(Editor’s note: Someday, the pandemic will end. But we’re not waiting to plan our post-COVID travel, and Paris is actually one of the first cities Dispatches teams will visit for fun and business. Until then, consult our pandemic restrictions guide here.)
Paris. New York. London. All dream cities for many to visit, but many people put a halt to their travel plans thinking it will be way too expensive to visit any of them. As an American living in Paris, I can attest to the fact that Paris is indeed an expensive city, but not as expensive as you might think.
I have found many ways to avoid spending all my income on one dinner outing and want to share the best tips and tricks with you to save some euros on your next vacation in Paris.
Visit the Louvre and other musuems, monuments for free
On the first Sunday of every month, most museums and historical monuments are free to visit including the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and the Arc de Triomphe. This is in effect from October through March.
Also, keep in mind almost all of Paris’ beautiful cathedrals and churches are always free year-round including the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre. This basilica has become even more popular since the closure of the Notre-Dame Cathedral after the massive fire that engulfed it in April, 2019.
Pack a picnic
There are thousands of bakeries or boulangeries all over Paris that offer all kinds of goodies for your breakfast, lunch and dinner needs. You will not just find cakes and croissants: Most offer sandwiches and other selections of savoury goods for your appetite.
Paris is beautiful for a picnic most times of the year. Some of my favorite places to picnic include the Champ de Mars, the park in front of the Sacre Couer Basilica and anywhere along the Seine River … but especially on the Ile Saint Louis.
Skip the dinner outing and take advantage of the lunch formules
You will find dinner in Paris always much more expensive than lunch with around the same offerings. Almost all restaurants and bistros in Paris offer something called a formule at lunchtime that runs around 10 euros to 15 euros for two to three courses.
You usually have the option to have an appetizer, main course and dessert all for one low price. This is one of my favorite ways to save money while enjoying special French cuisine.
Don’t use taxis
Taxi rides add up quickly in the city while you are sitting in traffic everywhere. The only time I take a taxi is when I arrive at one of Paris’ airports. For CDG (Charles de Gaulle) there is a set fare for anywhere in the city for about 55 euros and for ORLY airport the fare is set at about 35 euros for anywhere in the city. Make sure you keep an eye on your driver to make sure he doesn’t set the meter when you are traveling from the airport to Paris.
Once in Paris, use your feet as transportation. Paris is very small for a European capital city and you can walk across its entirety in around three hours. It also helps that it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, so why not walk to your destinations instead of staying below ground in the metro or in an expensive taxi?
Take a free walking tour
Learning about the history of Paris has made its vast streets and beautiful monuments so much more interesting. You do not need to spend hundreds on privately guided tours. There is a multitude of companies in Paris that offer free walking tours.
I have taken almost all of them and love their delightful guides who will keep you laughing while you are learning. At the end of every tour they will simply ask for a tip which if you did not enjoy yourself, you pay nothing. But if you did, then it’s common courtesy to pay around 10 euros per guest. But still a steal for a fun tour in Paris!
Check out this website for some of my favorite free walking tours.
About the author:
Krystal Kenney is a photographer and writer in Paris, France. She also hosts a podcast called “La Vie Creative,” where she interviews creatives in Paris. She moved to Paris more than eight years ago from Annapolis, Maryland to start a new life. Krystal loves spending her days exploring Paris, and traveling all over Europe. You can see more of her photography and her podcast on her website here. She specializes in wedding, event, and vacation photos.