Update: When Cody arrived, I didn’t take the time to do proper accounting, but what I got through should still give you an idea. 🙂
I’ve mentioned before that Paris really isn’t an arm and a leg when you know a few tricks. I’m going to share a more-or-less running tally of most things. Fabric-sourcing isn’t a typical tourist expense, and so will be kept out. Almost everything else will be included. Skip to farther down below for daily expenses, and I’ll update this post daily until the last day.
I decided to do the because, if you read a lot of websites online, you’ll walk away disheartened. The prices given are ABSURDLY high. One woman spent $1,757.64 for one week in Paris, not counting getting there. I’m perplexed by that. To be frank, that kind of spending seems like she was trying to see how much she could blow. Almost $90 a day for activities…how? This site says $2,605 for a couple for five days. Here you’re told to budget an average of 126€ in 2013 money, not including accommodations or anything else. On the Rick Steves forum in 2017, people were saying to budget 70-100, in both dollars and euros, for food…PER DAY. Here, we are told the average daily cost for one person is 162€, or 4,853€ for a month, again, not including getting there. In 2008, 150€ per day not counting getting there or accommodations, for a budget trip. And another stating 770€ for a budget trip for one once you get there. I’m not doing what I consider to be a budget trip, and I still can’t figure out these expenses.
Let me explain my timing here. Leaving to France the 3rd of March, returning the 28th. My husband is flying out to join me the 19th. So 25 days for me, and a little over a week for him. Stretching my time to a full month wouldn’t cost much more either, nor would having him here for he same time.
To start with the up-front costs: My ticket on AirFrance was pricy this year, $733.53 including extra baggage. Sunday is a prime travel day, and so comes with a slight premium. I used flights.google.com to tinker around and find some reasonable travel dates, then checked the recommend websites directly for lower costs. My ticket would have cost less if I had chosen a different layover time. The two-hour lay-over would have saved about $100. I picked a layover of over eight hours so I could meander around the airport in Amsterdam. Vancouver is referred to as “New Vansterdam.” So Amsterdam is something of a pilgrimage. Cody will be flying out later in the month, and he has the shorter layover. He’s also not taking extra baggage. He’s going to be going for $505.
We also checked all airports within three hours of us. Last year, flying out of Seattle was so much less ($405 with extra baggage versus about $900 out of Portland) that Cody driving me there was worth the savings. This time, Portland is less. Flying into Charles De Gaulle (CDG) airport is almost always less than Orly. If you’re near an airport Wow Air or Iceland Air regularly service, round-trip flights can easily be under $300. I’m not even kidding.
The AirBNB for the month is $851.28. Most places give pretty steep discounts for renting by the month, even if you end up having a few days early (like me!). Weekly and monthly discounts add up to it often costing less to stay longer. Sometimes just one or two more days will initiate a bigger discount. Also, by renting an apartment, I’ll save a fortune on food costs by not having to eat out all the time. French markets are cheap as heeellllll compared to what we pay in Vancouver, Washington. Also, I’m staying in a small town right outside of Paris. I don’t care if my place is two minutes from the Eiffel Tower. It’s not hard getting there via transit. If you don’t mind renting a room instead of a full apartment, the can drop easily to $600.
Speaking of getting there, you’ll often hear that the cheapest way to get around is to get a carnet of ten tickets for 14.90€, or the Paris Visite Pass. You’ll blow through that in a couple days, easy, and that Visite Pass is a bunch of BS. Spend 5€ to get a Navigo Découverte card, and top that up. Locals get the Navigo, and the only difference is that they can get it replaced for 5€ if they lose it, whereas we non-residents just plain lose altogether and have to get a new one in full. Otherwise, costs are the same. Pay 22.80€ and you’ve got passage on every transit there is from 12:01am on Monday (technically 12am, but putting it as 12:01am makes it clearer which 12am) through Sunday at 11:59pm. The train to Orly is excluded. No matter when you pay, the window is the same. You can also pay 75.20€, and it’ll be good for the whole month, 12:01am on the 1st to 11:59pm on the last day. You can get passes that don’t go to Versailles or Disneyland, but the cost savings is negligible. I still have my card from last year, and so will pay 75.20€ once, and all my transit for the entire time is covered. Cody will arrive the 20th. I’ll have a card ready for him, topped up, and he’ll be covered through Sunday at 11:59pm for 22.80€, and another 22.80€ to cover him for the rest of his time here.
I’m also going to London for a couple days, and that’s $112 for airfare, including priority seating and an extra bag. I plan on bringing back books. Lots of books. And $90 for the AirBNB for a couple days. And I’m paying $70 to get a membership to the V&A so I can get into a sold-out exhibit. Otherwise, the V&A would be free.
