So how does a person go from traveling in India on a budget of $7 guest houses and $3 meals to traveling to Paris on a budget in the far more expensive country of France? Well, that’s what we did and believe it or not, it can be done!
Visit Paris on a Budget
We were surprised to see just how much money we could save in Paris. We expected to rack up our credit cards and face bills when returning home, but in the end, we found many ways to stretch our Canadian dollar to have a fabulous time in the city of lights.
We took public transport to save money, but if you have a bit of a larger Paris budget, you may want to book the Hop on Hop off Tour bus that stops at all the major sites and gets you around Paris quickly and easily. The metro system of Paris is excellent and will get you everywhere you need to go. You can buy a metro pass for 1-5 days starting at €12.85.
If you want to combine a metro pass with attractions, museums and front of the line, get a Paris City Pass for $141.59 ($105 USD)
Transportation zones in Paris
zones 1 to 3 : travels in Paris and the close suburbs
If you want to travel further, you can get a pass for zones 1 to 5 : travels in Paris, the close suburbs & until Orly/CDG airports, Disneyland and Versailles
Depending on which zones you select, Paris Transport allows you to travel on: metro lines, RER lines (RATP and SNCF), Ile-de-France bus lines (RATP and OPTILE), except those circulating on Jetbus, Allobus Roissy CDG, tourist excursion and Air France networks, Tramway lines and the Montmartre funicular.
Save money by booking the Eiffel Tower and Seine Cruises combo allowing you to skip the line and go right up to the second platform of the tower before heading on a 1-hour river cruise
Buy Metro Tickets in Bulk
Buy a 10 pack metro ticket for 11.50 Euro. If the three day pass is too expensive at $30 Euros, you can mix walking and taking the metro or bus and only use 3 tickets in one day if you plan your route wisely.
If taking the Metro isn’t your thing, get the Paris 1,2, or 3-Day Hop on Hop us Bus Pass
Paris for Free
- If you are under 25 years of age and an EU Citizen, you get into all museums for free!
- The first Sunday of each month offers up many free entries to museums and attractions.
- Visit Churches – You can enter Notre Dame and the Basillica Sacre Coeur for free.
- The best free view of Paris is on the steps of Sacre Coeur. You can go here, have some wine and overlook the beautiful city. I love seeing the locals drink beer and wine while just hanging out on these steps.
- Got to the Gardens – the Jardin du Luxombourg and the gardens of the Louvre are completely free to visit and filled with fountains, sculptures and statues. Both of these places are a great place for a picnic and the locals do it all the time.
- The Cemeteries are a work of art and many famous souls are laid to rest here. Cimetiere Pere La Chaise is the most famous with residents like Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde and the Montmartre Cemetery houses Alexander Dumas and Edgar Degas.
Note: Make sure to check out the Catacombs of Paris to compliment your Cemetery tour. A very creepy and interesting experience.
- Listen to classical music at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse. They offersover 300 student concerts a year, most of which are free. Radio France also offers 180 free concerts year, mostly orchestral and chamber music, in the Museum of Fine Arts, where tickets are handed out 30 minutes beforehand.
- Go to a McCafé and use their free Wifi to check your email and take advantage of the free toilets
- Speaking of toilets, Paris has great public toilets that are free. Just stand outside and wait for a person to come out. The door will close behind them and while it is closed the bathroom will have a complete hose down, sanitizing it for the next person to enter. When the light is green, you’re good to go.
- Free City Tours – Different Companies offer Free City tours meeting in Montmartre and the Latin Quarter. These are an excellent way to get oriented and to meet new people and make new friends!
- Go on a pub crawl – In Montmartre you can join a free pub crawl of the bars in the area. A great way to go where the locals go.
- Go to the Pompidou Modern Art Gallery and take the escalators to the rooftop bar without paying for admission to see Paris
Food – Budget Eating in Paris
Don’t sit down for coffee at a restaurant
Drink it at the bar you will save quite a bit of money. Real estate is expensive in Paris and tables take up space. Sitting down to eat will cost you a surcharge. If you are watching your budget, stand at the bar to enjoy your beer or coffee. Besides, you will meet more people that way and experience Paris the way true Parisians experience Paris.
Don’t eat at bistros or restaurants
We often packed a picnic and at in a park or along the canal and we often ate outside on terraces or coffee shops. With fine meats, cheese and breads, we’d stock up on quick eats and purchase a good bottle of wine for just a couple of Euros. Professional Traveller’s tip: Always pack a cork screw and keep it handy.
Paris has amazing restaurants, but many are expensive and will charge you more to sit down. Instead eat outside at a boulangerie or patisserie. Make sure to sit outside as you can be charged extra to sit inside. We ate excellent lunches for 6.50 Euros. They included a large baguette sandwich, delicious dessert of our choice and a drink. Either alcoholic or no alcoholic.
Paris restaurants always supply free water in a bottle, so don’t be sucked into ordering an expensive Perrier.
Choose an attraction and dinner together by booking the early evening dinner cruise along the Seine.
Shop at the many supermarkets around town and pack your lunch
Paris has many places to picnic and you can buy wonderful cheeses, meats, breads and fruit for a very reasonable price. We never spend more than 10 Euro on lunch for the two of us and that included wine! For a low budget, we ate like the rich enjoying good French wine with incredible scenery. The parks of Paris are beautiful.
Note: Keep your wine hidden and discreet. Like anywhere drinking in public areas is frowned upon even though everyone does it.
