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Last updated on 2 August 2022 by Lena
Knowing how to save money in Paris can be a lifesaver when traveling on a budget. Especially in Paris, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Let’s not beat around the bush, here are 21 simple insider tips on how to visit Paris on a shoestring budget.
Visit one of the many Free Museums
While the famous Parisian museums like the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay are worth every cent, you can enjoy a wide range of art and culture in Paris for free.
For example, the Musée Carnavalet in the Marais district, that is about the history of Paris beginning in prehistoric times. Or the Maison Victor Hugo, dedicated to the life and works of the famous French writer.
More free museums in Paris:
- Musée de la vie Romantique (more Montmartre highlights here)
- Modern Art Museum of Paris
- Musée de la Liberation (more information here)
Know how to visit the other Parisians Museums for free
Apart from the Parisian museums that are always admission-free, you have even the possibility to visit the big and renowned museums like the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay for free.
Almost every museum in Paris is free for everyone under 18 and every EU citizen under 26. But even if you are not falling in this category, you can still profit from free entries. For example, during the Nuit Blanche on the 1st of October 2022 or the European Heritage Days on the 17th and 18th of September 2022.
If this still does not match your travel plans, you’ll be happy to know that most museums are free on a certain day of the month. For most, it’s the first Sunday of the month, for others the first Saturday evening. Best check directly with the museum to know what applies.
Good reads for your next trip to Paris:
70+ Free & Fun Things to do in Paris
This article may contain compensated links. Please read disclosure for more info.This article was updated on the 9th of August 2022 by Lena Sophisticated, elegant, and known for luxury and high-class cuisine – that’s Paris. While the opportunities are endless when it comes…
Consider the Paris Museums Pass
If you are an art lover, the free museums of Paris surely won’t be enough to please your gallery appetite.
Paris is known for outstanding galleries and museums, and paying for each museum easily adds up. Hence, you certainly won’t regret investing in the Paris Museums Pass. The smallest pass is valid for 2 days, and you only need to visit 5 museums for the pass to pay off. Click here to see all the benefits.
Use the Metro, Bus, and Tram
No matter where you are traveling to, using public transportation is the cheapest way of getting around. The Parisian Metro system is fantastic and transports you quickly and save to wherever you are heading to. Read our post about the Parisian Metro and how it works to know more.
Good to know: You can transfer from Metro to Metro on one ticket if you don’t leave the station. But you need a new ticket if you want to transfer to a bus or a tram.
Buy a Carnet of 10 Metro Tickets+
If you’re not taking a travel pass (which can be a good choice), it is cheaper to purchase a carnet of 10 ticket+ (€16,90) rather than purchasing tickets one by one. (€1,90)
Don’t hesitate to discover Paris on foot
Even though Paris is the capital of France, it is a surprisingly small city. Did you know that walking from the North to the South edge takes only a bit more than 2 hours?
When being in Paris, walking is not only cheap, it is also often the quickest way. We easily underestimate the time we spend inside Metro stations, and regularly it’s indeed almost quicker to just walk, than taking the Metro for 3 or 4 stations.
And use the Vélib Service
But talking about the Metro, the price can quickly add up if you are using it often. It can be more frugal to rent a bike with Vélib, the Parisian bike-sharing provider with more than 1000 stations all over Paris. If done correctly, you can rent an unlimited number of rides per day for as little as €5. Read our article on how to use a Vélib to make the most out of it.
Eat in Restaurants for Lunch
Paris is, after Tokyo, the city with the most 5-Star Michelin Restaurants. And while these restaurants are not easily affordable for most of us, there are tons of good eateries in Paris to enjoy fantastic food.
To save a considerable amount of money, you should prioritize lunch over dinner, though. A normal brasserie has usually a set lunch menu (starter and main, or main and dessert) for €10 – €13. But even most gastronomic restaurants are offering a cheaper menu for lunch. You can expect to be able to treat yourself to an exquisite 3-course lunch for between €20 and €30, a meal that costs you easily double if taken in the evening.
Take Public Transportation from the Airport
The Parisian airports Charles de Gaulle and Orly are both quite a bit outside of Paris and even though it might be tempting just to hop in a taxi, taking public transportation is almost as easy. The airports are connected by direct line to the center of Paris and since early March 2022, train rides are capped at €5. There is simply no cheaper way than sitting 30-40 minutes on a train.
Affordable Tourist Attraction: a Seine Cruise
If you are keen on doing some sightseeing while in Paris or simply want to embrace your touristic adventure, a cruise on the Seine is a great thing to do. It costs around €15 per person and grants you an hour-long relaxation while enjoying the fantastic Parisian Panorama.
A Cruise on the river Seine is one of the cheapest activities in Paris, and I recommend doing it by night for the added value. Paris by night, hat’s really something else.
Don’t pay for Wi-Fi
To be fair, Paris is maybe a bit behind when it comes to free Wi-Fi, but nevertheless, there are still many spots all over town where you can connect your device. You find a list of all public hotspots here.
But even if you prefer not to rely on the public network, most stores, and shopping malls are providing free internet service and so do Mcdonald’s, Starbucks, Prêt à Manger, and many more.
