Cheapest Trip to Paris Ever?!?

Not a report for a trip I've taken, but a trip I'm planning. But I hope that some of the deals I've found here will help people planning budget trips to Paris. I'm often frustrated on this board and others because when people talk about "budget" places to stay in Paris, they never list anything under $150/night! I know that Paris is expensive, but there are better deals out there that aren't heinous. For instance, I'm staying at this studio apartment for $157 for 3 nights. Cheaper for two people than a hostel would be, and far more convienently located than any of the budget hotels I've encountered in Paris. We were also thinking about staying at the Hotel du Commerce, which offers private rooms (but shared bathrooms) for 37 euro per person per night and is in the Latin Quarter. Since time is money, I've come to realize that enjoying Paris and making the most of your time can be highly dependent on location, so I no longer just say "Oh, this hotel is near a metro stop, should be fine." Some metro lines are practically useless to getting you where you want to go quickly because you'll be forced to connect once, if not twice, in huge stations that take 10 minutes to traverse to the right platform. Now I look for places to stay that are near metro stations with multiple lines that are useful to places I know I'll be visiting. This to me is more important than the immediate charm of the neighborhood I'll be staying in. The other budget score I'm so super excited about is 50 euro round trip direct TGV from/to Stuttgart. Wouldn't have known about this deal if I wasn't on the TGV mailing list. If you're planning a trip that involves long distance travel within europe, it's a really good idea to get on the mailing lists for the national railways and budget airlines, so you can scoop up those deals as soon as they're announced.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I tend to pimp ethnic food as a way to eat cheaply and deliciously in Europe's capitals. I know on this trip I'll be returning to Les Pates Vivantes, an amazing Chinese restaurant with two locations (one nearish Opera, the other right in St. Germain). They hand make their own noodles fresh daily. It's fantastic and super-cheap. I'll get dim sum one day too, and probably a bahn mi sandwich for lunch at the appropriately named "Bahn Mi" sandwich shop. But I'm in Paris and do crave at least one slightly fancy (to an American) super french meal. But on a budget! So that's what I'm scouting websites like Chowhound and the millions of Paris foodie blogs for right now. I love La Cabane a Huitres, a great "oyster shack" near Montparnasse, for an amazing fresh oyster dinner for two for under 50 euro, but I feel like it's a sin to keep returning to the same restaurants over and over in Paris, so I'll probably seek out somewhere new. Nightlife in Paris is also ridiculously expensive, and since February doesn't lend itself to my favorite budget evening experience in the city (grabbing a bottle of wine from a store and sitting on the banks of the Ile de cite on a warm summer night with the rest of the city). To avoid paying for 12 euro cocktails or 7 euro beers on this trip, I'm going to do some serious research into the affordable nightlife spots that students to go and see what I can come up with. Will use this cold winter trip to visit some of the free and affordable museums we've missed before. Will report when I return to share the outcome and final costs of my attempted super-budget trip!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4869 posts

