Parisgirl suggests $100-$125 per day per person (not including your hotel/hostel charges).
This estimate covers the cost for a continental breakfast (croissant and coffee), four Metro tickets, one museum entrance admission, one sandwich and beverage for lunch and one main meal. If you’re extremely frugal, you can cut this down to $60 or $75.
Just to emphasize how the cost of living has increased, July 1st, 2008, the Paris Metro has once again raised its prices. A Metro ticket will now cost you 1.60 Euros or 11.40 Euros for a ‘carnet’ of 10 tickets. There’s no doubt about it. Paris is expensive.
Here are some tips on deciding how much cash to bring with you, assuming that you’ve already booked a hotel or hostel and that you’ve budgeted the cost of your lodging.
Fueling the body
If you want to really save money, don’t eat. (Sacrilege in Paris!) Or, don’t eat so often. And, especially, don’t drink anything but tap water. Of course, for most of us normal people, that’s not an option, so the next best solution is to think very carefully BEFORE you get to Paris about the various options for ‘refueling’.
Give careful consideration to the neighborhood you choose. If you’re working on a tight budget, I would recommend choosing the Montparnasse neighborhood or checking out cheap Paris hostels in working class neighborhoods as opposed to the major tourist districts. Food will be less expensive in these parts of town.
Most Paris hotels don’t include breakfast in your room rate, however some youth hostels do. This also holds true for certain B&B services. Be sure to ask. If you’re coming to Paris on a hotel package deal, negotiate for breakfast vouchers.
Avoid cafes. You will get better prices for breakfasts at some of the small ‘take-away’ shops you’ll find at the main Montparnasse crossroads (where Rue de Rennes intersects Boulevard Montparnasse). One of our favorites is A La Duchesse Anne (where you can get a good hot chocolate).
The Big Panini
9, Rue du Depart (just across from the Montparnasse shopping complex)
This is another Montparnasse ‘hole in the wall’ joint where you can get a huge ‘panini’ sandwich (melted cheese and a variety of fillings) for 3 to 4.50 Euros, plus beer on tap for 1.90 Euros.
(This is our ‘refueling’ center of choice). The actual name of the shop is IKONOMOU and the Greek owner comes from Meteora so stop in and say ‘hello’.
Choose one museum, monument or excursion per day. The average adult ticket price for most entrance fees will average out at 9-10 Euros or $15. (This also holds true for Montparnasse movie admissions). If you plan your trip in advance to coincide with the first Sunday of the month, you can visit certain Paris museums (including the Louvre) for free.
Walk as often as you can, but the $75-a-day budget still allows for four Metro tickets. (A ‘Carnet’ of ten tickets currently costs 11.40 Euros)
Plan on one good meal per day. Once again, avoid getting caught in brasseries and cafes where beverage consumption is almost inevitable (drink your beers at the Big Pannini!) Rather than fritter away money on mediocre wine served in cafes, plan ahead by choosing a bistro with a set menu and wine available by the glass.
Study Your Menu
Read the ‘menu of the day’ carefully.
Here are some ‘tricks’ that may trip you up:
Supplements (shortened to ‘supp’). A daily menu with several choices may add on supplements for more ‘expensive’ choices. Confirm the price when you order.
Starter and main dish OR Main dish and dessert.
Many ‘menus of the day’ offer you the ‘either or’, but not all. This holds particularly true for the luncheon meal. A dinner menu is more likely to include three courses (and the typical rate would be app 26-28 Euros for a three-course dinner special).
Lunch versus Dinner menus. Many restaurants offer a luncheon ‘formule’ or ‘menu’ which isn’t available at dinner (or on weekends). French law requires a set luncheon menu available during workdays, within a reasonable price range. Dinners may only be offered ‘a la carte’ but if you take time to peruse various restaurants, you’ll find that more and more restaurants are trying to offer a set menu even at dinner time.
Wine by the glass. A few years ago, this was uncommon except in wine bars. If you did find a glass of house wine, you often wished you’d ask for a ‘carafe d’eau’ instead. Nowadays many restaurants offer wine by the glass which can range from 4 to 9 Euros (on average).
On the Right Bank
When you’re on the Right Bank in the tourist districts, i.e. Louvre and Grands Boulevards, be sure to look for some of the department store cafeterias or museum cafes for reasonably priced lunches. We often go to Printemps’ top floor cafeteria for ‘refueling’. If you’re in the Louvre, there are several choices for snacks and light lunches (the Richelieu wing has a cafe tucked away far from the maddening crowd).
Learn to say, ‘Non, merci!’ when it comes to dessert. Desserts start at 4 and 5 Euros even for ice cream. Unless the dessert is included in your fixed price ‘menu’, here’s where you need to practice ‘restraint’. Ask for a ‘carafe d’eau’ instead of bottled water. If you order beer, order 25 cl instead of 50 cl.
Hunger pains in between meals? Creperie stands, sandwich stands are common around Montparnasse. Movie theaters actually sell sandwiches.
Don’t forget about Monoprix (Paris’s major shopping chain). Many of the Monoprix grocery stores have a ready-made sandwich and salad stand. Wrap up your sandwich and find a grassy spot on the Champs de Mars to enjoy your view of the Eiffel Tower.
Happy grazing in Paris!