to do Paris on the cheap

When you tell people that you want to go to Paris the first thing they are guaranteed to say to you is, "It's so expensive". This is true, but there are cheap work arounds and since this is my blog and I can do whatever I want with it, today I am dishing out travel advice.

Those that travel know that to get a deal you go in the shoulder seasons. These are the less desirable times to visit a place. October/November and February for most of Europe. Basically all of winter for where I am from. But the other thing is, sign up for really annoying travel emails. I am not sure when I did exactly, but I subscribed to KLM's email list at some point. The best times to book a flight are in November for early in the year (February, March-ish) and January. No one wants to travel or is even thinking of traveling that quickly after Christmas, but you can find the best deals then. Also, be flexible for where you're going and when. Every time the hubster and I have traveled it is because we first found cheap flights. This past year we happened to find cheap flights to the city of lights and love for our fifth anniversary.

We looked for times that were flexible around our anniversary and went just shortly afterward. As soon as the flights were booked we went straight to Airbnb. I know that Airbnb is getting a bad rep lately, especially in Paris, where it is now more of a money maker to have short term rentals and the rent is exorbitant in downtown Paris so there is an exodus of locals in the heart of the arrondissements. Sorry from the bottom of my little millennial heart but there is no other way that I could afford to go and visit your lovely city. We found a teeny space that had a micro kitchen and its own bathroom for around $55 Canadian a night.

It's not very glamorous but it will save you a ton of money if you pack a large ziplock bag of quick oats in your luggage. This is beneficial in a few ways. First, you can make it with a vessel and hot water, which can be found in many places. Second, oats are generally healthy and you can pick up fruit at many of the markets scattered all about Paris. Third, breakfast is (when you do the ratio of food to price) a very expensive meal to eat out, oatmeal saves you quite a bit of money. And lastly, as you eat it you have more room in your bag for souvenirs.

We would eat our oatmeal and hit the streets. When we got hungry or tired we would grab a crepe or a pain au chocolat and keep walking. It's a good idea to return for a rest before supper as Paris is designed to be seen at night. Everything is lit up beautifully and many restaurants don't reopen until after 7pm. We stopped in at a Monoprix a couple of times to grab snacks, and one time we got soups to heat up in our apartment. Monoprix is a great spot for souvenirs, things you forgot, or in our case, restocking our luggage.

This could be a challenge to make happen but if you want to shop in Paris, get rerouted in your Canadian airport and make sure your airline leaves your luggage behind for a few days. This makes shopping in a very expensive city much less difficult as the airline will have to cover your costs for essential items. I don't know how you can go about doing this on your own, but chin up, your bag will arrive and you will get some clothing from a fashion capital. Voila.

Back to actual tips...

When we arrived, our Airbnb host told us the secret to transportation around Paris is, in fact, tickets. A metro pass is 24 Euro per day. You can get a 3-day pass for 54 Euro, which works out to 17/day. The hubster and I were told to buy a 10 pack of tickets for 14 Euro. They are good for an hour and a half and you can use them in zones 1-3. You will need to get a bit creative if you plan to use them for a return trip as they cannot be used on the same bus twice on one ticket. But the thing about Paris is that you take a bus and then walk. This is a city to WALK.  The bus is super safe, very clean, and as our host said, "it will just be you and the old people on it". Vraiment. We bought 30 tickets for our 8 days there (3x14= 42 Euro for transportation for two!). Each bus stop tells you when a bus will arrive, and their transit app is very sophisticated and easy to use, you just need GPS to see it. To optimize it you can use data, or stand in front of a McDonald's restaurant.

Forget the Paris Pass, the City Pass, the Museum Pass. There is NO WAY, literally no way, even in the shoulder season that you could visit all of the things on these passes. And they can be up to 260 Euro per person! Figure out what all you want to do and do those things. Buying a pass turns you into a crazed tourist checking everything off your list and panicking as you rush from museum to museum. We chose the two big museums, Musée D'Orsay and, of course, the Louvre, we didn't go up the Eiffel tower, instead we went up Montparnasse tower because you want to see the Eiffel Tower, not everything else. Going up Montparnasse in the cold days of February is recommended as it's enclosed and has information, and you get a great lay of the city. Most of these touristy things were around 15 Euro, nowhere near the 260 Euro price tag for the Passes.

Take a Seine river cruise in the evening. The lights are magical and they always time them out to get the best view of the Eiffel Tower when it's sparkling like a disco ball. It's magical. Buy this ticket online and print a copy of it. This will also be where you will find the relocated love locks at Pont Neuf.

You must eat at Little Breizh. The original Cafe Breizh is in Le Marais and very busy, Little Breizh has authentic galettes and crepes and it is dirt cheap. I am talking dinner for two under 30 Euro. It's in the Latin Quarter, which is where you will find most cheap food, but it is worth finding. We ate there twice and are proud of it.

The Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves on the south side of Paris is an authentic and safer experience of the Parisian Flea Markets. We were told that Clingnancourt would be too overwhelming and can get a little sketchy at some spots. The best part, noisettes (espresso with a tiny bit of milk) and fries are dirt cheap out there. It is a tram ride and a bus ride to get there from the heart of Paris but it's worth it for the stroll and the oddities that you will encounter.

Staying in an Airbnb, taking the bus, losing your luggage, and wandering the Marché aux Puces are all ways to make you fit in to the Parisian way of life. Walk a lot, eat what you want, and let the city reveal itself to you. Don't make a giant to do list, just wander, people watch, and bon appetite.

That's all.
(all pics are mine, if you can believe it!)


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