Paris has been in my bucket list for so long, but it took me a couple of years to pursue my Parisian dreams. One, because of the strenuous Schengen visa application procedure. Two, because it is known to be a very expensive city.
Early this year, I felt that October 2016 is the right time as Ed and I wanted to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary somewhere special. I was ready to handle the visa stress, not the splurge though. So, I did my online research, asked some friends who have been there, and it turned out that there are several ways to enjoy The City of Light on a budget.
Here are some tested and proven travel tips:
- Book your tickets ahead! I wanted to book 5 days before our trip, but online tickets for our travel dates were already sold out. So, we had to queue for an hour during our visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
- Watch the Eiffel Tower from afar. Best places to get a full view of Paris' famed Iron Lady for FREE are at Trocadero and Champ de Mars. Make sure to see it sparkle at night. It happens every hour for only 5 minutes.
- If you want to go up and can trade money for energy, take the stairs. It's way cheaper than taking the lift. But remember, 2nd floor is 600 steps from the ground.
- Save some Euros by visiting only the 2nd Floor. We purchased tickets to the top and realized that the view from the 2nd level is enough.
Stairs entrance to 2nd floor: € 7 | Lift entrance to 2nd floor: € 11 | Lift entrance to top: € 17
- Book tickets online! We booked at Louvre's official website a week before our trip.
- Visit on a Wednesday or Friday night. During those days, Louvre is open until 9:45 PM. We visited on a Wednesday at 6:00 PM and there's no queue at all. Our online tickets were unnecessary!
- If there's a long queue outside the Pyramid entrance, enter through Carrousel Du Louvre. There's a hidden entrance beside Arc du Carrousel.
- Plan your visit. Know what you want to see and grab a map once you're there. Ed and I are not museum junkies, we only want to see the famous artworks (Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory Statue); hence our visit only lasted for an hour and a half.
- Visit during the 1st Sunday of the month. Entrance at the Louvre is FREE, but expect a long queue.
Louvre Entrance Fee: € 15
Notre-Dame de Paris
- Be there before 10 AM if you want to go up the Notre Dame Towers. There was already a queue formed outside the South Tower entrance when we arrived at 9:30 AM.
- Skip the Towers. No entrance fee when you visit the Cathedral! You'll miss seeing the gargoyles watching over Paris and the Emmanuel (Notre-Dame's biggest bell) though.
|Gargoyles of Notre Dame|
Tower Entrance Fee: € 10
- Visit only one viewing deck. If you ask me, that would be the terrace of Arc de Triomphe! The iconic monument offers an unobstructed aerial view of Champs Elysees and a breathtaking panorama of the Eiffel Tower.
- Head over to the terrace of Galeries Lafayette for aerial views without entrance fee. Take the elevator to the 7th floor, then the escalator to the terrace.
|view from Galeries Lafayette|
No entrance fee.
- Build your itinerary by arrondissement.
- Take note of attractions wherein you have to climb hundreds of steps: Sacre Coeur Dome, Arc de Triompe, Notre Dame Towers. Make sure not to schedule both in one day.
- Prioritize! Only visit the attractions that piqued your interest, not all those stated in guide books and in travel websites.
- Make a walking trail in Google Maps when doing your itinerary, screenshot or print it! With this, you don't need to have roaming data to access Google Maps during your trip.
|view from Sacre Coeur Dome|
Entrance Fee: € 6
- Stay near the tourist attractions. Book an accommodation in the city center; 1 to 9 arrondissements.
- Look further. Hotel rates are cheaper in 17 to 20 arrondissements, but make sure the hotel is accessible by public transportation.
|Sacre Coeur from our budget accommodation in Paris|
- Study the Train System before your trip and take note of the Metro Lines and Stations near the attractions you want to visit.
- Make sure to keep your used train ticket separate from the unused ones. You'll need the RER ticket when exiting Aeroport Charles de Gaulle 2 Tgv station. We wasted time searching for ours! :(
- Download a free Paris Metro app on your phone. I personally love the Next Stop Paris app as it can be used without internet connection.
- Grab a free Paris Map in the airport
- Take the RER B train from CDG Airport to the city. It's cheaper than booking a private airport shuttle.
- Buy Carnet - a set of 10 metro tickets - to save 20%.
|FREE Paris Map available in the airport|
- For Michelin restaurants, avoid being in the waiting list by booking 3 months in advance. Ed tried to book a table in a 3-star Michelin restaurant 2 weeks before our trip and ended in the waiting list.
- For popular restaurants like Le Relais de l'Entrecote, be there 30 minutes before the opening time. The queue is unbearable after 7 PM.
- Eat like a King during lunch and take a light meal in the evening. Meals in restaurants are cheaper during the day.
- Ask for carafe d'eau - free tap water - instead of buying a still or sparkling water. Don't worry, it's safe for drinking!
- Order a prix fixe meal or formule. It's cheaper than ordering a starter, main and dessert separately.
- For Laduree French Macarons, Angelina Hot Chocolate and Berthillon ice cream, order for take away to save a few Euros.
Take away: € 3 per scoop | Eat in: € 4.50 per scoop
- Most train stations are not equipped with toilets, hence make sure to do your thing before leaving the hotel or restaurant.
- Public toilets near tourist attractions are usually paid toilets, expect to be charged € 1 per use. Instead of using paid toilets, look for a Sanisette or self-washing toilet along the streets; it's FREE to use!
|Sanisette - FREE public toilet in Paris|
- You'll not save time and money from saying Bonjour and Sil vous plait, but you'll surely get warm smiles and better service.
Did I miss something? Share your travel tips for Paris in the comment section below! :)
P.S. Massive THANKS to my blogger friends, Kenneth Surat of #iKen and Doc Gelo of Beyond Toxicity, for sharing travel hacks that made our trip planning easier.