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How to Plan a Trip to Paris on a Budget

Most among us can only think of visiting the City of Lights in our dreams. But we, at Buzzle, are firm believers in budgeting, so when we're featuring an affordable Parisian adventure, you simply ought to begin taking notes.
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Tips for a trip to Paris on a budget
"There is but one Paris and however hard living may be here, and if it became worse and harder even―the French air clears up the brain and does good―a world of good."
―Vincent van Gogh
Thousands of articles written over Paris, and yet, we just can't seem to get over this city. Everyone wants to have their own version of Paris―one that's either artsy, ditzy, or kitschy. Not surprisingly, Paris has managed to muster up quite a fan following, since its pretty much been the hotbed of rebellion, teeming with avant-garde concepts in literature, music, fine arts, fashion, architecture, cuisine, and what-have-you.

Honestly, a visit to Paris is probably on everyone's agenda; since this is probably the only city in the world to literally have it all―from Disneyland to Moulin Rouge, and everything in between. So, without letting your budget woes weigh you down, here's a look some pocket-friendly tips to experience Paris.

Deal with the formalities upfront.
General budgeting guidelines tend to remain the same for almost all destinations, so we're going to do a quick recap of those before we get on to Paris exclusively.
  • Book your tickets early. The cost of a return flight to Paris does not fluctuate much throughout the year, since there is a steady stream of travelers flying there every month. Therefore, the earlier, the better.
  • Paris, being Paris, anytime is a good time to be here, so there isn't an off-season to speak of. The city does swell with tourists in the summer, but as every budget traveler knows that come rain or sun or snow, Paris is the city for all seasons.
  • Low-cost staying options are a reality in Paris, as for every George V, there is a Hotel Georgette as well. Opt to bunk in a hostel for a short trip; for anything over 10 days, you may want to try housesitting (with Couchsurfing) or renting an apartment.
  • Paris offers an endless array of cheap eats. Stock up on delicious baguettes and French yogurt, and you'll never really go hungry. More on how to find those cheap eats is discussed further in the article.
  • Parisians an environmentally-conscious lot, so they do walk a lot, and if not, they make use of their precious Vélib' bicycle rental service, to get around the city. Take your cue from them, and pedal your way to exploring the city.
  • Shopping in Paris is a delight, as long as you know the best places to shop, without breaking the bank.
Saving on Stays
As mentioned above, Paris has no dearth of options that caters to budget travelers, considering the number of young backpackers who visit the city each year. As expected, hotels and hostels in or close to the city center cost more, but you'd rather stay here than spend money on traveling back and forth when you stay in the suburbs. If this happens to be your maiden trip, it is advisable that you stay close to the city center in order to keep your trip hassle-free.

You may want to give these hostels a try:

Oops! Hostel | 50 Avenue des Gobelins, 75013 Paris or Plug-Inn Hostel | 7 rue Aristide Bruant, 75018 Paris

Good Morning Paris is an organization that helps you book B&B accommodation all around the city. The rooms may be slightly pricier than hostels, but offer upgraded amenities, and are certainly more affordable than staying at a hotel. Plus, there is always the opportunity to interact with local homeowners, and gain their perspective on the sights and sounds of Paris.

Saving on Meals
Paris is probably the home of sidewalk cafés. It is easy to find these tiny eateries at several nooks and corners around the city. Eating at Parisian cafés counts as a must-do. Most of them serve light and affordable one-course meals, so eating here is not only easy on the pocket, but also the authentic Parisian thing to do.

Maxim's may not fit into the league of budget travelers, but rest assured, you can sample the amazing French cuisine for less. To do this, try to find out where the locals eat, and head there, pronto. Cinq Mars | 51 Rue de Verneuil, 75007 Paris is a great choice for a cozy and delicious meal whose cost won't make you cry.

Another plus (and it stands true for most European cities) is that the restaurants have their menus placed outside their establishment. The prices are also mentioned alongside, so it is easy for customers to gauge if they can afford it.

Saving on Sightseeing
As mentioned before, Paris' tree-lined streets are a dream to explore on foot. Yes, the city does have a fabulous public transport system in place, and we do recommend you try it. Renting a car here is not only expensive, but the high parking rates will only add to your woes.

We suggest you rent a bicycle with Vélib'. This service allows you to rent a bike for short-term or long-term, pay at the center, and return it at any Vélib' station across the city. The service is affordable and environment-friendly, and is by far, the best way to explore the city.

Pocket-friendly Attractions
Agreed, most Parisian attractions do charge an entrance fee that may act as a dampener. But if you are a bit tenacious, there are a few ways to see these beauties for less. Here's how.

The Museums

Louvre Museum
Musée du Louvre

Getting into Paris' great museums is a top priority for most tourists who come here. The Musée du Louvre, along with Musée d'Orsay welcome patrons for free on the first Sunday of every month, particularly from October to March, if not throughout the year. Needless to say, there are serpentine lines to contend with, if you wish to bag a free visit to these great museums.

Entrance to Musée du Louvre's Permanent Collection costs Euro 12, and is free for those below the age of 18. A ticket to view the permanent collections in the Musée d'Orsay costs Euro 11.

The Gardens

Jardin des Tuileries
Jardin des Tuileries

Paris is abundantly green, and its gardens are certainly a delight to be in. The Jardin des Tuileries, for instance, is located on the right bank of the Seine, from the Place de la Concorde to the entrance of the Louvre. Locals throng the park to beat the heat in the summer, and also enjoy spectacular views of the city. You may also want to pay a visit to Claude Monet's favorite painting spot in Parc Monceau. Public parks are amazing places to pass time, soaking in the weather and the local atmosphere, and they don't cost a dime.

The Places of Worship

Notre Dame
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

The Notre Dame is Paris' most loved cathedral, equally for its history, its iconic architecture, and in part, due to Victor Hugo's well-known saga, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The cathedral does not charge an entrance fee, but you need to pay a sum to climb the North Tower.

Sacre Coeur
Sacré-Cœur Basilica

The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is one of Paris' highlights, and the crowning glory of the Montmartre district. Around 230 spiraling steps take you to the basilica's dome, giving you one of the city's most arresting panoramas, spanning up to 30km on a clear day. Entrance to the basilica is free, but a charge is levied if you wish to climb the dome.

The Cemeteries

Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Père Lachaise is perhaps the world's most visited cemetery. The graveyard is the final resting place of many famous names including artist Pablo Picasso, writer Oscar Wilde, and musician Jim Morrison. Undoubtedly, several fans visit the cemetery to pay homage to their idols, while others turn up to visit the most visited graveyard in the world. And yes, it's free.

The City of Lights

Paris at night
La Ville Lumière

Paris is a city that comes alive after sundown. Not for nothing does it get the title of the City of Lights. So, do not forget to take a late evening stroll along the banks of the Seine to view this wonderful city light up. Look out for the dazzling Eiffel Tower at night―it seems a thousand times more brilliant than during the day. Also, it doesn't cost a cent.

Paris is a delightful place to visit; and as you can see, is not too expensive as well. So, get moving, and plan your next holiday en la ville lumière.
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Published: February 6, 2014
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Magnifique! - Sheetal [February 6, 2014]