Avoid Ryanair & Airbnb? 5 tips for first-time visitors to Paris

 

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 –

Walking everywhere…

..Visiting free attractions like the Louvre and Notre Dame…

 

Enjoying the artefacts..

Enjoying the artefacts..

 

...reenacting a Disney classic..

…reenacting a Disney classic..

..Looking at and not walking up the Eiffel Tower…

Who says you need money to enjoy the Eiffel Tower...

Who says you need money to enjoy 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)…

Nothing romantic about eating chicken on the street...

Nothing romantic about eating chicken on the street…

 

…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. For further inspiration, checkout our guide to the best budget places to stay in Paris

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.

5. And finally… relax even if things go wrong.
Despite everything going wrong, I still enjoyed my holiday in Paris. Even if things don’t turn out as you’d hoped, you can still have an awesome time, and sometimes the best holiday stories can come from the most stressful times!
Romance on a budget... cue bridge of locks

Romance on a budget… cue bridge of locks

 

12 Comments

  • André says:

    Fortenuatly, the Thalys is going from Cologne to Paris for little money (if booked in advanced). 😉

    I would recommend to book accomdation for Paris or other big foreign cities via booking.com or another plattform, book a hostel/hotel with 24h-reception and ensure the booking with a credit card. That might be a bit more expensive that booking a private room via airnbnb or wimdu, but you will have a room now matter whether the hostel/hotel is overbooked or your train/plain is late.

    I also recommend to take 100-200 Euro extra cash and a credit card with you in case something does not work out as planned. That can save a lot of nerves and gives you a good feeling even if everything works a planned.

    For longer trips it might also be a good idea to get a special simcard for abroad to avoid excessive roaming fees. In Germany, f. ex. blau.de offers special simcards for travellers.

    • Hi Andre

      Great tips there.

      I know Germany caters well in terms of prepaid simcards for as little as 10-20 euros with data and phone calls.

      France? Not sure what deals you can get there but one worth investigating.

      Accommodation booked directly with a hotel, hostel or via a third-party site like Booking.com/Expedia does give some peace of mind.

      Housetrip have just commented and outlined their cancellations policy. I am waiting to hear AirBnB’s response. In general have heard good things about AirBnB so it’s a shame that Amy had this misfortune.

      Extra cash, second credit card-v.handy too.

  • HouseTrip says:

    Hi Amy, please take a look at housetrip.com the next time you go to Paris. We have more properties in Paris than anywhere else in the world (over 5500), and if a Host ever cancels on a Guest (very rare because we have a very strict Host Cancellation Policy and remove repeat offenders from our site), we have a dedicated relocations team who will work tirelessly until you are rehoused in a suitable alternative.

    So sorry to read that you didn’t get to enjoy the City of Lights, one of my favourite places in the world.

    Andrew

  • AmyWood says:

    Hi Andre- I haven’t given up on Paris altogether yet, and might plan another trip in the future… Will definitely have a look at other booking platforms before I go! And I have definitely learnt the hard way to take spare euros with me. It just so happened that I took the trip to Paris just after I had been hitch hiking to Lithuania, so in this instance I had foolishly blown my safety cash along the way! Thanks for the advice!

    And Andrew – although my airbnb experience didn’t work out as I had hoped, I would still like to try staying with a host as an alternative to hostels and hotels, so I will bear that in mind! Certainly the cancellation policy sounds more user friendly.

    Thanks for your comments!
    Amy

  • That’s really unfortunate but great you still made the most of it!

    There is indeed a risk with Airbnb. We have a spare bedroom and host on Airbnb sometimes for a bit of extra cash, but we’ve never used it to stay. We really don’t like that the site takes peoples money and holds it the way they do. And something very serious would have to happen to us to cancel on someone at the last minute. Hopefully the people that did that to you had a very good reason for doing so.

    I’ve eaten that Carrefour rotisserie meal in France, in Bordeaux, in the park. It’s not bad but yes not French cuisine at its finest 🙂

  • jen says:

    i think you’ll look back on these pictures and the trip and realize how much more romantic it was than you thought. you look really happy! i’m planning my honeymoon to Paris and i hope we have this much fun.

  • Joe Bloggs says:

    What is this rubbish about Ryanair?

    You pay to get from any airport to centre city. In Paris by train it’s => 9,75€ (full fare, as of January 2014) to get to city centre from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).

    From Ryanair’s Beauvois Airport to Centre of Paris it’s €15.

    Wow you could have saved yourself a whole €5.25 by travelling from CDG.

    Darn sure your airfare to CDG with BA, Air France or Lufty would have been a heck of a lot more than €11 extra on Ryanair.

    BS headlines like avoid Ryanair really annoy me.

    Ryanair have allowed 80 million people to get around Europe without been coughed by the rip off flag carriers.

    • AmyWood says:

      Hi Joe,

      I’ve flown Ryanair since and I agree that they are a great air carrier in terms of low cost flights… Check out my ‘Guide to low cost airlines’! A lot of other carriers also offer similarly cheap flights now. However, in the article I was largely focusing on what a ‘first timer’ might find frustrating about visiting Paris for the first time. Certainly, the cost of the transportation to the centre of Paris ate up any savings we had made on the airfare, which would definitely be a concern for anyone travelling on a budget. Its not just the added cost of transportation into the city centre which makes the Ryanair route to Paris a little less appealing, but the extra hassle of getting to the city centre from Beauvais–Tillé which makes me think that flying another airline would be more cost and time effective.

    • Hey Joe Bloggs

      Thanks for the feedback.

      PS Quite an original name by the way.

  • Julia in Woodinivlle, WA says:

    Amy – I am sorry you had to cut your holiday short. It sounds like you learned several valuable lessons in your short trip. 1) know in which airport/train station you are landing and therefore your costs to get yourself to your actual destination. 2) make the best of your situation – which your pictures show perfectly. I disagree, I think a market chicken and roasted potato picnic in Paris sounds very romantic.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I am going to Paris for the first time in April and just added market chicken picnic to my bucket list!

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