Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is a prime destination for travelers. However, Paris is also one of the most expensive cities in the world, but it does not have to be. Here are a few tips on how to make your trip to Paris not just affordable but fun and memorable as well:
1. Book Early
In general, prices of hotels and plane and train tickets tend to go up the closer you get to the travel dates. The demand for last minute business travelers pushes the prices up. Booking early on the other hand allows you to take advantage of early booking discounts or holiday incentives. Expect to get at least two digits percentage discounts on the advertised prices.
Booking early also means you don’t have to settle for second best. By booking early, you will have endless choices. You can get your preferred travel dates, you can choose your airline seats and you can pick the best hotels and room preferences from vast array of choices. As the travel date nears, choices tend to narrow down. The last thing that you want for example is to find yourself seated in an uncomfortable middle seat at the back row of the plane in a long flight.
Click here to find out more ways on how to save on hotel costs.
2. Learn Basic French
Although more and more French are speaking English, it is still a good idea to learn basic French before traveling to the City of Lights. It is considered rude to just speak to them directly in a language that is not their official language in their own country. All you need to do is to memorize a few phrases like:
- Bonjour (bon-zhour) – Hello
- Merci (mair-see) – Thank you
- S’il vous plaît (see-voo-play) – Please
- Au revoir (oh-reu-vwar) – Goodbye
- Oui (wee) – Yes
- No (noh) – No
- La toilette (lar twa-lette) – The washroom, toilet
- De l’eau (deu-lo) – some water
- L’addition (la-dis-yo) – The bill
- La gare (lar gar) – The train station
- L’aeroport (l’aero-por) – The airport
If you really can’t, at least memorize this one phrase:
- Parlez-vous Anglais? (par-le-voo- ang-le) Do you speak English?
Many French will appreciate your effort and will respond to you in English or refer to you someone who does.
3. Avoid Pickpockets
While Paris is known for its glamour and fashion, unfortunately, it is also known for its pickpockets. Consistently ranked on the top of the most visited cities in the world, it is no mystery that the city is also a magnet for pickpockets.
The good news is that there are ways to recognise and avoid them altogether. Keep in mind that they mostly work in groups. They blend in the crowd. They are dress just like everyone else. They include children and the elderly.
Their style is all about distraction. They will distract your attention. While you are busy trying to figure out what they are trying to say, an accomplice lurking in the shadows will grab your belongings and ran before you even have a chance to figure out what happened.
Here are just some of the ways that they will try to distract your attention:
- They will ask you to sign a petition for some noble cause. If somebody approaches you to sign a petition, do not sign and just continue walking. Just say no or better yet don’t look at them and be on your way.
- The pickpocket will point something at a pavement and ask you if that belongs to you. If this happens, just nod your head and walk away. If you want to check if you really dropped something, you can do so but be sure that you are holding tightly to all your belongings. Many people fell victim to these scam that unsuspecting tourists end of loosing their bags or worse your luggages.
The bottom line is to be aware of your belongings and surroundings at all times. Only bring the essentials in your purse or wallet. One identification, one credit card and a small amount of cash are enough. Also, carry your valuables where you can see them or slightly in front of you. In that way, it will be difficult for pickpockets to get them without catching your attention first.
Click here to find some smart ways to carry money when traveling.
4. Dress like a Parisian
Paris is the fashion capital of the world. What better way to stroll the streets of Paris than to dress like a Parisian. Effortlessly chic and elegant, you will not only blend in the crowd but your souvenir photos will look like photo shoots from fashion magazines amidst the stunning backdrop of the city of Paris. In addition, not looking like a tourist will keep the pickpockets away from you.
To dress like a Parisian, your goal is to look timeless. No trends. Parisians love wearing something black. If black is not your thing, then at least stick to neutral colours. Go for classic pieces. Rather than brands, what’s more important is the fit. It is all about simplicity and neatness. The idea is to look effortless yet elegant at the same time.
5. Visit Museums for Free
A visit to Paris will not be complete without a visit to at least one of the more than 100 museums found in the city. However, visiting museums can be heavy on the pocket. The good news is that there are certain days of the year where admissions are free. These are:
- First Sunday of the month from the months of October to March (for the rest of the year, admissions are still free for those under 26 years of age and citizens of EU).
