I think part of the reason I had put off visiting Paris is I thought it would break my budget. Is Paris affordable to visit? Yes and no. It all depends on your choices and your budget.
Transparency regarding costs for travel is really important to me. How can I encourage others to travel if I don’t share how much things cost? I will always track my expenses and write about them here, even if the amount of wine I drank was embarrassing *cough*. I recently saw someone ask in a travel group on Facebook if $17,000 was enough for ten days in Paris for two people. Most people said yes, of course. You don’t have to have that kind of budget for Paris; I certainly didn’t! Even on my slim budget, I think Paris is affordable; but you have to make some choices.
I can’t tell you if Paris is affordable for you. We all have different budget thresholds. But I can tell you how much it cost me to go to Paris for a week. Let’s take a look.
Is Paris affordable to visit? A breakdown of expenses:
- Traveler: Heather
- When: May 18–24, 2022
- Duration: seven days including travel: six days, five nights in Paris
- Chicago, Illinois, to Paris, France
- Solo trip
- Budget-minded trip
- No rental car
- Carry-on only
- I am rounding my numbers a bit to adjust for conversion rates. I’m showing dollars when I paid in U.S. dollars, and euros when I paid in euros.
How did I end up going to Paris in the first place? I talk a bit more extensively about this in “Solo in Paris — Why I Went to Paris Alone,” but the short of it is, I was driving my son 3.5 hours to O’Hare Airport in Chicago, so I figured while I was there, I might as well go somewhere. Paris had been calling me for a while, so I researched Google Flights for the particular dates I had available — May 18–24 — and Paris came up with a reasonable flight cost.
If you have never used it, check out our primer on Google Flights. I have saved so much money this way!
One of the reasons people ask if Paris is affordable is the flight costs. I found a flight from O’Hare Airport (ORD) to Charles De Gaulle (CDG) in Paris for $551. I have several travel credit cards (Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture). I used my Chase Sapphire points and booked the trip using the Chase Rewards Travel Center. I used 44,000 points for my $551 flight. If you plan to travel with any consistency, I would suggest looking into one of these cards, but do some research to ensure it’s a good fit for you. The Points Guy is my favorite resource for all points-related information!
I have free checked bags with my Citi-Bank American Airlines card, but I chose to fly carry-on. I don’t know why I’m so stubborn, but mostly, I hate waiting for my bags at baggage claim. Flights are one of the contributors to making Paris a potentially expensive location to visit.
If points hacking isn’t your thing, track prices in Google Flights. I often see pretty inexpensive flights from major cities to Paris. Paris is affordable if you have a cheap flight!
Ground Transportation: $190
My son needed to leave from O’Hare with his classmates, so instead of parking near or at O’Hare (a minimum of $10 per night), I decided to park my car at one of the South Shore train stations and take the train into Chicago, and then took the “L” train to O’Hare Airport.
Parking at the station is free, but I will warn you that they do sometimes have issues with cars being broken into or vandalized, so you are taking a risk if you decide to leave your car for a week. However, I’ve done it multiple times with no issue. The South Shore train ride into downtown Chicago was $9. We took the “L” train, the Blue Line, from Washington Station directly to O’Hare for $2.50.
I hired a driver in Paris to pick me up from the airport (and return me at the end of my trip for my very early flight home). Cost: 60€ each way plus 10€ tip. You can take the train from the airport to the city center for much, much cheaper and it is a great way to immerse yourself in a city. I had a very early return flight, so I opted to spring for the round-trip car service since I had gotten my flight for free.
Gas to and from the South Shore Station from our home, approximately $25.
While I was in Paris, I took the Metro and bus. I bought five €1.90 passes.
Public transportation in Paris is very affordable. If you end up taking a lot of Ubers or taxis you are going to drive your costs up, making Paris more expensive.
Food and Drink: $450
The first thing I do after I check into my hotel is find a grocery store. There was a Mono Prix, a small convenience store, near my hotel, and I stocked up on a few essentials. On this trip, I picked up fruit, granola bars and a gallon of water. I carry a water bottle with me everywhere and fill it up as much as possible, but this hotel didn’t have any refill stations, and the sink was too shallow for me to fill it. I normally get some yogurt or cheese, but my mini-fridge didn’t work. I like having enough food in my room for breakfast if my hotel doesn’t offer a free one and for mid-afternoon snacks if I need a pick-me-up.
If my hotel offers a free breakfast I will fill up as much as possible and skip through lunch. I’m all about using my food budget wisely. Like for wine. And dessert.
