 hours. Of course, the cheapest and healthiest way to get around is on your feet. So get your comfy walking shoes and enjoy the amazing streets and architecture.
See the Paris skyline from the clock tower of the Musée d’Orsay, where admission is free to everyone every Sunday. (Photo: Five Dollar Traveller)
Hack the museums
Museum entrance fees in Paris are pretty high! And to tell you the truth you spend most of your time standing outside in line, waiting to empty your pockets for a two-second glimpse of a much-smaller-than-you’d-imagined painting of the Mona Lisa. Now, the crowds we can’t do much about, but there are ways of saving money on the entrance fees:
- The first Sunday of every month, many museums and art galleries are free.
- If you are under 26 years old or a teacher you get free entry to many attractions.
- If a museum or gallery is open late, like on a Thursday, entrance fees are sometimes reduced to an ‘after work hours’ fee from 4:30 p.m. onwards. You can also get a discounted rate for turning up at this time on a regular day — but you wont have enough time to see much of the galleries. They start clearing the galleries at 5:15 p.m.
Take a free guided tour
If you have a look online there are plenty of locals in Paris who offer free walking tours. Either because they love their city and want to show you around…or because they love their city, want to show you around, and enjoy tips!
Get a free view of Paris from the steps of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica of Montmartre. (Photo: Five Dollar Traveller)
See amazing views of Paris — for free
Turn up at the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre just before sunset, and you’ll enjoy some of the best views in town. The Basilica itself is quite impressive, but if you’ve seen enough churches, it’s nice to sit on the steps and take in the view.
As a warning, this is a very popular tourist spot and there are plenty of hawkers around trying to sell you bracelets, mini Eiffel Towers, and rip-off designer bags and hats. Just politely decline any of their offers and make sure you watch your valuables (as with anywhere in Paris, this area is rife with pickpockets). There are also a few guys selling bottles of beer for three euros each, which plenty of tourists enjoy on a hot summer day. However, we went for the BYO option. We brought a store bought bottle of wine with us, to enjoy as we watched the sun set on the city of Paris.
Climb the Eiffel Tower on the cheap
There’s a tip that will save you ten euros at the Eiffel Tower. (Photo: Five Dollar Traveller)
One of the main attractions of Paris is of course the Eiffel Tower. But entrance fees for a short elevator ride to the top will put you out 15 euros per person. If you’re not entirely fussed about going to the very top there is a cheaper option: You can take the stairs to the second floor and still get a really nice view of the city for only five euros. The tower is open until either 11 p.m. or midnight depending on the time of year, so climb up to grab some great night pics. For those youngsters who are under the age of 24, there are discounted rates for you as well.