We really had our work cut out for us going from one of the cheapest destinations in the world to one of the most expensive cities in the world. Surprisingly, Paris can be enjoyed while still keeping to the budget. We found many ways to save money when traveling to Paris.
It has many places that you can go to for cheap and reasonable prices. And many of Paris’ top sites are even free. You don’t have to break the budget when traveling to this grand world city. Here are our tips for visiting Paris on a budget and ideas to help you plan your trip to Paris without breaking the bank.
Budget Travel Tips for Paris
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This post was originally published in 2015 and is in the process of being updated. Some information may have changed.
Budget Transportation in Paris
We took public transport all over Paris to save money. The Paris Metro is fast, efficient and very easy to navigate. It is excellent and will get you everywhere you need to go.
You can buy a metro pass for 1-5 days unlimited travel starting at €14.
When buying a pass, you can choose what zones you will be traveling to. We have a breakdown below. We used the three-day pass when visiting Paris and it worked great. If the three-day pass is too expensive at $30 Euros, you can mix walking around the city and taking the metro or bus.
A 10 pack of metro tickets for 14.50 Euro. This way you’ll only use 3 tickets in one day if you plan your route wisely.
The Paris Pass also includes unlimited public transportation: Check out details here.
Transportation zones in Paris
- Zones 1 to 3 – Travels within in Paris and the close suburbs
- If you want to travel further, you can get a pass for Zones 1 to 5 – travels within Paris, The close suburbs, to Orly and Charles de Gaulle 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
The Seine – River Cruise
When visiting Paris, you must get on the River Seine and see the city from a boat. But you don’t have to book an expensive dinner cruise. There are affordable options.
The Hop on Hop off Batocruise is one way to explore the Seine. YOu can choose a 1 or 2 day ticket starting at about $20 USD. The Paris Pass also includes Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise. If you plan on seeing a lot of Paris attractions, a Paris City Pass is the best way to bundle entries and save Big money.
We use city passes whenever we are visiting a city for the first time. 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!
OUR #1 MONEY SAVING TIP for PARIS
You can get it for 2-6 days and it includes all the below and more:
- Free entry to more than 60 top attractions
- Free travel on the metro
- A 1-day hop-on, hop-off bus tour ticket
- A guidebook in 6 languages
- Skip-the-line entrance to many of the sights, like Centre Pompidou, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre Museum, and more.
- Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise
- Wine Tasting – O Chateau
Food Tips – Eating in Paris on a Budget
Our number one tip for saving money in Paris when dining out is to not sit down for coffee at a restaurant. Drink it at the bar while standing. You’ll save the “sitting fee” that many Paris restaurants have.
Sitting down to eat will often 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 also eat outside on terraces or coffee shops. This is cheaper than going inside to eat. It is free to sit outside, but if you go indoors you can be charged extra for the privilege of sitting inside. We ate excellent lunches outside for 6.50 Euros.
Paris has amazing restaurants, but many are expensive and will charge you more to sit down. Instead, eat outside at a boulangerie or patisserie. They included a large baguette sandwich, a delicious dessert of our choice, and a drink. Either alcoholic or no alcoholic.
Paris restaurants always supply free filtered 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 gourmet cheeses, cured meats, and fresh breads and fruit for a very reasonable price. We never spend more than 10 Euros 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.
Have a Picnic for Lunch
We often packed a picnic and eat in a park or along the canal. You’ll find many couples having a romantic lunch in Jardin du Luxembourg. It’s a beautiful way to spend some time enjoying the Paris atmosphere. With fine meats, cheese, and bread, we’d stock up on quick eats at the Carrefour and purchase a good bottle of wine for just a couple of Euros.
Professional Traveller’s tip: Always pack a corkscrew and keep it handy to enjoy your own bottle of wine rather than an expensive glass at a restaurant.
Note: Keep your wine hidden and discreet. Like anywhere drinking in public areas is frowned upon even though everyone does it.
Menu Formule for Dinners
What is a 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 when eating dinner. It includes an appetizer, main dish, dessert, and one drink. These meals range from 9 Euro to 15 Euro.
Where to eat Cheap Menu Formule meals
- The Latin Quarter near Notre Dame and Isle de la Cité
- Montmartre near Sacre Couer
- La Rue Cler near The Eiffel Tower all have very reasonable fixed price meals.
Paris Gardens are Beautiful to Explore and They are free
Paris Gardens are beautiful to wander through.
Jardin du Luxembourg – As mentioned above, the Jardin du Luxembourg is filled with sculptures and statues. There are usually free art exhibits hanging on the fences surrounding the garden as well.
The gardens of the Louvre – are completely free to visit and filled with fountains. A Walk through the grounds of the Louvre is almost as impressive as going inside.
