Budget Stays in Paris
Tips For a Cheaper Trip
Paris,” said Henry James, “is the greatest temple ever built to material joys and the lust of the eyes.” Paris is not cheap. However, there are ways to get acquainted in a low-cost high-edification way. And when you know the way, try to stay for at least a month to absorb the incomparable culture.
Websites such as Cheaptickets and Orbitz, etc. often offer rates from the U.S. to Paris varying from $900 to $1200+, although not during the high season, when tickets prices spike much higher. Ticket prices have continued to rise astronomically, as with most international flights from the U.S. to destinations abroad.
Try hostels. Many have ample room, which increases opportunities to meet more international travelers, many of whom have already known something of the ins and outs of exploring the city. You will also hear their opinions on their own culture in comparison to that of France. You may even exchange addresses for future visits.
If a hostel is not the kind of home where your heart is, try a web search for apartments. As with the airfare, shop the sites carefully. If you don’t seal a deal at home, book when you arrive (see below).
You may stay in France for three months without a special visa. An apartment is secure, private, and allows storage flexibility for short trips. Plus, you may entertain your new acquaintances, and save money by cooking your own meals with fresh food from local markets and stores. To find a roommate, stroll to the American Church in Paris and its community center informational bulletin board, chock full of job ads and roommate wanted ads.
Parisian friends may provide inside information. “A friend has a vacant flat that you may stay in just by paying utilities,” said my French ami. And so I was allowed to stay longer and dive deeper into the culture.
Stores called Casino or Monoprix offer the best taste and price value, though don't neglect the many local markets for produce if you have access to a kitchen. Eating in your flat and at a nice café once a day promotes savings and samplings.
Walk three blocks in any direction and find a metro station and buy a comprehensive Metro/Bus ticket for your entire stay. This is cheaper and much more efficient than daily tickets.
Soak Up the City
Once you’re settled, you may find yourself back at the American Church, filled with valuable contact information as well as a plethora of locals and international visitors. Some travelers meet to converse. Some come for the ads or for a copy of the Free Voice English, which lists entertainment and cultural events. Most, however, are drawn here because it’s for foreigners to feel less foreign by immersing themselves in the populace pool. To immerse yourself, join one of the classes, which range from dance to martial arts to foreign languages.
You may at least want to sit in for a session or two see what it is like and meet some Parisians. Offering a little free English language assistance to a class of French people may be to your great benefit.
Learn the language: Even using a few basic phrases shows you are trying and demonstrates respect for a rich culture and a very proud people. The Golden Rule applies here.
The next key social hub is the English- language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. International travelers and local patrons congregate here. The second level also features some books but the atmosphere is more like a youth hostel lounge. In its three main rooms travelers conversing, and studying with other travelers or locals. A staircase leads to upper levels and to rooms that are usually occupied by a range of artists, both Parisian Parnassians and traveling musicians.
The third cultural mecca takes you outside of Paris on a fast TGV train to Bayeux and the Family Home youth hostel, which actually feels more like home than like hostel. When you arrive you will be warmly greeted by owner Mme LeFevre, who will ask if you would like to join the family at dinner. The cost is minimal and the reward is maximal not only because of the food but also the smorgasbord of travelers who sit down together and dine as one big family.
This 500-year-old home seems more like a castle as you wind your way down a spiraling stone stairwell to dinner. The menu may consist of steamed mussels, chicken and mushrooms, rice, salad, fresh vegetables, cheese, pastries, ice cream, and carafe after carafe of red wine. The mood turns festive and foreigners become friends.
Once back in Paris, you may feel that even if your budget is tight you may want to stay longer. It is very difficult to work in the European Union and the pay doesn’t cover the stay. It may be better to work hard in America to play hard in Europe.
The final social hub is in Paris. Journey down remote back streets to where locals dine. For fine fare at a fair fee remember first to scoot away from the tourist hot spots. Many of these bistros mandate social interaction by seating you at the same table as the locals where strangers quickly become neighbors. If you are alone walking in, you do not feel alone walking out.
Whether it is at a café table, a family table, or an English-language learning table, Parisian people are passionate and sociable: they seem ready to do what comes most naturally—joie de vivre. You know what it means since you are learning the language. Laissez le bons temps rouler.
Since some youth hostels require a Youth Hostel membership and most offer discounts with it, reserve a card at least a month before you travel. Contact www.hiayh.org to see current rates for overnight stays and membership fee. Order a guidebook for your destination.
Apartment Internet Sites: See rental agencies in our French vacation home section. All 20 arrondissements or districts are included in the rentals.