My intern Amy Woodyatt’s latest post is about the pitfalls a first-timer can face when attempting to enjoy Paris on a budget….
When my boyfriend and I planned our mini break to Paris we envisaged a weekend of relaxed sightseeing, culture and romance in Europe’s city of love. It was just a shame we didn’t think about the price tag..
As the cheapest of travellers, preferring adventure to luxury, we figured that our student budget would cover us for the weekend, as long as we planned ahead. We weren’t planning on eating in expensive restaurants, or staying in posh hotels, we reasoned and Paris has so much to do for free, we’d be fine!
Our first mistake was to fly Ryanair, who kindly positioned their ‘Paris’ airport 100km out of the city. The money we ‘saved’ on cheap flights was promptly spent on a coach into the city centre.
Ryanair, rookie error.
Like many spendthrift budget travellers before us we logged on to airbnb.com to find a cheap place to stay, as accommodation in Paris is notoriously expensive. Despite the Ryanair hiccup we remained smug, confident that our plan to rent a room in a Parisian apartment instead of a hotel or hostel would save us a bundle.
And it would have done, had the hostess we planned to stay with that week not cancelled our accommodation on THE DAY OF ARRIVAL. Far from being as organised and spendthrift as we planned, we were now stuck in Paris with no accommodation, no Internet to look at hostels, oh and NO MONEY to pay for them, as airbnb still held the deposit for our cancelled accommodation.
It was going from bad to worse. It was cold and getting dark. There was no other option.
I rang my mum and begged her to book us the cheapest accommodation she could find, which, last minute, was close to €100 a night.
So much for Paris on a budget.
Despite living as economically as possible -
..Visiting free attractions like the Louvre and Notre Dame…
..Looking at and not walking up the Eiffel Tower…
…and eating €3 rotisserie chickens from Carrefour for every meal (not really how I imagined I would be being wined and dined in the city of love)…
…the cost of living took its toll.
We had spent our weeks budget on 3 days of emergency accomodation, and ultimately had to get a coach home rather than wait another 4 days for our flights.
Paris is certainly a beautiful city, but a difficult place to live in when you’re down on your luck.
Of course, my experience was the result of every kind of worst case scenario.
My top tips?
1. Avoid Ryanair
2. Plan! As much as I love seeing where the road takes me and booking last minute accommodation depending on my mood and location, in expensive cities, such as Paris, Venice or anywhere else that has a reputation for getting busy and full, book ahead. It might feel like you are restricting yourself, but there is nothing worse than being forced to pay over the odds for a crappy hotel.
3. Take a smart phone! Don’t get me wrong, nothing frustrates me more than tourists that seem more concerned with documenting their travels than experiencing them – you know the ones I mean, the ones who would prefer to Instagram a cityscape (Note from Ed: Guilty! ) than exploring the city or who will update their facebook so much you wonder whether they are actually having as much fun as they say they are. Whilst I’d recommend some time apart from social media when you are travelling, at least so you can properly experience the place you are in, having a smartphone with internet capabilities can save a lot of stress and anxiety when a situation goes south.
4. Make sure you take a stash of emergency Euros. It sounds like common sense, and I feel patronising for even saying it, but seriously. You never know when your cards are going to fail on you and when you’ll need quick cash, so pack a few wedges of notes into various bags and pockets and you’ll never go wrong.