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Visiting Paris on a budget? This post is for you! Yes, it’s possible to see all the top attractions in Paris without going broke.
For many, Paris is the trip of a lifetime and it can be a very expensive city without proper planning. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to have fun in Paris, even on a tight budget. Today I’m sharing tips on how to visit Paris for families on a budget, including tips for where to stay in Paris and things to do.
After visiting the city a couple of times now, both during the low season (winter) and high season (summer), I’ve learned several savvy tips to help you enjoy an incredible trip to Paris without blowing your budget.
To make our summer trip to Paris more affordable, I booked an apartment near the Arc de Triomphe through Airbnb. This helped us save a lot of money so we could spend more on food and drinks. I love Airbnb and recommend them if you’re looking for nice accommodations on a budget.
There’s really no shortage of fun things to do in Paris, including exploring its museums, attractions, and going on self-guided walks. But before you open your wallet, there are a few things that you should know which can help you save A LOT of money.
To make your Paris trip more enjoyable, here are some costly tourist mistakes to avoid.
- 12 silly mistakes to avoid making in Paris
- 6-day Paris itinerary for first-timers
- Paris Pass review: Is it worth it?
Save Money on Paris Attractions
Paris is home to some of the most famous monuments, churches, and museums in the world. From seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre to marveling at the beautiful gothic architecture at Notre-Dame Cathedral, there is something for everyone to experience in Paris!
To help make your trip to Paris more budget-friendly, here are some costly mistakes to avoid making when sightseeing in Paris:
Mistake #1. Not taking advantage of the Paris Pass
Visiting Paris for the first time can be stressful. Paris is a big city and there’s lots of fun things to do and see. It can be challenging to plan an itinerary and determine which attractions to spend your money on.
They’re also recommended by Expedia and the Paris Pass currently has a rating of 4/5 on TripAdvisor. Many people have already used the Paris Pass for their Paris trip and posted happy reviews.
With the Paris Pass, you can save time, money, and enjoy stress-free sightseeing. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out these TripAdvisor reviews.
The Paris Pass includes:
✓ FREE entry to Paris museums and monuments, such as the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and more
✓ FREE 1 day Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour to help you see the top sights
✓ FREE entry to Paris attractions, such as a River Cruise
✓ FREE unlimited travel on the Paris metro, RER, and buses
✓ Extra discount offers at shops and restaurants in Paris
✓ FREE Paris guidebook to help plan your itinerary
PRO TIP: Buy the pass online to save extra money off the retail price. To buy the Paris Pass, click here to go to the official website.
How to get your Paris Pass:
Step 1: Choose which pass duration you want to buy (2, 3, 4 or 6 day). You can click here to purchase your Paris Pass from the official website.
Step 2: Download your mobile pass instantly using the Paris Pass App. If you prefer a physical pass, simply opt for delivery (they deliver worldwide) or collect on arrival in Paris.
Step 3: You now have FREE access to any of the 60+ top Paris attractions included for the duration of your pass. You can activate your pass anytime within 12 months from the date of purchase.
Step 4: Download the free guide book, which is included with your purchase. Use this book to help you easily plan your itinerary.
Still not sure if the Paris Pass is right for you?
If you’re just interested in visiting museums and monuments, you may want to consider getting the Go Paris Pass instead.
If you’re just interested in visiting the Eiffel Tower and doing tours in Paris, then you may want to consider getting the Paris Explorer Pass instead.
Either way, there’s no reason to pay full price for attractions when you can save money with one of these three tourism passes. Choose the one the works best for your trip!
Mistake #2. Not buying your sightseeing tickets in advance
One of the most common mistakes tourists make when visiting Paris is waiting in long lines to buy attraction tickets. If this is your first time visiting Paris, I’ll share an insider tip to help you skip the long lines.
Many of Paris’s top attractions offer a separate line for people who have purchased tickets in advance. The line for people who already have tickets is shorter, which means you can quickly get inside the museum and enjoy more sightseeing.
