If there is one city in the world is truly synonymous with the words ‘Love’ and ‘Romance’ then it has to be Paris. Ever since the grand Eiffel Tower was inaugurated in 1889, Paris has been on the bucket list of every traveller. Paris is also the gastronomical capital of the world and offers something for every taste-bud, from Michelin star restaurants to experimental fusion cuisine and excellent Asian food.
With its splendid gardens and sparkling blue lakes, the best time to visit Paris is definitely in summer. All you need is a picnic basket and a wine bottle to watch the bustling life. The ‘City of Lights’ is also an excellent choice just before and during Christmas as the city transforms itself with lighted streets, Xmas markets and skating rinks.
However Paris has been long touted as one of the most expensive cities in the world. This Paris budget travel guide will help you plan your next dream trip. Indian passport holders need valid Schengen visitor visa to visit France and we applied from Toronto.
Best budget neighbourhoods to stay
Paris is divided into 20 districts and thankfully they are named according to its number. These districts are called as ‘arrondissements‘. Smaller the number, closer you are to the city centre. The accommodation price in Paris is highest in the first 10 numbered districts owing to its proximity with all central business district and all tourist attractions.
Paris has one of the finest city transport in the world and hence staying a bit further away from city centre makes lot of sense. We highly recommend staying in the neighborhood of St. Germain (6th). The beautiful Luxembourg Garden (Jardin du Luxembourg) is found here. Marais (3rd/4th) can be a bit expensive but is good value overall. Situated on the eastern side, this neighbourhood has magnificent architecture, nice cafés and the famous Notre-Dame cathedral. Montmartre neighbourhood (18th) is another good choice for Indian travellers as there are lot of ‘Kabab’ places and South Asian restaurants. We are big proponents of trying out spicy non-Indian cuisine when traveling and this neighborhood is perfect for that. However few areas may be dodgy so ensure you stay very close to Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris (‘Sacré-Cœur‘).
Airbnb and couchsurfing have excellent penetration in Paris. Both will give you a unique opportunity to stay with locals and the latter is absolutely free. Hostels can be as expensive as hotels so if you are traveling as couple or a group then Airbnb offers the best value. Always keep in mind that the Parisians don’t appreciate speaking in our desi-loud tone. We got quite a few stares with our high-pitched Marathi-Hindi-Bengali tones from our neighbors while staying in studio apartment in 6th arrondissement
District # 1,2 should be avoided as they are business centres and has the famous Louvre museum. Similarly District # 7,8 are home to major tourist attractions like Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe and are a rip-off. Any accommodation beyond the 20 districts should not be even considered.
Must see attractions
- With 7 million visitors, Eiffel Tower is the topmost attraction to visit and there is really good reason for that. Buy the ticket online so you can skip the line and save around 2-3 hours.
- Paris Museum Pass offers excellent value for stays of 4+ days. During the summer months, the famous Louvre Museum and Musée d’Orsay are free the first Sunday of each month.
- The best churches in Paris viz. Notre Dame and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart are free.
- SANDEMANs New Paris and Discover Walks Paris offers very informative free walking tours with their knowledgeable guides who are also locals of the city.
- Gardens of Louvre, Luxembourg Garden (Jardin du Luxembourg), and Jardin des Tuileries are at prominent locations and offer beautiful half day trip. Even the cemeteries and the small park near Pont Neuf bridge are very popular picnic spots.
- Summer offers free outdoor festivals like Jazz festival and movie screenings which are very popular with the locals. Check the tourism office or website for the latest listings.
- For people-watching and window shopping walk in and around Champs Elysees.
- Arc de triomphe offers brilliant panoramic views of Paris especially at night and is open till 11pm.
- Off beat and lesser known destination are the Catacombs which are underground tunnels with skulls and bones of 6 million people. Book ticket online at least week in advance to avoid disappointment.
- Paris has some very famous flea markets and antique shops and the most popular is Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen (Porte de Clignancourt)
- Musuems of Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris (History of Paris), Musée de la Vie Romantique (Romantic movement) and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris are free year round
Enjoy Parisian food on budget
- Visit restaurants which have board outside of ‘Prix fixe‘ (Fixed price for a fixed 2-3 course meal)
- Some cafés and restaurants price a surcharge for sitting inside. Ensure that you always sit on the outside section. Some even offer discount if you have coffee while standing.
- Check the ‘Doner kebab’ restaurants for a quick, cheap and hearty meal which is perfectly suited for the Indians.
- The famous macarons of Paris can be very expensive but McD offers some really good ones at much cheaper price.
- Try the bars in the hostels to save on drinks and meet fellow travellers, especially the younger generation.
- Take away baguette, sandwiches, coffee and food with a bottle of wine is lot cheaper and you can enjoy it at the gardens and parks in every neighbourhood of Paris
- Always carry a water bottle and refill at the many water fountains spread across the city
- Staying at shared accommodation, you can purchase local French grocery and attempt local delicacies at home.
City travel tips
- Roaming Paris by bike is what we highly recommend. Velib offers very cheap rentals and have an excellent smartphone app. First 30 minutes is always free, so you can just need to chalk out the bike stations.
- Depending on the length of your stay either buy the booklet of 10 tickets (‘carnet‘) or ‘Paris Visite’ pass. You can find more info here.
- For elderly or people with special needs, the many Hop in Hop off buses are great value.
- Avoid cabs.
- Shows where street performers ask you to bet on small games like guessing the ball in one of the 3 containers or bowls is very common. Popularly knows as ‘Shell games’ it is basically fraud and its a con man and not any street artist. These should be best avoided.
- With the unfortunate rise of unemployment pickpocket is increasing. When travelling in public transport always carry your day bag in front of you.
Do you have any more tip to share with our readers. We would love to hear from you. Do comment and share the article on all your social media channels.
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