Regarding food, compared to pricing at my local grocery stores, French stores are cheap. 1.50€ for a kilo of organic apples? YES. That’s under $2 for 2.2lbs. Amazing meats for 6€ per kilo. At that per pound, it would still be less than here. Yet that’s for over twice as much. 4oz of fresh mozzarella cheese for under 1€. I pay $8 per pound here. It’s about $5 converted for a pound there. Stuff we have here, like Nutella and Bonne Maman preserves are so cheap that it makes me cry inside. The big Nutella jars are about 3€ as opposed to over $8 here, and those preserves that I pay $5 for on sale are all under 2€, with some being under 1€. Same brands. So, straight up, the cost of food is less than where I live in the US. Since we have to eat regardless, we’re saving money on food by going to Paris. Something to favor in, that no one ever does, is that you have to eat even when not in Paris. Subtract what you would spend at home from what you spend in Paris to get an idea of how much it really costs you to eat in Paris. If you spend $10 a day on food at home, and 15€ in Paris, you aren’t really spending 15€ for being in Paris. You’re spending the difference between that and the $10. This doesn’t work for accommodations since you’re paying for your home and for accommodations in Paris. You’re just transferring your food money, not paying for it on both sides.
Touristy stuff? First, Notre Dame and a lot of things are free. If you want to go to the top of Notre Dame, you’ll pay a small fee. But the cool stuff doesn’t require that. Second, find the free stuff no one thinks about. Go walk through Victor Hugo’s apartment. That’s free. Go stand in Marie Curie’s lab. That’s free. Go to Trocadero Plaza, and see this view for free…
Skip the tourist stuff for the most part. A lot of it is overrated. Cool, yes, but overrated. Go live in Paris like a Parisian. Get the real experience instead of a curated tourist experience. It won’t cost you to do that. Walk on the Seine at night on weekend nights when the weather is what most people consider to be nice, and you’ll discover the parties that go on there .
If you want to do the tourist stuff, get the Paris Museum Pass. Specifically that pass. There is a Paris Pass and a Paris City Pass, but the small extras aren’t worth the big price increase. The 6-day Museum Pass, which is 74€, covers entry to almost everything from the Louvre to Versailles, and even if you don’t go to enough things for the cost of the pass to cover the cost of the tickets, getting to go in the short line is more than worth it. I got to the Louvre a couple hours early, and felt such despair at the length of the line. I decided WTH, may as well get the 4-day pass for 62€, and didn’t have to get in that long line. I meandered around until a few minutes before opening, got in the short line, and was inside in under ten minutes. Same thing at Versailles.
That small goes to the left at the opening of this video is my line (caution: I swear at the end). That little group. That long line is just ONE of the general entry lines. The Museum Pass is worth skipping that line. Every other site I have ever come by says to add up the costs of what you want to do, and if it’s less than the cost of the pass, to skip the pass. Well, NO. Get the pass anyway. Take my word on this. By the time Versailles opened, that long line there looked very short compared to what it was at opening time. Your time has value. Do you want to wait in that line for four hours, or get in and get to do stuff?
I myself nearly fell for the “add up what you want to do,” and what changed that was the day last year when I got to the Louvre over 2 hours before opening, and went down to the “secret” entrance where the line is shorter than the main entrance, thinking I’d be somewhere between maybe and 50th and 100th in line, and instead…OMG, the line was so, so long that I thought it wouldn’t end and started to feel dismayed. I kept walking, and walking, and walking, and gave up on the idea of getting in at all, and decided to just find the end and see how long it was. I finally found it after several minutes of walking. By some freaky coincidence, it ended near a little shop selling the Paris Museum Pass. I gladly plunked down the 62€ for a 4-day pass, and decided to salvage my day (heh…having to salvage a day in Paris…but I was very sad at that point) by seeing how long it would take me to get in. I killed some time in this little underground mall, then went to the special pass line nearer to opening, and holy schnikes, folks. I was in literally within ten minutes. That line gets the priority. They let that line in, then start on the regular line at the main door. If more people get in the pass line, they go to those people, get them through security, then go back to the regular line. The other line I found didn’t have a pass line near it, but they were still going to take forever. I went to the Louvre and Versailles, which was 33€, and I can’t remember what third thing I did on that pass, but it didn’t total 62€ in admission. But damn, was it ever worth my time. Even if it had only been those two things, it was worth not having to deal with being in line half the day. As far as Versailles, I was in fast enough that I got to the Hall of Mirrors in time to get a photo with only the docent in it.
Cody and I will get the 6-day passes when he’s in Paris. 148€ will cover pretty much all of our entertainment for six days, and fast-track us on the things he wants to do. (I say “he wants to do” because I told him to give me a list of the things he most wants to see–as I figure it, I’ll be here 2 weeks more this time, and was here 2 months last year, and have had my time, and so his eight days here should be centered around what he wants to see.)
