22 Ways to Save Money in Paris

By Nomadic Matt | Published July 17th, 2014

Beautiful landmark on a sunny day in Paris, FranceUncorking a bottle of French wine on a sunny day, spreading Brie on a baguette, gazing out on the Paris skyline in front of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre—to me, that’s the perfect day. Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world thanks to its cobblestone streets lit up at night under the glow of street lights, historic architecture, incredible music, savory delicious food, and smartly-dressed locals. Paris is a city I just melt into.

But Paris is also a city that melts the wallet. With the city’s plentiful restaurants, bars, and attractions, your money can disappear quickly if you aren’t smart. Luckily it doesn’t have to be that way, and there are plenty of ways to experience Paris without experiencing sadness over a suddenly empty bank account. Below are 22 ways to save big money on your next visit to the City of Light:

1. Visit the Louvre for free – Admission to the famous Louvre Museum is free the first Sunday of each month from October to March. Moreover, to avoid the massive ticket lines, enter via the Carrousel du Louvre entrance and you’ll get right to the ticket counter. You can also skip the lines if you have a Paris Museum Pass.

2. Save at the Musée d’Orsay – Tickets to the museum are only €8.50 after 4:30pm (except on Thursdays, when they’re reduced to €8.50 from 6pm until 9:45pm). Entry is also free the first Sunday of the month. Regular ticket prices are €11.

3. Buy a Paris Museum Pass – I’m a huge fan of tourist cards, and Paris is one of the best places to get one. There are so many museums and attractions worth seeing that ticket prices can really add up quickly. The Paris Museum Pass will help. It offers free and discounted admission to 60 museums and monuments around the city, and it lets you skip the ticket lines! Prices: €42 (two days); €56 (four days); €69 (six days). It pays for itself after a few attractions.

4. First Sunday of the month? Free museums! - If you happen to find yourself in Paris on the first Sunday of the month, most of the city’s major museums offer free admission. The downside is that they will all be super crowded as this is no secret!

A photo of the pyramid which was designed by IM Pei at the Louvre, a popular museum in Paris

5. Take public transport from Charles de Gaulle – Save money right when you land by taking public transportation into the city. You have two options:

  • Take the RER B (regional train) – This option costs €9.50 and takes 25–50 minutes (depending on your destination and whether you get an express train). Once you get into the city, you can transfer to the metro to reach your final destination.
  • Take a bus – The “RoissyBus” costs €10 per person and takes 45–60 minutes.

I prefer the RER, but depending on where you’re going, the bus might be more direct as you may not have to transfer to a local metro.

6. Skip taxis – The subway system in Paris is very extensive and can take you anywhere you need to go. Don’t waste money on overpriced taxis.

7. Buy a 10-pack of metro/bus tickets – Bus and metro tickets cost €1.70 each. However, you can purchase a “carnet,” which is a pack of ten tickets costing €13.70. It saves you €3.30—a modest savings, but better than nothing!

8. Take the Vélib’ – Paris’ bike-share program boasts over 20,000 bikes at 1,800 stations located throughout the city. You join by purchasing a one-day pass for €1.70 or a one-week pass for €8.

A view from above of the gorgeous Champs Elyses, a famous walking street in Paris

9. Stay in hostels – Hostels offer great accommodations for those on a budget, especially since most hotels in Paris are beyond expensive. Dorm rooms in Paris start at €15, and private rooms in hostels begin around €50.

10. Drink in hostels – Even if you aren’t staying in hostels, you should still consider drinking at their bars. They offer amazing happy hours with beers as little as €2. They’re a great place to start your night out in Paris without busting your budget.

11. Couchsurf – Nothing’s cheaper than sleeping for free. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see.

12. Visit the free sights – The city has a lot of free attractions, including museums like the Musée d’Art Moderne, Maison de Balzac, and Maison de Victor Hugo, most churches, and parks like the Jardin du Luxembourg. You’ll find a lot of places in Paris to visit for free.

The Eiffel Tower on a summer day in Paris, France13. Take a free walking tour – Free walking tours of Paris’ central sights are available from several tour companies. My favorite is New Europe Walking Tours. There’s also Paris Greeters, where locals lead you on a free tour of their city. It’s modeled after the one in New York. Be sure to tip your guides!

