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Is a trip to Paris something you dream of, but seems out of reach? What if I told you this type of trip can actually be made very doable with some planning? Although the cost of a trip to France may seem expensive, it doesn’t have to be as bad as you think.
My husband and I made our first ever trip to France this past summer, with time spent in Paris and Fontainebleau. We absolutely loved our time in both places, but obviously could always use more! Like usual, we prepared a detailed budget before our trip, and sure enough, I found a bunch of ways we could have done better after the fact.
Hence, this post. After all of my big trips, I go back to my original budget and review what we actually spent. I then put together as detailed an article as I can explaining why we spent what we did, and how it could have been made cheaper. Bottom line, it can always be made cheaper.
I don’t always win the cheapness battle. Sometimes it’s a choice, and sometimes it’s something you can only learn from experience. The good news is that you get to benefit from my mistakes. Below I am diving right into exactly how much our trip to France cost us, and all the ways we could have spent less.
Here is what to expect from the cost of a two person trip to France (in USD):
This is what I would consider to be a moderate budget for two people taking a trip to France. These amounts factor in room for some splurges, while saving money in other areas. Let’s breakdown what all is being included here.
France Budget Breakdown:
If staying in Paris during a trip to France, the Metro is hands down the best way to get around. France does have ride sharing options, such as Uber, but we opted to stick exclusively to walking and using the Metro.
Since Ubers can add up quickly, we loved how cost effective the Metro was for two people. Plus, the Metro can connect you to just about anywhere in Paris, and is super convenient to use.
Those a little uncomfortable with the thought of public transportation have nothing to fear. With clearly marked maps in all stations and trains, as well as the accuracy of Google Maps, the Metro is very easy to figure out.
A book of 10 metro tickets is about $17 USD, and we used two books between us during our trip. Airport train transfers between Charles de Gaulle Airport and Gare du Nord are a bit pricier, running about $11.50 USD a person.
Unless you plan to leave Paris during your visit, you probably will not need to factor a rental car into the cost of your trip to France. In fact, even if you do leave Paris, there are trains and buses that can take you all over, so you still probably won’t need to drive in France.
The only reason we rented a car was to access a less connected Paris suburb for a wedding. My former French exchange student, who I’ve stayed in touch with for over 12 years now, was getting married in a small village near Fontainebleau.
If you do need to rent a car, you can easily do so from Paris. For a one day rental, we paid about $110 for a very small European style SUV. We found Europcar to be the best priced company for our purposes.
Driving in France is overall pretty easy. The French drive on the right side of the road, like we do here in the United States, which helped us adjust pretty quickly.
Don’t forget to consider these additional rental car expenses:
- Before returning any rental car, you will need to fill the tank back up. We paid about $35 to put gas back in our vehicle.
- Sometimes you may need to pay for parking. A visit to Fontainebleau Castle required paying a couple euros to park in a garage.
Did my $3,000 flight expense scare you? I know it scares me. Je deteste spending that much money on flights, so why did we? There were various factors…
Since we were traveling to France for a wedding in August, we had no choice but to visit during high season. Unfortunately, I also needed to return home for work immediately after the wedding, so had very little wiggle room with the days we chose to travel.
We also could have looked for other airports to fly out of, such as Toronto or Chicago. However, this would have required us to drive 4-6 hours extra, and we did not want to take extra PTO time from work. Due to this, our dates were what they were, and the best price we could find out of Cleveland was $1,400 per plane ticket.
The final $200 of the cost is travel cancellation insurance, since we didn’t want to risk losing money on such expensive flights. We now have the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit car that will cover this if we use the card to purchase the flights.
If you want to find the best priced flight to Paris, I know you can do better than our $1,400. Just keep in mind the following factors:
- Avoid traveling during high season
- Look up flight prices for various days of the week, both departing and returning, to find the cheapest travel days.
- Consider taking extra time off to travel to nearby airports with better flights
- One more thing – CREDIT CARD POINTS. For our own reasons, we did not end up using a travel credit card to purchase these flights. However, if you can use rewards points for these flights, you definitely should!
Travel Savvy Tip
I highly recommend using Skyscanner to find the best prices. This site allows you to do a simple search for both the cheapest travel month and the cheapest travel days within that month.
If you are trying not to overspend on food, then buying some groceries during your trip is the way to go. We often try to do this for breakfast and lunch, and then save our splurging for a nice dinner.
To be honest, we did not do so much grocery shopping during our recent time in Paris, since the wedding caused us to spend a lot of time away from our Airbnb. We did buy a bit of wine and cheese to have on hand, but not much more than that. It’s hard to want to buy eggs and lunch items to make when there are boulangeries and creperies out there waiting for you!
To save money, I still recommend budgeting some money for groceries. About $100 would be good for a few items bought over a five day trip.
Food & Drink
Food and drink is where you could let the cost of a trip to France get away from you. However, it doesn’t have to be expensive with a little planning and effort. Just be sure to budget realistically, and allow yourself some splurges, as France is famous for its cuisine.
I would budget about $100 for a couple of your days in Paris, since there is so much good food there. Just balance it out with a couple days where you are a bit more frugal.
On our arrival day, we ate nothing out except for our dinner, so had room to splurge at night. However, the next day we stuck to cheap eats, such as pain au chocolat, takeaway crepes, and Thai food. The wedding also provided some of our meals, which was a nice load off the budget.
Lodging options in Paris are abundant, and there are plenty of affordable places to stay. The further away you are from the main tourist sights, the better for finding lower prices.
Airbnb can be a very cost effective option that you can find all over Paris. We loved the location of this stylish flat in the trendy Marais, and I doubt we otherwise would have explored this chic Parisian neighborhood. While we splurged for a slightly upgraded flat, there are plenty of options under $150/night.
If Airbnb isn’t your thing, Paris is also filled with hotels for all budgets. As with flights, it helps to travel outside of high season to find the best prices. My suggested lodging budget over five days is $800.
This budget is based on our actual expenses, although our choices were a little unusual. While we rented an Airbnb for the entire 5 nights of our trip, we also booked a second place in Fontainebleau for the wedding. This means we paid for two places on one night. The breakout is below:
Even though our situation was unique, I still think the $800 we paid is similar to what you’d otherwise pay for a moderate hotel or Airbnb, without factoring in credit card rewards used.
Normally, I don’t really include a line for shopping on these budgets. However, I’m making an exception for France, since Paris is very famous for its fashion scene. It would be a shame to come all the way to Paris, and not even pop into a boutique or two.
Since I made a clothing item purchase during my trip, I am giving you free reign to do so as well. Treat yo’self!
While in France, you’ll want to spend money on at least a couple major activities. This is especially true in Paris, where there are so many world class sights!
While admission fees for the various things available can make the cost of a trip to France more expensive, it is possible to avoid overspending. The key is to see the most important couple things on your bucket list, and then mix in some free things.
Also, look for ways to save on the various sights. For example, in Paris it may be more cost effective to purchase the Paris Museum Pass, where you pay one price for access to several sights over so many days. The Eiffel Tower is not covered by the pass, but if you opt to climb the stairs to the 2nd floor, rather than ride the elevator, it’ll save you about a third of the cost.
Here is what our budget of $130 above is made up of:
Free Things to do in Paris
Above, I mentioned that it is very smart to weave some free things into your itinerary to keep the cost of a trip to France as low as possible. Here are some great ideas for ways to see some sights, but spend zero dollars doing so:
- Take a free Rick Steves walking tour using his Audio Europe App
- Window shop on the Champs-Élysées
- Stroll along the Seine River
- Visit Place du Trocadéro for beautiful fountains with Eiffel Tower views in the background
- Check out the iconic pyramid entrance to the Louvre
- Visit the Arc de Triomphe for a photo op
- Walk to Île de la Cité or Île Saint-Louis over one of the bridges crossing the Seine
- Visit the Tuileries Gardens
- View Notre-Dame from the outside (you cannot go inside since the fire)
- Watch the Eiffel Tower glitter after sunset, every hour on the hour
Foreign Transaction Fees
While in France, we needed to take cash out of the ATM for a wedding gift. For our bank, this results in a foreign transaction fee that typically ranges between $3 and $5. If you’d like to avoid this expense, you could choose to look for a bank or type of account that does not do this.
I personally like my bank, and don’t rack up enough of these fees for it to matter. For the time being, it’s worth it to continue paying the occasional fee.
Do you have a fur baby like us? If so, then you probably know all too well about the cost of pet boarding, unless you’re lucky enough to have a pet that travels well. Ours does not, so we set him up in a plush little doggie daycare at home while we’re gone.
Prices for this where I live in Northeast Ohio tend to run about $40 a night, but vary wildly in quality and services included. We choose to drive our puppy about 45 minutes away from our house to Wellington, OH because our doggy likes it there, and he gets his own little “suite” with an outdoor space he can run in and out of.
It is such a hassle to drive that far, but whenever we stray, we always regret it and end up back at Wellington again. The things we do for our pets…
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There you have it – the cost to visit France in a somewhat large nutshell. While spending will vary from person to person, this is a good overall idea of what prices will look like for every aspect of your trip. If bare bones travel is more your style, then trim some of this down a little bit. On the other hand, if you prefer more group tours or luxury, do it up a little bit more. The possibilities are endless, but right here is an excellent place to start building your France budget.