By Bryan Pirolli in Paris—
Sometimes when I hear what people spend on certain items in Paris, I can’t help but feel a little depressed, especially if they tell me they’re on a budget. Splurge items aside, there are limits to what I’ll pay on everyday items (mostly in order to afford the aforementioned splurges–I’m only human!).
To avoid hearing me groan when you tell me what you paid for your sandwich, here’s a list of suggested “price ceilings” for some Parisian basics. It’s a good list to keep handy to save a few euros or, you know, if you’re ever a contestant on a French version of “The Price is Right”…
1. Glass of wine
While beer and cocktails can dent the wallet pretty quickly, wine should never be too expensive in a standard café or bar. Avoid the more specialized wine shops and wine bars and opt for a glass of red or white at a more low-key joint. Limit: €4
Most cafés and bistrots serve traditional yet affordable French fare. From the well-traveled but enjoyable Chartier to the classic Les Philosophes in the Marais, a cut of meat and frites shouldn’t be a splurge. Limit: €18
3. Walking/bike tour
With multiple free walking tour options, some tourists prefer a private tour to explore the city more intimately. With dozens of choices out there, it’s hard to pick. A walking tour with Oui Paris Tours or a bike tour with Fat Tire is a great, affordable way to get to know the city. Limit: €30
4. Electronics adapter
Many a traveler forgets that outlets and plugs are different in Europe. Souvenir and electronic stores sell adapters to make your chargers fit into the wall outlets, but the cheapest ones can be found at BHV, the all-purpose department store in the Marais. Limit: €10
Street food can be found everywhere, so prices are competitive. At lunchtime, the choice often comes down to a sandwich or a crepe. For a gooey ham and cheese crepe or a chicken and veggie sandwich, I never worry about having enough money. Limit: €5
With wintertime approaching, having appropriate socks (ones without holes) seems important. Unprepared visitors often wonder where to get the latest Parisian fashion as they shiver in their tee shirts. Do like the Parisians do and head to the closest H&M or, better yet, to Japanese department store Uniqlo by the Opera Garnier for some good shopping and great site-seeing. Limit: €40 pants, €40 sweater, €3 socks
Instead of 7-11 and Dunkin’ Donuts, the French head to the café for a pick-me-up that won’t break the bank. A café (an espresso) may leave some tourists longing for a cup of Joe, but for mere euros you can squat a seat for as long as you’d like. (Tip: Stand at the cafe’s bar for cheaper prices.) Limit: €2
8. Theatre/Opera tickets
If you packed a top hat or a ball gown anticipating a night at the theatre, there is hope. Last minute “rush” tickets for the Opera Garnier and Bastille are extremely affordable if you are patient enough to line up 2-3 hours before the show. Théâtre du Châtelet, which often hosts musicals like Les Misérables and Sweeney Todd, offers rush tickets up until the minute before curtain. Limit: €30
Unless you’re going to try the trendiest macaron or a French-style cupcake, pastries are a steal in Paris. Bakeries all over the city will serve up the best flaky croissants, lemon tarts, or apple pastries for mere coins. Limit: €3
10. Entrance to a bar/club
If you choose to go to a bar or club on the Champs-Elysées, good luck to you. Personally, I’d never enter a place that made me pay a cover. There are plenty of nightspots on rue de Lappe by the Bastille or in the winding streets of Montmartre that will keep the budget-conscious partier happy. Limit: €0
What do you think, Cheapos? What other price limits can you imagine in Paris? Share your own “price ceilings” in our comments section.
Also in our guide: Planning a trip to Paris? Our editors have inspected, reviewed and photographed Paris’ best inexpensive accommodations. We’ve got picks all over town, in the Latin Quarter, near the Louvre, in the Marais and more central neighborhoods.