14. Remember that water is free! – When you order water at a restaurant, make sure you ask for tap water. They’ll try to provide bottled water and charge you for it, but tap water is free and safe to drink.

15. Get the set lunch menu – If you eat out, do so at lunch and get the prix fixe menu (two- or three-course set menu). Restaurants throughout town offer this set menu during lunch, and with prices between €10 and €20, it’s a way better deal than the regular dinner menu!

16. Pick up lunch at outdoor markets – Paris is a market city, with food markets throughout town. If you want to save big money on meals, head to one of the markets, pick up some cheese, wine, bread, meats, or anything else, and head to the park for a picnic. (Or grab a sandwich for later!) You’ll find the locals doing the same thing, and it’s one of the cheaper ways to get a true taste of French food.

People dining at a street cafe in Paris France

17. Head to the grocery store for basics – Grocery shopping is a no-brainer way to eat cheap. They have all the ingredients you need for basic foods as well as prepared meals. They sell wine too!

18. Enjoy free summer festivals – During the summer, you can find free entertainment almost any night of the week, such as the Paris Jazz Festival and outdoor film screenings like Cinéma en Plein Air.

19. Find free Wi-Fi – Free Wi-Fi is easy to find in cafes, fast food joints (all McDonald’s), parks, and museums. Eurocheapo has a good list of places to connect.

Black and white photo of a beautiful alley in Paris, France

20. Use Airbnb – Don’t want to sleep in a stranger’s home or a hostel? Airbnb offers the next cheapest accommodation options. This site allows you to rent a room or entire apartment in a Paris neighborhood. You get all the comforts of home! I’ve seen entire apartments for as little as $70 a night. Split that a few ways, and it’s cheaper than a hostel!

21. Fill up your water bottle around town – Paris has more than 800 water fountains located throughout the city where you can fill your water bottle.

22. Avoid shopping – Unless you’re a trust-fund baby, avoid shopping in Paris. High taxes and labor costs make everything more expensive than it needs to be. There’s nothing in Paris you couldn’t find a similar version of in your home country at a much cheaper price. Save your money and use it for experiences, not stuff.

Paris is an expensive city, and traveling there on a budget has become harder the last couple of years. But any major city has budget options, and by making a few small adjustments, you can find big savings that will make any trip to Paris fun, affordable, and memorable.

 

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comments 25 Comments

Fantastic advice! I love Paris, and you’re right: despite it’s reputation, it is possible to travel there on a budget. I didn’t know about the Museum Pass, which sounds like a great idea. Though if you’re an EU citizen and under 25, lots of places will give you free entry or at least a discount, so taking your passport around with you is a must. I didn’t know how extensive this scheme was until last time I was there. I visited the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and Sainte Chapelle, and was pleasantly surprised at all three! Too bad I turn 25 next birthday… :-(

Sherilyn

Walk up the Eiffel Tower! It’s much cheaper than the elevator and the lines are SO much shorter. It’s not too strenuous of a climb and it’s completely enclosed so it’s not scary to people who are afraid of heights!

Great advice! I’m planning on moving there in the near future and I hadn’t read some of these tips before. Thanks :)

Clare

I remember my time in Paris as I had an idiot American girl who was another guest basically laugh at me for asking at my hostel where the nearest grocery store was, telling me she couldn’t believe I was going to cook. Within an hour, there were several other guests and I sharing a meal together in the kitchen, and she had done a complete about face as she watched (nobody shared food with her as she was quite a piece of work) us all eat and share our stories of the day, asking another person where she too could buy groceries.

Alan

Great tips Matt as usual.

One thing I have learned (the expensive way) on my many trips to Paris, is that there is an unwritten price scale when sitting at a sidewalk restaurant/cafe.

If you sit closest to the sidewalk you will be charged a certain price (read high) for your beer. Sit at the back of the sidewalk tables and you will be charged less. Sit inside and you will be charged even less.

A friend and I found this out when we sat at the front at a restaurant on Place Republique. We were charged 27 euros for a couple of pints of beer, ouch!

Happy trails.