For Paris Pass holders, you can skip the long ticket lines and get fast-entry at popular attractions in Paris. This includes museums such as the Louvre and Centre Pompidou. Why wait hours in line when you can save time by using the Paris Pass?
Mistake #3. Paying full price for tourist attractions
If you’re visiting Paris on a budget, you don’t have to worry about skipping all the popular attractions due to the high ticket costs. I already mentioned how the Paris Pass can be a smart way to save money and time at museums and tourist attractions.
Another great way to save money is to visit museums for free on the first Sunday of each month. These free museum days do get extremely busy, so I suggest arriving at least 30 minutes before the popular museums open, such as the Louvre. This is a great way for visitors on a tight budget to save money.
Not using the Paris Pass? If you’re just interested in visiting museums and monuments, such as Musee d’Orsay or the Louvre, then you may want to consider getting the Go Paris Pass. This sightseeing pass provides free entry to 50+ museums and attractions in Paris.
Mistake #4. Not taking advantage of FREE things to do in Paris
While many of the top attractions in Paris cost money to visit, there are lots of free things to do if you’re on a tight budget. Some of my favorite free things to do in Paris include:
- Notre-Dame Cathedral. While you have to pay to go up and see a view from the towers, it’s free to enter the church. If you’re using the Paris Pass or the Paris Go Pass, you can visit the towers for free.
- Basilica Sacré-Coeur. You have to pay to go up and see a view from the dome, but it’s free to enter the church. If you’re using the Paris Pass or the Paris Go Pass, you can visit the towers for free.
- Jardin du Luxemburg. This is one of my favorite free gardens to visit in Paris. The perfect spot to have a picnic!
Save Money on Food & Drink
Paris is home to some of the best food and restaurants in the world. Keep in mind that each restaurant sets their own hours, so I recommend checking ahead to see when places are open or closed. Also, many of the popular restaurants fill up quickly, so you may want to make reservations in advance.
Tipping in restaurants: Most bars and restaurants include a service charge already, so you don’t need to tip. However, if you are happy with your service, it’s always nice to leave a 5% or 10% tip.
Do you need to speak French? You don’t need to be fluent in French to survive your holiday in Paris, but it does help to know a few key words. Here are a few French words you should know:
Bonjour – Hello / Good day (this is a polite way to greet others before 6:00pm)
Bonsoir – Good evening (this a polite way to greet others after 6:00pm)
Merci – Thank you
S’il vous plait – Please
Pardon – Pardon / Excuse me (say this if you need to pass someone, especially on the Paris Metro)
Excusez-moi – Excuse me (say this to get your waiter’s attention or you need to pass someone in a crowded area)
Sur place – For here (say this if you want to dine-in)
à emporter – Take away (say this if you want your meal to-go)
Une carafe d’eau s’il vous plait – A jug of water please (always free in restaurants)
l’addition s’il vous plait – the bill please
To help you eat all the delicious food Paris has to offer without blowing your budget, here are some costly mistakes to avoid:
Mistake #1. Ordering bottled water in a restaurant
There is no need to pay for bottled water in a restaurant, unless you actually want to order bottled water. Instead, just ask for tap water (it’s free).
You can say this to your server, “Une carafe d’eau s’il vous plait”, which means ‘a jug of water please’.
Mistake #2. Ordering alcoholic drinks outside of happy hour
Ordering alcoholic drinks in Paris can get expensive, however many restaurants offer discounts on beverages during their happy hours.
A more budget-friendly option is to take a break from sightseeing in the afternoon and enjoy a drink on the patio before dinner. This is a fun way to relax and people watch in Paris without spending too much money.
Mistake #3. Not taking advantage of pre-fix specials
Many restaurants and cafes in Paris offer fixed-price combos. For example, for lunch you might be able to get 1 starter + 1 main dish + 1 drink for a set price.
This is usually cheaper than ordering from the regular menu, which is a great way to save money when dining out. You’ll definitely want to take advantage of these great lunch specials!
