June 13, 2016

One Week in Paris: How to See It All on a Budget

I’m Jessica and I’m a money expert, speaker, Accredited Financial Counsellor Canada®, host of the More Money Podcast, and am currently writing my first book with HarperCollins Canada (2025).
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My one-week in Paris trip was definitely an adventure! I was hoping for a nice, relaxing week of bread-eating and gallery-hopping, but instead, it was 7 days of strikes, floods, and colds. But still, I had an amazing time in the City of Lights and I can’t wait to visit again (preferably when there aren’t any record-breaking natural disasters).

Before I get into how I managed to see all the big sights and what I learned along the way, I want to be upfront about how much this trip to Paris costs. It wasn’t cheap, and not just because Paris is one of the most expensive cities you can visit. The Canadian dollar has been really low for the past few years so the exchange rate hit hard.

How Much One Week in Paris Cost

Cost Total Each
Round-trip flight $1,637.44 $818.72
Accommodations for 6 nights $1,012.00 $506.00
Food and entertainment $978.12 $489.06
Total $3,627.56 $1,813.78

Ok, now on to some useful Paris money-saving tips that I hope will help you if you decide to practice your French in belle Paris!

You Don’t Need to Tip

That’s right, it’s not required or even expected of you to tip at the end of a meal, which really helped my husband and I save when eating out.

Be Strategic When Dining

That being said, you will pay more if you choose to eat in instead of grabbing something and go. Cafés also have a 3-tiered pricing system, meaning you’ll pay different prices depending on if you sit at the bar, sit at a table inside or sit at a table outside with a view.

A good rule of thumb is to grab something from a boulangerie (a bakery that specializes in bread) or patisserie (a bakery that specializes in pastries) for breakfast, then choose to dine at a café or restaurant for lunch or dinner. It’s cheaper to dine at lunch, so if you really want to save money, maybe grab some groceries to make dinner yourself where you’re staying (we had a little kitchenette that came in handy).

You can also get delicious grab-and-go crêpes, sandwiches, and gyros for fairly cheap at various spots around the city.

And lastly, if you really want to save money when dining, skip the booze. I found prices for wine and beer to be fairly steep, so instead, I would ask for water or an espresso when dining, then grab a £5 bottle of wine from a nearby grocery store (e.g. Monoprix or Franprix) to enjoy later on.

Get the Museum Pass, It’s Worth Every Euro

There are so many amazing museums and art galleries in Paris, I wanted to make sure my husband and I were able to see as many as we could — for the right price. We ended up buying the 4-day Paris Museum Pass which cost us €62 each (CDN $89). It wasn’t cheap, but it was well worth it.

Not only did it gave us admittance to the Panthéon (€8.50), the Louvre (€15), Musée D’Orsay (€12), Centre Pompidou (€14), Musée Rodin (€12), Musée de l’Armée (€12) and the top of the Arc de Triomphe (€8), we got to skip the long, regular ticket-holder line.

As you can see from the prices next to each attraction, we saved €19.50. And we would have saved even more if we weren’t sick during the trip and were able to do the tour of Notre Dame (€8), Musée de l’Orangerie (€9), Musée Picasso Paris (€12.50), and Château Versailles (€15) like we wanted to.

Don’t Taxi, Use Paris Transit

The Paris transit system is a bit complicated, especially if you don’t speak French, but once you get the hang of it, it’s very efficient and economical. You can either buy a packet (or carnet) of 10 tickets to use for the bus or metro, or you can buy a 5-day pass like my husband and I did. The best bet is to get the Paris Visit Pass for the best savings and travel flexibility.

Spend the €20 on a SIM Card

If you have an unlocked phone, I highly recommend you bring it with you and buy a SIM card in Paris so you can have internet access during your travels. It’s fairly simple to do, you just have to go to one of the cell phone stores in town (e.g. Orange or SFR) and they’ll hook you up. It was well worth the money since my husband and I were able to navigate throughout the city, check on transit schedules, and look up restaurant reviews before choosing where to eat.