Take advantage of Happy Hours
If you like to enjoy a pint of cold beer or a glass of wine on a sunny Parisian terrace, you are very easily in for spending big. Paying €10 or even €12 for a pint is no exception, especially in the center of Paris. For not missing out but neither breaking the bank, watch out for Happy Hours.
Often between 17h and 20h, bars are serving drinks like beer, simple cocktails, and wine at reduced rates.
Book an Ibis Hotel
When traveling to Paris, your accommodation is in most cases the biggest cost factor of your entire trip. Frankly, the prices of hotels and Airbnb are horrendous in Paris, and you pay mostly for the location and not much more. Especially if you are looking for budget and even mid-range hotels.
A viable alternative are always Ibis Hotels. The chain offers no-frills stays that are affordable but are providing a good standard. More than 50 hotels in Paris belong to the Ibis group, and not every location is great, though. However, I put together a list of 5 Ibis Hotels in Paris, that are all perfectly located to explore Paris!
Buy cheap (but good!) lunches from Boulangeries
Whether you are dreaming of a flaky croissant for breakfast or about biting off the tip of an oven-warm Parisian Baguette, Paris is THE place where you can have it all. Bakeries in Paris are an authentic and very affordable place to treat yourself to delicious French specialties. Be it the pain au chocolate, a quiche for lunch, or a jambon beurre (ham and butter sandwich) for dinner, you can hardly be more authentic. Expect to pay about €1,20 for a Pain au Chocolat and €1 for a Baguette.
Don’t have Drinks in the Center of Paris
As already mentioned before, going out in Paris can be costly: A pint of beer can go up to €12, Cocktails even €20. Your best bet to avoid being charged horrendous prices is avoiding the center of Paris and any hip, exclusive or fancy area.
Overall, the Buttes-aux-Cailles in the 13th arrondissement is a great area to go for drinks and a beer will hardly cost you more than €6. The same applies to the student bars in the Latin Quarter and the pubs around Canal St. Martin and Oberkampf.
Get free Water at Wallace Fountains
When in Paris, you don’t need to spend any money on beverages when sightseeing. Just bring your bottle and fill it up at one of the Wallace Fountains as you go. The 107 green statue-like fountains are significant in the Parisian cityscape, and they are providing free drinking water for everyone. Initiated by Sir Richard Wallace a good 150 years ago, they are existent (and heavily used) until today.
Join a Free Walking Tour
Talking about the Wallace Fountains, there are several free self-guided walking tours that lead you around Paris to discover the fountains and also the history behind them. You find them here.
If you are not overly passionate about tab water, you can also join a free walking tour with Guruwalk. Even though the booking is free, you are expected to pay-what-you want after the tour.
Attend a Free Summer Festivals
As soon as it gets to spring, the festival season starts in Paris. The first major music festival happens each year on the 21st of June, the Fête de la Musique. Free concerts and events are happening all over Paris, some in venues, some just on the street in front of restaurants and bars. The Fête de la Musique is followed by Paris Plage, the Fnac Music Festival, the free cinema festival at La Villette and many more.
Have an Apéro by the Seine
One of the favorite activities of the Parisians is to gather and enjoy an Apéro together. In summer, preferably outdoors. Be it in one of the many Parisian parks, on the stairs of the Sacre Coeur, or along the banks of the Seine.
Organizing an Apéro is fairly easy: Just head to the next supermarket and get snacks and nibbles that you like: bread, cheese, cold cuts, grapes, tomatoes, spreads like hummus or tzatziki, chips, olives, and of course, a bottle of wine or some beers. Voilà, you are all set for an outdoor apéro.
Free Water and Bread in Restaurants
It is essential to know that you are neither expected nor obliged to order drinks when eating in a restaurant. You can simply order a carafe d’eau, and you’ll get a free pitcher of tap water. You just need to be precise and ask for a carafe d’eau. If you order a bottle of water or even sparkling water, you’ll be served a branded bottle and obviously be charged for it.
In most cases, the waiter brings a bottle without that you even asked for it. However, if you eat in a fancy restaurant, especially in the evening, ordering a real bottle of water is more appropriate.
Many dishes are served with bread. You’re not charged for it and can even asked for more.
You don’t necessarily need to leave Tips in Restaurants
I know it feels weird, if not outright rude, not to tip, but tipping in Paris is not necessary. Waiters are earning a normal salary and are not paid through tips. Even though they are not making a fortune, they are more or less paid what employees of hotels, supermarkets, or bakeries are.
This being said, tips are, of course, appreciated and if you feel like tipping, please do so. But don’t feel obliged, especially not to give a tip of more than 10%. Even 10% is pretty high.
As a guideline, most people leave between €1 or €3 on the table when leaving, depending on their bill. Nevertheless, it is not rude if you leave nothing at all.
Fill up your schedule with free Paris attractions
Read our article with more than 70 free things to do in Paris
There are many free things to do in Paris and if you are a fan of author readings, keep an eye on the event calendar of the beautiful anglophone bookstore Shakespeare & Company. At the time of writing, all readings and events are on hold due to COVID-19, but we are all eager to gather in this cozy bookstore again to listen to literature and poetry. The readings are free of charge and occasionally, they serve you even some wine.
This is only one of the fun things to do in Paris for free, there are more! Read our article to get the full list.
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