Paris. The City of Lights. A literal and figurative monument to human creativity, ingenuity, and aesthetic imagination.
From the majestic Cathedrale Notre Dame to the sublime sculptures of Tuileries Garden, everything you have ever heard about the beauty of Paris is completely true. This is why the City of Lights is the third most visited city in the world. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the reasons Paris is not considered a budget friendly destination for backpackers and others traveling on a shoestring.
Backpackers and thrifty travelers have no need to despair, however. It IS possible to visit Paris on a shoestring budget! We did it, and we’re happy to tell you how.
Paris on a Budget
Paris is notoriously pricey, and rough on the budget traveler’s or a backpacker’s wallet. When it comes to Western Europe only London and Stockholm will drain your bank account as quickly. If you are looking to keep costs down it pays to have a a budget and a plan before visiting.
So what will you be spending all your money on in Paris?
Hostels and Accommodations in Paris
Your number one expense will be accommodations. It sort of goes without saying but you can save a LOT of money when visiting Paris by NOT staying in a 3 or 4 star hotel. However…
The best hostels in Paris can be laughably expensive, with the average cost of a dorm bed coming in at over €35.00 a night anywhere within 4 kilometers of the city center during high season. So, if you want to stay in a hostel you should chose wisely.
We recommend that backpackers and budget travelers visiting Paris select hostels with kitchens, and hunt down any offering free breakfasts in the interest of saving as much money as you can.
Hostels aren’t your only options for finding a cheap place to sleep. Couchsurfing and Workaway can both be tremendous money savers. If you are up for the adventure both of these websites completely negate the cost of accommodations, in different ways.
Find Great Rates on Hotels in Paris on Booking.com!
Likewise, it is also possible to find good deals on Airbnb, particularly if you are willing to live a bit outside of the center. Since we had only a week in Paris before commitments elsewhere in Europe, we decided to rent a studio located twenty minutes by metro from the center. The cost of the rental was only a few Euro more than the cost of two dorm beds, and was far cheaper than most of the hotels we researched.
Airbnb prices have him on the rise as the popularity of the site grows, and finding a great deal is much harder than it was two years ago. However one can find real value there, especially if traveling in groups of three or more.
Food and Drinks in Paris
Eating out in Paris is generally an expensive proposition, and a big night out drinking even more so. Thankfully, you can buy cheap beer and even cheaper French wine in any super market. If you cook, good on you. You’ll save a ton of money. If you don’t, do not despair, you can still find some cheap yummy food to consume.
Crepe stands are everywhere in the center of Paris and you can get a hefty and delicious French pancake filled with ham and cheese for about €3.50. Likewise, Falafel stands are prolific and the perfect meal on the go. Our favorite snack or lunch was a loaf of the famed french baguette stuffed with creamy brie, or sliced veggies, and leafy greens. A delicious DIY meal for only a few Euros. Additionally, Paris is filled with fantastic ethnic food. From Vietnamese, to Moroccan, to even Mexican, you can find some nice deals around town for under €10.00.
If you’d like to experience a sit-down meal in Paris, there are still some affordable options if you dine out at lunch. Have a look at the Guardian’s best pics for Bistro meals under €20.00 in Paris.
Getting Around Paris on a Budget
Taxi rides can zap the typical daily backpacker budget, and Paris is a large city. You have options, however. The Metro in the center of Paris is extremely efficient, with most trains arriving within 5 minutes of one another, and should be more than enough to meet your transportation needs. A word of caution, the Metro shuts down around midnight so unless you want to pay for a taxi make sure you are within walking distance of your accommodations.
The city also has a rent-a-bike system in place and it’s pretty inexpensive for short term travel from one place to another. Lastly, use your legs! Paris is an amazing city to walk around in, probably the most interesting walk-about city we have ever visited. It might take longer, but it’s also more rewarding, especially when the weather is nice.
