Give Me Shelter: Where to Stay in Paris


arcadie.jpgIt seems like no matter what subject I write about Paris, I receive e-mails asking if I know of any hotels and hostels that are good and inexpensive.

Here’s the typical request: “Do you know of a place where my husband, myself and our two children can stay for under 20 Euros?”

When friends visit us and find our pull-out sofa too lumpy for comfort, we usually suggest the Hotel Arcadie Montparnasse at 71, Avenue du Maine Metro: Gaite. The rate for the three-star hotel is pretty good, ranging from 90 for a single to 125 Euros for a double, depending on the room and the season (133 US Dollars to 178 US at Jan 2008 conversion rates)

If you’re looking for hostels, try to pick out hostels located centrally – if you plan on walking to most tourist sites. Normally the Left Bank student quarter (Latin Quarter, Mouffetarde, Monge) tends to be less expensive than the Right Bank(Trocadero, Champs Elysees, Palais Royal, Louvre, Marais). You will also find better deals the farther northeast you travel on the Right Bank. Neighborhoods around Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est have been described in some forums as ‘dicey’ so if prefer not to stray from the tourist areas, you’ll want to focus your hotel search closer to the city’s center.

Good Morning Parislists B&Bs in Paris. It also features walking itineries and lists current events including concerts, ballet and opera. I really liked this site and even if you’re not booking a B&B, the walking itineraries are worth a look.

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Check the Parislogue’s Accommodation for more information on hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Paris.

What you can expect from budget accommodations in Paris:

When choosing a budget hotel, France’s star system (ranging from one to four stars) gives you a good guideline. My suggestion is to to choose a minimum of two stars. If you do opt for one or two-star hotels, do not be surprised to find:

Small rooms, sometimes with a sink in the room and showers/toilets located down the hall.
Probably no air conditioning (still considered a luxury in Paris). Stairs favored over elevators. A choice of rooms with windows facing the street (noisy) or facing the courtyard (more quiet but drab).

Choose a Hotel and Return Faithfully

For our first few years in Paris, we always stayed at a 3-star hotel near the Porte d’Orleans metro stop. When we booked a room facing the inner courtyard, I invariably woke up before dawn to the sound of a man puking his brains out (just to illustrate my point that inside rooms are not necessarily quiet – it’s just a different KIND of noise from street-side rooms).

If you wonder why we kept returning to this hotel, which certainly wasn’t cute, quaint or as cheap as one might hope to find in Paris, the answer is familiarity. It’s the same reason people return to the same cafe that has neither charm nor particularly good food. You get to recognize your desk clerk’s quirks. You look forward to seeing who’s new and who’s gone. Or you’re eager to see the hotel bartender who will tell you where he went for his vacation. You try to patch up a dispute you had with the hotel manager when she didn’t give you the room you requested. You feel elated when she graces you with a smile and all is forgiven. In short, your hotel in Paris should feel like home, be it ever so humble.

Aside from a first-time visit, if you have a good handle on the range of rates to expect, you can probably easily pick out a hotel ad lib, unless you need to budget in advance. My best suggestion is to talk to the desk clerk and assess the hotel according to his or her reception. take some time to chat and get to know the person behind the desk. Don’t think of booking a hotel room as a one-time event. It may be a place you’ll return to many times. Happy hunting.