The other day, a copy of “Fodor’s Budget France ’82″ landed in our office. The cute little book, measuring no larger than a pocket-sized Agatha Christie novel, has captivated and charmed us ever since.
For one thing, it’s so simple. The 178-page book is all text, providing three maps (France, Paris, and the Metro), ten chapters, and a phrase index in the back. The only photo to be had was an advertisement on page 174 for a Fodor’s language course, audio cassette-edition. The book retailed for $5.95 (about $13.00, adjusted for 2008).
Money and prices abroad in 1982
Obviously in 1982, France used the franc, which had an exchange rate of about $.17, or 5.89 francs to the US dollar. That is, if you exchanged your travelers checks at a bank. The book explains that travelers’ checks “are still the safest and simplest way to carry money.” Today, of course, travelers’ checks have mostly been replaced by credit cards and ATM machines, which can be found in airports and on every other street corner in Paris.
MasterCard? Visa? ”Credit cards are not widely accepted in France, and you’re very unlikely to find restaurants … that accept them.” We were in mid-snicker before we realized that there are still many small hotels and restaurants in Paris that don’t accept credit cards. Some things don’t change.
Sample costs in 1982
According to the book, you could expect to pay the following prices in Paris in 1982 for these “everyday expenses”:
In other words, prices haven’t really changed that much, even with the dollar tanking against the euro. Perhaps that shampoo and set would cost you more today, but you could still find plenty of “tots of gin” for less than €6.30 ($9.15).
Hotels in 1982
The Fodor’s guide recommends over 40 budget hotels in Paris, categorized as either “Inexpensive” or “Moderate,” and lists them all, with impressive brevity, on just two pages! Several of the hotels mentioned can still be found 26 years later in our Paris guide. (Don’t worry–we’re reasonably certain that they’ve purchased new sheets!)
For example, here’s what they have to say about de la Sorbonne, a charming little thing in the Latin Quarter: “6 rue Victor Cousin, a Latin Quarter special, atmospheric and genuine.” Did you notice what was missing, besides room descriptions? Prices! And phone numbers!
The book explains broadly: “Inexpensive hotels will charge about 80-140 francs ($13-24, 1982) for a double room, moderate ones will charge 150-220 ($25-37, 1982).” Those really were the days. Today, as we note in our “Expect to Spend in Paris” guide, you can easily find an acceptable budget hotel for €80-130, or $116-188 ($53-87 in 1982). So yes, hotel prices seem to have outpaced inflation. Hotels, however, have probably upgraded their standards.
As for reserving that special place, well…
“Remember too that many inexpensive hotels have guests on an almost permanent basis and aren’t interested in tourists wanting accommodations for a few nights; as many of them won’t take advance reservations and don’t answer letters, your best bet is to go from hotel to hotel until you get lucky.”
So much for the good old days!