When you do eat out for dinner, take advantage of the Menu Formule
It is a fixed price menu for tourists in the Latin Quarter. This is a great way to save money and keep the budget down. It includes an appetizer, main dish, dessert and one drink. These meals range from 9 Euro to 15 Euro. The Latin Quarter near Notre Dame, Montemartre near Sacre Couer and La Rue Cler near the Eiffel Tower all have very reasonable fixed price meals.
Budget Accommodation in Paris
Stay at a hostel in an affordable district
Choosing the right arrondissement (District) in Paris will make a big difference on the cost of accommodation. The Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Champs-Élysées are obviously more expensive areas, but places like Montemartre, Montparnasse, Latin Quarter and Le Marais are more affordable. We tend to often stay in Montemartre.
For a true Paris on a budget overnight stay, we stayed in the Perfect Hotel and hostel in this charming neighbourhood accessible by metro and bus for 35 Euro per person. We had a private bath, but you can get a cheaper room for 28 Euro if you share a bath. The shared bath is quite also clean. The price of a hostel in Paris doesn’t break the bank at all and leaves plenty of money to spare to enjoy the city of lights sites.
Book a hostel that has breakfast included
Our Hostel, The Perfect Hotel/Hostel included a breakfast of coffee, juice, bread and chocolate croissant. We didn’t have to spend any money until lunch. Food can be expensive in Paris, so the more you have included with your accommodations the better. We found the Montmartre area of Paris to be the most reasonable and the most colourful district. For a list of hotels in the Montmartre area check out Booking.com
Or do an Apartment Stay
We love staying in Apartments in Paris because we can cook our own breakfasts, pack a bagged lunch and often enjoy a gourmet meal at home. Apartments are also a really great deal for families and sharing. Plus, you usually stay in residential neighbourhoods so you get a taste for Paris living.
Museums and Attractions – How to see them on a budget in Paris
Visit After Hours
After 4:15 pm on Thursdays, the Musee D’orsay slashes its prices to 5.50 Euro. We knew that all we were really interested in was the Impressionists exhibit, so 2 hours was more than enough time to take it in. We even saw most of the other exhibits in that time as well.
The Louvre slashes its prices after 6:00pm on Wednesdays and Fridays to 11 Euro
If all you want to see is the Mona Lisa and a few of its other famous pieces, this might be the time for you to go and save some cash. If you’re going to the Louvre on regular hours, book in advance at skip the line for a reasonable self guided tour.
If you want to visit unlimited museums at anytime, the Paris Museum Pass is an excellent deal for 2,4, or 6 days starting at $77 USD. It gets you into 60 museums and monuments including Louvre Museum, Orsay Museum, and Centre Pompidou, Arc de Triomphe
Notre-Dame crypt and tours.
For a true budget Paris experience, take advantage of all the free things to do.
Check out all the free things you can do in Paris at our post free sites and tours
Free Walking Tours
Different Companies offer Free City tours meeting in Montmartre and the Latin Quarter. Local Greeters is a well known free walking tour. Plus, every day at St. Michel in the Latin Quarter and in Montmartre you can join a free walking tour of Paris. We’ve taken a couple and always learn a lot from the guides. It’s up to you if you want to tip at the end. There’s even a free pub crawl in the Latin Quarter and Montmartre area. If you tip your guide and buy a drink, you’ve got a free tour to the hottest spots in town.
If you don’t want to be in a big group, you can book a private tour starting at $43 Canadian ($32USD) with Get Your Guide or you can book a pub craw for only $21 ($15 USD) that includes entry to 4 clubs with four shots included!
Take the Air France shuttle from the airport instead of a taxi.
It takes you to Montparnasse for 16.50 Euros. We heard that the train is even cheaper, but you will have to lug your luggage through the metro. One thing we noticed in Paris is that there are a lot of stairs and tunnels in the metro, so be prepared if you are carrying luggage. If you don’t mind doing that, take the train, it will save a lot of money.
Other options for airport transportation is to share a minivan transfer. Private shuttles can cost a lot, but pre-booking a shared transfer to/from either airport starts at only $27 Canadian.
All McDonalds have free wifi and good cheap coffee.
Don’t want to splurge on an expensive dinner cruise? You can do a 1-Hour Paris Illuminations tour for just $21 with Get Your Guide and you skip the line!
You don’t necessarily have pay to go in to every site to enjoy them.
The Eiffel Tower is impressive enough to just view it from the many different vantage points in the city, The Arc Du Triomphe is free unless you go upstairs to view the city. If you don’t want to pay to go up these structures, head to Sacre Coeur for a great overhead view of Paris. The Champs Elysees is an interesting site in its own right, walking down the street people watching and window-shopping is an event. The Louvre has beautiful gardens with works of art scattered throughout and so does the Jardin du Luxombourg.
Looking for something unique to do in Paris, visit the Catacombs. They’re only 8€ to enter, but it’s 45 minutes of one fascinating and eerie tour.
This is one tour I don’t recommend booking in advance or with an online booking agent. It’s cheep to enter and it can be seen on your own. Headsets are offered. The only reason I would book in advance is to skip the line, but the skip the line ticket $39 CAD ($29 USD) so it depends on how much time you have if you want to pay the extra fee.
Paris has many places that you can go to for cheap and reasonable prices. Many of Paris’ top sites are even free. You don’t have to break the budget traveling to this grand world city. You can enjoy Paris on a budget by following our easy tips!