Budget Accommodation Tips in Paris
Stay at a hostel in an affordable district
Choosing the right arrondissement (District) in Paris will make a big difference in the cost of accommodation. The Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Champs-Élysées are obviously more expensive areas, but places like Montmartre, Montparnasse, The Latin Quarter, and Le Marais are more affordable.
We tend to stay in Montmartre. We like the atmosphere and it has a lot of dining options and shopping. On our first budget trip to Paris, we stayed in the Perfect Hotel and hostel in this charming neighborhood.
For a list of hotels in the Montmartre area check out Booking.com
It was accessible by metro and bus. It only cost us 35 Euros per person with breakfast included.
We had a private bath, but you can get a cheaper room for 28 Euros 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.
Make Sure Breakfast is Included at Your Accommodation
Our Hostel, The Perfect Hotel/Hostel included a breakfast of coffee, juice, bread, and chocolate croissant.
When booking your hotel in Paris, make sure breakfast is included in the price. If you can save on any meal, it will help with the budget. 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.
Recommended Budget Hotels in Paris
Hotel de l’Avre – Our first budget stay in Paris was the Perfect Hotel in Montemarte- location was great, breakfast included, great rooms. Check out Availability & Prices on Trip Advisor / Booking.com
Apartment Stay and Air B&B
We love staying in Apartments in Paris because we can cook our own breakfasts, pack a bagged lunch, and enjoy a few gourmet meals at home. We would cook great dinners in our apartment and then go out for drinks or snacks afterward.
We felt like we were having the five-star experience on a shoestring budget. Apartments are also a really great deal for families and sharing. Plus, you usually stay in residential neighborhoods so you get a taste for Paris living.
Recommended Air B&B in Paris
Apartment near Sacre Coeur – This Sacré-Coeur apartment features a living room, a kitchenette, a bedroom equipped with a queen-size bed, and a bathroom with basin, shower, and toilet. It is in a perfect location too!
Museums – How to see them on a budget in Paris
Visit Museums After Hours
Many museums in Paris have free and discount days and hours, you just have to know where to look.
After 4:15 pm on Thursdays, the Musee D’Orsay slashes its prices to €5.50. We went after this time because all we were interested in was the Impressionists exhibit. We did the calculations and decided that 2 hours was more than enough time to take it in. It was a good amount of time to see the main attractions and get a feel for the museum. We even saw most of the other exhibits in that time as well.
Louvre After Hours
The Louvre slashes its prices after 6:00 pm 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
Free Museum Entries
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.
Selected Museums that take part in the free first Sundays of each month are:
- Musée Picasso
- Musée Rodin
- Musée D’Orsay
City Museums are Free
You don’t have to only go to the famous museums of Paris, the city museums are filled with important and interesting works of art and they are free! Our guide told us that to find a city museum, look for the coat of arms above the door. There are more than 20 museums in Paris, and one way to tell is by looking for the coast of arms above the door.
Selected free city museums include:
- Petit Palais
- Maison de Balzac
- Musée Carnavalet
- Museum of Modern Art
- Vicotr Hugo Mansion
Check out all the free things you can do in Paris at our post Free sites and tours of Paris
Free Walking Tours in Paris
Different Companies offer Free City tours that meet 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 of free walking tours and always learn a lot from the guides. It’s up to you if you want to tip at the end. We usually give the equivalent of €5-€10 USD. There’s even a free pub crawl offered in the Latin Quarter and Montmartre area. If you tip your guide and buy a drink, you’ve got a free tour of the hottest spots in town.
Book Cheap Flights to Paris
By booking in advance and having a flexible schedule, you can get affordable flights to Paris. We use Skyscanner when booking flights and make sure to look three to five days on either side of our preferred travel dates. You can save a lot if you have flexibility. Just click the arrows to see what prices are on other dates.
Take the Air France shuttle from the airport instead of a taxi.
The Air France shuttle takes you to Montparnasse from Charles de Gaulle Airport for 21 – 36 Euros. The train is even cheaper, but you will have to lug your luggage through the metro. Information on Transfers from Orly and Chalres de Gaulle here.
Insider tip: 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.
We have a comprehensive guide to the Cheapest ways to get from Orly and Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airports to Paris.
See the Paris Landmarks for Free
Paris is a city of living art and simply walking through its street is an excursion unto itself. You don’t necessarily have to pay to go inside every famous Paris attraction 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 to visit unless you go upstairs to view the city.
- The Champs Elysees is an interesting site in its own right. Walking down the street people watching and window-shopping is an event that takes you directly to the Arc du Triomphe.
