City of Light on a light wallet
June 5, 2009 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Care to share your tips and tricks for spending a week in Paris on the cheap?

Accomodations: Clean and quiet. Open to anything from to short-term apartment rental.
Food: Cheap ethnic preferred, but I'm not picky.

Bonus points for stuff in the 13th and 14th (hoping to attend DrupalCon at Cité Internationale Universitaire).
posted by bricoleur to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I lived out in Suresnes before, which is about twenty minutes down to Place Saint-Michel by tram and Metro.

This was back in 2002, and I was taking three months off work to decide if I should return to the United States or settle in Europe. So clearly saving money was a key goal hence staying outside of central Paris.

For food I took my breakfast at the hotel where it was included in the price (standard at most hotels). Lunch was either crepes from a street stall, or I'd purchase some bread, cheese, perhaps some dry fish but definitely always a half bottle of wine from a local grocery store.

Very cheap way to spend time in Paris.

If its any help, I've recently posted a slightly relevant question.
posted by Mutant at 1:31 PM on June 5, 2009

Best answer: Couchsurfing is probably your best bet--it's very popular in France and you should have no problem finding a place. Foodwise, the cheapest option is kebab (not healthy, but delicious and should cost no more than 6E for a very filling meal). The many Chinese restaurants are another option. They offer very inexpensive (under 10E) several-course meals, which are probably somewhat more nutritious than kebabs. (You could also buy baguettes, cheese, and other fixings and have a cold lunch.) Depending on where you're staying, you could save money on transport by walking everywhere, which is surprisingly easy.
posted by nasreddin at 1:31 PM on June 5, 2009

If you're feeling adventurous, check out some Pensions. Most will offer a full dinner for cheaper than you could find anywhere else. I spent 4 nights at Pension les Marronniers with a friend who was living there longer-term, and I loved it-- great location, creepy old building, cheap, and a really eccentric group of people. A reporter for a French radio station joined us for dinner one night to record material for a show, and it made for a really memorable experience: the two young Americans (me and my friend), an elderly British ex-pat, and a group of French retirees communicating as best we could with our mixture of French and English. It was a really nice, if kind of strange, balance to running around in the city all day. I guess a caveat would be that you should have at least minimal French before attempting this, as you can't guarantee the owners will speak English.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:58 PM on June 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Suggestions above have it covered really, couchsurf or check out a hostel. Contrary to popular opinion it's as easy to exist cheaply in Paris as it is anywhere else. Eat out of the supermarket (a baguette can last all day if you want real shoestring experience) and check out the set menus in restaurants - I have eaten 2 course Indian and Chinese meals in Paris for 6-8 Euros. Not in your area, but check out the Chinese and Japanese restaurants on and around Rue des Petits Champs and the Indian and Pakistani cafes on Passage Brady, which is off Boulevard de Strasbourg. Hit and miss, but dirt cheap. Best kebabs are on and around Rue de la Huchette, they run 4-5 Euros and while not healthy will provide a cheap, filling evening meal. Around the Rue des Rosiers in the Marais you'll find Jewish restaurants and takeaways, not particularly cheap but worth checking out.

Transport - Velib, hands down. Flexible, fun, complete coverage and only 5 Euros for a full week.

Don't have much specific advice on the 13th or 14th, other than there is a market on Rue Daguerre if you want fresh provisions.
posted by fire&wings at 2:03 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Velib, hands down. Flexible, fun, complete coverage and only 5 Euros for a full week.

Careful with that, that's just the subscription. If you use those bikes for short trips (under 30 minutes), it's true that there are no other costs, but after half an hour you start paying, and the prices go up quite steeply, check out their website.
posted by Ms. Next at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2009

Best answer: Depending on the area you're in, your most affordable food option might be grocery stores and markets. Try to avoid the big chains and stores in the center of Paris as they're often more expensive than the tiny family owned grocery stores in other arrondisments.