- The Louvre, the largest and most famous museum in the world, offers free admissions every Friday nights.
If your travel dates do not fall on those days where admission is free, it is a good idea to get a Paris Museum Pass. Buying individual tickets to museums can cost a fortune. The Museum Pass offers free and discounted admission to about 50 museums and monuments around the city. It also lets you skip the ticket lines which can be quite busy. Queuing in line can take about an hour or two during busy seasons. You don’t want to spend your precious vacation time buying tickets, do you?!
6. Join Free Walking Tours
When travelling abroad, the best way to understand the history and culture of a city is to join a tour. As part of a tour, you will have access to the best insider knowledge there is about that city. A tour guide will be able to answer your questions and recommend the best restaurants and bars to visit.
Joining a tour group costs money but fortunately, Paris, like any other European cities offers free walking tours. You can join any of these tours for free. The tour guide earns money through tips given by those who joined. Tips are not mandatory. Tips are based on how satisfied you are with the tour. Because of this system, tour guides from such tours are normally better, more knowledgable and more enthusiastic not just because of the tips but because these people are volunteers. They show tourists around not because it is their job but because they are proud of their city and they love to show it to others.
7. Skip Taxis
Paris and the rest of France for that matter has a very efficient transportation system. Why spend all those money on hotel transportation services and taxis when you can easily navigate yourself around the city using their public transportation system.
If you will only be in Paris for a few days, buy a ‘carnet’. A carnet is simply a pack of 10 tickets at discounted price.
For longer visits, you are better off buying a Navigo Pass (Passe Navigo Découverte). A Navigo Pass is a smart card for unlimited access to the the Paris bus, Metro, RER, and other trains. You can even use it to and from the airport. It is available as a weekly pass and a monthly pass. You will need to buy the actual ID card for your first purchase which is valid for 10 years.
If you are a biker, you can even use the card in the Velib, the Paris bike share program that has over 20,000 bikes in 1,800 stations around the city. You can get the bike in one place and return it on another.
But remember, the best way to explore Paris is to walk, walk, and walk. Stroll around the city and get carried away by its charm and magnetism.
8. Drink Tap Water
Tap water in Paris is absolutely clean, healthy and safe. So why spend on bottled water and harm the environment when you can perfectly drink the tap water? Remember this phrase each time you eat at a restaurant, une carafe d’eau, meaning a pitcher of water please.
In addition, there are about more than 1,200 water fountains in the city. You can always bring a water bottle with you and have it refilled in one of those fountains.
9. Never Pay for Wifi
Never pay for Wifi in Paris. Most hotels, whether expensive or budget offer free internet services. In addition, there are plenty of places to get it for free. If you need to call home, use free online calls.
10. Shop for Less
Paris is one of the shopping capitals of the world. The mere thought of shopping in Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the most famous shopping street in Paris, is so enticing. For sure you will find the latest in fashion at the Louvre or the Boulevard Haussman. In addition, who could say no to a classic shopping experience at the posh St-Germain-des-Prés.
Before you start your shopping escapade, did you know that there is a way to shop for less in Paris? Just half an hour away from Paris is a shopping outlet for designer brands. At La Vallée Village, you can shop for your favorite brands with at least 30% to 50% off.
If you have a penchant for antiques, vintage or any slightly used goods, just head out to Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen. The Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen is the biggest flea market in the world covering seven hectares with more than 3,000 traders. Established in 1870, the flea market is just outside the city line perched at the northern edge of Paris.
11. Buy Meals for Less
Paris restaurants normally offer set meals during lunch from 11 am to 3 pm. Lunch deals are usually more affordable compared to dinner menus. A lunch menu usually consists of two to three courses. Save money by taking a heavy lunch and eat a lighter meal for dinner.
If you want to save big money, head to one of the outdoor markets. In this way, you will not only get a taste of true French food, you will also save a lot of money.
And then of course, there is always the grocery store. You will be able to find the ingredients that you need as well as prepared meals in the grocery store.
And lastly, don’t forget to have a taste of a freshly baked baguette. Eat the baguette with some French cheese and you are good to go.