I like to believe that money should not determine whether or not you get to travel, I even enjoy making it a challenge to travel places on small budget and so I also turned down the financial help offered by my parents when I told them that I was going to Paris. As a student, my travel budget is tiny but as long as a few precautions are taken it can be done..
1. Find a cheap flight.
I’m everyone has heard about cheap European airlines such as Easyjet or Ryanair. If you can manage to fit your belongings into a carry-on you won’t be charged extra for checked in suitcases, in some case allowing you to fly places for less than €20. You just need to look for good discounts and ideally buy in advance to get the best rate available.
2. Surf couches
Definitely the cheapest way of finding accommodation in a city where you don’t know anyone is to couchsurf. Sign up on www.couchsurfing.org and check their listings – they have hundreds and it’s a great way of meeting locals and getting good insight into what life is like in the city you#re visiting. Many Parisian apartments are quite beautiful and old-fashioned, so the experience can be quite rewarding on many levels. If sleeping at stranger’s apartments is not your cup of teat, try staying at a hostel. Many of them are quite stylish and prices usually start from 15 euros for the night.
3. First think, then eat
Avenue des Champs-Elysees is a well known rip-off street so if you consider going there, don’t even think of buying any of the food there if you want to be a sensible and thrifty Travelette. Instead go for healthy vegetables at Montmatre markets, yummy French baguettes in local bakeries and roasted chestnuts on Place Pigalle. If you want to go to a restaurant, avoid those on the main street and go exploring into side alleys for more affordable and often better quality options.
4. Use subway or… a bike!
Think twice about buying single-use tickets (€1,70) if you plan on staying in the city for a bit longer. Instead get a carnet of 10 tickets (€12,70), a one-day pass (€6,40) or one-week pass (€19,15). French students can be a bit rebellious when it comes to using the underground “Le Parisien” journal wrote once. They think the tickets are too expensive so some just go through the gateway without a valid ticket. They do that because some student unions have got together and formed some sort of insurance where everyone gives between 5 and 7 Euros a month and if someone gets caught without a pass and is fined the going fee of €50 the insurance goes and covers it. Much better than riding the metro without a ticket is riding a bike. The velib bikes are available throughout the city, with the first 30 minutes being free of charge. Find out more about how this works here.
5. Plan your sightseeing wisely.
Are you looking for a tour guide? Just ask your CouchSurfing host! As a local they will probably be able to point you in all the right directions and tell you about what is hot or not. If you’re under 26 and a European Union citizen, most of the museums, churches and other touristic places are opened for you for free. the Louvre, Musee des Arts decoratifs, Notre Dame, Sacre-Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, Moulin Rouge, the Pere-Lachaise cemetery and of course, the Eiffel Tower. But instead of paying €10 to climb on top of it, simply sit down in the park outside of it and enjoy it from there, like the locals do. All this for free.
6. Do things you will remember.
Someone once said it’s better collect moments than things. Eat a baguette on the stairs of Sacre-Coeur, rather than buying a mini-version of the white church. Drink cheap wine by the Seine River instead of having a fancy glass of it at a restaurant, after all, what you really need to see of Paris happens on the outside, not inside bars or shopping centers and the like. Take a stroll through the Latin Quarter, catch a smile from a waiter, stop for a chat, have a laugh, attend a free concert (there are lots of those in pubs, especially in the 11th arrondissement), catch a free movie in the open-air cinema at Parc de la Villette), laugh, take pictures, breathe in and out.
I went to Paris for 6 days with 125 euros in my pocket. I ate well, saw sights and met lots of great new people. I came back with an old French Vogue bought from a book shop for 2,5 euros in my hand and a heart full of memories.
Agnieszka Dobrzyniecka is 19 and has been traveling since the day she was born, she has since been to 21 countries. She loves analogue photography, cheap flights and I’m a big fan of cheap flights and couchsurfing. Her specialty is traveling on tiny budgets.