How to Visit Paris on a Budget (Travel Guide – 2024)

Paris Budget Guide

Enjoying Paris on a budget may seem like a far-fetched dream, but allow us to unveil the secrets for savoring the city’s charms without causing financial woes.

Our guide is packed with tips for cost-effective accommodation, awesome hostels, free attractions, dining economically, and navigating the city affordably.

Consider this budget guide your blueprint for an extraordinary yet wallet-friendly Paris adventure.

I’ve visited Paris repeatedly and now call it home, so you’re getting practical budget-friendly advice that’s been put to the test! 

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

Here’s a breakdown of daily costs a traveler might encounter in Paris, along with low, middle, and high average prices for each:

  • Accommodation: [Low: €21] –  [Middle: €86-€150] – [High: €397+] 
  • Restaurant: [Low: €10][Middle: €40-€60][High: €80]
  • Public Transportation: Metro ticket cost 
  • Museum Entrance Fees: [Low: Free][Middle: €13][High: €18+]
  • Coffee: [Low: €1.5]  – [Middle: €5][High: €9+]
  • Baguette: [Low: €0.85-€1][Middle: €1.07][High: €2]
  • Beer: [Low: €3][Middle: €6.76-€7][High: €12]
  • Glass of Wine: [Low: €4][Middle: €5][High: €6] 
  • Crêpe: [Low: €3][Middle: €5][High: €8-€10]
  • Average Daily Cost (with accommodation): [Low: €65-€95][Midlle: €230][High: €300-€520+]

Please note: prices are subject to variation based on your location, the season, and other specific factors.

Explore Paris: Things to Do

Must Do

If you’re more of a night creature, we have an article on the best things to do in Paris at night.

  • Eiffel Tower: quite impressive when viewed from different vantage points in the city. No need to go inside of it. I particularly like the view in line Metro 6 going from Bir-Hakeim to Passy
  • Arc de Triomphe: free to walk around, unless you want to venture upstairs for a spectacular city view. 
  • Champs Elysees: Interesting site to look at luxury and rich people shopping (or people looking at rich people shopping).
  • Louvre: has beautiful gardens with works of art scattered throughout.
  • Churches like the Sacré Coeur Basilica.
  • Gardens such as Tuileries, Luxembourg, Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes
  • Historic cemeteries like the Cimetière du Père Lachaise.

Free things to do in Paris

There are plenty of exciting free things to do in Paris. Here’s a sneak peek to get you excited:

Entertainment: Concerts and DJ sets are organized in various venues across the city, offering affordable entertainment either for free or for the price of a drink.

Walking Tours: You can join free options like Local Greeters. Usually, most of these tours suggest a tip of around 10-15 euros.

Free Summer Festivals: During the summer, there are plenty of free entertainment options available almost every night of the week. Some examples include the Paris Jazz Festival and outdoor film screenings like Cinéma en Plein Air.

Resource: Free yearly event calendar in Paris.

Discounted or Free Museums in Paris

Paris is often compared to an open-air museum, and luckily, many of these attractions offer discounted or free admission.

It’s always a good idea to check any museum’s website for free entry or discounts. Several museums in Paris, such as the Musee d’Orsay and Pompidou, offer free visits on the first Sunday of each month. The Louvre also offers free entry after 6 pm on the first Friday of each month from September to June. However, it’s important to book early as spaces tend to fill up quickly.

You can also gain free entry to specific museums if your dates align with any of these cultural festivals:

  • European Night of museums (mid-May): Where museums across Paris open their doors after dark, offering free admission and special activities to celebrate culture under the stars.
  • Nuit Blanche (early October): Transforms Paris into an all-night art festival, with contemporary installations, performances, and light shows that illuminate the city.
  • European Heritage Days (mid-September): Invites the public to explore Paris’s rich history and culture, as numerous monuments and sites, often closed to the public, open their doors for a weekend of discovery and appreciation. 

