15 Money-Saving Tips for Your Short Stay in Paris

Friday, October 06, 2017

To say that Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world is an understatement. How can you resist the beautiful, walkable city day and night, the magnificent architecture filled with history, the nooks and cafes you read in novels, the Parisienne dressed in classic fashionable ensemble, and the mouth-watering patisserie on every corner? While Paris can woo you like a passionate lover, it can also turn into a thief in the night – literally – even if you stay only for a few days.
eiffel tower
Despite the huge cost, tourists still consider Paris as one of their must-visit destinations in Europe. If you’re coming from Southeast Asia or from countries requiring at least 12 hours of travel, you can save your money (and energy) by following these 15 helpful tips for your short stay in Paris – the convenient, mid-range way.

1. Book promo airfare and free cancellation on accommodation. Number one rule of thumb when you’re traveling to a far-away destination – search for cheap or promo flights. An average roundtrip ticket to Paris from Manila will set you back to US$ 1,200 (around Php 60,600), while a cheaper option can take you to Paris and back home for only US$ 750 (less thanPhp 38,000). If you plan 5 to 6 months before your departure date, chances are you’ll score cheaper airfare as compared to booking your flights two months or a month before. Now if you’re applying for a Schengen visa and unsure if you’ll be granted one, get a room accommodation with free cancellation in case you need to call off or postpone your trip due to visa challenges.

2. Visit Paris during off-peak season. Spring break and Paris Fashion Week – those are the two times you have to avoid Paris at all cost. Not only will you have to deal with tons of tourists from all over EU and nearby countries, you will also find yourself paying for more. Hotel and room accommodations are more expensive. In addition to that, you have to wait in line in restaurants and shops to be able to eat or buy something for yourself (i.e. Ladurée and Louis Vuitton flagship store at Champs-Élysées). We had our honeymoon in Paris towards the end of November and we found less tourists on the streets and on famous landmarks, too (less people = more Instagam-worthy photos!).

3. Take a public transportation from the airport or get a shared transfer. Most international flights land at Charles de Gaulle Airport. If you’re coming from CDG, you can take the RER B train (RER line B) going to the city. The most popular stations where people alight the train are Gare du Nord, Châtelet les Halles, and St Michel/Nôtre Dame. RER train is the most reliable and safest option to get into the city and to your accommodation. A ticket costs €10.30 for an adult and €7 for a child. However, if you’re carrying a heavy and huge luggage coming from a long-haul flight, the process can be tiring. You need to drag your luggage on cobblestone steps and walk far distances to reach your hotel.

On the other hand, you can take shared shuttle transfers for €25 each (or less, depending on how many you are in your group). This will bring you straight to your accommodation from CDG airport, which is more convenient than train. Research thoroughly and look for reviews when you book shared shuttle transfers. Usually these transfer services only allow you to carry a maximum of one big luggage per person. Meanwhile, taking a taxi from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city will cost the entire trip for about €50-€70 PLUS extra charge for when you put your luggage in the trunk. In short, just skip the taxi!

colonnade de perrault

4. Get an accommodation near the city center and tourist attractions. Luckily, you can find 3-star hotels, hostels, and Airbnb apartments near the city center. If you’re dreaming of big hotel rooms such as in Macau or Bangkok, the price equivalent in Paris is beyond expensive. Find accommodation that’s walking distance from the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, or the Latin Quarter. This way, you’ll save time from traveling via train or bus everyday and you’ll have plenty of time enjoying these tourist attractions. While you can find cheaper accommodation outside the city center, it’s more convenient to stay within the area especially if you only have a few days to spare in Paris.

5. Bring some food from home. If you’re Asian, bring your favorite instant cup noodles. Add biscuits and chips if you must! Trust me. You might have to deal with jet lag for the first two days and you’ll find yourself wide awake and hungry at 2:00am in Paris. Bringing some packed or canned food from home will also save you a few Euros in case you’re craving for rice, ramen, or your staple food.

6. Purchase essentials from the grocery, convenience store, and food trucks. This is a no brainer when you visit Paris or any other parts of the world. The cheapest food, drinks, toiletries and other essentials can be found in the grocery or convenience store. You can find a €6 wine as well as €2 lettuce for your salad. If you’re buying bottles of mineral water for your entire stay, get a small one for yourself (for daily travel) and buy more huge bottles so you can just refill the smaller container. Most of the times, bottles sold in liters cost less than the small ones.

Plenty of food trucks and delis can be seen around Paris and they sell sandwiches which are big enough for two people.

7. Buy carnet tickets or Mobilis ticket. If you find yourself commuting around Paris, you can either buy carnet (pronounced as car-nay) which is a pack of 10 tickets, or a Mobilis which is a ticket with unlimited rides for a day. A single t+ ticket costs €1.90, while a carnet pack costs only €14.90. On the other hand, Mobilis costs €7.50 for zones 1-2. The price increases depending on the zones you selected. Just keep in mind that for a Mobilis ticket, the validity is for the same date of travel and not 24 hours equivalent. So even if you buy the ticket at 5:00pm, Mobilis will expire at 11:59pm on the same day.

