France is at the top of most travel wish lists. However, in addition to seducing visitors with beautiful views, historical sites, and culinary delights, this popular destination can also leave one strapped for cash.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to enjoy France on a budget and still have an amazing trip. Here are some money saving tips to consider:
Consider visiting France earlier in the year. Airplane tickets to Paris at the height of summer can cost three times as much (or more) as the same flight in February. The money you save and the fellow tourists you don’t encounter will more than make up for the nip in the winter air! (You can also save money by booking a non direct flight—although a roundabout trip may mean added time and frustration, it can save you a couple hundred bucks.)
Don’t get stuck on staying in the heart of French cities either
You can save money and see sites off the beaten path by choosing a hotel in a neighborhood further out. When I first visited Lyon, I stayed in the 9th Arrondissement. It was a bit out of the way, but I got to experience a calmer, more scenic part of the city, and was still only a twenty-minute metro ride from downtown Lyon.
Take advantage of your age!
The French seem to favor the age bracket 12–25—so if you fall there, make the most of it. You can get discounts on train tickets, museum passes, metro cards, bowling alleys and skating rinks, bus rides, almost everything. Just don’t forget an ID to verify your age. (The same discounts often apply to students regardless of age. Many establishments accept international student photo IDs.)
Remember, travel doesn’t always have to be expensive to be memorable
Pick up a free guide when you arrive (most major French cities offer them at a visitor or tourist center) and head out for a full day of sightseeing. Some of the best features of French cities are outside—the historical landmarks, the interesting architecture, the cobblestone streets…all you need is sunscreen and a camera. Large cities also periodically offer free cultural events such as outdoor festivals, plays and ballets produced by local universities, and open-air film showings. Check with the city tourist center to see what’s available.
Avoid tourist traps
For example, the sandwich shops near the Louvre are enormously overpriced. Stop by a local market near your hotel instead and select a picnic to go. Want to enjoy a romantic evening with your loved one and a bottle of wine? Skip the expensive restaurant. Double the romance (and save money) by spending an evening under the stars with a blanket and a store bought bottle. (Not to worry, drinking alcohol outdoors in France is legal. Vive l’amour!)
Photo of Euro coins by Visentico / Sento