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Saving your centimes: How to do Paris on a Budget

Francesca Wren

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Having lived in the French capital during her year abroad, Francesca gives us her best money-saving tips, whether you're just visiting Paris or staying for a while

Paris is well-known as one of the most expensive cities in Europe and can easily rinse your bank account if you’re not careful. Whether you’re looking to spend your year abroad here, or just a flying visit, here are some tips to keep your wallet looking healthy when you get back.

The Navigo Pass

With a Navigo, you can purchase a year, a month, or even just a week or days’ worth of unlimited travel in the Île-de-France region. For travel in all 5 zones of Île-de-France, it costs around €22 for a week, €75 for a month and €800 for a full year. Many employers will also reimburse employees for their Navigo travel costs. This is one for the residents I’m afraid, as a Navigo can only be purchased and used by someone with an Île-de-France address. However, train tickets in Paris are reasonably priced, costing €1,90 for a single way metro ticket and around €4 for a single way ticket into the city from outside the ring-road.

Happy Hour

If you know where to look, Happy Hour can start as early as 4pm in the city and finish at 2am. Areas like Châtelet, right in the centre of Paris a short walk up from the Notre Dame, the Latin Quarter and the Bastille, are full of Happy Hour bars and restaurants. Typically, around €6 for a cocktail and €4 or €5 for a pint is reasonable for a Happy Hour bar in Paris. Drinking wine is also a great way to get to losing your dignity before losing your cash – costing as little as €3 a glass in some bars.

Bring your Passport to the Louvre

Everybody is gagging to see the Mona Lisa, but make sure you don’t pay €25+ for entry by bringing your passport along. If you are under 26 years old and have an EU passport or residency visa, most museums in Paris are free so long as you can prove you meet the requirements for free entry. On weekdays most museums are pretty quiet, but on a weekend it’s best to book in advance – you can still book your free tickets online too, just remember to bring the confirmation and proof of age to avoid being charged when you arrive.


Although metro tickets aren’t too costly, little expenses soon add up. Paris is not a huge city and walking from place to place is a good way to avoid the tourist traps and save a bit on travel fares. For instance, walking from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower takes less than 50 minutes and is the perfect chance to find a spot for dinner later. Cycling around is an option too – Vélib green bikes are set up in spots around the city and can be hired for €5 a day. There are many designated cycle lanes throughout the city, and I would strongly advise you stick to them; cycling on the road in the centre of Paris is a dangerous game and drivers here often don’t look or indicate before moving.

Considering staying further out

This is one for those looking to live in the French capital but considering living outside the ring road. It could end up costing you half as much as living in the city, and with the average room in a shared flat or 9m2 studio apartment going for around €800, it’s something worth thinking about. However, the commute is long and laborious, and many areas of suburban Paris leave much to be desired at the least, and at the most can feel very unsafe. As a resident of Paris, you can also look to apply for CAF (Caisse Allocation Familiale), a type of housing benefit that will reimburse you up to €200 a month of your rent if it exceeds 25% of your income. Like everything in France, the paperwork and processing will take some time, but you will be reimbursed for all except the first month spent in your residence.


As a rule, restaurants in Paris are not very cheap – with some exceptions. If you are studying in Paris, you can go to CROUS restaurants, where a full cooked lunch can cost as little as €3 if you show your student card. Also, a lot of restaurants offer a ‘formule’ (a set menu) that will often work out more cost effective than buying the dishes separately. In areas such as the aforementioned Happy Hour hotspots, you can quite easily find restaurants offering reasonably priced set menus (although this can prove more difficult for vegetarians). Takeaway creperies and kebab shops are also a great option if you don’t fancy a sit-down dinner and can be a decent alternative on a budget.


Overall, Paris is an expensive city compared to others in Europe, but, if you know what to look out for and have the right savoir-faire, you can definitely do Paris on a budget.


About the Author

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Images provided by Francesca Wren.

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