Mistake #4. Neglecting the cheap eats in Paris
Eating at restaurants in Paris can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are lots of great cheap eats that you should consider trying in Paris.
As a vegetarian, many traditional French restaurants tend to be heavy on the meat dishes. I found the best way to eat vegeterian and stay on budget was to dine at Italian restaurants (hello endless pizza and pasta!), eat plenty of crepes, visit bakeries or boulangeries, eat ethnic cuisine (falafels, Asian food, and so on).
Another great way to eat well on a budget is to have a picnic. This works well during the warmer months when you can head to a nearby park or sit by the Eiffel Tower and enjoy a fun picnic. You can buy bread, cheese, meat, olives, wine, or whatever you want from a local grocery store. Just don’t forget to bring a wine opener!
This was another perk of staying at an Airbnb in Paris. They had plates, cutlery, glasses and a wine opener we could take with us to enjoy a beautiful picnic in the park. You can click here to get a coupon for your next Airbnb booking.
Here are some of my favorite spots to eat well on a budget in Paris:
While this is not the cheapest option, it’s my absolute favorite restaurant in Paris. If you’re looking for delicious Italian food, friendly service, and affordable prices, then head straight to Ristorante Al Caratello. Portions are big and it’s located right in the beautiful Montmartre neighborhood.
Whether you prefer sweet or savory crepes, this is the best place to enjoy affordable crepes in Paris. I ordered the Nutella Banana crepe and it was delicious!
This is a popular lunch spot for cheap eats in Paris. The falafels are huge, so don’t forget to bring your appetite.
This lunch spot is super popular with the locals. Everything is fresh, delicious, and affordable. For around 9 Euros, I was able to enjoy a veggie sandwich, a drink, and a dessert. There are many locations around Paris.
If you like Thai food, this is a good lunch or dinner option. Portions are generous and affordable.
Near the Arc de Triomphe, you can enjoy yummy Chinese food at Noodle Panda. It’s a cheap and popular spot with the locals.
This was one of our favorite meals in Paris. Almost everything on the menu is vegan, but my carnivore boyfriend loved his meal.
Montmartre is a great neighborhood to find cheap eats in Paris. If you’re craving a sandwich, look no further than Josse Philippe. This place offers some of the best cheap sandwiches in the city.
This cute café is the perfect spot to grab breakfast in Paris. Whether you want a croissant or a breakfast quiche, this place is affordable and delicious.
For a sit down crepe option, I highly recommend Framboise. They have some of the best savory and sweet crepes in the city.
Want to eat a lot, but don’t want to spend a lot of money? Head to Pizzeria Popolare and see why the locals love this place! For only 5 Euros, you can enjoy a delicious margherita pizza. Italian food is the way to go if you’re looking for cheap eats in Paris.
5. Eating at restaurants close to tourist attractions
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in any city is eating at restaurants located near tourist attractions. Not only are these restaurants expensive, but they tend to offer mediocre food at best.
To avoid being ripped off at tourist restaurants, walk a few blocks away from tourist attractions. Don’t be afraid to head down a side street and follow where the locals eat. This is where you’ll find the best food and value.
Save Money on Paris Transportation
Paris is a big city, but it’s very walkable and their public transit system makes it easy to get around town. If you’re visiting Paris for the first time, I know their metro system might seem a little intimidating, but it’s really straightforward once you get the hang of it.
PRO TIP: Watch a video on YouTube of how to use the public metro system in Paris. This helped us a lot.
The RER train is the regional train system. The RER will take you to both airports and to daytrip destinations such as Versailles. Here are some costly mistakes to avoid when getting around Paris:
Mistake #1. Taking taxis to get around the city
With the convenient and affordable Paris Metro, there is no reason to take an expensive taxi in the city. If you are insistent on hiring a driver to get to and from the airport, then I recommend using Uber or a private shuttle car.
