A visit to France, and specifically Paris, is the trip of a lifetime for many people. While it’s true that it is an expensive place to visit, there are several ways you can make your euro go further. Here are ten ideas to save money visiting France to get you started!
10 Tips to Save Money Visiting France:
1. Rent an Apartment. Hotel prices are sometimes exorbitant but there are plenty of people who rent their apartments out for visitors. This is a great way to save not only the initial cost of housing, but to also save money when it comes to food. This is why we chose a France rental apartment instead of a hotel.
2. Eat in. While it can be incredibly tempting to eat out every meal while you’re in such a food mecca, but the cost of feeding a family is high. If you plan to eat every meal in a restaurant you could easily spend 150E or more a day on meals. Instead opt for breakfast in or grab a few items for a picnic dinner.
3. Fixed Price Lunch. If you’re going to eat a meal out, make it lunch where you’ll be able to get more for your money. Most places offer a fixed price lunch & dinner (plat du jour), where for 12-15E you get a 3 course set meal (with wine included). Ordering ala carte off the menu will cost you a bit more but lunch is still the best value meal of the day. This is also the freshest food – usually straight from the market! And let me tell you, it’s fabulous!
4. Use public transit. Even if you plan to visit other cities it can make a lot of sense to use public transportation. Paris has a vast train network and France itself is generally well connected through regular trains, buses, and even low cost airfares on discount carriers. If you’ll be in Paris you can buy a carte navigo for around 15E that gives you access to the metro for a week.
5. Find free activities. Thanks to the internet, it’s possible to easily research free activities that are happening. Some museums have free admission days or run 2 for 1 specials. Take advantage and plan to be flexible. You never know when a great deal may pop up! We found musicians playing in the streets and free concerts in all 3 cities we visited.
6. Get Out of Paris. Yes it’s true. While you may be visiting France only to see Paris, you will pay for it. Visit lesser known regions like Brittany or Bordeaux. Cities like Marseille, Lyon, and Toulouse have a completely different feel than Paris. There’s so much more to France than just the capital and you may be surprised to discover other areas are just (if not more) lovely and affordable. Read more about Day Trips From Paris for more ideas.
7. Visit off Season. This is the easiest way to save money when you travel. Visiting France in the summer will be expensive. Period. But, if you can visit in the fall or winter you can save a lot of money and will avoid many of the crowds. We even saved money by visiting in early June vs late June when the French children are out of school.
8. Wi-Fi. All around France, and especially in big cities, you will have no problem finding and connecting to WIFI. Set up an account on Skype or Google Talk before leaving the US and make any calls back using the internet instead of highly priced calls on your cell phone or hotel phones.
9. What to Drink. There’s quite a bit of insider knowledge that goes into drinking in France. For coffee, you’ll pay less if you stand at the counter and drink, than if you sit at the table. If you’re ordering water with a meal, you can specify you want tap water (une carafe d’eau), which is safe to drink and free – whereas bottled water can add up. I made the mistake once just asking for water. That was a 4E mistake I never made again! A glass of wine will cost less than a bottle of soda – parents.
10. Shop in department stores. Take advantage of your tourist status and buy things in department stores. There’s a 10% discount offered to tourists (be sure to show your passport) and when you purchase up to 175E the VAT tax (15-17% of the total cost) is reimbursed. For items you were planning to buy anyway this can be an easy way to save a little bit of money.
What other tips can you to save money visiting France?
You might like Rick Steves France 2015 Kindle version which you can download on your phone instead of carrying around a large guidebook.
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