Solo Traveler: How Cheap Is Paris?

A fountain in the Marais neighborhood of Paris. Photo by Sherry Hardage
Cognac crepes prepared on a Paris street. Photo by Sherry Hardage
The Eiffel Tower. Photo by Sherry Hardage
Solo Traveler
How Cheap is Paris?

My friend Joyce and I decided to bag the Camino de Santiago in favor of Paris. Just imagine the City of Light with world class museums, lovely restaurants, and the best metro in the world, versus a long dusty walk through the Spanish countryside carrying a pack and breathing car fumes just to get to a tomb at the end of it all!

We decided it wasn’t worth the expense to go a quarter of the way round the world for a short time. As retired single women, we are careful with finances and neither of us thought we could afford to stay in Paris a whole month. We also wanted to see more than just one city in France.

So we opted to see four parts of the country, a week at a time. Paris was first of course. We rented a studio apartment in the center of the Marais neighborhood, just north of the islands that constitute the very heart of the city.

We planned to shop in the local markets and groceries, eat breakfast and dinner at the apartment, and have nice lunches out on the town. Lunches are a lot cheaper, somewhat smaller than dinners in nice restaurants and just as well-prepared.

We paid $950 (US) for the studio apartment for seven nights. We found it on AirBnB, an online venue where people who have a furnished property, or even just a room in their homes, can rent it to travelers. Many of the owners have weekly and monthly rates. It was perfect for our needs and since it was on the third floor we saved a gym membership by having a built-in stair-master!

Shopping in the local grocery cost us about $25 a day and that included a bottle of decent wine. We ate well, with fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, great cheeses, warm baguettes, thick bacon, and the occasional roasted chicken. Our daily restaurant fare cost around $35 for both of us, and included a glass of wine. We never ate at expensive places but did have a few meals in the $50 range. 

We both enjoy art museums, and are avid walkers. Paris is a walking city; full of places, both famous and out-of-the-way, to visit. We also prefer to see a museum thoroughly so we visited one a day, maximum. Strolling along the Seine, the Luxemborg Gardens, and a number of other sites are free and enjoyable if the weather is nice.

We opted for a two-day pass ($45 each) on the Paris L’Open Air Bus + Boat tour. Those are the big red double-deck buses that are popular in large cities around the world. We made an effort to ride all four routes in order to get a feel for the entire city and to know where the big attractions were. Then we decided which ones we really wanted to see.

Taking the boat up and down the Seine, we hopped off at the Eiffel Tower, took a bunch of pictures, hopped back on the boat and saw the Notre Dame Basilica. Another day we saw the vistas from Montmartre and explored its gardens after traversing the porno neighborhood with its sex-toy shops and strip bars. The buses certainly provided a varied tour of Paris! The rest of the week, we took the Metro. A carnet, of 10 tickets, was $19.50. Each ticket was good for buses and trains, and lasted for an hour after validation.

If we’d opted for a month in Paris, we certainly would not have eaten out as often, nor gone to as many museums per week. I checked the local real estate window postings in the Marais and was surprised at how many furnished apartments were available. A small apartment can be rented for under $2,000 a month, some for as little as $1,500. There were much cheaper offerings on the outskirts of the city, locations that are very do-able thanks to the world-class transportation system.

Our total Paris bill, one week for two people, was just under $1,800.

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