Nearly any search on tips for trips to Paris will come up with a few suggestions for saving money and time.
Who doesn’t want to save on these? Nearly everyone wants common sense advise. And, a few of the good suggestions that will stretch your dollars and provide more time bear repeating here.
1. Plan in Advance
Planning is crucial. From what you want to see to what times to visit that museum or landmark, having a plan will maximize your time in Paris. Before buying a plane ticket, read as much as possible to make your Paris List.
Don’t waste time in Paris trying to figure out what you want to do. Even if I change my mind while I am there, I always make a plan. The last thing I want to do is sit at the hotel for an hour wondering, “What should I do today?” That is a waste of precious time.
2. Keep the Name of Your Hotel in Your Satchel
Remember to keep your hotel’s name, address and telephone number in your satchel. Wandering off and forgetting where you are staying is kind of a big deal. And, this is not a joke! I have had people tell me they did this!!!! Not a fun experience and definitely not a good use of time.
3. Paris is Huge
Be aware that Paris is a big city! It will take longer than you anticipate getting from one place to another. So, put some travel time into your plans. Also, if possible, group things to do geographically so you do not have to spend time going back and forth across the city all day.
4. Order a Carafe d’Eau
In cafés and restaurants, rather than ordering bottled water, request a carafe d’eau (kah-rahf-doe). A carafe d’eau is a bottle of Parisian tap water. Some restaurants even have taps that carbonate the water so you can choose bubbly or still water in your carafe d’eau!
Parisian water is good and available throughout the city. You will find no reason to buy bottled water that can be quite expensive. The Parisian tap water is an especially good deal if you are like me and drink a lot of water.
After you order the carafe d’eau, the waiter will bring over the bottle, provide a glass and maybe fill it up the first time. Then you are free to pour as much as you want. Order another if you are really thirsty. Want a cost comparison? Add up the 4 or 5 euros (or more) for bottled water at a few meals and you will have saved enough for another meal or two out!
5. Fill Up
Another way to take advantage of Parisian water is to fill up an empty water bottle before leaving the hotel each day. Pop it in your satchel for the day out.
Then, when you run low, refill the bottle at the beautiful green fountains that can be found around the city. They provide drinking water for everyone. You can also find other fountains in town. Just make sure they have a sign with the words, “eau potable” and feel free to fill up.
6. Museum Pass or Individual Tickets?
Really analyze what tickets you must have for museums or landmarks you have on your Paris List. Then, compare the price of the pass (and the number of days it is valid) with the price of purchasing individual tickets.
If you only want to visit one museum, the museum pass is probably a waste of money. Purchase an individual ticket at the time you visit your only museum.
On the other hand, if you are a museum lover, a museum pass is probably the only way that makes sense.
Some people have very specific paintings or sculptures at museums that they want to see. Maybe only one per museum. But, if it is twenty things at twenty different museums, a museum pass is in order. Dart in, visit the masterpiece or little known object that is a must for you. Then, skip out without feeling any guilt about buying an expensive ticket to see one thing.
If you analyze your plan and are on the fence, think about the museum pass as a time saver. It may be worth it to buy a pass because then you do not have to wait in line to buy a individual ticket at each museum or landmark.
Be aware that many special exhibitions will have tickets that must be purchased in advance.
7. Meal Time Specials
Throughout Paris, restaurants at lunch and dinner offer “prix fixe” menus. Prix fixe (pre-fix) menus are a budget friendly way to dine in style and taste a variety of flavors. Choose this menu option at a “fixed price” and enjoy multiple courses at a reduced price.
Restaurants may also offer a “plat du jour.” Plat du jour (plah-dew-zhore) is the daily special. Check them out. You may find a pleasant surprise waiting for you at a special rate.
Although not as commonly used, you could also see these menus advertised as “table d’hôte.”
8. Fine Dining at Lunch
This one is so often repeated, but definitely true. Is there an expensive restaurant that you really want to try but it is out of your budget? Think about going for lunch. Lunch is a great deal at many expensive restaurants. You have the same restaurant, same food, but a lower price.
When planning your day, don’t think of having lunch at a fancy restaurant as giving up the ability to visit a great museum or landmark. Choose a day for your extravagant lunch that is the same day that a museum or landmark that you really want to visit stays open late. Then, you can have a big lunch. Sight see in the afternoon. Have a baguette sandwich or something else light for dinner. And spend the evening at another definite on your Paris List.
9. Data Usage on Your Phone
Only use data on your telephone when you are connected to wifi. Seems like an easy enough idea, but remember to change the settings to keep it from eating up data. Your hotel will likely have wifi. And, many cafés and museums will have free wifi as well. Turning the data off actually has two purposes. One, you get to keep the cost down while at the same time keeping in contact. And, two, being unconnected allows you to focus on Paris and not the phone.
10. Do Not Tip Unnecessarily
This does not mean abandon civility and forget to be appreciative! Rather, it means that waiters are paid for their service (or, the tip) in the price of sit down meals. Our ideas of tipping on the full amount of the bill is not necessary.
At most restaurants, round up the bill to the next full euro and leave the change on the money tray. If you really enjoyed the service, leave a couple of euros.
For Michelin-starred restaurants, and other really fine dining establishments, consider 5-10% of the bill as a way to show your appreciation for good service.
After a good taxi ride, round up to the next euro for your driver’s tip.
Personal tour guides should also be rewarded for a good job.
11. Is Breakfast Included in the Price of Your Hotel Room?
If not, then you may want to walk to the neighborhood boulangerie. Practice your French, or sign language, and enjoy a fresh pain au chocolat or croissant for breakfast. Or, sidle up to the bar at the closest café, order un café and a croissant and spend less than 5 euros. Heck, go crazy and order a double café to get you going!
But, if you do not eat breakfast, or only want to run down to the boulangerie for a croissant in the morning, do not buy the breakfast that the hotel offers. Most likely it will be an expense that you can avoid.
12. Time Saver, Not Necessarily a Money Saver
No matter how much time you have in Paris, it will go by quickly. So, consider carefully where you are staying. Maybe trade off a little luxury for being closer in to the city center. That way you can walk, catch the hop on hop off or take a taxi to a monument or museum you want to see.
13. Not a Time Saver Nor a Money Saver
Try to choose off times to visit places of interest. Even if you can do this at a few places, you will enjoy a shorter line and fewer people. For example, late hours at the museum. Or, rise and shine and be in line when the landmark opens. It will not save time or money, but it could save some of your sanity.
Plus One More
Want wine with dinner? Order a “carafe du vin rouge” (carafe of red wine) or “carafe du vin blanc” (carafe of white wine). Usually, the house wines at restaurants are completely fine. Plus, it will be reasonably priced. Don’t get nervous if they give you a choice in centiliters. They use the metric system, so go big, or choose the small amount and order again if you would like more.