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4 Ways to Be a Savvy Backpacker in Paris

Paris metro sign

Paris metro sign (photo: pyrsokomos)

Backpacking is all about seeing as much as possible on as little as possible. So you have to be smart.

Sure, you probably know how to save money on your hotels, and you might be the master of the al fresco lunch.

But there are always more ways to save precious Euros.

Be the envy of your fellow backpackers by seeking out extra clever ways to be a savvy spender.

Know Your Metro Pass

Arriving at Gare du Nord can be a daunting experience for first-time visitors; deciphering the best route to your Paris hotels is one thing, but knowing which ticket to get is not an easy task.

Many backpackers tend to buy a single ticket straight to their destination, and figure the rest out later.

Save money from the start by knowing what pass to get.

There are 1, 2, 3 and 5-day Paris Visite passes, which cover either zones 1-3 (ideal for central Paris) or zones 1-6 (if you want to go out to Versailles, the airports, or Disneyland Paris).

Work out which pass or passes will work for you before you arrive, and you’ll avoid spending more than you need to.

The Louvre

The Louvre (photo: MoonSoleil)

Time Your Visit Well

The first Sunday of the month is the golden date for anyone keen on keeping sightseeing costs down.

On this day the majority of major museums and other sites offer free entry to all.

This includes the Rodin Museum, Musee D’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, and even the Louvre.

(The Louvre is also free on Friday nights to those aged 25 and younger.)

Between October and March, this Sunday deal includes the towers of the Notre Dame, and the Pantheon.

Time your visit well, get up early, and you’ll save a bundle.

Let the Paris Greeters Guide You

Of course, anyone can pay for a guided tour, or rent an audio guide at the major sights or museums.

To see another side to Paris – one which is arguably more authentic – then let the Paris Greeters be your tour guide.

These volunteers are so passionate about “their” Paris, that they provide free walking tours of the Paris you wouldn’t otherwise see.

There is no fee for this service; all the Greeters wish to do is meet new people and share their love of Paris. Their motto is “Parisian for a day, Parisian forever”, which says it all.

Not only will you have spent nothing, but you’ll also be able to share your knowledge of intimate Paris secrets while fellow backpackers bemoan the time they spent queuing at the Eiffel Tower.

Big Lunch, Small Dinner

When eating out, lunch is always cheaper than dinner, and many Parisian restaurants offer some rather exciting set menu lunches.

Fill up on three courses, and then eat a lighter dinner. It’s what the French do, and of course, you’ll spend less doing it this way round.

Plus, if you ask for tap water you’ll avoid paying for a bottle of Paris’s best sparkling Evian – an easy mistake to make if you’re not careful!

Just be sure to ask for “une carafe de l’eau… s’il vous plait”.


This was a sponsored post, which enables me to continue bringing you entertaining travel stories and practical travel tips from around the world.

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Saturday 6th of October 2012

Nice advice for the Parisian backpacker! I've been traveling to Paris for years and even I did not know about the Paris Greeters! I will definitely check out one of their tours next time I find myself in the City of Lights :) In the spirit of finding ways to keep the cost of travel down, I came across this workshop coming up on Oct. 16th ft. author Katie Kreuger and creative ways to fund travel! Bon voyage ;)

Ian [EagerExistence]

Friday 30th of September 2011

I just came from Paris. It's expensive, but like you say, there are ways around it. I didn't get the tourist metro pass, but bought a book of 10 passes. For 4 days, it worked out fine. I spent a lot of time walking around too; Paris is small, it can be done. Also, hostels were 30€ or more, so I used CouchSurfing, with success.


Friday 30th of September 2011

Couchsurfing is a great way to save money in big (expensive) cities, where there's always a greater number of hosts available (vs small and medium cities, or rural areas).


Sunday 25th of September 2011

Slight grammatical niggle: "Une carafe d'eau", not "Une carafe de l'eau". And don't be surprised when the waiters refuse, sometimes not-so-politely. Asking for tap water is considered déclassé in most Parisian restaurants. (Then again, wine is often cheaper than bottled water, and better, too. So indulge!)

Of course, the best way to save money is to eat in. If you stay at a hostel or apartment with a kitchen, or if you couchsurf, then simply shop the markets for a dizzying array of meats, cheeses, produce, and local delicacies, and top it off with a bottle of wine that, for a mere few euros, rivals what you'd get in nice restaurants.)

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