I’m bookmarking this for whenever I’m going to Paris. Thanks, Matt!

Kim

Looking at hostels in paris, they seem to cost the same as hotels if you want a private room (which I would need). As a solo traveller its disappointing because they charge you for the amount of beds in the room :/

NomadicMatt

Many hostels offer single bed rooms that are cheaper than double beds. However, in general, a private room at a hostel is never as good a deal as Airbnb.

If you visit Notre Dame cathedral on Sunday around midday you might be lucky to enter for free because usually are church services. I was lucky to have this opportunity this year in March.

Ani

Hey Matt,

These are some great tips. There are also some hidden places in Paris that are free to visit/explore. The Promenade Plantee, Belleville, and the abandoned railway were our favourite spots.

Couchsurfing is definitely the best way of exploring a city and saving money at the same time – we have made some great friends couchsurfing in different cities across the world.

Frances

Nice to know!

Love all the advice about museums. They can definitely be affordable entertainment if you pay attention to free days. Just be aware that free days will also typically mean crowds.

These are awesome tips. I stayed in Paris for 6 weeks as part of an exchange trip to learn French – luckily my accommodation was free, but Paris is by no means cheap. I wish I had known these tips then!

Good tips for Paris tour.I love shopping but due to high taxes I won’t do at the time when am over there.Thanks for so much information.i have updated myself and would take care in future.

James

Great advice Matt! Will be going to Paris soon and am even more excited to plan the trip now because of these tips. Thanks!!!

Archagon

I recommend checking http://paris.en.craigslist.fr/sub/ for sublets. I couldn’t find anything on Airbnb last-minute for less than €40/day in the less savory arrondissements, but found a flatshare for €20/day near République on my first Craigslist attempt. Maybe I was just lucky, but I think it’s worth a shot.

Danielle

Great advice. I wanted to add another piece to the comment that many museums are free for those under 25 from the E.U. This also works for anyone under 25 with a long-term visa! So if you’re studying or teaching abroad, you can save a little money by showing your visa!

2 things!

1. You can also get free admission to the Louvre on Friday nights all year-round if you’re under-26!

2. As far as Airbnb goes, a friend and I rented a studio for $43/night in Paris. Granted it was cramped quarters, but your own place for ~$21 a night? Can’t beat it. Definitely check out Airbnb!

Joanna

Ahhh Paris ! I was there recently and found at the airport that Air France has a bus for 7.50 Euros that will take you to Gare de L’est or Gare de Montparnasse. You can jump on the metro or bus from either of these places. One of my favorite places in Paris is the Grand Mosquee de Paris and it’s tea room in the 5th arrondissement. It’s a donation.

Don’t waste your money buying drinks in Paris clubs! Buy a bottle of cheap wine from a grocery store, and sit along the Seine with the Parisians. Something interesting almost always happens.

Julie

Great article— If really want to visit the museums, arrive early. On our last visit to Paris, the lines to get into the Orsay were so long, we decided we didn’t have time to stay and wait! Fortunately, for us, we had been before, but we were really looking forward to a return visit. It is an awesome museum!

I fully agree to the author’s view that though Paris is a very luring tourist destination, it is also one of the most expensive European cities. Everything from transportation to accommodation is very costly in the French capital. The money saving ideas you have mentioned in the article seem effective, but their practicality is very doubtful. For instance, you mentioned that one should avoid shopping in Paris; however from personal experience I can say that this can be extremely difficult considering the huge range of attractive items one sees in the shops there.

Awesome post! Can’t wait to go to Paris.

It seems pretty unrealistic to allot a very limited amount of money for your planned vacation to a city like Paris. Who doesn’t want to go to Paris? Everyone I know who went there have only great stories to tell about their vacation. Everyone knows it’s an expensive city to visit and yet it does not discourage us to hope that someday we’ll get to visit Paris. Even I, who is in a tight budget, cannot bring myself to take it off my bucket list. Reading this article only made me want to go to Paris more than ever. So thanks for keeping my dream alive and for the beautiful pictures! There’s no stronger motivator than pictures so I love travel blogs that has lots of imageries.

NomadicMatt

Hopefully this motivates you to go! :)

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