As a college student in a major city, I’m used to living on a budget. And I’m naturally very frugal, so it’s never been difficult for me to manage money. Coming to Paris, where I wasn’t familiar with the ins-and-outs of daily life, however, definitely threw me for a loop for a little while. During my month abroad I’ve picked up some tips for living the good life in Paris, but for a fraction of the price.
First off is, of course, food. Food was a major category in my budget for the trip, but I underestimated the cost of food, especially with the euro/dollar conversion. Since everyone gets paid more here, most significantly waiters, cashiers, and other minimum wage jobs, everything is priced higher because people can actually afford it. With approximately 1.4 dollars to every euro, however, my meals added up quickly! While eating at restaurants and cafés is very convenient (and tempting), I’ve found multiple alternatives that are cheaper and, often times, better. Farmer’s markets or fruit stands have the freshest produce and baked goods I’ve ever had, and they’re actually very reasonably priced. Also, food bought at the various specialized grocery stores or outdoor markets lasts for at least a couple of days if not a week, rather than one meal that’s gone in two and a half hours (the French take their time at restaurants). My hostel also comes equipped with a modestly-equipped “kitchen”—actually a microwave, a toaster, and two junior-high science class hot plates. I attempted to cook pasta, after finally tracking down a pot, during my first week here, and it took TWO HOURS. The microwave, which was initially broken, is now repaired and my roommate and I have ceramic bowls (which were also surprisingly difficult to find) and we cook our pasta in the microwave like true American college students. And when I do buy food, tons of small cafés offer prix fixe menus for around 10 to 15 euros, three or four course meals that are well worth the cash. And when I do buy lunch or dinner, I’ve found the best places to go are crèpe stands on the side of the road or gyro/falafel shops (which are very popular here). The food in France is such better quality than in the States, and they give you much more for your money—one crèpe will fill me up all day. Saving money on my meals really helps my budget and saves me room for the things I really want to buy—pastries and wine.
Another concern while in Paris is public transportation. The metro system is great—compared to SEPTA, it is a pleasure to take the metro. Paris’ transportation system consists of 17 metro lines, all color coded and numbered, five RER lines, which travel through the city and also outside, and a comprehensive bus system.
I take the metro everywhere—Paris is nothing like the grid shape I’m used to back home, and the metro’s really handy in a pinch. On my second day here, I bought a Navigo pass, which gives me unlimited access to all metro lines, RER lines in Paris, and buses for one month. Having the pass was incredibly convenient, and I definitely got my money’s worth.
My final budget tip concerns one of Paris’ greatest attractions—museums! There are so many here—I’ve been to the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Jeu de Paume, Musée de l’Orangerie, Memorial de la Shoah (Holocaust Museum), Cluny Medieval Museu, Musée d’Art Moderne, and Centre Georges Pompidou. My favorites were Musée de l’Orangerie the Holocaust Museum, and Centre Georges Pompidou. Out of all of these museums I visited, I paid to get into one of them. Most museums in Paris offer reduced admission or, more commonly, admission gratuit, for young people under 26 who are members of the European Union or studying at a French university. I just show my Sorbonne ID and my driver’s license (which I accidentally brought with me but turned out to be a fortuitous mistake), and have every museum at my fingertips. Some places, like the Louvre and Jeu de Paume, only offer these special admissions on certain days, but doing research in advance can save a lot of money. And for those over 26, the Holocaust Museum, Musée d’Art Moderne, and I’m sure other museums I didn’t have a chance to see offer free admission for all at any time.
Overall, I’ve been very happy saving a bit of money here in Paris and looking for alternative ways to feed myself and see all there is to see. Hopefully my tips will help any future Paris travelers! Stay tuned for my next (and final!!!) blog post.