Paris, the city of love, culture, fashion… As a French student, I toyed for a long time with the idea of living and working in Paris as part of my year abroad. Of course, it’s an amazing city and the majority of job opportunities were all in the capital. I certainly didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere and Paris is definitely one of the best connected cities in Europe, so travel within France, back home and around Europe would be a huge benefit.
But there was one thing that held me back: the price. I was worried I’d waste all the money I was earning on rent and end up using my Erasmus, student loan and personal savings on the basic things I needed to live, never mind travel. Now more than halfway through my year abroad, here’s what I’ve discovered:
There is literally no avoiding the topic of accommodation in Paris. Everyone I have met, whether they are English, French, German or otherwise, has moaned about the price, availability and quality of accommodation available. Although there’s a bit more choice for hotels and holidays rentals, the prices are still exorbitant. I myself had a nightmare at the start of my time in Paris – I was staying in a hotel that was twice as expensive as it should have been and had to move out 10 days before my apartment became available.
I was rescued by Roomlala, a French site that advertises spare rooms with landlords and I stayed with the most delightful retired couple, Francoise and Bruno. My boyfriend actually found his long term accommodation through the same site and it was a lot cheaper than other options we had come across! Living with locals or in a ‘colocation’ is so much cheaper than renting a studio and you get way more for your money – the place I’m in now I found through a friend of a friend. Don’t be fussy about where you live either – even if it’s in a quieter area, you’re never far from things to do in Paris.
Depending on how long you’re going to spend in Paris, you’re going to want to travel around. With 3 major airports, 8 train stations and an excellent metro, you need to shop around to find the best deals and most practical options. Some people swear by the Eurostar, but personally I have found cheaper flights to and from the UK every single time, not including the exorbitant cost of British trains to get you down to London. European trains are generally cheaper, so check out train prices and SNCF deals to get around the continent.
To get around Paris itself, I could not survive without my Navigo. Fortunately, many companies subsidise this nifty little transport pass for interns, which is handy as it costs an eye-watering 73€ per month. It is absolutely worth it, and unless you rarely use the metro you will make your money back. A cheaper option is a Vélib – unlimited use of bikes around the city – but unless you’re feeling enthusiastic whatever the weather I’d always recommend a Navigo!
As we are still members of the European Union, many museums are free to citizens under 26. This means that you have a wealth of culture and history at your fingertips in the city that prides itself on both factors. If you are a French student at UoN, you can probably see half the things that Dr. Paul Smith has mentioned in his history lectures, and if that isn’t exciting I don’t know what is.
If art and culture isn’t your thing, there’s some pretty interesting places to see – from film sets (including most of the places in Amélie) to Notre Dame, wandering about the city can lead you to unique and interesting sites that are often better than the stuff you can pay for. I am also a countryside girl at heart, and when the city gets a bit much it’s nice to take a stroll in one of Paris’ many parks – even if they are a bit coiffed for my tastes.
I have a friend who recently went to a club in Paris where a single with mixer was €11 – and a double was €22. Paris has a reputation for being very, very expensive for a night out but also very, very fun. The best way to find places where you don’t need to take out a mortgage for each round is to ask locals–better still, get taken there. I was taken out for a work party to a place with €4 pints, which was even better because the boss was paying! Another friend introduced me to a place where you could get pints for €3 and a G&T for €5 during happy hour, though the prices shot up past 10.30. When it comes to going out in Paris, it is definitely a case of who you know. Saying this, it’s worth checking out sites like Timeout for a general idea.
If there’s one thing I’m happy to splurge on, it’s food. With so many amazing restaurants around – one near my work has world-famous burgers – it’s very hard to convince myself to cook each night and prepare food to take to work. To make this a little easier, I try to spend less on ‘treats’ from the supermarket like biscuits and ready-meals and use that money on buying good quality produce, occasionally going out for a meal. Not only is this helping my finances but I feel a lot better about myself! Of course, if you’re only in Paris for a short time this can be trickier.
In the end, I’m so glad I chose to go abroad. While my entire wage (interns are paid a third of the minimum wage in France) and then some goes on my rent, I still find I have enough to socialise, explore and make the most of this incredible city. Although cost of living may be expensive in Paris, there’s a whole host of things to do and ways to save money if you know where to look. Voilà, the budget travel (and year abroad) guide to Paris!
Featured image courtesy of ‘Moyan Brenn’ via Flickr. License here.
Article images courtesy of Katrina Eastgate.
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