Daily Budget in Paris
So, after all is said and done, what is the minimum daily expense for backpacking and traveling on a budget in Paris? If you opt to Couchsurf, and are able to prepare most of your own meals while avoiding bars, you can easily get by and explore the City of Lights for $20 to $30 a day. Tack on another $35 to $50 if you are staying in a hostel in Paris, or for another form of budget accommodation.
The price guide below should help you get an idea what sort of prices to expect in supermarkets, while eating and drinking out, and for some activities you shouldn’t miss.
Also, be sure to check out our article Top Ten Things to Do on a Budget in Paris, France!
- Private Apartment for Two People found on Airbnb – €64.00 per night
- Dorm Bed in a Hostel – €17.00 per person, 6 bed dorm, 10 kilometers outside of the City Centre
- Dorm Bed in a Hostel – €32.00 per person, 4 bed dorm, 3 kilometers outside of the City Centre
- Double Private Room in a Hostel – €42.00 per person, shared bath 3 kilometers outside of the City Center
- Coffee at a Paris Cafe – €2.00
- Vegan Burger and Fries from Hank Restaurant– €10.00 – €12.00
- 150 g Camembert Cheese – €1.60
- Baguette – €1.15
- Jar of Raspberry Jam – €2.63
- 6 Eggs – €2.55
- 2 Figs – €0.59
- Carton of Strawberries – €4.00
- 2 Greenhouse Tomatoes – €1.05
- 1 Gala Apple – €0.49
- 1 Shallot – €0.24
- 1 Head of Garlic – €0.90
- 1 Large Lemon – €0.61
- 1 Red Bell Pepper – €1.29
- 1 Bunch Parsley – €1.00
- Hass Avocado – €0.99
- Head of Red Leaf Lettuce – €0.90
- Vine Ripened Tomato – €0.87
- Packaged Italian Ham 80 g – €2.44
- Small Bottle Water – €1.00 – €1.50
- Glass of Wine at a Bar – €4.00 – €6.00
- Pint of Beer at a Bar – €4.00 during happy hour up to €8.00 normally
- Bottle of French Wine at Grocery Store – Starting at €3.50
- 6 Pack of Baltus Beer at Grocery Store – Starting at €2.89
- 50 cl Can of Stella Artois at Grocery Store – €1.16
- Louvre Museum Entree Fee – €12.00 normally (Some guests qualify for free or reduced admissions. For more information, click here.)
- Cathedrale de Notre Dame Entree Fee – FREE
- Père Lachaise Cemetery Entry Fee – FREE
- Napoleon’s Tomb Entry Fee – €9.50
- Rodin Museum Entry Fee – Museum and Garden: Full Rate €6.00 , Garden Only: Full Rate €2.00 (Many guests qualify for free or reduced admissions fees. For more information, click here.)
- Basilica of the Sacré Cœur Entry Fee – FREE
- Exploring Famous Paris Neighborhoods like Saint Germain des Pres, Le Marais, Montmartre, etc. – FREE
- Free Monuments and Attractions – Tuileries Garden, Pont Alexandre III, Garden and exterior of the Eiffel Tower, window shopping at Le Bon Marche, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Les berges de Seine.
- Bike Rental – Flat Rate of €1.70 per day plus €1.00 per every 1/2 hour. First half hour is free every day.
- Metro – €1.70 per ride
Final Thoughts on Traveling to Paris on a Budget
Paris is an amazing city, and its prices should not deter you from visiting. With a little bit of planning and frugal use of your available funds you should be able to explore many of the city’s attractions for days without spending too much.
Expenses for activities you might want to partake in should not be factored into your daily budget. This becomes overly complicated. An easier way of going about things is to calculate your minimum daily expense and then set aside all left over funds you care to spend into an “activities” pool. Thus on a day when we went to the Louvre, Napoleon’s Tomb, or had a few extra drinks in the evening, we did not consider ourselves over budget even though we spent a bit more, we just subtracted it out of the “activities” pool.
You need to remember to set aside some money for things like taxis if you plan on being on the move at night. That aside the above formula should be a great place to start when budgeting the trip of your dreams.
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