- The Louvre has beautiful gardens with works of art scattered throughout and so does the Jardin du Luxembourg.
For Free Views of Paris
If you don’t want to pay to go up the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, or the Montparnasse Tower, go to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre for a great overhead view of Paris. It’s an excellent area to watch street performers and to get lost in the winding streets.
There are several different views of Paris from this mountain but hanging out on the steps of Montmartre is a must-do when visiting the city. Plus, you can tour the Basilica Sacre Coeur for free. While Notre Dame is under renovation, this is a good church to go inside.
Pompidou Modern Art Gallery
Go to the Pompidou Modern Art Gallery and take the escalators to the rooftop bar with your admission ticket to see views of Paris. It’s an affordable meal with outstanding views.
The Cemeteries of Paris are a great way to spend an afternoon and they are completely free.
Why visit a cemetery in Paris?
Because there are very elaborate tombs. Pere Lachaise is the most famous cemetery with the tombs of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, but there are two other famous and free cemeteries to visit in Paris, Montmartre and Montparnasse Cemeteries.
Famous residents of Paris Cemeteries include:
- Jim Morrison – Cimetiere du Père Lachaise
- Oscar Wilde – Cimetiere Pere Lachaise
- Alexander Dumas – Montmartre Cemetery
- Edgar Degas – Montmartre Cemetery
- Jean-Paul Sartre – Montparnasse Cemetery
- Samuel Beckett – Montparnasse Cemetery
Catacombs of Paris
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 cheaper to enter on your own and you don’t need a tour to appreciate it. Headsets are offered to guide you through the tunnels. The only reason I would book in advance is if you have limited time in Paris and want to skip the line. The Catacombs can be quite crowded. But skip the line tickets cost $39 CAD ($29 USD) so it depends on how much time you have if you want to pay the extra fee.
Free wifi and cheap coffee
At first, we were embarrassed to go into a McDonald’s in Paris, but then we noticed that even the locals go there.
They have great McCafés, and it is cheaper to get a good cappuccino here than in a bistro. Plus you can get it for takeaway to enjoy while strolling the streets of Paris. You don’t have to pay to sit down in a McDonald’s to enjoy a coffee and you can use the toilets for free here. We also pop in to use the WiFi at McDonald’s as it is always free.
Good Paris Travel Resources
Lonely Planet Paris – Lonely Planet is our go-to guidebook for all destinations and locations. You can download ebooks, apps, or city guides, whatever you need.
Rick Steve’s Paris – Nobody knows Europe like Rick Steve’s and he gives great tips for Paris travel
Packing Tips for Europe – We give tips to help you pack smart for European travel for Paris and beyond.
Paris Museum Pass – Paris is known for its museums. Get the museum pass for front of the line entrance to 60 museums.
Paris Tourism Office – We always like to visit the official tourism website for any destination. Paris tourism is full of useful city information.
Paris Museum and Attraction Closures – Museums, attractions and shows are closed on certain days of the week or month. Be sure to check them out before you travel.
Selective Paris City Tours
Get Your Guide – Is a great site for Paris day tours and Paris discounts
Shared Minivan Transfers from Roissy CDG and Orly – It’s the affordable airport transfer to and from the city
Hop on Hop off Tour bus – Starting at only $35 USD you can book the Hop on Hop Off Tour to all the major Paris attractions. It gets you around Paris quickly and easily.
Paris City Pass – If you want to combine a metro pass with attractions, museums and front of the line, get a Paris City Pass for $105. It saves time and offers valuable discounts.
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
Paris 1,2, or 3-Day Hop on Hop us Bus Pass – If you are in Paris for more than one day, this is a great option for getting around to all the sites. Plus you get a book of discounts.
- Where to Stay in Paris, the Complete Guide to Neighbourhoods
- Free Things to do in Paris
- Three Days in Paris Itinerary
- Cheapest Ways to get from Orly & Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Paris
- Paris Closures, When to Avoid Museum and Attractions
- What to do in Paris at Night
- Visiting the Catacombs of Paris – An Underground Labyrinth of Death
- Famous People Buried in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery of Paris
If you are planning a trip to France, make sure to check out our France Travel Guide!
You May Also Like these Budget Travel Tips
- How to Travel on a Budget – Our Top Cheap Travel Tips
- Cheapest Ways to get from Orly & Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Paris
- How to Save Money for Travel – 15 Tips to Get You Started Now
- Best Travel Organizers for Smarter Packing
- Travel Safety Tips – How to Have a Safe and Healthy Vacation
If you enjoyed these Paris budget tips, save it to Pinterest for future travel planning.
And there you have it. Our favorite things to do in Paris on a budget. As you can see it can be done. Do you have some ideas on how to save money in Paris?