Paris is a city of glitz and glamour, style and sexy, joie de vie and a little je ne sais quoi…But also, it is a city of premium prices, paying out and posh surroundings.
Although just across the Channel, Paris can seem elusive to a poverty-stricken student. Its culture is not exactly renowned for its affordability and despite Ryanair’s trustworthy reputation, cheap flights at short notice can be difficult to score.
Fortunately for you, this writer was undeterred by these preconceptions, and urged on by a dire need to get out of miserable Britain, I set forth to forge a path for fellow thrifty students.
Firstly, I’d recommend looking at cheap package breaks on discount sites like Lastminute or Groupon. If you keep your eyes peeled for offers and are flexible with dates, it’s highly likely you can bag a good deal, whilst safe in the knowledge that if a problem arises you have these big companies there to sort things out (in my experience, both are quite good with refunds and goodwill gestures).
Whilst the Eurostar tickets I’d looked at a fortnight in advance had been in excess of £160, I was able to find deals with a morning train to Paris, 2 nights in a twin studio room and a late evening train home from £150 p/p (based on 2 sharing). Considering I was looking at a fortnight’s notice, during the peak summer season, you can rightly assume that in term-time, the prices will be decreasing.
Once in Paris, your travel remains cheap. A carne [book] of 10 billets [tickets] is only €13,30 – that’s just a little over £1 per ticket. Each of these tickets gives you a single journey on Parisian public transport – be it a bus or the much-applauded Metro – irrespective of ‘zones.’
However, most of ‘touristy’ Paris is relatively clustered together and well-signposted, and with a host of beautiful and famous bridges (such as the padlock adorned Pont des Arts and Pont Alexandre III) walking from attraction to attraction along the Seine can feel just as cultured as a museum visit.
Not that you need to scrimp out on visiting the most-visited museum in the world. The Louvre (alongside other Parisian attractions, like L’Arc de Triomphe) offers any EU resident under-25 free entry into the museum upon the presentation of a passport, so you can admire the art, soak up the culture, or wrestle the throngs of camera wielding tourists in front of the Mona Lisa, at no expense.
The Eiffel Tower is also a place of tourist scrums and long queues; and does not operate the free for the young policy. If you haven’t booked a climb and aren’t prepared to wait for a couple hours and pay the €10 to ascend the tower, don’t worry about missing out on the fantastic views. If you take the Metro to Abessess (or it’s only a 15 minute walk from Gare du Nord, the Eurostar station), and climb the excruciatingly long staircases, you are presented with the resplendent Sacre Coeur, which isn’t only free to visit, and beautiful in its own right, but sits on the hillside like a king upon a throne, presiding over the Parisian sprawl, offering magnificent views to tiny tourists.
To satisfy the hunger that will undoubtedly be gnawing at your inside after that trek, try turning down a side street to find a quaint, quintessentially French cafe to eat at. Unfortunately the Parisian price tag is near impossible to avoid when it comes to food, but independent cafes tend to offer larger portions – so a ‘small’ pizza and side of frites can easily feed two.
Whilst a bottle of coke is likely to set you back €4 or more in a cafe or restaurant, a glass of red wine is often the same price, if not cheaper, making it an even more justified choice. Street stalls also offer a range of treats such as crêpes [pancakes], gaufres [waffles] and barbe à papa [candyfloss, literal translation = beard of my father] at a relatively low price, so you can totally justify gorging yourself like a child in a sweet shop because it’s too expensive not to.
Now, armed with these secrets to Paris on the cheap, you can enjoy the spectacular city of romance, even if a lack of romantic interest means you go with your uni mates, or like me, take your mum.