Back in November we jumped on the Eurostar and headed into the bright lights of Paris. I’d never visited before (apart from Disneyland) so it was a super exciting trip. I hadn’t quite anticipated one thing though, Paris is damn expensive. Not just ‘oh Europe is pricey’ expensive, like ‘£18 for one hot chocolate and a lager’ expensive. It wasn’t helped that it was post-Brexit which meant that the exchange rate was pretty terrible (basically £1=€1) but that aside, Paris was still going to take a little bit of navigating so we didn’t come back with empty bank accounts!
So how can you visit Paris without breaking the bank? Here are a few tips…
1. Book ahead
We managed to get our Eurostar tickets for just £29 per person each way. That included luggage and zips you in utter comfort from the heart of London into the heart of Paris. We’d have struggled to get flights that cheap and we’d then have incurred luggage costs and have further to travel in each city. We snapped up the tickets when they were released and were completely flexible on the dates. We travelled out on a early Monday morning train and returned on a Thursday evening during the winter season. Perfect!
2. Go self catered
Air bnb is your friend! Being self catered meant we had enormous flexibility and saved huge amounts by doing a supermarket shop that meant we could do breakfasts and dinners at the flat. We loved popping out for fresh pastries in the morning and having breakfast in our PJs looking out over the rooftops of Paris. We did have a few meals out but having the option to eat ‘in’ kept the cost down.
3. Get off the main drag
Like with any popular city, you’ll find that the prices are hiked up for the tourists along the main spots. Walk a few blocks away from the busiest streets and you’ll find beautiful corners just ready for you to discover. Around where we were staying in Montmartre for example is a little catacomb of pretty streets and colourful buildings. The tourist spots are intersected with little explored roads, so jump out of the guide book and into real Paris – you’ll pay a far more reasonable price for your Chocolate Chaud!
4. Use the tube
Paris has a great underground network and you can grab a carte of ten tickets for €14.50 which makes travelling across this enormous city much easier, faster and cheaper. We tended to travel out and walk back via whichever arrondissement we were exploring that day. Save your feet and cash, use the tube!
5. Find the bargains
Like London, there are some great places to explore at no or low cost. A lot of the museums offer free entry for EU citizens under the age of 25 (UK residents better be quick at claiming this before Brexit comes crashing in!) but if, like us, that sadly doesn’t apply any more (damn you 27 years) then do your research and check out the special days when you can get free entry like the first Sunday of each month for the Louvre. Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur are both free of chrage to explore so make sure you include them in your itinerary.
6. Plan your days
Get those guide books out, search out intineraries on Pinterest and make sure to ask all your friends for their recommendations. If you plan your route each day, even if just a rough outline, you’ll not fall into the expensive tourist traps of premium guided tours and taxis to whizz you to the next monument so you don’t miss out. We spent a little time before we went coming up with our ‘not to be missed’ list and then each day planned out our route to include our plans for food (to make the most of our self catering!).
7. Grab early bird tickets
When you have your rough itineraries, check online to see if it will be cheaper to buy your tickets online before you turn up at a museum, gallery or event. There are lots of good deals out there if you have a little time to investigate. We didn’t use the Paris Pass system as we felt it wasn’t cost effective for the time we had out there but it is often advertised as a good way to get multiple tickets for less than the full price tickets combined so it might well be worth a look for you.
8. Don’t go inside
Do you really want to go up the Eiffel Tower? If the answer is ‘yes absolutely, it is on my bucket list’ then by all means, go ahead. If you aren’t that fussed then save your cash! I wanted to get lots of photos of the Eiffel Tower but I realised I was more attracted to the idea of the skyline with the tower in it, not from the viewing platform! We were lucky to have the most incredible view from our Air bnb apartment which definitely helped me feel like we weren’t missing out. Similarly if you’re not feeling an afternoon with thousands of other people hunting to find the Mona Lisa you can always choose to enjoy the Louvre and the nearby gardens from the outside instead.
9. Pick up a bottle and grab the set menu
If you are eating out then hunt for the little restuarants off the beaten track that advertise their set menus. We found a gorgeous little French-Italian place tucked away in Montmartre that offered a great three course set menu for less than €27 per person – which trust me, might not sound it but was actually a reasonable price for Paris! The food was delicious, the restaurant owner was adorable and it was all perfect for our final night in Paris. Whilst we’re talking eating out, lets just chat wine for a moment. Pop to the supermarket, grab a bottle for €4 and enjoy it in your apartment! It’ll be on sale for €20 in the restaurant next door. Trust me.
10. Enjoy the romance
Whether you’re visiting with the one you love or your best girl friend, there much atmosphere waiting to be soaked up in Paris. Wander down the Canal St Martin, mosey along the River Seine, catch the Parisien sunset, watch the street artists perform, have a massive argument in Gare du Nord (no? Just us?!), take 101 pictures of the townhouses, pool your cents to buy one more croissant, throw open the bedroom window in the morning to listen to the city below. Enjoy each one of those moments, they won’t cost you a penny.
My first post about our Paris trip is full of lovely photos if you haven’t already spotted it.