Cheap Travel Advice. Part 1 – The City Break

So, People are always looking for a holiday on a low budget and I’m here to help, whether it’s a city break, a party weekend or a beach holiday, I aim to sum up all the best locations from my personal experience. Links to future articles in this series will be added to the bottom of preceding articles.

Part 1: The City Break.

Paris. If you haven’t been, then go.

When I travel there now I fly into Charles de Gaulle airport, take a taxi or the metro to my favourite hotel (I’ve been enough to have a favourite). But this can be pricey. Charles de Gaulle is an expensive airport to fly into and the taxi can cost €50-60. Now if your not in europe this is pretty much your only choice but if your european you have a cheaper option – Beauvais.

If you book a few weeks in advance, you can get weekend return flights from Dublin to Paris (BVA) for as little as €50pp. mid week is even cheaper. Google Flights and Skyscanner are your best friend here.

When you arrive in Beauvais, you’ll notice your not in Paris. Your a good bit outside the city. There is a regular shuttle bus service from outside the airports doors to Paris-Port-Maillot which is a main metro hub in the city proper. Tickets for the bus can be pre booked for as little as €9 online which a bit of searching or between €10 and €17 at the bus office at the airport depending on the season.

Now when you get to Port-Maillot your going to use the metro to get around, a lot, have a look at the map and you will see the metro goes everywhere in the city – it will be your best friend on your short breaks. Don’t be intimidated by the scale of the underground – I have walked for 15 mins underground between platforms to get to my next connection before. There’s signs everywhere and just workout on the map which direction your going based on the stops listed.

A couple of words of advice for the Metro Noob – Keep to one side on the escalators, one  side is for if your in a rush the other is slow moving, if you don’t like this, you will be pushed aside – your the asshole in this situation, not the person rushing past. Don’t throw away your metro ticket, you need one to enter the system and then leave on the other side, there will be ticket checks along the way and you may have to enter it into a few barriers, but its valid till you leave the network. Your going to be using the metro a lot so I would recommend buying you tickets in bulk at the automated kiosk, works out much cheaper. Also – get the belgian chocolate waffles from the venting machine on the platform – Your welcome (they look horrible but they’re an absolute gem).

Now hotels. Hotels really vary in price with the seasons, but they never get super cheap and in paris, super cheap is never a good idea. I’ve stayed in a building in paris (for free – thanks buddy) where the fire escape plan was to climb down the drain pipe and jump for the water fountain and just try to break you legs and not your spine. This was a private residence but the mantra is true for some of the lower end hotels.

The first thing about hotels in Paris is – the rooms are small. Most of the good hotel rooms will be fairly small, enough room to move around in, but nothing enormous. That’s normal, its a densely populated city.

Booking.com is my greatest tool for hotel deals for any holiday. I’d recommend staying close to the city centre, your probably going to pay between €350-500 for 2 people in one room but its worth it.

Opera is one of favorite districts to stay in. It’s nice and quiet and a short walk to the Louvre/Notre Dame. The Hotel Peyris Opera, my favorite, is reasonably priced at around €100 per night plus city tax (usually €10 per night). There’s a metro close-by but if it’s your first time – get a map and enjoy the walk. The best places to stay as a tourist would be anywhere within the triangle formed by the Poissonniere Metro stop, Notre Dame and the Palais Du Chaillot. The closer to the sights the better.

The Hotel Peyris Opera has some of the best staff I’ve encountered worldwide – they are worth any price for a first timer. It’s great that the hotel is so lovely and reasonably priced too. They may be able to organise a return trip to Beauvais if there is a shuttle available which might be easier than the bus.

Spending Money in Paris.

People always say that Paris is a crazy expensive city to go to, that you’ll spend all your money getting one cup of coffee on the Champs Elysees. You can do that anywhere in the world. If i wanted, I could spend 20 odd quid on a BLT in a  hotel. But what you have to do is think sensibly.

If your on a budget trip, then I’m here to tell you the Champs Elysees isn’t for you. The big stores anyway. You have to remember, this is a street where you can spend €10,000 on a purse – so the coffee will be pricey too. Have a look in the shops and the car showrooms/museums. Explore the hidden malls – there’s some great shops in here, I picked up a once off dress for my wife for €300 – he came down from €500. Don’t be taken in though.

A lot of these little stores will sell you Big Ben, if your buying a once off, make sure the shop has a seamstress in it and not a guy in a vajazzled sparkling shirt promising you “Special Price Sir”.

There are some great finds in these places for people who love old books or antiques, second hand or custom clothes, have a fun afternoon exploring. But when you get hungry, go one of two streets away. Its amazing the price difference.

Street food is your best friend for lunch in Paris, most hotels cover breakfast. Get a crepe or a sandwich from a vendor for €4 odd euro.

When it comes to dinner don’t go for the peacocks. By peacocks i mean the big neon flashy restaurants on the tourist streets. Go to to the smaller bistros, there’s usually a few empty seats and the food is always much better and reasonably priced. One of the best steaks i ever had was in a small bistro near Notre Dame. There was only one other couple besides us and we only paid maybe €60 for two 3 course meals (also including the best escargot I’ve ever had) and a bottle of lovely white wine.

Trinket sellers. Every place you go in Paris, there’s trinket sellers. Usually they run from the police as soon as there’s trouble so don’t be afraid to shout as they can be quite intimidating for the inexperienced. But your out in public lot’s of people around and if he gets caught hassling a tourist, he’ll have his head caved in with a truncheon. So – you’ll be fine. Don’t be afraid to tell them to get fucked.

The Romas. Before I get into it, 99% of the time you won’t have an issue. But.

Never have I encountered Romas so brazen. They’ll beg from you, try to rob from you and attack you in broad daylight – approach with caution. Some of the scams you’ll see –

ATMS – They beg at ATMS and will try to take the money out of the machine as it comes out, elbow them out of the way. Don’t get physical and be done for assault.

Petitions – You made it onto an airplane, you should be smart enough not to sign a document in a foreign language presented by a Roma. They can be pushy on this one. Get loud and get aggressive – they’ll back off.

You dropped this – A child runs up saying you dropped this (usually jewellery). Don’t take it, because there’s a guy 10 meters down the road who’s going to step in and accuse you of theft.

Now as I’ve said, you probably won’t encounter this behavior, but if you do, now you have some info.

Paris is a wonderful city, everyone should go there.

Also unless you have kids, don’t stay in Disneyland and commute to the city, stay in the city and do a day trip.

Cheap tips: 

  • If you’re under 25/ a student, bring your passport to all the major national sites – Versailles/Louvre etc. You can sometimes get in free.
  • Bulk buy metro tickets.
  • Pre book bus tickets from Beauvais.
  • Eat on the side streets or food vans.

 

 

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