Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Let’s face it, Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world—especially with the exchange rate as it is. However, if you are on a budget there are a few tricks to getting around without damaging your pocketbook too badly.


Yes, one can spend a pretty penny at a restaurant, but if you are on a budget why not head for one of the local grocery stores or farmer's markets. It frankly never ceases to surprise me how cheap groceries are around here. Compared to prices in San Francisco, food, detergent, floss...and I mean everything is so much less here in the City of Light. So, if you are looking to save a few bucks, picking out what you want and creating your own meals is certainly the best way to go. 

Or how about trying a French version of a sandwich? They are a little different than our own sandwiches, but boy are they tasty and for just a few euros, you can't go wrong. Served on a baguette, you can find all kinds of pre-made lunches in any number of boulangeries (bakeries) in Paris. Feel free to pack one of these delectables and head off to one of the many parks to enjoy your meal. Or do as the locals do and eat on the run with your sandwich in hand while heading to your next destination.

For something a little different, there are several kiosks around Paris serving all sorts of crepes. Filled with vegetables, eggs, meats, fruits or just about anything at all, they are simply scrumptious. Try one or try all, but definitely try the nutella crepe. If you are a choco-holic like me, ask for an extra spoonful of nutella. Your sweet tooth will be delighted you did.

While dining at a restaurant will definitely take more euros out of your wallet, cafes are a friendly alternative for that sit down meal experience. Just check out the chalkboard outside of the ever ubiquitous cafe sprinkled along practically every street. They all list the ‘plat du jour’ (daily special pronounced plah-doo-joor). It will inevitably be something fabulous that is on the cheap—usually around 10-15 euros. Instead of ordering alcohol, simply ask for carafe d’eau (it’s pronounced cuh-rawf DOH, meaning a carafe of water) and save yourself the price of a drink.


Explore the Sacré-Cœur area. Visit the church, the exterior of the famous Moulin Rouge (meaning red windmill—and yes, there is a big red windmill outside) and hang out with the plethora of local artists trying to hawk their creations. Some of them are actually quite good. If you are buying art on a budget, this is certainly a spot for you. Quite often there will be some pretty fantastic street performers showing off their talents too. While performances don't cost anything, the artists would love to have a bit of an offering in their guitar cases, boxes or whatever they are using to pass around.

Notre Dame and all the many churches in Paris all have free entries. You can certainly donate money and they appreciate even a few coins in the donation box, but it is not necessary. Audio guides are extra, but hey if you just want to feast your eyes on some pretty astounding architecture as well as the art these edifices house, this is the way to do it.

And speaking of art, the French love their paintings, statues and various other forms of creative works—and there are plenty of museums in Paris to show for it. Some of them have free admission all the time. As for the bigger named locations, they likely will have one free day a month. Just check out their websites to see which day it is. For the more famous museums you will want to keep in mind that the lines will be as long as the eye can see on a free-day. So, come as early as possible to avoid as much of the hustle and bustle as possible.

Champ de Mars is the park where that somewhat famous structure called the Eifel Tower lives. Bring your packed lunch here and enjoy the view. Jardin de Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin des Plantes are a few more parks in the city worth checking out. Parisians are big on their parks and the locals always take a break from the hustle and bustle here.

**Note for women, as is the case for any park in any big city, please be careful or preferably avoid all together at night. You don’t want the creepy crawlies to get in the way of your trip.

Walk the Champs-Elysees. While everything is expensive on the Champs, walking is free. It's nice to see Haussman's grand boulevard. And grand it is. The sidewalks alone are the size of a couple of street lanes, making room for all the foot traffic. While you are there, check out Napolean's Arc de Triomphe at the end of the main part of the street. All the parades, marathons and that little known race Lance Armstrong likes so much all end up here.

Walk, walk, walk…did I say walk? Walking saves you the metro fare, it gives you exercise to burn the calories from the plat du jour you just ate and more importantly you can revel in the breathtaking architecture, from days gone by, that is simply everywhere.


Why not trade homes with a French person? You can each live the way the other lives for the time you are in the other’s respective country…and of course it’s free.

Stay in a hostel. You have to share rooms, but for young people this could be the way to go.

Travel off season. Rates are always cheaper when you travel in fall and winter. Just remember to pack your long underwear and scarves. It’s a bit chilly outside.

While Paris is not cheap, it can be done cheaply if you so desire. Enjoy the City of Light and Happy ‘non’-spending!

Thank you for reading and bonne journée!