As many of you know, I am not one to spend a lot of money. Who is? For this reason, Europe may be a challenge. Luckily, Prague and the Czech Republic in general are supposed to be quite inexpensive. However, Paris on the other hand – not so much.
Thanks to the most lovely, Adèle, I lucked out and did not have to spend a cent on housing in Paris for three days! Merci beaucoup, Adèle. So, budgeting-wise for hostels, I cannot say much. But, on attractions for Paris, there are a few things I learned during my self guided tour of the city. In total, I spent less than 60 USD (if I did the math right) in Paris for about 48 hours. You can still see a lot on a budget, but you have to be crafty to save the money, time, and energy.
1. Visit the sites, but don’t go inside
Sure, everyone would like to see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre or the Paris skyline from atop the Eiffel Tower, but waiting in lines takes a lot of time, and the prices to enter/ascend places in Paris can be expensive because the people know you will pay for it. Though some tours are free, there is always the cost of time, and for a guy like me who had only really a day in the city, it did not make sense to waste it standing behind other tourists.
See all (or most) of the monuments and sites, but don’t get sucked into the tourism of it all. Riding a boat on the Seine may seem like a good idea, but why not just walk the riverside with some ice cream instead, not paying for a cruise when you could do it at your own pace anyway.
2. Avoid the venders
Literally, all of them are my collective nemesis. Around the Eiffel Tower and while you are just sitting on the side of a quiet café, people will come up to you selling little brass alloy Eiffel Towers, or roses, or keychains, or who knows what else!? Do not make eye contact, do not buy, and keep moving forward – no matter how pushy they are. Paris is not a crappy metal statue; it is the joy and experience of being in the city of light and love.
On the tangent of Paris fashion, if you really want to spend the money, go for it. If not, I am always a fan of window shopping. If you want to keep it cheap though … good luck.
Of course you will want a souvenir, it’s a natural habit for travellers, but again, I would advise against it. Photos work, right? Plus if you are backpacking like me, everything you buy you will have to carry.
3. Revisit at different times of the day
Usually when you travel, you do not want to visit the same places, but locations change depending on the time of day. Notre Dame is different illuminated and less crowded at night versus in the day while it is being swarmed by Asians (me included). This same logic apparently works for Amsterdam’s Red Light District if I am to believe an Irish woman I spoke with – We shall see. Regardless, return to popular sites to see what they are like in the morning versus the afternoon versus dusk. The mood changes, and thus, so does the destination.
4. Buy off the set menu
Restaurants will often have set menus where you can mix and match entrées and desserts with drinks. They are usually 9 to 15 euros and offer a decent amount of food. I honestly almost couldn’t eat the whole steak I had for lunch; I finished it though.
Any meal in Paris essentially will be a good meal if you use common sense. Avoid the fluff and powder of dining and try the cafés with prescribed lunches and dinners. They won’t let you down. The task then changes from finding a good, cheap place to eat into which restaurant has the tastiest menu in the same price range.
And plus, if you can’t speak French like me, they are easy to order from/ point to politely.
I am like Leslie Knope when it comes to parks. They are free, beautiful, and Paris is littered with them. Small to big, famous to not, why not just get a sandwich and relax in a park with some wine and maybe a few friends. What more could you want in Paris? Simply enjoy the Parisian scenery for free. So what if you don’t get an aerial view from atop god knows where? Parks are made to be taken advantage of. Go and smell the roses. Literally.
6. Of course, use public transportation (wisely)
Public transport is a no brainer. But, you have to use it correctly. The Paris metro system is the best bet for any foreigner, but you should plan ahead whether you want individual tickets or day passes. In retrospect, I probably should have bought a day pass, not the single use tickets in bundles, to save a few euro. This is especially true because I got lost (a lot), wasting one or two passes along the way.
Take your time when you navigate the Paris metro system, read the maps, and do ask the tellers for information if they are present; they are French, not scary. The metro system is simple but big, which can make it overwhelming. Of course, you could just walk, but I’d advise against it. You think that places are close to each other (and they often are), but if you get lost like I do that means WAY more walking than you expect when you have to correct yourself by a few blocks. Give yourself a head start and take the subway.
*Also on a side note, some of the cars you have to switch a latch to open. I did not expect that the first time … That may just be me. But, it is just a FYI.
I guess this is kind of going back on my word fro #5, but if you have the time and energy, just walk through Paris. Do it aimlessly. It is the city the world has deemed possibly the most alluring and pretty, explore and discover unique street art, cute cafés, and Gothic architecture; you’re in Paris.
If you have any other money saving advice for Paris, France, or life in general, please go ahead and comment below! I’d love to learn (and save some cash).
Some of this advice is common knowledge, but sometimes, you need to hear the obvious repeated. Overall, Paris was a fantastic place to start backpacking because truthfully, I was a little nervous. Paris (France in general) represented a lot of things for me – a new place, a place where I cannot speak the language, a place I would have to traverse alone, a place where I would be alone (for some of it at least).
But, you know what, I did it. I survived Paris, of course, with the help of great friends. But, I did it and feel more confident for doing so.
France made me fearless, and I just can’t wait for what is to come next. Amsterdam, get ready, you and I are going to dance.