Don't make the mistake of rounding off your euros. The current exchange rate is $1. 20 to one euro, meaning a hotel room priced at 100 euros will cost $120. Still, there are ways...
Don’t make the mistake of rounding off your euros. The current exchange rate is $1.20 to one euro, meaning a hotel room priced at 100 euros will cost $120. Still, there are ways of getting the most for your money. Here’s a few tips:
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The best transportation buy is the Carte Orange, a seven-day pass good for unlimited travel on Paris Métro, RER and bus lines. A two-zone pass is $17.50 (at current exchange rates). Bring a passport-size photo.
A one-day transportation pass (Carte Mobilis) is $6.30. A book of 10 tickets (carnet) is $12. Single tickets are $1.60 each. See www.ratp.fr for details.
It’s still possible to find a decent double room in a well-located two-star hotel for under $100 a night, but it likely won’t have air conditioning or an elevator. Rooms with AC start around $150. It never hurts to ask for a discount, especially during slower periods. Word-of-mouth is the best way to find the hotel that’s right for you and your budget. Useful Web sites are www.parishotels.com and www.paris.org which lets you search by location and number of stars and includes comments from travelers. See also www.tripadvisor.com.
Bed and breakfasts aren’t for everyone. Some have private bathrooms, but staying in someone’s home might mean sharing. The tradeoff is usually a bigger bedroom that comes with breakfast and a chance to connect with a French native. Check out the location before booking, and make sure it’s a neighborhood where you want to be and close to public transportation.
Booking services charge the B&B owners a commission which is included in the price. Most owners charge less to those who have stayed with them before or hear about them through friends and book directly.
I booked through Alcôve & Agapes ($65-$238 per room). Phone: 011-33-1-44-85-06-05 or www.bed-and-breakfast-in-paris.com), and paid about $80 for a large double with breakfast and shared bath.
Other B&B booking services are Good Morning Paris ( $72-$86 for two persons; $55-$65 for one person). Call 011-33-1-47-07-28-29 or see www.goodmorningparis.fr and Paris B&B and Apartments ($90-$185). Call 800-872-2632, or see www.parisbandb.com.
Pick up a copy of Periscope, about 50 cents at newsstands, a weekly entertainment guide with listings for free concerts, galleries, photo and art exhibits plus information on clubs, restaurants etc. Many churches hold free concerts. I took in a delightful flute and harp recital one afternoon in the tiny Saint Bernard Chapel in the Montparnasse train station, an unlikely but cool venue on a hot day because the chapel is in the basement.
Paris Voice, a free magazine for English-speaking Parisians, is a rich resource for free book and poetry readings, lectures and discussions in English.
Paris Walks offers two-hour guided walks in English in areas such as the Marais, Latin Quarter and Montmartre for $12 per person. Meet guides at Metro stations. Phone 011-33-1-48-09-21-40 or see www.pariswalks.com
Harriet Welty, author of “French Toast” and “French Fried,” books about the French and their food and customs, hosts regular wine and cheese gatherings with discussions on understanding the French and France. See www.understandfrance.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 011-33-6-13-61-55-51. Cost is $33 per person.
Check these out before buying. They’re not always the bargain they might seem. The Museum pass (Carte Musée) costs $37 for three days, only worth it if you plan to visit a lot of museums in a short period. Most museums are free for those under 18 and many reduce prices during evening hours. Major museums are free on the first Sunday of the month.
The Paris Visite card ($45 for three days) is good for all public transportation including trains to both airports, Versailles and Disneyland.
The hands-down budget favorite for edible souvenirs is Monoprix, a chain of stores with locations all over and a big selection of gourmet food items, wines, chocolates and cheeses. Do your drooling at Fauchon or in the gourmet sections of big department stores but stretch your euros by buying at Monoprix.
The best one-stop Web guide for Paris is at www.paris.org. Look here for information on hotels, transportation, museums, shopping and special exhibits. Click on “Kiosque” for articles on neighborhoods, culture and off-beat activities.
For general information, contact the French Government Tourist Office at 310 -271-6665, or see www.francetourism.com.