paris early morning_river seine

8. Walk and follow the River Seine to save on transportation cost. I love walking around Paris because there’s so much to see. If you like window shopping (and walking for hours), this is a whole new level. You’ll find lots of Instagram-worthy spots, enormous architecture, local French boutiques, bars, cafes, street vendors and musicians when you walk and get lost in Paris. Best of all, walking is good for your heart and for your pocket, too! If you follow the River Seine coming from Notre Dame Cathedral, you’ll pass by The Louvre, Jardin de Tuileries, Musée d'Orsay, Grand Palais, and end up in Eiffel Tower. Along the way, you’ll discover magnificent sceneries where you can stop and sit for a while to admire. These are just some things you can’t find if you’re too focused on reaching popular tourist spots and if you’re spending half of the time in the subway.

view from the top of notre dame cathedral parisbirds at notre dame grounds
notre dame cathedral

9. Ride a hop-on, hop-off bus. Tired of walking around Paris? Ride a hop-on, hop-off tour bus and enjoy the sights and sceneries at the comfort of your seat. Just hop-on the bus on designated stops and hop-off wherever you want to explore. There are several bus companies offering this type of tour. For Big Bus Paris, the entire duration of the red route (classic route) is about 2 hours and 20 minutes. Pre-recorded commentaries in different languages are available, which I appreciate because you learn more about the City of Lights and its famous landmarks (you get free earphones, too). I especially like the commentary where you pass through the narrow road going to the Louvre Pyramid, so make sure you’re seated on the left side of the bus at the top deck. You’ll see how trained their driver is!

If you buy tickets at Big Bus online, the cost is €30.50 while the regular ticket on the stops cost €34 (per day). We bought the 2-Day ticket during our stay in Paris because it’s much cheaper at €35. If you’re traveling with kids or with the elderly, this is a much better option than walking or getting in and out of the subway.

10. Take advantage of lunch and dinner specials. In an average restaurant in Paris, you normally pay for €10 for a basic Pizza Margherita OR a plate of pasta and that’s for the main course alone. A salad can cost €7-€8. If that’s not enough to enjoy a meal, look out for lunch or dinner specials. Some restaurants offer €20 price point for full set meals. But if you’re on a really tight budget, just share food with your companions and ask for free tap water instead of buying a bottled mineral water or a can of soda. In restaurants the cost of 350 ml drinks range from €2.50 - €3.50.

musee d'orsay paris

11. Get free or discounted museum tickets. Paris is the best place where you can get cultured with the arts. The French take pride in their museums which house the oldest paintings, sculpture, and collections in the world. If you’re taking public transport, you can get discounts from their museum partners by presenting a Paris Visite travel pass. But if you just want to indulge in the Paris museum experience at least once, drop by The Louvre on the first Sunday of each month (October to March) for free access (museum closed on Tuesdays). Since it’s free and everybody knows this, you shouldn’t be surprised with the volume of people. A regular ticket costs €15.

The same thing with Musée d'Orsay, you can get free admission every first Sunday of the month (closed on Mondays). Full ticket rate costs €12, but you can get a discounted rate of €9 if you visit the museum at 4:30pm (except Thursdays). We dropped by Musée d'Orsay an hour before closing on a Tuesday and we didn’t expect a free admission if you’re coming in beyond 5:00pm.

12. Opt for Seine River Cruise with Vedettes du Pont Neuf. How romantic it is to enjoy a cruise with your partner along the River Seine! While it’s very dreamy to wine and dine on board a cruise, you have to prepare at least €45 to experience that. If you don’t mind poor live commentary and awful sound system, the cheapest cruise you can find is through Vedettes du Pont Neuf. They charge €14 for a one hour cruise, but booking online will only cost €12.

river seine paris

13. Book trains 3 months before your departure date. If you’re planning on traveling to other nearby cities or countries from Paris, make sure to buy your tickets immediately – exactly 3 months before your departure date. Economy seats are very cheap, but they sell out pretty fast. A Thalys second class economy seat bound to Amsterdam can only costs €35 if you book 3 months in advance. However, the rate can get up to €70+ in the economy section (sometimes even more) on a later date.

14. Claim VAT refund when you shop. Of course, you can’t leave Paris without a little bit of shopping! Some stores in Paris (especially luxury brands), offer tax free shopping where you can get 10-12% money back. If you spend more than €175.01 in one store and in the same day (and you’re a tourist from a non-EU country), you’re valid to fill a tax free form and claim your refund at the airport. Not all stores offer this so just make sure to ask the sales associates before you buy.

15. Score a book as a souvenir. If you love books or if you have friends back home who adore reading, a book from Paris becomes a memorable souvenir and work of art, which you can pass down from one generation to the next. Many street vendors sell second hand books along the Seine but these books are mostly written in French. Head to Shakespeare and Company and find English-language books. You’ll find the classics published in different covers as well as special editions. This is definitely a bookworm’s haven – mind you, you can get trapped here for hours and you won’t notice the time. You can also listen to free poetry and book readings, as well as literary workshops at Shakespeare and Company by checking their schedule.

shakespeare and company paris

shakespeare and company paris

Aside from brand new books, Shakespeare and Company also sell discounted books right outside their store so if you’re on a budget, you can still find one you’re interested in. Don’t forget to have your book stamped with that famous Shakespeare and Kilometer Zero Paris imprint.

Traveling to Paris doesn’t come cheap, but there are ways for you to save without having to starve yourself or skimp on the little luxuries of travel. Share this post to your friends and start planning your trip to Paris!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The contents of this entry are purely my opinion and 100% honest based on my travel experience.

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