You Can Do These Things in Paris for Free

Last but not least, the best thing about Paris is that there are so many beautiful places to check out for absolutely free. Obviously, most of them are outside, which wasn’t great for my trip since it rained every day, but we were still able to check out a few of these awesome venues:

  • Jardin du Luxembourg
  • Jardin des Tuileries
  • Parc Monceau
  • Jardin du Palais Royal
  • Parc des Buttes Chaumont
  • Pont Alexandre III
  • Cathédrale Notre-Dame (inside the church is free)
  • Shakespeare & Co. bookstore
  • Cimitière du Père Lachaise
  • Basilique du Sacré Coeur

What would you do if you have one week in Paris? What’s your best money-saving travel tip?

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add a comment

  1. NZ Muse says:

    Hmm I’m not sure we ever actually ate IN anywhere in Paris (sans I think one kebab shop run!) A big saver for us was making use of under-26 age discounts – got into the Louvre for free that way.

  2. Rachel @TheLatteBudget says:

    Great tips! Sounds like you saw a lot without spending a ton of money. Hope you had a great trip.

    • Jessica Moorhouse says:

      It was pretty great, despite the craziness. Definitely hope to visit again, maybe more the south of France.

  3. Jean says:

    My wife and I went last year (March 2015) and stay at Citadines Bastille Marais, which was cheap. Didn’t really know why until we got there. Across the street was a memorial for Charlie Hebdo, which is about 200m from the hotel.

    The hotel rooms are a lot smaller than in Canada or the US. King beds don’t exist. Queen beds is taking 2 single beds and putting them together.

    We bought some pastries and had that for breakfast, while I went out on my own some mornings to have a coffee at a cafe.

    We went to London (2 day), Paris (5 days) and Venice (4 days), but found London the most expensive with the exchange CAD/pound.

    • Jessica Moorhouse says:

      We just stayed in Paris but if we had more time I would have liked to go somewhere else in Europe for a few days. We stayed at an AirBnB in arrondissement 5, right near Luxembourg garden which was awesome. We actually got a king size bed, but it pretty much took up the whole room. But I was expecting a tiny suite, that’s just how it is in Paris.

  4. Tim Jordan says:

    Your trip sounds awesome! The cost of your trip seems to be only a little bit more than a Disney World trip (my favorite place to vacation). My wife especially would love to travel overseas so this gives me hope that it won’t break the bank. Thanks for breaking down the cost, and more importantly, thanks for sharing! Glad you had a blast.

    • Jessica Moorhouse says:

      You are totally welcome Tim! And I so want to go to Disney World. It’s my dream to go there and check out Harry Potter World!

  5. Alyson Crozier says:

    I spent 6 days in Paris in 2015 and loved every minute of it. My money saving tip, for those who are somewhat fit, is to walk up the Eiffel tower. Not only do you save money, but there is generally no line (or at least shorter line) than those who want to take the lift. You can only walk to the second platform, and then you take a lift up to the top floor – but again, no line!

    Another free museum I came across in Paris that I loved was the Victor Hugo museum (the guy who wrote Les Miserables) — it was free, and I learned so much about the man behind my favourite musical. They even showcased his ‘standing desk’ from back in the 1800s (which as a health professional really impressed me, since they are all the rage now!).

    Lastly, I LOVE the macaroons in Paris, but to save on costs I would buy an assortment of the mini-macaroons — which are cheaper and you get to try a bunch of flavours instead of just one big one!

    • Jessica Moorhouse says:

      Love macaroons! We definitely indulged and got a pack of 6 and they were seriously the best macaroons I’ve ever tasted!

  6. Jordann says:

    I’m glad you had a great trip! I was in the same boat as you when I was there: the weather forced me to eat inside at restaurants more than I would’ve liked. But for me it was the cold, not rain!

    • Jessica Moorhouse says:

      Ya, we were lucky that at least it was somewhat warm (thank god, because we did not pack for cold, I thought it was gonna be hot!).

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