Now what about phones? That’s trickier to answer. Our cell plan is $10 per 24-hour period for everything unlimited. For 25 days, this would mean $250 for my phone. But last year I had my phone unlocked for $110. So this year, I’m starting off with 34,90€ for a new SIM and 12GB of data from SFR. Instead of using cellular for calls, I use WhatsApp, and that’s free. Have everyone you want to talk to sign up. Literally it’s free. I’ll use that through data or WiFi. My better value. But my husband’s phone isn’t currently unlocked. The 8 days he’ll be here will be $80 through out cell company IF he uses his own phone everyday, or $110 just to unlock his phone. Even if he used his phone everyday, that would mean he’d come out ahead using his phone like normal. But since he’ll use my phone with any remaining data, he won’t need to use his phone everyday, and getting 12GB would be 34€. So it’s not a cut-and-dry answer. Longer than 14 or so days, and it’s definitely cheaper to have a phone unlocked and get an SFR. Shorter than that, and it depends on your carrier.
So let’s see what is spent overall to give an accurate, real-time accounting of what Paris costs, and where expenses can be shaved.
Pre-leaving expenses paid, in currency used:
Flights to Paris and home, extra baggage: $733.53 for me
Flights to Paris and home: $505 for Cody
AirBNB: $851.28 for the ENTIRE TIME
Flight to London and back to Paris, extra baggage an seating upgrade: $112
AirBNB London: $90
V&A membership: 70€
$2291.81 and 70€
ALL of the HUGE expenses for the month were paid before I left.
TBP means To Be Paid. These may change, but likely won’t.
Tuesday, March 5th:
Navigo Découverte (now called Île-de-France Moblité) charge for the month: 75,20€
Île-de-France Moblité card for Cody, not charged: 5€
SFR SIM and 12GB date for my phone: 34,90€
Marks & Spencer groceries (this’ll last 4-5 days): 64,90€
Produce at overpriced market (I didn’t feel like up to the grocery proper): 10,64€
Crépe Grand Marnier: 4€
Huge chocolate meringue: 2€
Coin purse: 3€
3 scarves: 15€
Most of the “big” expenses to be paid while on this this are out of the way now. 210.64€
Running total: $2291.81 and 284,64€
Wednesday, March 6th:
Palais Garnier: 12€ (website said 14€, but was 12€ since I like to go without tour guides)
Croissants: 2,60€ for 2 (expensive for Paris…usually under 1€ each)
Grocery snacks things: 27,65€
Running total: $2291.81 and 368,39€
Thursday, March 7th: Notre Dame
Souvenir-ish shopping (rain started, got some rain stuff): 27€
Running total: $2291.81 and 416,08€
Friday, March 8th:
Lindt chocolate: 9.24€
Marks & Spencer: 41.85€
Running total: $2291.81 and 467,17€
Saturday March 9th:
Crépe Grand Marnier: 4.50€
Marks & Spencer: 35,18€
Robert-François Damiens letter: 100€
Running total: $2291.81 and 606,35€
Sunday, March 10th:
none–stayed in for the day
Monday, March 11th:
Train to London: 23.50£
Coat check: 4£
Shopping for books, etc: 141£
Uber to AirBnB: 6.71£
Bus fare: 3.50£
Shopping for pens, notebooks, toiletries: 59.50£
Running total: $2291.81, 606.35€, and 242.20£
Tuesday, March 12th:
Stuff, lots of little stuff that I didn’t keep track of individually, but about 200£ (I used cash, have a bit left)
Running total: $2291.81, 606.35€, and 442.20£
Wednesday, March 13th:
Souvenir-gift thing for Charlotte: 11£
Bus ticket to Luton: 18£
Uber to apartment: 27,60€
Running total: $2291.81, 633.95€, and 471.20£
Thursday, March 14th:
Crepe Grand Marnier: 4€
Crepe Grand Marnier: 4,50€ (different place)
Hair brush since mine disappeared from my checked bag…weird…and micellar water: 10.98€
Running total: $2291.81, 633.95€, and 471.20£
Friday, March 15th:
6-day Paris museum passes: 148€ for both
Disneyland Mini x 2: 126€
Charging Cody’s Navigo: 22,80€
Running total: $2291.81, 965,34€, and 471.20£
Saturday, March 16th:
Sunday, March 17th:
Monday, March 18th:
Tuesday, Match 19th:
Wednesday, March 20th:
Thursday, March 21st:
Friday, March 22nd:
Saturday, March 23rd:
Sunday, March 24th:
TBP: Weekly charge for Cody’s transit: 22,80€
Monday, March 25th:
Tuesday, Match 26th:
Wednesday, March 27th:
Thursday, March 28th: