It’s not surprising Paris has been ranked among the 10 most expensive cities in the world. If you’re on a budget, does that mean you have to skip the notoriously pricey City of Light? No way. My mom and I explored Paris for under $99/day per person. This included lodging, food, transportation and sightseeing. (For the sake of simplicity, I’ve estimated prices and converted them into US dollars.)

LODGING

Stay in a place away from the landmarks. After hours of internet searching for cheap hotels in the city center, we found a two-star for $97/night in the 13th arrondissement. The hotel was located right between two metro stops – a five minute walk to either, making transportation easy.

The room was a sardine can, but it didn’t matter; we were hardly in it. A large window opened up with French-style doors, complimented by wrought-iron fencing. It filled our French expectations just so, and we were happy with it.

FOOD

Eat out – outside of restaurants, that is. I know this might be blasphemy to many, but dining out (especially in Europe) is one of the most expensive things you can do. Paris is full of great food, and restaurants aren’t the only places it can be found. Go to the bakeries. The cheese shops. The wine shops. Go to the grocery stores for staples. Most mornings, our breakfast looked like this:

Pack a picnic. My mom and I bought a bottle of wine, a baguette and a couple different cheeses and picnicked in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Indulge in the roadside food stands. The crepes, both sweet and savory, were delicious. (We loved the mushroom & cheese as well as Nutella.)

Or, if you must dine out, eat light. One evening, since neither of us had a huge appetite, we each ordered a bowl of soup and a glass of wine. Total for the restaurant experience? $20.

TRANSPORTATION

Use the Metro. It’s fast, efficient and cheap. We bought a book of 10 tickets for about $18. We almost made it through the five days with the first book, but ended up buying one more the last day. Even so, $36 for transportation around the city for the two of us? Cheap!

These tickets will get you around within the city center (i.e. not to Versailles) and can be used again within the first hour and a half. For example, one morning we hopped on the Metro and took it to St. Germain (using 1 ticket each). We walked to the Louvre. In the afternoon, we took the Metro (using a second ticket each) to BHV, a huge department store, to go shopping. We finished in less than 90 minutes, got back on the Metro (with our same tickets) and took it to the Arc de Triomphe. After spending the evening there, we took the Metro back to our hotel (using a 3rd ticket.) For the entire day, we used 6 tickets for both of us, totaling a measly $10.50.

SIGHTSEEING

Take the stairs. The Eiffel Tower offers a nicely discounted entrance ticket ($6) for taking the stairs to the second level versus taking the elevator to the top ($20).

It’s 328 steps to the first level and another 340 steps to the second level. For you math whizzes, that’s a 668-step thigh burning climb. After that workout, the view is that much more gratifying.

If you must go to the top, you can take the stairs to the second floor and take the elevator the rest of the way ($13). Unfortunately, even though stairs do exist in the eastern pillar from the second floor to the top, they’re closed to the public.

Sacré Cœur is actually free to enter after climbing just over 200 steps up the hillside. (If you’re a high roller, you can bypass the steps with a ride on the funicular for the price of a metro ticket.)

The Arc de Triomphe is a must-climb. There is an elevator, but why skip the spiral staircase of your life?! Besides, this entrance fee is the same for the stairs or the elevator.

Even on our budget, we had a fantastic time in Paris. ☼