You can get cheap and delicious South Asian food in "Little Jaffna," which is in the 10th arrondisment. If you take the metro to La Chapelle and walk up Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, you'll have loads of great options. My favorite restaurant is Restaurant Dishny (25, Rue Cail) where you can get a 7 euro thali "a emporter" (to go) that will feed you for two days, but you really can't go wrong in that area.

If you're interested in West African food, there are a lot of good restaurants in the 18th arrondisment near the Chateau Rouge metro station. The neighborhood gets sort of a bad rap from both tourists and some Parisians, but it's really fine. I like Restaurant Nioumre Franco Africain (7, Rue Poissonniers), which serves inexpensive and authentic Senegalese food.

The 13th arrondisment has good East Asian food, but I don't really know the area well enough to make specific recommendations.

In terms of other tips and tricks: Paris is a very walkable city. If you buy a good map you can save a lot of money by walking most places. I would recommend the "Paris Pratique," which is a book of incredibly detailed maps and includes a street index, metro map, and bus map. You can find it all over the place for about 5 euro.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with Paris, but if you use the metro it's much more cost effective to buy a "carnet" of 10 tickets than to buy a ticket every time you want to take a ride. Also, if you are a student, under 25, or a senior you can get great discounts at a startling array of museums and landmarks.

On preview: Velib is also awesome!
posted by cimton at 2:32 PM on June 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

You need to get this book.
posted by randomstriker at 2:33 PM on June 5, 2009

Oh and check this out, you can just buy the relevant chapters electronically!
posted by randomstriker at 2:36 PM on June 5, 2009

Couchsurfing in Paris is great not only because you'll meet some interesting people/get free accomodations, but also because you'll probably be in a residental area where food prices are reasonable. And where you can actually find nice fast-food like kebabs instead of endless rip-off crepe stands.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:45 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

The 14th has the beautiful and photo opportunity rich montparnasse cemetery. Open and free to enter and you could spend a while in there just wondering around. Notables like Jean Paul Sartre and Baudelaire are buried here.
posted by delladlux at 4:19 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Awesome tips! I do plan on walking wherever possible, but the Velib option may come in handy, too. The food suggestions are perfect.

Any tips on how to find compatible couchsurfing hosts? I've never actually done it before.
posted by bricoleur at 4:23 PM on June 5, 2009

Best answer: If you're a female, you can limit your search to women only. There are many nice men on couchsurfing, but plenty who seem to think it's an oppotunity to pickup women. You can also just search men, or just search couples, or search by a certain age... etc.

The search will give you a list of people who have logged on recently who fit your criteria. You can see how often they reply to requests. Just look at each profile and see if you'd get along. People list interests, favorite films. They also list their location, what their place is like, how they interact with guests (show people around? have dinner together?) and for how long they'd be willing to host someone. Between all of those factors you should be able to find someone good.

Make sure to fill out your profile, too. When you send them a message, make it personal and describe why you decided to ask to stay with them.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:51 PM on June 5, 2009

Best answer: Everything that Solon and Thanks said, plus, join groups for things you are interested in. For example, there's a Paris group, and I'm sure it has subgroups for eating out, sports, etc., which will help you identify frequent organizers or participants. But, please don't be one of those guys who sends a message to a big city group (could be hundreds of people) to say "dudes! host me!!"

Personally, I try to stay with locals (rather than expats), and usually stay with guys, and have never had the problem of guys using it as a pick-up. Maybe Solon and Thanks is just much hotter than I am!
posted by whatzit at 6:20 PM on June 5, 2009

I shouldn't have said "plenty" of people with questionable intentions - I was mostly thinking of an uncomfortable experience some friends had. However, they didn't make any effort to find a good fit or make sure their choice had been vouched for. So, remember to read what other people have written and feel free to contact them if you'd like a more candid opinion.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:12 PM on June 5, 2009

If you're in the 13th you need to eat at Le Bambou. It's fairly cheap (dishes are under 10 euros) and it's one of the best vietnamese restaurant in Paris.
Their nems/springrolls are insane.
posted by SageLeVoid at 2:22 AM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

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