Visiting Paris can indeed be quite expensive but it is entirely possible to travel to Paris, explore and have a great time while on a budget. Read all about how to get to Paris cheaply, where to stay inexpensively, what to do, how to get around and where to eat and drink all on a budget!
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TRAVELLING TO PARIS CHEAPLY
We understand that travelling to Paris can cost an arm and a leg but it's only something you'll have to do twice (or once if you decide to stay). However, we have a few handy tips for getting to Paris cheaply!
Our number 1 top tip for getting to Paris on the cheap is to book in advance! We know it's probably obvious but book as far in advance as you can for the cheapest deals before those planes start getting booked up! Another thing you can do is actually book last minute for cheap flights trying to fill their seats but you're not always guaranteed to find one and sometimes it might even be even more expensive. A good website to book last minute flights is Lastminute.com. Another great hack to comparing flight prices is using the popular Sky Scanner to make sure you get the best deal on your flights.
If you're travelling from London to Paris then the Eurostar is often cheaper than flights and you can catch it directly from the centre of one city to another. Running from London's St. Pancras Station directly to Paris' Gare du Nord you can save costs on an airport transfer. You can also find great deals using Snap Eurostar to travel on which ever day you like in the morning or afternoon.
If you're travelling from the US to France consider flying with low cost airlines such as Norweigan Airlines and Wow Air which travel to Reykjavik with a transfer to Paris.
However, don't always look to low-cost airlines! We feel that XL Airways is sometimes not seen. This airline service offers really cheap fares between France and the US, and the fares includes a piece of checked luggage - something you have to pay extra for with other airlines.
Affordable accommodation in Paris
Paris actually has a lot of more affordable options than the usual hotels in the centre. The areas in order seen in the picture below are Belleville, Strasbourg St-Denis / Grands Boulevards, Buttes Chaumont, Place Monge and the North of Montmartre. These areas offer a more local feeling of Paris at a reduced price! To find out more about staying in Paris on a budget you can read a more in-depth article here, which tell you the pros of each area.
If you're looking for somewhere to stay we recommend the fantastic Hotel Basss. A great boutique hotel which offers cheap rooms for visitors to Paris! Or try out Les Piaules - a youth hostel which provides comfy beds and high speed WIFI. You can also feel like a true local with their rooftop terrace and bar located inside the hostel. For a fraction of the cost of a hotel, you can be sure to save on your pennies, whilst experiencing a fun and dynamic area of the city. You can also often find cheap hotel rooms last minute using Hotel Tonight, but again it's risky if you don't book in advance as you might not have anywhere to stay at all.
Cheap tourist activities in Paris
There are lots of things you can do for free or for a very low cost, here are our top tips and favourites!
MUSEUMS & SITES
The cheapest way to visit Paris' main museums and attractions is on the first Sunday of every month when all of the main attractions are free. Here is a comprehensive list of everything you can get into for free: musée de l’Orangerie, le musée des Arts-et-Métiers, le Centre Pompidou, le musée Picasso, le musée du Moyen-Âge – Thermes de Cluny, le musée Eugène Delacroix, le musée Gustave Moreau, le musée Rodin, le musée d’Orsay.
Or if you're under 26 and living inside the EU you can get into most museums for free, however the exhibitions are still full price. But if you're on a budget, all you need is a piece of identity and there's plenty of places you can go to see!
Here are all the free permanent collections held by museums in Paris you can enter for free:
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Maison de Balzac, Musée Bourdelle, Musée Carnavalet - Histoire de Paris, Musée Cernuschi, Musée Cognacq-Jay, Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris, Maison de Victor Hugo, Musée de la Vie Romantique
Here are all the museums in Paris that are completely free all year round:
Musée national de la Légion d'honneur et des ordres de chevalerie, Musée – Librairie du Compagnonnage, Musée Curie (Institut du radium), Nouveau musée du parfum Fragonard, Musée de la Préfecture de Police, Arènes de Lutèce, Atelier Brancusi- Musée national d'art moderne - Centre Pompidou, Le Plateau – Centre d’art contemporain, Musée Zadkine, Mémorial de la Shoah, Musée d'Ennery, Musée national de l'Air et de l'Espace
A museum that is really cheap is Palais Tokyo which costs around 12€ for a full price entry ticket but all of the exhibitions are included. Fondation EDF is arts centre which offer a free space to see fantastic exhibitions and cool art, definitely something to check out on a budget.
And not to forgot, all of Paris' beautiful parks are absolutely free including Buttes-Chaumont, the Tuileries Gardens and the Luxembourg gardens! There's plenty of spots to enjoy Paris without spending a thing!
Free walking tours are a nifty thing that happen all over Paris and there are many companies that provide small intimate free walking tours for travellers to Paris in a multitude of languages. Although tips are greatly appreciated they are in themselves completely free, our favourite is City Free Tour.
Sightseeing can end up relatively expensive if you take the sightseeing tour buses, but a slightly cheesy but fully legitimate way to see the city is by the public bus routes! Full of scenery you can hop on one for only 1,90€ or free with a Navigo pass.
BEST BUSES: The No. 72 bus follows the length of the Seine from Hôtel de Ville past the Louvre and giving you lots of sights such as the Eiffel Tower. The No. 29 passes from Gare St-Lazare, past the Opéra Garnier, through all of the Marais, onto Place des Vosges and ending at Bastille. The No. 69 bus at Champ de Mars - by the Eiffel Tower rides through the Latin Quarter across to the Louvre and ends at Bastille. And the No. 73 goes all along the famous and iconic Avenue des Champs-Élysées, starting at Arc de Triomphe, through Place de la Concorde and finishes at Musée d'Orsay.
One of our top Paris tips for a river cruise it to hop on and off the Batobus all over Paris! This series of river boats is series of shuttles and stations all along the River Seine allowing you to get off when you want and explore and get back on to go somewhere else - great if you want to see the best of the Paris. The panoramic boat allows you to get to 9 different locations of Paris' main districts and monuments which are: Eiffel Tower, Musée d'Orsay, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Notre-Dame, Jardin des Plantes / Cité de la Mode et du Design, Hôtel de Ville, Louvre, Champs-Élysées and Beaugrenelle! 1 day ticket costs only 17€ or 8€ for children under 16. You can read all about river cruises in Paris here!
Taking a day trip may sound like something you can only do when you're not on a budget but if you purchase a Navigo Découverte pass for the metro, there are many places in the region of Paris you can travel to for free for a day trip! And here's how to visit Versailles in a day and Giverny in a day!
Getting around Paris
Although Paris isn't a huge city by any means, it is still big enough for the need of public transport and has arguably the best metro system in the world. Due to its price and efficiency it's one of the best ways of getting around Paris cheaply.
As I mentioned previously the public transport system in Paris is fantastic and with the Metro, RER and Buses running regularly - it makes for a speedy journey and cheap one at 1,90€ for one single ticket. Metro T+ tickets are used for all systems of transport inside the centre of Paris and is good for one journey in the metro system even if you change metro lines, one single bus journey without changing or for one RER ticket within zone 1. The tickets can be purchased in any metro station or on the bus and for more info about using public transport in Paris you can read this article.
The tourist passes are very overpriced so if you're here for more than one day we recommend purchasing a Navigo Découverte - an all inclusive public transport pass that lets you travel to the airport, to Versailles and anywhere else you can get to on the Paris public transport system. For a mere price of 5€ for the card and 22,15€ to charge it for a week - it is the cheapest way to travel around Paris with unlimited use. Be advised though that it only works during the week you purchased it so if you buy it on a Thursday it will only last until the end of Sunday - however even if you are here for the weekend, a return trip to the airport costs 20€ so you're nearly covering its costs straight away! For more information on the Navigo Découverte we have some Paris public transport tips here.
Another quick and cheap way to get around Paris is to cycle! Don't worry you won't have to purchase a bicycle but in fact rent one very easily using Paris' Vélib system. A simple pick up at any of the stations and drop off at any other station for only €1,70 for a day ticket or €8 for a seven-day ticket. You can find any of the stations using the Vélib app or Citymapper app which are pre-programmed onto our INSIDR phones so you'll never be lost looking for a place to return your bike! Read all about cycling in Paris and more about the Vélib system.
