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Paris in 7 days on a Budget

Greetings Fellow Travelers: My daughter and I will be traveling through France April 22 - May 8, with spending 7 of those days in Paris. I'm on a limited budget and am getting somewhat anxious about the costs associated with our stay for the Paris portion. I've secured logging through VRBO for a reasonable cost and aim to purchase a Museum Pass, but wondered if there were any other tips to keep our expenditures down. I hear it's a very expensive city and on cursory research see that we could be up against a significant amount of money. We are very culturally oriented in that, we plan on seeing the museums, however, my daughter an avid fashion blogger at 19 would also like to see fashion oriented exhibits /shopping etc., Any and all information much appreciated.

Posted by
10344 posts

You are going to the right place for fashion, as Paris is one of the world's top fashion centers.
I guess you should be dressed for it, depending on which fashion venues you go to.

You're right that Paris, like many European big cities, is a bit on the expensive side.
It doesn't have the free museums like London has.
At least you're not in Switzerland! (now that's expensive)

The Paris Museum Pass is not cheap but may save you money if you're going to museums in Paris that are covered by it. Carefully note the name above, there are other passes with similar names that are not as good.
The best description I've seen, of how to decide if it will save you money, is in Rick's Paris guidebook, which also has other budget tips.

Posted by
16893 posts

I don't consider Paris to be as expensive as London or some Swiss cities. Lodging is your main expense, which you have now locked in. Restaurants can be expensive, but luckily, the prices are posted outside, so you can look before you leap. Markets, bakeries, crepes, and other simple food options are extensive; see also Rick's eating tips. The Paris Museum Pass covers most sightseeing, a Carnet of 10 Metro tickets is a good value, and lots of the city is walkable, as well. Using the tips in Rick's guidebook is always good budget strategy, but it won't cover much fashion.

Posted by
227 posts

Take public transportation! Purchase your metro tickets in groups of 10 - a save a little there, plus they can be used on the buses also. The buses, themselves give you glimpses of Paris. The metro gets you to your destinations quickly, especially during rush hour time. Also, eat breakfast and dinner in your apartment. We enjoy a croissant, roll, or baguette with butter and/or jam in the am.....the price of a baguette is controlled by the government - it's cheap (and, oh, the butter!). There is a bakery on every corner! The French eat dinner later than we do in the US - we eat a nice lunch out every day then have bread, cheese, sausage with some fresh raw veggies for dinner. Or, purchase a 1/2 Rosemary chicken if you wish. We have our dinner with a purchased bottle of wine then take an evening stroll stopping for ice cream (especially if on Ile St Louis) or a pastry....some times a digestive at a street side cafe. There are plenty of local places to eat or purchase food, just walk a block or two off the beaten path, being careful where you wander. Paris is beautiful at night! Enjoy!

Posted by
359 posts

I agree with Laura, above.

DON'T skimp on paying for museums and sights. That is one of the most important parts of your trip. (Do enjoy free things like simply walking and people watching in the parks though.)

the other thing that can really drive up cost in Paris is food. You can spend a lot at a restaurant, but if you have an apartment you can find small supermarkets and get picnic items for lunch and breakfast and then just plan out a couple nice dinners during the week.

Have fun! I love Paris!

Posted by
10344 posts

Suggest that one area where you don't want to pinch pennies is your spending for museums and other sights that you really want to see.
After all, that's why you're going, right--to see those.
See if the Paris Museum Pass will save you money. It's not cheap but may save you some money, without giving up the things you came all that way to see and do.
Shopping is an area of discretionary spending, where you can choose to spend or not spend, and save some money if you are so inclined.
Food is another area where you can save in Paris: there's wonderful food there and so you don't want to scrimp too much on food, but there is a big difference, cost-wise, between eating in a formal restaurant every night, compared to seeing what the cafes and brasseries have to offer, and the street vendors (the falafel vendors are a favorite of some travelers here). There are 3 basic types of eating places in Paris:
The brasseries and cafes are, generally, less expensive than the restaurants, and if you pick carefully, you can save some money there. The menus are posted outside, a big help.

Posted by
1806 posts

For fashion, check out Palais Galliera/Musee de la Mode. Also, Galeries Lafayette department store holds a fashion show on Friday afternoons and while you are there, head up to the rooftop so you can go outside and take some photos of Paris. There are a lot of flea markets and vintage clothing stores she might enjoy shopping at (or at least looking and writing about them on her blog) scattered around the city.

The Museum Pass is worth it if you really intend to hit a lot of the museums in your 7 days. If you aren't going to museums every day, you may want to get a shorter length pass and consolidate your museums within the span of a few days (just make sure what you want to see is definitely going to be open on the day you want to go).

