Paris On A Budget: A Backpacker’s Guide

Fancy hitting one of the most magnificent cities in the world but short on cash? Fear not, as I have put together this quick guide to visiting paris on a budget. 

Here I’m going to give you the best tips on how to do Paris without making a hole in your bank account. You’ll finally have a chance to practice those French language skills even if the only phrase you can say is ‘Voulez vous coucher avec moi?’ Although that might cost you. ;-) If you’re looking for more general travel tips, check out this post on the best places to visit in Paris.

Heading to Paris for a weekend? This guide should help.

The Champs-Elysées at night, Paris, France

Getting There

I highly recommend you checking out the ‘Ultimate Guide To Booking Cheap Flights’ post on this site to help you find some cheap deals to Paris. If you are flying from anywhere in Europe, check out cheap airlines such as Ryanair or Easyjet. Use Skyscanner to check when the cheapest dates to fly are, then book on the airline’s website itself.

The trick to cheap flights to Paris is thinking outside the box. If this means flying from the US to Paris via Iceland or from Bangkok to Paris via Norway, then so be it.

To avoid extra baggage charges, do your best to bring hand luggage only.

From The Airport

If you are on a budget and flying within Europe it is likely that you have landed in Paris Beauvais airport. All Ryanair flights, for example, land there.  Beauvais is in fact one hour driving from Paris and there is a monopoly on the transport to get to the centre. Therefore the ticket costs 19 euro which definitely adds up if you take into account that you have to pay this two ways. If you buy your ticket online in advance, you can often pay a few euro less.

There is also a company called T2Transfer doing direct airport taxi transfers from all of the Paris airports, which you can actually book online before you leave home. It’s only €55 for a taxi from Paris CDG to the city centre for 1-3 people, so if you divide that by 3 people it’s less than 20 euro each.

There is however a possible alternative. Check out Blablacar for cars leaving from the airport to central Paris. This popular French car-sharing site often has lots of availabilities for people leaving from and going to the airport. If you’re taking it to go back to the airport make sure to leave extra early, however, as although it is usually reliable you can never be too sure!

If you are arriving in Paris CDG – the main airport – your only option will be the train, and a ticket costs 10 euro one way to get to the centre. You may also find options on blablacar as mentioned above.

Getting Around

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Paris is an amazing city to just walk around in. And last time I checked, walking around is one hundred percent free! It is best to invest in a few metro tickets though. Buy 10 in the metro station which will save you fumbling in your purse every time you enter the metro and also it’s cheaper than buying just one.

Another option is the Velib!! Velibs are public bikes which you can find everywhere around Paris and cost under 2euro to rent for a day. You can pay for a Velib at any Velib station (only payable by card). Remember to change your bike at a Velib station every 30-40 minutes though (depending on your subscription) or you’ll have to pay a little bit extra.

Accommodation Options

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AirBnb

If you are looking to stay in Paris for a few days or even a few weeks but are on a tight budget, Airbnb is an excellent option and often works out cheaper than a hostel. The views from some of the apartments you can find are also nothing short of spectacular.

Couchsurfing

There are a number of active hosts in towns and cities around Paris that would love to welcome some genuine travellers into their homes. You might just get a couch, you might get a bed, you may even get your own bathroom with en-suite. While Couchsurfing is free, it’s always nice to bring a little gift for your host, or take them out for a pint during your stay.

Food and drink

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A night out in Paris can be ridiculously expensive. So here’s what you have to do if you’re visiting Paris on a budget:

Step 1: Pre-drink. Bars might be expensive in Paris but you can get some really good wine for bargain prices in the supermarkets. Pre-drink in your hostel or better if it’s summer go to the Quay along the Seine where there are often lots of other people having a drink or a picnic. One of my favourites is Quay Saint Bernard where there are often people dancing to Salsa/Tango/Irish music throughout the summer. No pressure to dance, you can just drink if you prefer!

Step 2: Stay away from expensive areas. Clubbing on the Champs Elysees is out if you want to save money. They charge upwards of 15 euro…per drink. It’s way too pretentious for us backpacker’s anyway!

Loads of bars in Paris do decent Happy Hours. One of my favourites is a nice Irish bar called O’ Connells on Rue Oberkampf where you can get wine for as little as €2.50 and beer for as little as €2! Also check out Au P’tit Garage, Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud for a glass of beer or wine for between €2 and 2.50.

Step 3: Getting home. Regarding transport, note that if you’re going out you can take a night bus home. Night buses run all night and cost less than two euro (you can use the same ticket as you use on the metro). The problem is that it might be hard to navigate yourself. If you are someone (not like me) with a good sense of direction then type in your itineray on the RATP website. http://www.ratp.fr/itineraires/fr/ratp/recherche-avancee

UBER is also widely used in Paris and can save you a few euro in comparison to taking a taxi.

Eating

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Again you can eat in your hostel or if it’s sunny bring a picnic to one of the amazing gardens mentioned or to the Quay. Of course it is nice to eat out a bit and treat yourself. You are in Paris after all! So do try and splash out on a nice French meal.

If you’re really looking to save money then a diet of Crepes could be an interesting delicious choice. In addition to being known for eating snails the French probably should receive more publicity for their amazing crepes. Try out ‘Au P’tit Grec’, Rue Mouffetard for some of the most amazing crepes in Paris. Always a long queue outside but well worth the wait!

Sightseeing

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Frankly my favourite places in Paris are those that don’t cost anything. Just walking around the city can take your breath away.

Visit the amazing gardens – le Jardin de Luxembourg, le Jardin des Plantes, le Jardin des Tuileries. Look up at the Eiffel Tower. Other free choices are taking the lift to the top of the ‘Arab Centre’ to get an amazing view of Notre Dame and the Seine, visiting Notre Dame Cathedral and taking a trip to the Pere Lachaise Cemetry (where Oscar Wilde is buried).

If you are under 25 and an EU citizen, it’s pretty easy to do Paris on a budget….as you can enter many museums and tourist attractions for FREE!! It pays to be young and beautiful!! If not, you have to pay entrance fees so just decide in advance where you want to go. If you’re older than 25 and have a bit of a baby face you can always chance your arm and say you’re a bit younger! But usually ID is required.

Note that on the first Sunday of every month most of the museums in Paris are free for everyone. So if you’re an oldie (over 25 that is!) try and coincide your trip with that if you are a museum enthusiast and strapped for cash!

I hope this guide was helpful to you! If you have any other suggestions on how to visit Paris on the cheap, please leave a comment.

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