Ahh, Paris. The city of love, fashion capital of Europe, and arguably one of the most expensive places to live and travel in the world. Or, so you might think.
Last week I spent three days in this charismatic urban jungle with my boyfriend Tom, as a surprise for his birthday (including a day trip to Disneyland)! It was the first time I had been and with the thought of seeing the dazzling lights of the Eiffel Tower with my own eyes and the princess’s castle, you can only imagine how ecstatic I was feeling! Tom had been to Disneyland when he was little but didn’t actually spend time in Paris, so it was wonderful to have this experience together. No prizes for guessing who was the most excited for Disney…As much as I love my boyfriend, my very first love was (and admittedly still is) Eeyore the donkey.
Once you are in Paris, restaurant meals, museum entry, attractions and transportation can add up quickly – but there are tips to be aware of I’m going to share with you, so that you can have a fabulous trip to Paris without breaking the bank.
TAKE THE EUROSTAR
Having experienced the Eurostar for myself, I’d always choose it over a flight if I was to go again. Charles De Gaulle Airport is just outside the city, while the Eurostar takes you straight into Gare Du Nord Station in the centre of Paris. To get the best prices, be flexible on dates. I got a youth ticket for £28.00 each way, that’s just £56 for a return journey. A steal! Search around for good flight prices too should you opt to be in the skies, however I couldn’t find a price for less than £60 each way. The Eurostar is comfy, clean and you get a decent amount of leg room. It takes around two-and-a-half hours from St Pancras to Paris so take a good book, music and some snacks to keep you occupied. Oh, by the way, you don’t feel going under the tunnel at all. I was a little too expectant hoping to see some fishes swimming above or something but no, there isn’t any visble marine life. Just a long, dark tunnel. I was disappointed…
St Pancras International is a five minute walk from London Euston and neighbours with Kings Cross – where Harry Potter fans can visit Platform 9 3/4. Just don’t try and jump into the wall…
BOOK ACCOMMODATION BASED ON WHO YOU’LL BE TRAVELLING WITH
Accommodation costs can be hefty and are often the biggest expense after transportation. Having a think about who you’ll be going with will help you to save a little extra on the cost of a night’s sleep, saving you more euros that would be better spent on some delicious Parisian delicacies. Crêpes anyone?
Travelling alone to Paris? I recommend a hostel. They are a great accommodation base for anyone on a budget. For those riding solo, hostels are fantastic for meeting lots of new friends to explore Paris with. Hostel World is my go to search tool when looking for a cheap, sleep paradise.
For a group of friends, hostels are also a good choice but it’s worth searching through Air BnB. You can rent out whole apartments for as little as 59 euros per night (based on my own search for the month of June). Air BnB is surprisingly cheaper than many hotels and eating out combined – shop for meals at local supermarkets and use the kitchen to cook up some French cuisine! If you split the cost between friends it works out to be a pretty sweet few days. Air BnB is a great choice for couples too, but if you decide to opt for a hotel…
CONSIDER THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE CITY
It’s no secret how expensive Parisian hotels can be, when I was searching around I found the cheapest night’s sleep to be further from the main attractions. We stayed in the Ibis Budget Porte Montmatre, in the suburb of Porte St Ouen. I knew what to expect from the Ibis as I had stayed in one on my course’s residential trip to Geneva. It wasn’t exactly close famous landmarks like Arch de Triomph, nor could we see the Eiffel Tower looming over Paris but it was easy on our budget, and close to a metro stop meaning we could make the short journey into the heart of Paris. Staying outside of the city gives you a fascinating insight into areas less known to tourists, a valuable cultural aspect you may not find in a central location. You’ll probably find the restaurants and shops are a lot cheaper. Like anywhere you travel to; be vigilant, don’t flash valuables, learn a bit of the local lingo, have fun and make the most of it!
If budgeting is your main concern for accommodation, don’t worry too much about where you will be sleeping. Google is your most knowledgable friend, so it pays to have a thorough search around to see what you will work for you. If in Paris for only a few days, its unlikely you’ll be spending much time in a hotel anyway!
GUIDES GALORE AROUND PARIS
Three days isn’t enough to see all Paris has to offer, it’s best to take your time exploring the city. Don’t rush to do everything in such a short space of time, if you run out of time at least you have the excuse to go back again!
Two days before we arrived in Paris, I found out about free guided tours offered by people who live in the city. A particular company I immediately loved as soon clicking onto their website is Paris Greeters. Local people will give you a tour of their city and provide you with a history based on your tour preference. You have to request for a guide but as mine was a little too late, we were unable to have our request fulfilled (next time I’ll book in advance). Check out the website and request for a guide ahead of time! While it is free, you can opt to give a donation to your guide.
YOU MAY BE ELIGIBLE TO VISIT A MUSEUM FOR FREE
Exploring the local architect and learning about the historical Parisian culture is a must for any first time trip to Paris. Again a short trip won’t allow you to see it all, so do some research into any museums you may like to visit. The Louvre is one of the most popular (it does house the Mona Lisa after all) and if you’re an EU resident and under the age of 26, you’ll be eligible for free entry! That goes for Centre Pomidou, Musée d’Orsay, Arch de Triomph and the Panthéon too! Skip the queues and head right into the culture. Oh Paris, you are even more beautiful when you are free!
OFF-PEAK WILL GIVE YOU THE BEST SAVINGS
Of course any budget conscious traveller will tell you the greatest money saving tip is to travel off-peak. We finish our studies at the end of May / early June, that gives you almost six weeks of off-peak before the main summer holidays begin. Disneyland Paris is always the cheapest on weekdays outside the school holidays. I purchased our tickets online prior to our trip, it cost just £36.00 for a one day entry into both the Disney parks. If I were to book it for the weekend, the price would have doubled!
I hope some of these tips give you an idea of how to budget and plan for a trip to Paris. There is so much more I’d love to tell you so I’m thinking of making a few student budget travel guides to download – similar to my hired@UCB magazine (if you had a browse through it) – let me know what you think!?
Have you been to Paris, any other tips you would recommend?