Note: EU citizens who are under the age of 26 can enjoy free entry to various national museums and monuments, including renowned places like the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Sainte-Chapelle, Musée National Picasso, and Musée Rodin. Moreover, students can also avail of special discounted rates or even gain free access to most museums, as long as they carry their student card with them.

Some of our favorite free museums:

  • Musée Carnavalet (3rd): offers a deep dive into Paris’s rich past, showcasing the city’s history through an extensive collection of art and artifacts.
  • Petit Palais (8th) (my personal favorite): an architectural gem that houses a fine arts museum, boasting a collection ranging from antiquities to 19th-century masterpieces set within a serene garden courtyard.
  • Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris  (16th) (my second favorite): a haven for modern art enthusiasts, featuring a diverse collection of 20th-century art movements and contemporary works.
  • Musée Cognacq-Jay (3rd): a mansion-museum displaying an elegant collection of 18th-century fine art and decorative pieces that reflect the charm of Parisian life.
  • Victor Hugo House (4th): a dedicated museum where the famed writer once lived, offering an intimate glimpse into his life and works.
  • The Museum of Romantic Life (9th): set in a picturesque 19th-century townhouse and garden, celebrating the Romantic era with art, artifacts, and a tranquil tearoom.
  • The Bourdelle Museum (15th): an homage to the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, featuring his powerful works in a studio setting, alongside a peaceful sculpture garden.
  • Palais Galliera, musée de la mode de la Ville de Paris (16th): this fashion museum showcases the evolution of style with rotating exhibitions of historic and contemporary haute couture.

If this is all too generic for you, we have a special article on the most unusual things to do in Paris, check it out!

Shopping on a Budget in Paris

Budget-conscious but still a shopaholic? I understand… In Paris, shopping without breaking the bank is doable, especially when you know where to go. So let’s dive in and explore some budget-friendly shopping alternatives:

Consider thrifting shops like:

  • Adjace Paris: a trendy jewelry pop-up, offering an array of stylish and affordable accessories starting at just 5€.
  • Emmaus: a charitable thrift store network in Paris, where you can find second-hand treasures while supporting social causes and community projects.
  • Guerissol: a well-known thrift store in Paris, where locals and visitors alike can discover a wide variety of pre-loved clothing and goods.

Make sure to do your research before you go thrifting, some second-hand shops are very expensive.

Antique markets like:

Where to Stay in Paris on a Budget

Paris is divided into 20 districts, also known as “arrondissements”. The majority of its famous sights are nestled in the lower-numbered districts. The arrondissements spiral out like a snail from the central 1st arrondissement.

Generally, the cost of living drops as the arrondissement number rises. 

For the best quality/cost/fun ratio, check out our guide to the best hostels in Paris.

Note: The travel hubs of Paris are the districts surrounding the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, both located in the 1st and 7th arrondissements respectively. These districts are known for their higher prices. However, with the metro system, you can easily explore Paris’s top attractions without breaking the bank.

The best areas to stay in Paris on a budget:

  • Montmartre (18th) Artistic allure with a wallet-friendly flair.
  • Belleville (20th) Vibrant vistas at a value.
  • Montparnasse (between 14th and 15th) Central, accessible, affordable.
  • Batignolles (17th) Charming, cheaper, chic.
  • Salpêtrière (13th) Off-the-beaten-path price advantage.

Picking accommodation outside central Paris might appear more affordable, but once you consider the time spent on traveling and transportation expenses, it becomes less worthwhile.

My suggestion is to avoid staying in the suburbs. However, if you still choose to do so, make sure to select a safe one, as some have a reputation for lacking security, while others are completely safe.

Caulaincourt Montmartre

Eating and Drinking

Eating in Paris at affordable prices is an easy and enjoyable experience if you know about the following tips and hacks:

Water: Tap water and water from designated fountains scattered throughout the city are both safe for drinking. Here is a map showing all the safe water fountains in Paris where you can refill your bottle.

Restaurants, Bistrots, and Bouillon: Ordering from the prix fixe (set price) menu, lunchtime formula, or dish of the day will give you the best value with generous portions. To get even more, ask for a refill of the complimentary bread basket and choose a jug of water from the tap instead of bottled water.

