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Money saving tips: How to survive Paris on a budget

The Local
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Money saving tips: How to survive Paris on a budget

Paris is an expensive place - but it doesn't have to be. Here are some surefire ways to save those euros.


Paris is regularly ranked as one of the priciest cities in the world. But if you're on a tight budget, here are some tips for you.

Metro Tickets

Using Metro ticket after Metro ticket can really rack up the bills fast, with each journey costing €1.90. But if you buy 10 tickets at once, known as a "carnet", it's just €14.90 (or a saving of around 20 percent).

Navigo Pass

If you're travelling a bit more, then the Navigo pass is the most bang-for-your-buck option. It’s your personal transportation card in Paris for the Metro, train, RER, tram and bus system.

There are several different types of packages, for example you can get a weekly pass if you're visiting Paris for €22.80, or if you’re here for the long term, sign up for a monthly pass for €75.20 per month which includes traveling to the airport (usually about €12 per ticket) and Disneyland. The student discount takes it to €35 per month. 

Paris: Price of monthly Navigo travel pass to increase again this summerPhoto: AFP

Vélib' - the city's bike-sharing scheme

If you are brave enough and want to get a little exercise, sign up for Vélib’ -- the public (and sometimes electric) biking service in Paris. You can either get a subscription or a pass for one or seven days. 

A day pass is €5 for one Vélib’ or €15 for 7 days. There are discounts if you get more than one Vélib' at a time, see the tariffs here.

If you plan to subscribe to the service long term, you can get V-Free which means the first 30 minutes of biking are free, and after that each 30 minutes is €1. 

You can also sign up through the V-Plus system which you can get for €37.20 per year, or if you are a student grab the V-Plus Jeunes for €27.60. Though if you want to use the electric boost on your bike, sign up for V-Max at €99.60, or V-MaxJeunes for €85.20 for students. 

Food is cheaper at the markets

For cheap food, head to the markets. They are open most days of the week, and in general are cheaper than any of the supermarkets. There are many indoor “marchés” in each arrondissement, to find one that suits your schedule and location take a look at Jours de Marchés.

Buying food in Paris is by far one of the biggest contributors to emptying your wallet, especially if you eat meat. Always buy meat from a butcher, not from a supermarket -- you can save up to half the price. 

You can also keep an eye out for supermarket food that is close to passing its expiration date, because it may be discounted. Also, prices change depending on the arrondissement, so watch were you shop especially in 1st, 4th, 7th, 8th and just never do it in the 16th.

Photo: AFP

Drinks don't need to be expensive

A lot of people may not realize it, but it's often cheaper to buy your drink at the bar. There are two price lists, one for people drinking at the counter, and one for those on the tables. In fact, sometimes there's a third price list for those sitting on the terraces (and no surprises here, it's the most expensive of the three). 

So in short, ask if it's cheaper at the bar and you may just save yourself a euro or two. 

And keep an eye out for Happy Hours which can typically be very good value for money (and often last much longer than one hour). Consider downloading the app called Happy Hours Paris.

And lastly, for the cheapest wine in town, just do as the locals do and take a bottle to the canal or river. Don't forget your corkscrew!

Wait for the sales! 

If you’re shopping for clothes, wait for the soldes. Sales happen twice a year when France allows huge nationwide sales, the winter soldes d’hiver in January and February and summer soldes d’été in June and July. These times of the year are perfect for finding clothes and cheap household items, so be sure to add it to your calendars if you're counting pennies.

French winter sales: All you need to knowPhoto: AFP

The marketplace is always a good idea

The flea markets in Paris usually have some inexpensive clothing and furniture options. You can find a guide to which flea market best suits you here

Besides the famed Saint-Ouen market to the north of Paris, there are often pop-up markets across the city at the weekends. Keep an eye out and grab yourself a bargain!

The cheapest place to rent is... 

If you’re looking for an affordable flat, make sure you’re looking in the right arrondissement. In general, anything between the 1st and 8th, plus the 15th and 16th, are going to be a bit pricey unless you are willing to live in a cupboard. 

According to a 2016 map (see it in full size here), created by Paris magazine StreetPress, the most expensive area to rent is Bir-Hakeim in the 15th arrondissement where a 35m2 apartment will cost €2,150 a month. 

But the very cheapest place to live? That title goes to the area around La Courneuve - 8 mai 1945, the only place on the map where rents dip below the €500 mark, with the average flat going for €480.

These rent rates by location in Paris are based on a 35m² apartment within a 500-metre radius of each of the Metro and RER station, as The Local reported here.

Free museum entry

Of course you're going to want to take in some of that excellent museum culture in Paris, but if you want to do it cheaply, wait for the first Sunday of each month when many of them are free. 

Otherwise, they're free for those under the age of 26. 

No need to pay for Wifi

Look for the Paris Wifi logo in public places. There are around 300 spots around town to login, and get two hours of free wifi. Otherwise you can always just go around any corner and find the golden arches of McDonald's and swoop in for some free Wifi. 

By Courtney Anderson

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