Rest assured that you can tackle expensive Paris without having to claim bankruptcy. We've scouted out some money-saving tips to help you enjoy an (affordable) lark in Gay Paree.
Paris Budget Tips
The Paris Museum Pass provides entry to a number of museums, including the Seine-side Musée d'Orsay.
Tourist Office Information
We always recommend heading straight on over to the tourist office as soon as possible. Tourist offices are always loaded with information on discounted and cost-free events, free maps, coupons and guides to the city.
The Bureau d'Accueil Central, or Office de Tourisme et des Congres de Paris, is located at 25 Rue des Pyramides in the 1st Arrondissement. It is open daily from 10 am. until 7 p.m. from November 1 through April 30, and from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. May 2 through October 31 (closed on May 1).
There are satellite branches at the Anvers on the median strip facing 72, boulevard Rochechouart (open daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.), at the Gare de Lyon (open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.), the Gare du Nord (open daily from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.), Place du Tertre in Montmartre (open daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.) and at the Gare de l’Est (open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.).
Museum Prices and Passes
Museums in Paris generally cost between €2 and €12, depending on the age of the visitor and whether or not the museum honors discounts. Many museums, including the very popular Musée d'Orsay, are free on the first Sunday of every month. At most museums, visitors 18 and younger are admitted free.
Popular museum prices:
Louvre: €11 (adults, permanent collection); €15 (permanent and temporary collections); free to visitors under 18; free to all on the first Sunday of every month
Centre Pompidou: €11-13, depending on the season (adults); free to visitors under 13; free to all visitors on the first Sunday of every month
Musee d'Orsay: € (adults); €6.50 (visitors aged 18-25, for all from 4:30 p.m. on every day except Thursday and Saturday); free to visitors under 18
Musee Rodin: €9 (adults); €5 (18-25-year-olds); €10 (family rate: two adults and two children under 18) €1 for the garden only; free to visitors under 18 and to everyone on the first Sunday of every month
Notre Dame (tower): €8.50 (adults); €5.50 (reduced); free (under 18)
Eiffel Tower: €14 (adults); €12.50 (12-24 years old); €9.50 (4-11 years old); free (children under 4); Note: the quoted rates are for the elevator to the top; lower fees apply for the first and second floors and for the stairs. (Read our tips for visiting the Eiffel Tower.)
Les Invalides: €9 (adults); €7 (reduced); free (children under 18)
Paris Museum Pass
The "Paris Museum Pass," a discount museum card, offers admission to over 60 museums, churches and sites in Paris and the surrounding region (including Versailles). The card pays for itself if you're planning to pack your days in Paris full with museums and tourist sites. A two-day pass is €39, a pass for four consecutive days is €54, and a six-day pass costs €69. Additionally, the card allows you to jump right to the front of many entrance lines (though, alas, not security lines). For more information, visit the Paris Museum Pass site.
Free concerts abound in Paris, some of which are performed in gorgeous, picturesque churches and parks. Certain spots, including the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Musee d'Orsay and the American Church in Paris, frequently hold free concerts.
Also free are the city’s many gardens and public spaces, including the Luxembourg Garden, the Jardin des Tuileries and, of course, a stroll along the Champs Elysees. Most museums are free to the public on the first Sunday of every month, and the Notre Dame Cathedral offers free regular tours in a variety of languages (check the Web site for hours). Plus, for free (and magnifique!) views, we like the rooftop at the Galeries Lafayette
Half-priced theater tickets in Paris are available to budget theater goers. Stop by one of the kiosks on the Place de la Madeleine or in front of the Gare Montparnasse. Reward your efforts by seeing a show in the recently renovated Opera Garnier, or the modern Opera Bastille for as little as €12, or even as little as €5 for a last-minute standing place at the Bastille. For more information on discounted opera tickets visit the official Web site of the Paris Opera.
Senior travelers will find some discounts in Paris. Be sure to carry your passport to offer proof of your age. Sometimes, seniors must be members of a particular association in order to receive discounts. Members of the AARP get discounts on hotels, airfares and car rentals. They can be reached at in the United States at 1-888-687-2277 or visited online.
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is the most widely accepted form of student ID and provides discounts on sights, accommodations, food and transportation. Some museums in France offer admission discounts to ISIC members. Applicants must be working toward a degree at a secondary or post-secondary school and must be at least 12 years of age. The card costs US$25 and is valid until the end of the year issued. All cardholders have access to a 24-hour emergency helpline. In the US call 1-888-920-5985 or visit the ISIC online.
For non-students 25 years and younger, the International Youth Travel Card, IYTC, also offers many of the same benefits as the ISIC. The card costs US$25 and is valid for one year from the date of issue.
Travelers with student cards, such as ISIC and IYTC qualify for big discounts from travel agencies. Most flights from budget agencies are on major airlines, though peak season deals might be on less reliable chartered aircraft.
Some More Budget Tips
Cafés in Paris, like much of Europe, charge less for coffee ordered and consumed at the bar. Sure, you could drink that same coffee sitting down, but be aware that it might cost you twice as much, especially on the terrace.
We don't need to tell you not to call home from a hotel telephone, do we? Didn't think so. (It could cost as much as the room. We're not joking.) When using a phone booth, you'll need to use a "telecarte" to make a call, rather than inserting coins. The best place to buy a telecarte is at a tabac or a newsstand. Avoid France Telecom cards. They're too pricey! Instead of France Telecom, try Delta Multimedia and Kertel. Alternately, ask for a telecarte "avec un code."
Many hotels and cafés have free Wi-Fi (and, in a pinch, so does McDonalds). If you haven't brought your laptop with you, there are many Internet cafés in Paris, particularly in student areas.
"Soldes," a sign you'll see in shop windows, means "SALE!" French merchants are allowed to sell their wares below cost in January and July. This is the perfect time to pick up the authentic French fashions you've always wanted without destroying your personal finances.
Timing is Everything
The best time to take advantage of Paris' cheap deals is during the "off-season," which is basically the period between November and April. Lines to museums and shows are shorter, hotels are easier to book and much less expensive and airfares are likely to be much, much cheaper than during peak season.
Don't take a taxi from the airport. Full stop. And avoid taxis during rush hour, when walking is usually faster.
Ask yourself what you really need in your hotel room, not what you want. Do you really need that hotel with a DVD player and fitness facility? Do you need air conditioning in March? Most travelers really just need a nice, clean room, preferably in a central location.
In August 2007, Bertrand Delanoë, the incredible, amazing mayor of Paris made it easy to be green by launching Vélib', a public biking initiative that allows bikers to borrow a bike from one of 1,800 pick-up spots around town and in surrounding cities, and drop it off at any other center within 30 minutes. (If you need more time to get there, you're charged by the half hour thereafter.) See our article on Velib' for more information.
About the author: Tom Meyers is the Editor in Chief of EuroCheapo.com.
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