Avoid: Avoid restaurants and cafes near the major sights!  

Eat at open-air markets for cheaper dishes and groceries:

Bakeries: Some offer “Bakery bags” filled with discounted unsold croissants and bread, usually available an hour before closing time.

Discounted Food: Get discounted leftover goods from bakeries, restaurants, and other food vendors on the Too Good to Go app, which is an innovative solution to combat food waste. With prices as low as 2 euros, you can purchase surprise groceries or meal bags. 

Discounted Restaurant Outings: La Fourchette offers amazing discounts of up to 50% off at over 1,000 restaurants in the city. 

Type of food that is generally cheaper:

  • Street crepe kiosks are scattered throughout the city. Some also sell sandwiches
  • Kebab shops (most Middle Eastern/Turkish kiosks) 
  • Sandwiches in boulangeries

Where you can find the most affordable groceries in Paris:

  • La petite affaire: a neighborhood grocery store with a selection of affordable products.
  • NOUS anti-gasp: Offers discounted items nearing their expiration dates and imperfect produce.
  • Aldi: Offers deeply discounted prices on a variety of groceries and household items.
  • Lidl: Offers a range of affordable groceries, fresh produce, and weekly specials.
  • Geant Casino and Casino: Vast assortment of groceries, electronics, and clothing.
  • U Express and Super U: Wide range of grocery products emphasized local produce.
  • Intermarché Express: Good selection of food and daily necessities.
  • People selling fruits and vegetables at metro exits

How to get around

The Paris metro system, RER train, and bus networks are extensive and easy to use. To get around, you have the option of choosing single metro tickets, ticket packs (known as “carnets”), or convenient transport passes. Here, you will find the most up-to-date and accurate pricing information directly from the official Paris metro.

Understanding Transportation Zones in Paris:

When purchasing tickets, a carnet, or a pass, you will have the opportunity to choose the zones in which you wish to travel.

  • Zones 1 to 3 – Paris and the close suburbs
  • Zones 1 to 5 – Paris, surrounding suburbs, Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports, Disneyland and Versaille
  • Depending on the zones you choose when purchasing your ticket, you will gain access to various metro, RER, bus, and tramway lines, as well as the Montmartre cable railway.

A simple t+ ticket: once validated, it allows for unlimited transfers on the metro and RER networks for 90 minutes (after the initial validation), and for 90 minutes on the bus and tram networks (between the first and last validation).

Carnet: ideal for those who expect to walk frequently and utilize public transportation more than 10 times. It includes 10 discounted ride credits.

One-day Navigo travel pass: unlimited travel in your chosen zones in Paris.

Navigo weekly travel pass: unlimited travel within your chosen zone from Monday to Sunday.

The easiest way to use public transportation is to use a Navigo Easy card, no matter what you choose. Simply load the card with credit, and fares will be deducted for each trip. For even more savings, you can skip the initial €2 cost for a Navigo Easy card and use the free RATP app on your phone. Your phone will serve as your card.

Cheapest Way to get to and From the Airport in Paris

  • Getting to and from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG):

RER Train: The most convenient and affordable way to travel between Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris is via the RER train. The RER-B line directly connects the airport terminals to the city.

Bus: The Roissybus Service by RATP is the most affordable option for traveling between Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris city center, although the RER is even cheaper.

  • Getting to and from  Orly Airport (ORY):

RER Train: The RER train connects Orly Airport to Antony station on the RER-B line. Use the Orlyval shuttle train to reach the station.

Bus: The cheapest way to reach the city from Orly Airport is by taking buses 183 and 285.

Best Time to Visit Paris

  • High season: From June through August – Bask in the sun, and embrace the bustle.
  • Shoulder season: September to October and April to May – mild crowds, milder prices.
  • Low season:  November to March – embrace the chill for the best deals.

*The earlier you book, the cheaper the prices.

