How to save money in Paris: Our 11 best tips
1) Should I rent a car in Paris or take the metro?
Pros of public transport:
- The Paris public transportation system is extensive and well connected, allowing you to go anywhere to the city itself or to the suburbs.
- Metros and suburban trains run from 5am to 1:30am nonstop and are very frequent (from 1 to 10mins max).
- It is dangerous if you are not used to driving in such a big city, and you may not know the signs or implied conventions that local drivers respect.
- Renting a car is more expensive than a 1.5€ metro ride.
- Most cars have manual gears, automatic gears are the exception.
- You usually reach your destination more quickly with public transportation than with a car (congestion!).
- Speed cameras: there are many speed cameras and it is easy to get fined should you not pay attention to speed limits.
However it is worth renting a car in some situations:
Pros of renting a car:
- If you need to drive to other cities outside Paris, whether in the "greater Paris" area or much further away, it is better to rent a car. Public transport can lead you to many places but still some locations are difficult to reach with buses, metros or trains.
- Handling a few kids could be easier in a car than in a crowded metro stopping every few minutes.
- You need to travel at night.
In conclusion you might think carefully before driving in Paris itself. I do not advise to rent a car but you might need to do so to get to other places.
2) How to save money using public transport?
You decided not to rent a car. Good, but still 1.5€ per ride per person could be expensive in the long run.
You could buy a "Paris Visite" ticket. You are allowed to take any metro, bus, suburban train (including the train to go to Roissy airport, which costs about 15€ from Paris).
You also benefit from discounts:
- 20% for the Arc de Triomphe
- 10€ discount for a regular Disneyland Paris ticket
- 30% discount to visit the Tour Montparnasse
- 10% discount for all Galerie Lafayette purchases
More info here: http://www.ratp.fr/fr/ratp/r_94834/paris-visite/
It costs 11.15€ for a day ticket, 18.15€ for 2 days, 35.7€ for an adult for 5 days. (roughly half price for children)
3) How to save money at a restaurant?
There is one thing to know about restaurants in France. When you order water the waiter brings you a bottle of mineral water. You have to pay for this bottle. Instead most French people ask for a "carafe d'eau" which can be translated to a "jug of water". This is tap water and won't be charged. Even though in many countries it is not advised to drink tap water, it is perfectly safe to do so in France. That's a good way to save money on something not essential.
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4) How to get cheaper accommodation?
Hotels are everywhere in Paris, it is not too difficult to find accommodation for a short stay. However hotels are expensive in the long run. If you plan to stay for at least a week, it is economical to find accommodation from airbnb or from other non-professional rents. There are many offers in Paris, sometimes at great locations but at a much lower prices than hotels. For the most adventurous, couch surfing is an alternative to "mainstream" rentals or hotels. Your stay will cost you almost nothing and you could make great friends.
5) Withdraw money once, avoid many withdrawals
The fee to withdraw money from an ATM is usually a percentage of the amount but there is a fixed fee amount anyway. This means that a single withdrawal of 1000€ is likely to be less expensive than 10 withdrawals of 100€. Check out fees with your bank before the departure.
6) Do not pay in dollars with cash
The currency in France is the euro, not the pound or the dollar. Most shops will not accept dollars. Even if the shop accepts payment in dollars, the rate they'll apply won't be favorable. Using a currency exchange with decent rates will help you save a lot of money in the long run.
7) Find the best currency exchange
The main service of money-changer.net is to compare currency exchange rates in Paris so you can get the most euros from your currencies. You could get up to 10% more money by using our tool to find the best currency exchange than by just going to the first currency exchange that you find.
8) Avoid changing currencies at airports
Currency exchange at airports is not advised. The "bureaux de change" rates are usually not the best. You save money by withdrawing money from an ATM at the airport. If you have a lot of cash with you, it is better to only buy a small amount of euros at the airport.
9) Get a refund for the Value Added Tax (VAT) you paid on your purchases
In France the normal Value Added Tax (VAT) rate is 20%. This means that on everything that you buy you pay 20% in taxes. (there are some exceptions that benefit from lower rates such as restaurants and food) However this shouldn't apply to tourists and you can ask to be refunded when you leave the country provided you follow the process. There are many conditions on what is eligible for tax refund, for whom and what the process is: Check out our article here: All there is to know about Value Added Tax refunds for tourists .
10) Avoid Value Added Tax (VAT) free shops
Some shops in Paris are labelled VAT free (I am not talking about those in airports), meaning you don't pay the VAT. However I do not advise you to buy in these shops because you won't save any money! These shops target tourists that don't really know the real price of the products they buy therefore the prices before tax are higher than other shops. Even though you don't pay the tax, you pay the same amount than with the tax, the price is 20% higher!
11) Avoid restaurants in touristic locations
This tip applies for every touristic city you may have travelled to and is also true in Paris. Some restaurants located at key spots will charge more for less quality. Buy yourself a small restaurant guide or use an application with other people's reviews to get the most out of it.