On this trip, I had my banana and granola bar breakfast, a heavier lunch and then a light dinner. I didn’t go to any of the fancy, well-regarded restaurants. I tended to eat near my hotel, which was a bit further from the high-traffic tourist sections. How you choose to eat in Paris can make a big difference in how affordable it is. I chose to spend a little more on the things I love. Desserts and wine! This wasn’t a tight budget for food and drink, I could have saved more but I wasn’t limiting myself. However, if you are traveling with a partner or family, this expense could add up quickly.
Remember, where you eat matters. The closer you are to tourist attractions, the more expensive the food will likely be (and less interesting too!). Get off the beaten path, step into neighborhoods and explore different restaurants. Food in Paris is affordable, or at least moderate in most areas if you get out of the popular spots.
I thought the museums and attractions in Paris were very affordable. The Louvre was €19! The trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower was €27, but I paid another €20 for a 3 oz. flute of pink Champagne. Musee D’Orsay was only €16. Versailles was €27. If you want to indulge a bit, you can do a dinner river cruise; conversely, there are free walking tours.
The number one expense that can take you from “Yes, Paris is affordable!” to “there is no way I can take that trip” is the accommodation costs. Accommodations are often one of the biggest expenses. My hotel was nothing to write home about. I stayed at Hotel La Sanguine in a single bedroom. The carpet was so old and dirty even I was uncomfortable, and I am not very fussy. The mini-fridge didn’t work, and when I told them, they said, “Oh yes, you are correct,” and that was that. It was still a lovely stay for three reasons: I was in the 8th Arr, which is 15 minutes’ walk from everything I wanted to see (Montmartre, Louvre, Eiffel Tower etc.), the employees were all just lovely, and most notably, the cost. It also had air conditioning! Even in late May, it was pretty warm in Paris, and I was so sticky and hot every day when I returned to my hotel for a rest. So it was nice to shower and lay in the air-conditioning before venturing back out.
I booked this in February of 2022. When I look at the same dates that I traveled for 2023, the price is double. I benefited from booking when travel was still a little unpredictable because of COVID.
On that note, shoulder season is a great time to travel to keep costs down. Winter is even cheaper. You’ll see that Julianne and I travel in February a lot for the simple reason that prices are so much lower. Paris is affordable (or much less costly!) in shoulder season, which is April–May and mid-September–November.
A note on Airbnb: I could have booked something nicer, for less, through Airbnb. There are a lot of small apartments, quite lovely ones, that I could have rented. I am still struggling to feel good about booking unless I know for sure it’s someone’s personal space and not owned by a company. So many cities have housing shortages, rents are being driven too high, and it’s hard to know if I’m an ethical traveler when I book through them.
On this note, many individuals rent out their homes or apartments, and I want to support their endeavors; I just try to be smart about it. I didn’t have a lot of time to research for this trip, so I just booked a hotel.
COVID test: $25
I needed a COVID test to get back into the U.S., and it was $25 at a local pharmacy.
One ring. Six books. One poster. Twelve postcards.
On Facebook, I’m in a Paris Travel Tips group, and people spend a lot of money on souvenirs! Face products, purses and shoes. They must find that Paris is affordable for many reasons based on the number of items I see them lugging home!
I am working toward downsizing, so I try to keep my purchases to a minimum. That being said, there are two things I look for when I travel: art and jewelry. I happened to run across a little shop in the Latin Quarter with funky jewelry, and I got a beautiful blue stone ring. I also ended up in a few bookshops and fell into the allure of the books in French. I picked up three books about different photographers full of glorious black and white prints for my kids, a children’s book about emotions in French, a cookbook I can’t read (but oh, the pictures!), a book of quotes in French and a box of French Kama Sutra cards. While I can’t read the words on the Kama Sutra cards, the pictures are quite clear. I didn’t find anything to be outrageously priced. My ring, which I love, was $80, and it was the most expensive thing I bought.
Books are cool but heavy if you are traveling carry-on only!
If you are still asking, is Paris affordable? Here are some additional cost-saving ideas:
- Using public transportation more often and not hiring a private driver
- Fewer desserts and wine. That’s no fun, but it would have cut my expenses.
- I didn’t need quite so many souvenirs. I got caught up in the excitement of the bookstore.
- Hostel over hotel
- Airbnb instead of hotel
- Shopping at bodegas for lunch and/or dinner instead of restaurants
So if you ask me if Paris is affordable, I would say yes; for me, it was. My total costs for the week were roughly $1700, and that was with zero dollars spent on airfare. It wasn’t the cheapest week abroad, but it wasn’t the most expensive either. Either way, I finally got to visit this iconic city!
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