Hi Sarah, Is that $157 per night or for a total of 3 nights for the studio? What arrondissement is it in? It sounds like you have a great trip planned. Don't forget grabbing a cheap street crepe for a good meal. Although in the winter it is a bit cold to be eating out on the street. I'd love to know where you find dim sum. I always like to eat it when I'm traveling. Actually I like to eat it any time!! So far in Paris I've only found it pre-made. Have you been to the Shoah museum? It's free and really good. They have one tour a month in English, which happened to coincide with my last trip. I got a lot more out of it than the time I went and had to try to understand what I was reading with my limited French. Either way it's worth going to. Have a wonderful trip! It's so great that you are taking advantage of living there by traveling so much. I know people who have been stationed places and never left the immediate area. Such a shame.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I've stayed at Hotel du Commerce several times. The most recent stay was about 5 years ago. The rooms are all different. It's an interesting place with a very nice common area for heating and eating breakfast foods, using a computer, and meeting other people. The location is good, since you can walk from there to many of the more interesting parts of central Paris. In Paris I do a lot of "grazing." Bakeries often have quiches, sandwiches, and pizza-by-the-slice. At a bar, cafe and croissant make an inexpensive breakfast. Grocery stores and produce stands are in most neighborhoods; you can find produce and foods there that can save money when compared to eating in restaurants. When I want a restaurant meal, I stop at one of the Chinese delis. The plat du jour is often a very good deal, especially if you are not a big eater. I usually drink tap water rather than bottled. If you want wine, there is very inexpensive wine in the stores. I usually have my wine in my room rather than at a bar or restaurant. If you do a lot of walking a Metro pass won't save any money. Just buy a carnet of 10 Metro tickets and use them on Metro and bus. Sometimes you'll be too tired to walk "home" after a long day. I like to ride buses because it is a cheap, easy way to see different parts of the city. For travel on the river Seine, Batobus is less expensive than the others. It is a hop-on/hop-off boat when using a day or week pass. Batobus stops at d'Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, and several other major places. Decide what you really must see, whether it is a museum, a trip up the Eiffel Tower, or a trip to Versailles. Budget for that and don't worry about the money. I have never been up to any level of the Eiffel Tower; I just don't want to stand in line forever to do so. I usually visit one or two museums while in Paris.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Excellent advice, both of you! I've been to Paris 3 times previously, and every trip I've been able to do a little cheaper and smarter. I love the city despite the sometimes high cost of it, so finding a way to visit cheaply lets me go more often and searching out deals becomes a lot of fun. It is in fact $157 for 3 nights. That's a steal for almost anywhere in Europe, let alone Paris. It's sort of inbetween the Est and Nord train stations - not a posh neighborhood, but convienent in terms of transportation. I've paid much more for being in far less convenient neighborhoods. The dim sum restaurant I'm looking at is Massena. It's apparently authentic Cantonese and made in-house. Will report back! I haven't been to the Shoah museum (or the Jewish museum yet) but plan on checking out at least one of them on this trip. Swan, I definitely agree that grazing is a great way to go in Paris. Unlike, say Germany, where most fast food is currywust or doener (fun once in a while, but not particularly a great culinary experience), some of the best food is the 'grazing' food in Paris, be it a baguette sandwhcih from a good bakery or a picnic of charcuterie from a deli. Also agreed that some of the expensive "must dos" aren't really. I've been to the eiffel tower but never gone up - wasn't worth the cost/wait/hassle for me, I'm not that much on views (especially given that you're missing the most interesting part of the Paris skyline when you're IN the eiffel tower!) I'm leaving on Tuesday, will report when I get back!

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
710 posts

I guess some people have much higher budgets! For me, budget is under $100 - we used airbnb and stayed in Montmartre for about $180 (canadian) for 2 nights. We had an excellent spot in London near the cricket grounds for $70...and close to one of the better Tube lines...but the best was in Florence...$100 for 2 nights in a 15th c villa, totally sep apt with kitchenette, and not too far into city center - about 20 min by bus. The most we ever spent was the Sofitel at Gatwick...almost $200, but we were getting in around midnight and I didn't want to mess with taxis to outlying hotels. The thought of spending all that for about a 9hr stay rankled, but convenience has to win out sometimes. And I figured staying for 3 nights free with my sis made up for it. I also get the emails for TGV and Eurostar...even if we only go every other year...lol. Nice to dream.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7969 posts

