Author: charlotte haas
Date of Trip: February 2013
Paris is the dream trip of a lifetime, and I thought I would never be able to afford to keep up with my friends, who had a lot more financial leeway than I did. But by the time I got to Paris I’d already impressed them elsewhere with my ability to squeeze a euro until it says ouch, so that they were going along with all my little suggestions like I was the boss or something. Nobody doesn’t like extra money, right? Alright then, , to start off, before you even fly over – you really don’t need to go to your bank and procure euros before arriving in Paris. The airports and train stations are littered with ATMs. You’ll get a good exchange rate, pay the same ATM fee that you do at home, and save 8-9% over what you’ll pay a bank at home. Bring some US cash for emergencies, and if need be, use a currency exchange outlet that you’ll find on the street in tourist areas, airports, and train stations. Even the money changers will offer you a better deal than a US bank.Traveler’s Checks are, surprisingly, rarely accepted.
If you want to say hello to your mom or whoever when you’re in Paris – I’m going to tell you right now, the hotels will charge you enough to buy her a new bracelet instead of just phoning. You can just get right around that by arranging with your cellphone co. to make calls abroad for about $15; but I just use Skype or an app with similar service, to talk with face time for free over wifi, available all over Europe in cafes and libraries, etc. wi-fi is much more prevalent in France than in the US. The mayor of Paris boasts that there is no place in Paris (inside or out) without a wi-fi signal. Wi-fi is free at all public parks, libraries, major squares and district halls. Most cafes are also offering free wi-fi access to their patrons. Just look for a “wifi gratuit” sign, ask for the log-in and, whoopee – free phone callls.
Before you hand just your travel plans over to a professional, make sure you’ve checked the internet for the flight dates you have in mind. I rarely fail to find a bargain this way. I can’t even count now the times I’ve scored a fantastic surprise bargain flight ticket by just calling a carrier myself and asking “Hey, what’s the best price I can possibly get for these dates?”. As for the car and the expensive airport parking lot, you can get around that too with a park and fly package – I just go to Stay123 to set it up and for the price of one night at a hotel, my car spends my vacation on the hotel premises for free. I usually try to make the most of this little arrangement by hitting the hotel gym in the morning and scarfing down the (free) hotel breakfast before I go. What? Is that not ladylike or something?
Please, put down that Perrier! Drink the Tap Water – Parisians do, and they look very elegant while they’re doing it. It is absolutely safe to drink the tap water in any large city in France. Ordering bottled (l’eau minerale”) in restaurants/cafés, can add up. You will be shocked to find that your bottled water at a café costs twice as much as a glass of the dreamy house Bordeaux. So, to save 4-7€ during meals, order “une carafe de l’eau, s’il vous plait”. Unless you specify a carafe of water, you will be given and charged for bottled water at most restaurants.
If you dream of dining at those fine Parisian restaurants, but the prices give you vertigo; don’t despair! Many Parisian restaurants offer great deals on fixed price menus for lunch. You can easily eat a great three course meal (appetizer, entree and dessert) for 10-15€ (not bad considering that tax and tip are included). By law, all restaurants must post their menu outside, so it is easy to “window shop”. The prixe fixe luncheon options average about 1/2-1/3 less than the same wonderful food at dinner.
Visit Museums on the First Sunday of the Month – On the first Sunday of the month, entrance to many national museums and monuments are free. This includes the Louvre, Pompidou Center, and the Musée D’Orsay. Note that you may be trading money for time. The lines are long with locals on the free Sundays.And I should really have this at the top of the page, in giant letters; buy the Paris City Passport – This pass entitles you to discounts at attractions, stores, and museums. While not every discount is a winner, you should find enough good deals to justify the cost (5€), especially if you plan to take a boat ride on the Seine. Order online and pick up at a tourist office when you arrive in Paris.