Cheap food & drink in Paris
WHERE TO EAT ON A BUDGET IN PARIS
If you're wanting to go out to a restaurant during your stay in Paris but you're on a very tight budget, the Saint-Michel area offers a multitude of different set menus that cost as little as 10€ for 3 courses. While it's not the greatest quality of food, some places can be quite tasty and with a wide range of styles of food there's always something that will take your fancy. At such a low cost it is a perfect place a restaurant meal for a family visiting Paris. Some of the quieter restaurants are quite intimate which is perfect for those romantics travelling to Paris on a budget.
Saint-Michel is also great for tasty cheap crêpes while visiting Paris. Our personal favourite is Crêperie Genia which offer a savoury crêpe, a sweet crêpe and a drink all for the price of 5€. You can find it at 7 Rue de la Harpe in the 5th district!
BELLEVILLE AND CANAL ST-MARTIN
Le Bichat is a fantastic restaurant vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free restaurant that offer big cheap portions enough to fill anyone's appetite! The big bowls are appetising and are a great option for eating out on a budget in Paris! You can find it at 11 rue Bichat in the 10th!
La Cantine de Belleville is a fantastic French restaurant in the 20th district of Paris. Main meals at only 12€ or a starter, main and dessert for only 18€ it is tasty and very cheap! It has a great atmosphere and is perfect for families, vegetarians, meat-eaters, romantic couples, adventures friends or anyone else for that matter! Open 7 days a week you can find it at
WHERE TO GO FOR A DRINK ON A BUDGET IN PARIS
This area is extremely liked by locals, ex-pats and tourists alike, offering cheap prices for food and drink all night long and you can enjoy many of it numerous bars any night of the week. While you can still find drinks on the expensive side you will also find those low cost beverages that will seem very attractive compared to other areas in Paris. It's also a great place to have a dance in many of its underground dance floors or 'caves'. Found between the 5th and 13th arrondissements of Paris!
One of the up and coming areas in Paris, Belleville is cheap, fun and trendy. Featuring lots of cool bars and restaurants if you keep an eye out for the boards outside of brasseries you can find a pint of beer for only 2,50€! Located in the North-East of Paris!
This place is a cool hilltop neighbourhood of Paris, found in the south-eastern 13th arrondissment. This is a beautiful place with lots of cheap drinking bars and nice food.
TOP TIP: Our top tip at INSIDR is to make the most out of 'Happy Hour' as it's called. In reality, this is 4 hours on average usually somewhere around 5pm-9pm but it will vary each place you go. Each place will have different deals from half price, reduced price or other special offers for those hours in particular. This can lead to saving lots of cash and enjoying Paris thoroughly on a budget.
SHOPPING IN PARIS CHEAPLY
Inevitably you may want to get gifts for your family, friends or even yourself when visiting Paris or just for supplies during your stay, here are our top tips about saving some money while shopping in Paris.
TOP TIP: If you're from outside of Europe and planning to do a lot of shopping you could be able to get a tax rebate on your purchases. If you're purchasing more than 175€ of goods in the same store on the same day, you have the ability to get 12% tax refund - so if you want to maximise your savings this is one way to save lots! You can read all about how to get a tax refund here.
For a cheap food shop you can go to the cheapest outdoor food market in central Paris - Marché d'Aligre. You can find it at Place d'Aligre in the 12th district of Paris; Open Tuesdays to Fridays from 9am to 1pm and then from 4pm to 7.30pm; Open on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm and then 3.30pm to 7.30pm; Open Sundays 9am to 1.30pm; closed Mondays.
For trendy second hand clothes you can head to the Kilo stores located on Rue de la Verrerie where you can find tons of brand names at a reduced price in Paris and you pay by the weight of the clothes, an interesting concept! There are also many Guerrisol vintage fashion shops around the city for vintage second-hand clothes.
HEMA is a chain store which have extremely low prices for crafts and decorations! There are tons situated around the city including inside big metro and stations. Their largest store is located just outside the Saint-Paul metro station on Line 1.