Cheapest Trip to Paris Ever?!? Hrumph, probably not. The Etap/Ibis Budget on R. Babinski will put you up for sixty-five dollars a night and clean your room every day. If you want to hike the hall to a shower, you can stay next door at its F1 corporate sister and shave five bucks or so. Stick a second person in the room and the price doesn't budge at either one. If you hanker for ethnic food, there's a Turkish joint around the corner (overlook the fact that a couple of Italian brothers run it) where you can bust your gut for ten dollars. If you want to move up on the hog, it's a ten-minute walk to the back side of the Butte (Americans don't know the north slope exists) where you can open the money gun full-bore and be hard-pressed to use up a twenty dollar bill. The down-side is that there's only about a hundred places within a half-mile circle. It's a twenty-minute ride to Invalides (which gives you time to flip through the morning paper or study a guidebook if you believe in such) from whence you can walk anywhere. Really neat research with a lot of good ideas, however.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Got back yesterday, my husband had a bad cold the whole time which slowed us down a little bit. The apartment ended up being just $52/night. With a kitchentte that's a great deal no matter where you're located, but we were two blocks equidistanct from Stalingrad on the 2 and 6 and Louis Blanc on the 7. Two stops from Gare de l'Est. I wasn't terribly fond of the neighborhood to the north along Stalingrad (not dangerous, just uninteresting/unattractive from a tourist perspective - lots of high rise apartments, discount clothing chains, although the taxidermy shop was kind of interesting) but the area to the south towards the Gare and east to the Canal St. Martin was bursting with affordable but interesting restaurants, wine bars, cafes, bakeries, etc. And not a tourist in sight until you're right by the train station. I'd happily stay in that area again. The downside is that the apartment was a dump. That's to be expected for the price, but having it be decently clean, have more of a bed than a foam pad on the ground, and not smelling of mold are all things I appreciate in even the cheapest digs. I told my husband that I kind of wished we'd just spent $10-$20 more/night and stayed at an Etap or Ibis or some other budget chain near the station instead. It was nice having the kitchen, though - a real fridge, a hotplate that got hot, a coffeemaker - it was great to have a "real" breakfast (I need eggs in the morning!) every day and our own coffee. Also our host was a flake and left us waiting for 30 minutes until I called on the "emergency calls only" number he'd listed with airBnB. He made no apologies for not meeting us as he told us he would. So that left a bad taste in my mouth. But who cares where you're staying, anyway? You're in Paris! (continued)

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Food: Man, I ate better on this trip than I have on almost any trip ever, maybe save a trip to Berlin last September. According to internet foodies, Paris sucks for Asian food, but I haven't found this to be true. Maybe if you just pop into whatever place with the "Chinese/Thai/Japanese" menu sure, but I've found it easy to find great Asian food in several different neighborhoods. One of my favorites is the Vietnamese places along Rue Volta and Rue au Maire near the Arts et Metiers metro stop. "Bahn Mi" makes what has to be the best vietnamese sandwiches in Europe, and the lady who runs it is a joy (she remembered us from our visit last May!). For 6.50 you get a huge and really delicious glazed pork sandwich, and the more authentic versions (with pate and headcheese) are even cheaper. Be careful, if you ask for it spicy, she's going to indulge you. No watered-down-for-French-tastes here. On the same street is a tiny place called Song Heng, which does just one thing: Pho (noodle soup) and it does it really, really well. 7.50 for a "small" bowl that's anything but. Other restaurants in the area looked great as well. Belleview has a big Chinatown, so we went to Tai-Yien for dim sum. No carts, and they don't start selling it until after 7pm, but they are open til 3am (not sure what time they stop doing dim sum, we ate at about 11pm). It's not the best dim sum I've had, but it was homemade and tasty. A little pricey for dim sum - we stuffed ourselves and each had a beer and tea for 40. Our other "splurge" was Jewish food - a mix of middle eastern with a bit of Ashkenazi stuff thrown in - at Chez Marianne in the Marais. That was 28 for more food than we could eat, all impeccably made though. Better than anything I've had on the west coast.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