Aside from having to pay for a museum pass, I did not find Paris to be more expensive than some other large European cities (like London or Amsterdam). I felt like it was actually very easy to eat on the cheap in Paris. Steer clear of eating in restaurants located in or near tourist-heavy areas. Consider eating in ethnic restaurants. Also, you may want to make lunch your main meal of the day to save money in restaurants and eat a light dinner on the go. Avoid wasting your money on things like a bottle of Coca Cola which can cost as much, or more, than a glass of wine.

Posted by
5697 posts

Dumb tip -- carry a bottle of water into the museums. We couldn't find water fountains at the Louvre and ended up buying a €4 bottle in the cafeteria (versus less than £1 at Monoprix) Walking through stores to see fashions is free.

Posted by
162 posts

Hello. Im also visiting Paris this summer and Im trying to get a budget together. What I need to know is the price of liquor/beer in the bars and cafes. Whats a good average price?

Posted by
796 posts

I second the advice to go up to the roof of Galeries Lafayette, just gorgeous. Do try the food court, which is in another building across the street. Not super expensive,but a feast for the eyes!

I am a huge food market fan. It is a great way to save. You can buy some pre-cooked food like paella, ham with mustard sauce, potatoes, roast chicken. So delicious. Save in breakfasts in and splurge on some meals in cafes. Many shops have pre-made quiche, salads and more. There are so may small parks where locals eat their lunch, it is so cool to do the same as a tourist! I have had some of the greatest people watching in the parks.

I have had cafe creme as inexpensive as 2.50 Euros. I love pastis, a licorice aperatif. Prices vary greatly for coffee and liquor.

Do buy the 10 ticket carnet for bus and metro. I usually walk and walk in Paris.


Posted by
11613 posts

It seems that you are staying in an apartment, so you could prepare at least one meal a day at home, or stop by someplace that sells prepared foods (Monoprix is great for this) to heat and serve at home. I would budget for at least one meal a day out, you can find lots of places that fit a frugal budget. A splurge on a café/people watching experience once in a while is always worked into my budget (which is frugal because my trips are lengthy) - call it street-fashion research.

Posted by
8293 posts

The Palais Galiera fashion museum, might be of interest. It has temporary exhibits and you may enjoy whatever is showing when you are there. We were a little disappointed to learn that the permanent collection is not on display (whyever not?) so good to know that ahead of time.

Posted by
6177 posts

The Museum Pass is a good value if you have the stamina to visit at least one or two covered attractions per day. Don't activate it till you're ready to start using it, then plug away! Keep in mind which places are closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and which stay open evenings. The Carnavalet Museum in the Marais is free and fascinating, all about the history of Paris.

I agree with others about breakfasts and dinners in the apartment. There are lots of low-cost prepared food options like pizza, or some bread and cheese in a park for lunch. You'll see signs: "Traitteur Asiatique." That's not a disloyal Asian, but a seller of prepared Asian food (dumplings, rice, noodles, etc.) you can take home. They'll heat it for you or you can use your microwave if the apartment has one. If you drink wine or beer, get it in supermarkets instead of restaurants. The cheap stuff is still pretty good!

One of our favorite Paris activities is walking around neighborhoods and stopping in cafes to rest our feet (and empty bladders if necessary), ordering coffee in the morning or wine in the afternoon and watching the parade. Doing this regularly might exceed your budget, but the parks are free (and often have restrooms, but you may have to pay a little to use them).

Have a wonderful time. You'll be there at a beautiful time of year.

Posted by
1348 posts

A plus of having the Museum Pass,, is that you can avoid the ticket lines themselves. Most sites have a line specifically for those with Passes and or Appointments. The Museum Pass also gets you up on the Towers of Notre Dame, which opens at 10:00 a.m. & the line is to the left side facing the front of Notre Dame. You will see a side gate that people enter through. The Church is open at 8:00 a.m. for free to walk through. I recommend if you want to go up the Towers get in line at least 45 min. early, because it does get long. Also, the Pass allows you access to the roof of the Arc de Triomphe. The Museum Pass site provides all the sites it covers.
Metro Pass or Carnet (book of ten)? I used the Metro and Buses each day so for me a 5-Day Metro Pass for all 5 Zones was perfect. You just need to figure out how much out of Zones 1 - 5 you will be traveling. I just preferred the single ticket that covered it all, however for my next trip I plan on purchasing the Carnet to see how it works for my traveling needs. Another excuse/reason to return to Paris.
Galeries Lafayette is closed on Sundays and there is another shopping mall near/attached to it called the Printemps. There is also a large shopping area in La Defense/Business area. Take Metro-1 or RER-A to the La Defense stop and you are in the center of it all.
Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
4104 posts

The Museum pass is available in 2,4 and 6 days. Do the math to see if one of them works for you.

We usually purchase at CDG outside the arrivals hall.

I love the market streets in Paris. Great place to buy picnic supplies. A few of my favorites:

Rue Grenelle by Tour Eiffel, Metro, Grenelle Wed & Su.

Place Monge, Metro, Monge Wed & Fri

Permanent street markets: Rue Mouffetard Metro, Monge.