Mistake #2. Not using the Paris metro system
Once you learn how the Paris metro system works, it’s easy to navigate and get to any point you desire in the city. To save money, I recommend buying a carnet of 10 tickets.
PRO TIP: For Paris Pass holders, you get unlimited FREE rides on the Paris metro, RER, and buses included in your pass. This makes it easy to get to and from each attraction. You can click here to learn more about the benefits of buying the Paris Pass.
Mistake #3. Falling for common tourist scams in Paris
Like with any major city, it’s essential that you keep an eye on your belongs at all times. Pickpockets know where to operate in the city and you don’t want to run the risk of having your wallet or phone stolen. Here are a couple of other scams you should be aware of:
The string/ bracelet scam: People may ask if you’d like a “friendship bracelet or ring”. They will tie it so tight that you can’t remove it and then demand money from you. Keep an eye out for these people (usually males) near popular museums and the Montmartre area.
Petition scams: This is usually around popular monuments, such as the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. Mainly run by young girls, they are often holding a clipboard (or a piece of paper) and ask you “Do you speak English?”
From my experience, these girls can be extremely aggressive and they are not afraid to grab your arm to get your attention. Firmly reject any petition and continue on your way.
If you stop and sign the petition, there are French words on the paper that usually say you have to give 1,000 euros or you will face a penalty. They work in groups, so more people will come and demand money from you or pickpocket you. Always remember to be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings.
Save Money on Paris Hotels & Accommodations
For first timers in Paris, choosing where to stay can be a little overwhelming. There are 20 Arrondissements (neighborhoods) in the city. The 1st and 7th Arrondissements are popular neighborhoods for first time visitors to stay, however they can be quiet expensive. This is because you’ll find attractions such as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower here.
Instead, I recommend staying in the 4th Arrondissement (Le Marais) if you’re looking for a classic feel of Paris.
Here are some costly mistakes to avoid when booking your hotel and travel accommodations:
Mistake #1. Not considering Airbnb accommodation
Airbnb has been my first choice for the past couple of years when it comes to finding comfortable and affordable travel accommodations. For our 10-day trip to Paris, we booked an Airbnb apartment near the Arc de Triomphe. We loved staying in this area since it was close to the metro and we enjoyed the neighborhood.
Our Airbnb apartment in Paris was great because we had all the comforts of home for an affordable price. It included a kitchen, laundry, a comfortable bed, a dining table, a living room, and more. This made us feel like we were experiencing Paris as a local.
Doesn’t everyone want to daydream that they live in Paris? Or is that just me?
Today I have a coupon for you to use on your next Airbnb stay. Click here to get your free Airbnb coupon!
Mistake #2. Not planning ahead
Just like with any major city, planning ahead can help ensure that you get the best choice and value. If possible, I recommend checking prices for flights and accommodations at least three months in advanced.
Planning ahead also means deciding which month is the best time for you to visit Paris. I have been to Paris both in the summer and winter months. Each season has its pros and cons.
I personally recommend visiting during the shoulder season (spring or fall) because the weather will be nice and museums will be less crowded. However, winter and summer are still good times to visit.
Mistake #3. Staying outside of the city
I know those affordable hotels near Paris Disney sound tempting, but unless you’re spending every day exploring the Disney Park, it’s not a good idea to stay there. Commuting into the city every day can get very expensive and it takes up a lot of precious sightseeing time. I don’t recommend it.
Instead, you’ll want to stay in central Paris to make the most of your trip. The metro makes it easy to get around the city, so don’t stress too much about trying to stay next to your favorite museum or monument.
Again, I’m a big fan of choosing Airbnb to save money on my travel accommodations. You can click here to get a free coupon to use toward your next stay.
PRO TIP: If you’re on a budget, you can find accommodations in South Pigalle, located around Saint-Georges. This is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris. I stayed here with my sister when visiting Paris in the winter months. They have affordable restaurants too, which makes this a win-win for budget-conscious travellers.