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By Bryan Pirolli in Paris—
Visitors to Paris quickly realize that, even before hitting their last centime, time is the city’s most precious commodity. Tourists want to do and see it all in… but have limited time.
From the top of the Eiffel Tower to the bottom of the Catacombs the options are vast. So while you’re budgeting your euros, here are a few tips to budget your time as well to make sure you don’t waste a single second while in Paris.
1. Book your Eiffel Tower tickets in advance
Waiting in line for the Eiffel Tower can cost you hours, so book your ticket in advance on their Web site here. With this reservation, you can get in a much shorter line for the Iron Lady’s elevator and spend those hours doing something else.
2. Get a “Museum Pass” and skip the lines
Consider the Museum Pass. It may seem expensive, but if you’re planning on visiting several different monuments and museums, the pass can help you avoid waiting in ticket lines and will pay for itself if your heart is set on visiting as many museums as possible.
3. Make a dinner reservation
Make a restaurant reservation in at least one restaurant. Cheapos often like to treat themselves to one nice sit-down meal in Paris, so instead of walking around aimlessly looking for the perfect spot, do some research in advance and find a nice, little bistro to treat yourself to and book a table. Check out Paris by Mouth for some great suggestions.
4. Use the ATM
Contact your bank and use ATMs to avoid currency exchange offices. Tourists often spend time heading to American Express offices to exchange money, but this is a time waster. Talk to your bank and see what the fees are for using ATM machines and just withdraw cash (read more here). Paris has no shortage of banks and you’ll be on your way much faster.
5. Grab a quick coffee at the bar
Get your café at the bar if you need a quick caffeine fix. Sitting down at a table in a café means you’ve engaged yourself for at least 30 minutes by the time the waiter takes your order, brings your coffee, gives you the bill and takes your money. It’s a sort of ritual that can be bypassed by doing like the locals and going right to the bar for un café. It’s cheaper, too.
6. Line up early, if you must
Get in line early for activities that are must-sees for you, like the towers of Notre Dame or the Catacombs. Forgo an hour of sleep, wake up early, and queue up at least 30 minutes before the monument opens. You’ll be happy you did as you look at the line of people snaking around the block to get up the cathedral’s towers or to climb into the old mine shafts lined with 6 million Parisians skeletons.
7. Grab a sandwich for lunch and take it to go
Bakeries offer great deals for a sandwich, drink, and dessert, and you can eat it in a park or on the go as you race off to your next destination. The same sandwich in a café will take at least 30 minutes (and be more expensive).
8. Consider “nightseeing”
Certain sights are best at night. Think of checking out the evening openings at the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay when prices are cheaper and lines are shorter. And the Eiffel Tower is open until midnight in the summer, so don’t think that 11:30 p.m. is too late to venture up for a midnight view of the city.
9. Ask for help if you need it
Everyone says Parisians are rude and impolite, but sometimes it’s worth running the risk. When a girl from Japan asked me for directions the other day in the Marais, a Parisian went out of his way to butt in, look at her map (all in Japanese) and point her in the right direction as I translated his French into English for her. He might be the exception instead of the rule, but Parisians can be helpful, and getting brusque assistance from a local is better than wandering for hours in search of the Musée Carnavalet.
10. Plan a return trip to Paris
Be ready to make concessions and start planning a return trip to Paris. You can’t do it all, and preparing mentally for this now will make things easier for everyone. I was recently with a family who looked at the line to enter Notre Dame and they all shook their heads, “No.” Instead, we went for ice cream and wandered in the Marais, much to everyone’s delight.
Your time-saving tips
There’s no shortage of happenings in Paris, and every minute can be stretched to the last second if you’re thrifty with your time. So, Cheapos, what other advice do you have for budgeting your time in Paris?