Rue Montorgueil, Metro, Sentier this is by Les Halles or the Pompidou Center.

My two daughters and grandaughter spent a fantastic 10 days last Fall.

Have a wonderful time.

Posted by
26 posts

Thank you all so very much for assisting in allaying my concerns over the expenses associated with our up coming Paris adventure! We're both beyond excited.

Posted by
7722 posts

If you want to dine well, but save money, eat out at lunchtime and have a light super at home in the evening, before heading out for an evening stroll or whatever. Many nice restaurants have wonderful menu options at mid-day that are much like their evening menus (generally 3 courses) for about 60% of the price for virtually the same food/experience. Another meal time saving tip is to order tap water rather than bottled water with meals. Most locals do this; it is even common in nice restaurants. I remember having lunch at Les Ombres and every table with locals seemed to have a nice carafe of free chilled tap water, while the tourists all had the expensive bottled water. The savings add up.

It is also easy to pick up a delectable roast chicken and sides at the local butcher and dine in and then go out for a stroll and a drink at a cafe or wine bar.

Posted by
1014 posts

Don't forget Les Halles for shopping/looking. It is expensive there, but looking is free. The sales in Paris begin around July 1, and you are to early for them, BUT there may be some "Reductions" in price you could look at. Soldes is my wife's favorite word in French. I agree on eat breakfast in, do decent lunch and small dinner or eat dinner in and then go out and see the sights in the evenings. We love to buy a rotisserie chicken (7.00 Euro or so) fresh salad makings - lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, etc. (5-7 Euro), small cooked potatoes -in garlic and butter- (3.50 Euro) or rice, and a baguette (1-2 Euro) and make our own lunch or dinner. The great thing about this is you can get two meals from this plus, you can make chicken soup with the back, wings, and neck and get a third meal. 3 meals for 20 Euro is not a bad deal in my opinion. We have been renting the same studio in the 9th for about 11 years. It is fully furnished and has extras.

When buying food for breakfast cooking, bacon (US type) is called lardo and eggs can be pre-boiled, so be careful buying them. The french preserves, jams and jellies are wonderful. They use real sugar instead of beet sugar, corn sugar, etc. For lunch, we have a tradition of going to the Seine River and having a picnic. We buy apples, bananas, pears, or other fruit, a baguette, some good cheese, which abounds in France, potato chips (crisps) and a bottle of wine or soft drink and find a park bench on the Seine, and sit down, watch the people and the river and have lunch. We also do this in parks, etc. Makes for a cheap meal and great people watching.

Chinese and Indian restaurants are great places for lunch too. Look at the set menu on the window or on the board and see if you like anything. If so, go inside or just sit down an order it. Do not order from the menu. It will be twice as much. Also, as said above, order the house wine. Cheaper that way. In France, if you ask, they must give you a glass of tap water free. You can also order water, at 1 to 2 Euro a pint. We do free and are still alive.

If you order a hamburger at a cafe or restaurant, it will come rare and I do mean bloody rare. Wife did that last year and my wife was sick for two days. So, be forewarned. There are McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, American Pizza, :Burger King, etc. available . Your daughter might like do one of these just to remind herself of home. There are also English and French hamburger chains there and there food is comparable to those listed above. A lot of ordering in above is done by touch screen and payment by chip and pin credit card. There is usually one line to order face to face. This is what is coming to US if the wages of workers go to 15.00 per hour, so you will be ahead of the game.

How many museums do you plan to see in 7 days? The Louvre would take a week in itself. The others, over half a day each. You can get sensory overload really quick. So, look at the museums you wish to see, the shopping you wish to do and make sure the museum pass is a good deal.

We like to buy a carnet of 10 tickets at the metro then we will walk out and about, touring Paris all day. When we are tired, we use a ticket to get home. We use the bus, but I am handicapped and cannot use the Metro. You can do either. You can also use a ticket twice when traveling if you do a switch Meto to bus, etc. Might want to read up on that.

Galleries Lafayette and Printemps are great. Also look at Etam stores. Around each store are lots and lots of small boutiques which can be expensive, but again looking is free.

Enjoy your trip and plan to return.


Posted by
7722 posts

You cannot transfer from metro to bus or vice versa on the same ticket. You can transfer on buses but only going in roughly the same direction e.g. you can't take a bus to X and then return in a time frame -- the tickets are journey specific not time specific. If you hop off A bus and want to hop back on a later A bus with the same ticket that is not possible. If you can find a B bus going in the same direction you might swing it.

Metro transfers are of course unlimited until you leave the system.

Posted by
1014 posts

I knew there were conditions involved with a transfer. Thanks for narrowing it down a bit. I did say that they should read up on doing it.

Posted by
252 posts

You can eat cheap in Paris. The brasseries or creperies are so good!

Some museums, like the Orsay one evening a week, have a time when you get in FREE.