When one thinks about a place that is romantic, chic, and consumed by the most European flair, there is no better candidate for this description than the “City of Lights,” or Paris. Paris is the capital of France, a destination for igniting the fire from within, the prime spot for respected cultural institutions and landmarks, and the centerpiece of any trip to Western Europe. Given the rising value of the euro against the dollar, one would assume that there is no real way to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this French powerhouse without breaking the bank or resorting to fast-food chains. This indepth article will attempt to offer helpful tips and reminders about how to best explore and enjoy the Parisian lifestyle, without missing those noteworthy destinations along the way.
First and foremost, despite the decreasing value of the dollar, one should not assume that every thing purchased will break the budget. Besides monitoring the markets closely, the next best thing to do is to only exchange enough currency to make purchases from places that may not accept plastic. For everything else, including hotels, fine restaurants, and major purchases, one should opt for the credit or debit card because the exchange rate will be easier to bear than with plain cash.
In addition to exchanging money wisely, one should also look for other ways to save money, instead of choosing to have a second-rate experience in one of Europe’s leading travel destinations. In many European cities, one can choose to gather several different products from local shops or farmers’ markets and then plan a picnic in one of Paris’ lovely parks and gardens. No one would say that dining on a fresh baguette, fine meats and cheeses, and a nice bottle of red wine was skimping on the ideal Parisian experience. If picnics are not your thing, there are many cafes and bistros in the area that can suit your palette, since these eateries may serve traditional classics like coq au vin (chicken stewed in red wine) and crepes, at a fraction of the price.
Furthermore, one would rarely find affordable rates for hotels in the city center or the downtown area of a major metropolis. For example, someone on a budget and touring Washington, DC would probably not stay at the Hay-Adams, right across from the White House. Similarly, a visitor to Paris should try to stay farther away from popular tourist attractions and instead, rely on the city’s efficient public transportation system to stay somewhere quaint and family-owned. A fine example is the Hotel de la Porte Doree, an establishment owned by an American couple. The commute time may be over 30 minutes by the metro, but the quality was excellent, the services superb, and the price below US$100. So, although staying at the Four Seasons would be the epitome of the high life, especially in the lavish city of Paris, one should think about the larger picture and instead save some money for a fine meal or a signature souvenir to take home!
Besides more affordable, but more than decent quality lodging, one should also purchase the Paris Museum Pass and the Paris Visite Pass to further conserve some money, while enjoying world-class museums and architectural wonders, all done with navigating a comfortable and efficient public transit system. The number of days that you decide to purchase for each pass will depend on the length of your Parisian vacation, but the savings from these investments cannot be overstated. With the museum pass, one can visit the Louvre, where the Mona Lisa reigns supreme; the Musee d”Orsay, where Impressionist artworks abound; the Arc de Triomphe, along the famous Champs-Elysees shopping boulevard; and the Versailles Palace to name some top destinations. Although admission to the iconic Eiffel Tower is not included, the cost of a four-day museum pass will only be a mere fraction of what it will cost to visit only a few of Paris’s crown jewels. The same savings applies to the Visite Pass, which allows unlimited rides on the metro system, with some exceptions for suburban train routes and the airports. The only thing to keep in mind is that like the Washington, DC Metro, make sure you scan the pass upon entrance and exit, and use the correct entrance or exit for each particular station. For example, the Republique station has so many transfer points and connections as well as distinct entrances and exits that you can find yourself there for days if your map-reading and navigational skills are not up to standard!
Finally, the best way to save money on any European vacation, let alone to one of Europe’s most popular destinations, is to keep it close to your other possessions and not fall prey to those infamous pickpockets that roam freely in major cities. Besides only having enough cash on hand, one should also invest in a money belt, popularized by Europe expert Rick Steves on all of his journeys throughout the continent. Money belts are easy to use and comfortable in any environment, and they provide a nice safe haven for currencies and passports from those petty criminals intent on ruining someone’s vacation. More information on these nifty money belts can be found on Rick’s website, www.ricksteves.com.
Despite the dollar’s poor showing against the strong euro, some smart planning, savvy investments, and general know-how can ensure that your next trip to Paris will be an exciting one, full of new experiences, wonderful people, gastronomic delights, and lasting memories. Take some time to go over these helpful reminders and tips, do your own homework, and consult some informative travel guides before stepping on French soil. Until next time, bon voyage!