Things to consider:

  • International school holidays and spring and summer weekends always see a spike in prices, especially around Valentine’s Day in February and Easter in April.
  • Paris Fashion Week graces the city twice annually, typically towards February’s end and again in September. To dodge soaring prices, consider scheduling your trip outside these high-profile events.
  • Although January and March offer more budget-friendly options, the average temperatures hover around 8°C (46.4°F) and 13°C (55.4°F), respectively. For those who are not fond of chillier weather, finding a middle ground between cost savings and comfort is key.

Viewpoint of someone who really hates the cold: Paris retains its charm throughout the year and even dazzles in the winter. Yet, I hate the chilly, damp weather that January brings. If I didn’t live here, I would avoid January like the plague.

Backpacking Essentials & Safety Tips

Here’s your guide to backpacking essentials and safety tips for Paris.

Safety Tips and Common Scams

  • Watch Out for Pickpockets: Popular tourist spots like the Eiffel Tower and  Montmartre are notorious for pickpockets. Always keep your belongings secure and be mindful of your surroundings.
  • Beware of Scams: Common scams include the ring trick near major landmarks, petitions signed by supposed deaf-mute individuals, and friendship bracelets tied around your wrist at Sacré-Cœur. Politely decline any unsolicited offers or interactions.
  • Stay Vigilant on Public Transport: Crowded metro and RER trains are hotspots for petty theft. Keep your backpack in front of you and be cautious of distractions that might be a setup for pickpocketing.

Cultural Etiquette and Tips

  • Greet Properly: When entering a shop or restaurant, always say “Bonjour” (during the day) or “Bonsoir” (in the evening). It’s a sign of respect and is expected of everyone.
  • Mind Your Manners: The French value politeness. Always use “s’il vous plaît” (please) and “merci” (thank you). Good manners go a long way in Paris.
  • Dress Appropriately: Parisians are known for their good taste in fashion. While you don’t need to dress up, avoiding overly casual attire (like flip flops and shorts) when dining in nicer restaurants is recommended.

Things Not to Do

  • Don’t Eat Near Major Tourist Attractions: Restaurants in these areas tend to be overpriced and underwhelming in quality. Walk a few blocks away to find better and more authentic dining experiences.
  • Avoid Making Loud Noises in Public: Loud conversations, especially on public transport, can be frowned upon. Keep your voice at a moderate level to respect the locals around you.
  • Don’t Forget to Validate Your Metro Ticket: Always validate your metro or RER ticket before boarding. Fines for not doing so can be steep and are strictly enforced.

For more information: We have a guide on 33 Tourist Mistakes to Avoid in Paris.

Resources and Planning

The local tourism office is a hidden gem for travelers, offering expert advice on saving money and navigating the city. Visit their office to inquire about complimentary activities and discounted tours and attractions throughout the city.

If you’re a student, it’s worth considering an ISIC card to unlock a suite of discounts and benefits as you explore the city. Revel in a 10% reduction at Generator Hostels and with New Europe tours. Furthermore, for those under 26 years old, national treasures such as the Louvre and Musée Picasso open their doors to you at no cost.

Paris Museum Pass: a great deal for any museum lovers visiting over three museums. With one card, you can access an incredible 50 attractions including the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Château de Versailles. 

Paris Passlib: offers discounted packages for sightseeing and transportation, which include a scenic boat tour along the Seine River.

Paris Visite Pass: allows for unlimited travel in Paris and the greater Paris region for up to five days. It also includes exclusive offers at select museums, attractions, and restaurants. 

Discount resource for backpacking families.

Conclusion: Your Budget-Friendly Paris Adventure

I hope you’ve found this budget guide to Paris useful. It’s filled to the brim with practical and useful information and resources to help you explore, eat, and sleep on a budget. 

Whether you’re basking in the splendor of its world-renowned landmarks, savoring a delightful pastry in a hidden boulangerie, or finding serenity in one of its many parks, Paris proves that the most memorable experiences don’t have to come with a hefty price tag.

Bon voyage!

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