The rest of our food consumption was based on buying stuff and eating it in the apartment - great Ashkenazi deli food at Sacha Finkelstztajn, cheese from fromageries, pastries, bread, some basics from Carrefour...I'd guess overall our per person per day food budget was less than 30 and my tummy hasn't been that happy in a long time. Drinking: something else that can cost way too much in Paris. We of course had affordable wine chilling at the apartment at all times. We still found a few good bar deals. In our neighborhood, there was a fantastic wine bar called Au Fil Du Vin. Their happy hour runs from 17:00 - 20:00 and they always feature one white and one red from their menu that's 2 for the price of 1. The first night I had a great Sav Blanc, the second a decent Chardonnay. To make you fall in love even more, they provide a plate of charcuterie around 7:30 or so - with some of the best salami I've ever had. The Marais is always one of my favorite areas to grab a beverage. After seeing the Carnavalet museum we hopped a few blocks over to Chez Janou. 80 different types of pastis all for 4 euro, or you can get a carafe (50 ml) of the house wine for 10 euro. Delicious olives are complimentary. L'Art Brut near the Pompidou center was a relaxed but packed place (on a Friday night) with a slight Balkan theme in the music (Gypsy/Balkan beats/Electroswing) and drink menu (if you're missing that Serbian brandy, look no further). .5 l of Stella for 4 euro is pretty sweet, too. Our biggest drink splurge wasn't at a bar, but at a beer store we found while looking for the above bar - La Cave Au Bulles, specializing in craft beers from all over the world. We went for our precious west coast IPAs but the incredibly helpful staff pointed us to some French, German, and Belgan versions of this American beer style.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Aside from eating and drinking, we hit up the Maritime Museum, which is interesting if you like boats and/or are a kid (kids seem to love the place!), the audioguide isn't really necessary and is pretty dry. We returned to the Army Museum and still haven't finished it, but the WWI section is fantastic, and the Carnavalet museum was great, although in that case it's worth investing in the audio guide, as there is almost NO information in English anywhere. I also saw a movie at the "original version" theater on the Champs Elysee, because my husband was exhausted and sick and needed to rest back at the apartment. In terms of weather, we were unlucky. It was in the 20s and 30s most of the time, snowed a little, but the windchill made it feel much colder. We are used to European winters here in Stuttgart, but the wind rarely blows that much here, so we froze, even with heavy jackets, boots, layering, etc. Although I've seen people on here say that Paris is great no matter what time of year, and that's true, it is a city that is great to stroll in, and that is really affected when it's incredibly hot/cold (I've experienced both now). It's in the 40s for the rest of the week, so just bad luck for us. People should go to Paris whenever they can, but if you have the choice, trying to time your trip so you avoid the weather extremes will make for a more pleasant experience. And with the exception of the cranky guy in the TGV on-board cafe, virtually everyone we interacted with was polite (and sometimes even friendly!) Even with the language barrier - no, not everyone in Paris speaks English yet, but it's not too hard to make it all work.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

Sarah - Thanks for this report. Just a note for anyone looking for the Chinatown Sarah mentioned - the neighborhood is Belleville, not Belleview. Gotta watch that autocorrect! <g>. I first learned about it as the place Edith Piaf was born, and now I keep reading how it's becoming trendy, arty, etc.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
710 posts

I'm sure you will leave an appropriate review for the airbnb...I know if I read a few saying about the lack of cleanliness, I'd pass (and I'm one of those who'll read every review left for the person). The airbnb we used in Montmartre was nice, clean...that owner was a bit of a 'flake' as well...she lived in half, sep by the bathroom/kitchen fr our room...we had our own entrance. One night she was away as well. Nice enough, but...'kooky' I guess. Thanks for the update!

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Yeah unfortunately I left the host a really nice, glossed over review - I mentioned a few problems with the apartment, honestly, but praised his niceness and the great location - and he left me a negative review as a guest saying "don't, just don't" - no mention of what we did as guests that made us so horrendous. the whole experience has turned me off airbnb a bit, to be honest. most of the reviews of his place are glowing which does not fit with what we experienced and i just don't think i'm that snobby? i've stayed in 5 other places in paris, none of which i loved, but his is the last i'd recommend. if it weren't for that "well but the price..." I would've been much harsher. yet another reason why i prefer dealing with the 'cold, impersonal' world of reasonably priced hotel chains though. when traveling i hate the oddities of personal interaction to mess things up. i get along well with most people and have many friends, but obviously this airbnb host and i just weren't meant to be. in true hotel situation you rarely have this kind of issue. just sayin'.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I've stayed in numerous B&Bs, but only one airbnb. With the regular B&B somebody fixes your breakfast and gets out of the way unless you require more. At airbnb it's almost anything. I admit I am not the most flexible person in the world, but I think SOME of the airbnbs would be ideal for me. The problem is, you don't know until you stay there what can come up as a problem. In my one experience it was an ever-present dog (even when the owner was gone) who barked non-stop for a few hours the second day I was there. I didn't leave a review. I liked the owner, just not having to share an apartment with an energetic and lonely dog. The location was great! It wasn't in Europe.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
710 posts

Wow, Sarah, what a crappy guy! I actually like (for the most part) interacting with locals...I do couchsurfing as well (both hosting people in our home and when travelling) and have met some really wonderful people (and a few odd ones). But I will say there are times when I just want to get out and go, but feel obligated to chat longer (actually, it's usually hubby who won't shut up)...and on the opposite side, it's nice to have someone to chat with when it's dark, things are closed, and you would otherwise be trapped in your hotel room trying to watch Charlie's Angels in Italian...lol.