Saving money in France

Sights in France

Getting to know some locals is a bit part of staying with a fellow hospitality club member (Photo courtesy of The Affordable Travel Club)

Sights and experiences you can get for free in France

 
 (Photo )

Be a sightseeing V.I.P.—Sightseeing passes grant admission to dozens of sights, avoiding the lines and saving money

 
 (Photo )

Online ticket prices can be cheaper than buying them on-site (and will also save you time waiting in line)

 
Take the audio tour (Photo )

Tips and advice for how to get the most out of seeing the sights, museums, and monuments during your France vacation

 

Lodgings in France

French pâté, creamy turkey with potatoes, and crème caramel all for €18.50? Not bad! (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

Don't use the most famous booking engines; use the ones with the largest selection and lowest rates

 
This French hotel is officially four stars (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

Hotels' official star ratings have nothing to do with how clean, central, comfortable, or charming a hotel is—just how many (often pointless) amenities it offers

 
Those peanuts in the minibar don't cost just peanuts—they cost €7! And since when was a bottle of water worth €4.25? (Photo by Rick)

Avoid the scandalously high prices of the hotel minbar

 
 (Photo courtesy of Trivago.com)

Comparison-shop dozens of booking engines at once

 
Beware the hotel in-room telephone (Photo by Mark Hills)

Avoid the scandalously high cost of making a phone call from your hotel room

 
★★★
The master bedroom of this Apartment on the Champs-Élysées has a view of the Eiffel Tower (Photo courtesy of the property)

How to find and rent a vacation appartement (apartment) from $40 in France

 
Many hotels will guarantee the lowest rate if you book directly with them, or an advance-booking discount (Photo screenshots courtesy of the hotels)

Hotel sites often feature special sales and promotions you won't find on the booking engines and aggregators

 
★★☆
Eiffel Tower views from the living rooms in the self-catering apartments of Residence Charles Floquet (Photo courtesy of the property)

Serviced flats, residence hotels, Aparthotels, and other townhouse suite lodging in France

 
 (Photo by Reid Bramblett, created with Wordclouds.com)

From B&Bs and farm stays to cottages, castles, and campgrounds, here are French lodging alternatives to the traditional hotel

 
 (Photo by Dave Dugdale)

Shop around, ask lots of questions, even haggle, and you can often get a room for much less

 
No, the hotel breakfast isn't terrible—but it's not worth $15–$20, either (Photo by Karen Bryan)

Breakfast at a B&B can be lovely—but at a standard hotel, you probably won't be getting your money's worth

 
★★★
Les Anniquins is a horse farm in the Loire Valley where doubles start at €75 a night (Photo courtesy of the property)

Stay on a working farm (Séjours à la ferme) and experience the best of French hospitality and countryside tradition

 
Crepes come in both sweet and savory varieties—so you can get both a meal and dessert! (Photo by Wally Gobetz)

A dozen ways to lower your hotel costs in France

 
Hotels make it easy to drop off your laundry—and then charge an arm and a leg to wash your shirts and pants (Photo by ERiKA)

Hotel laundry services are obscenely overpriced

 
 (Photo by Thomas Hawk)

All the steps you can take to find the lowest price on the perfect place to stay in France

 
A basic continental breakfast is not worth the added expense (Photo by Karen Bryan)

I don't mean don't eat breakfast—just try to avoid overpaying the hotel for it

 
★★☆
The Gite Napoleon in the Alpes-de-Haute region of Provence (Photo courtesy of the property)

A place to call your own for the night or the week—renting a gîte, villa, house, or cottage in France

 
 (Photo )

A room with "external facilities" (shared bath down the hall) always costs less for this minor inconvenience

 
★☆☆
An 8-bed dorm room at the Hiphophostel Le Village Montmartre hostel (Photo courtesy of the property)

Cheap bunks in shared dorms and a backpackers-of-the-world-unite atmosphere

 
A family room can house the whole clan (Photo by John Hickey-Fry)

Crowd the clan into one room rather than renting two

 
Staying in a nearby, smaller city can be cheaper (and more interesting) than in the big city (Photo courtesy of Trivago.com)

Get a hotel in the suburbs or next town over to save money

 
★★☆
A French-Argentinian couple need help restoring their 16C farm to run it as a B&B via Helpx (Photo courtesy of Helpx)

Free lodgings in France: Hospitality networks (couchsurfing), home swaps, and house sitting services

 
 (Photo courtesy of Priceline and Hotwire.com)

Opaque rates can save you up to 60% if you book a bit blindly

 
 (Photo by Images Money)

Offer euros rather than Visa, and sometimes you can get a slight discount

 
 (Photo courtesy of Europosters)

Couchsurfing and other hospitality networks allow you to sleep for free in other member's homes

 
Getting to know some locals is a bit part of staying with a fellow hospitality club member (Photo courtesy of The Affordable Travel Club)

Hospitality networks gather folks who are willing to put up fellow members in their homes for free or for a small fee

 
This Provençal home in the countryside just outside of Avignon sleeps six amid olive groves, a pool, and rows of lavender—and its owners would love to visit California (Photo courtesy of Homeexchange)

Trading spaces isn't just a show on basic cable anymore. It's a way to live life like a local on your travels absolutely for free—so long as you let the local borrow your life (and home) in return.

 
This house in Normandy was looking for someone to watch the chickens and pet sheep for a couple of weeks (Photo courtesy of mindmyhouse.com)

Sleep for free on vacation by watching someone's house (and, often, watering their plants and feeding their cat)

 
Camping de Paris, where you can pitch a tent by the Seine River in the Bois de Bologna park (Photo courtesy of Camping de Paris)

Camping and campgrounds (terrains de camping) are a cheap way to spend the night while traveling

 
A classic train couchette sleeping six (Photo by DB Autozug GmbH)

Sleeping in couchettes on overnight trains

 
The gorgeous Sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Bétharram in the Pyrennees, conveniently just 16km from Lourdes, charges €42 for a double (Photo courtesy of guidestchristophe.com)

Sleep in a religious guesthouse or retreat at abbeys, monasteries, priories, and convents across France from just €17

 
A French-Argentinian couple need help restoring their 16C farm to run it as a B&B via Helpx (Photo courtesy of Helpx)

Programs like WWOOF and Helpx let you barter your services for a free place to stay

 
Sailboats at Cannes (Photo by plb06)

If you love sailing, or just have an unquenchable taste for adventure and new experiences, you can sign on to help crew a boat just about anywhere in the world, including France

 

Dining in France

 (Photo by Martin Burns)

Picnic like a king on the budget of a pauper

 
French pâté, creamy turkey with potatoes, and crème caramel all for €18.50? Not bad! (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

Prix-fisse, tourist menu, lunch menu—a fixed-price or set tourist menu may not be the best meal you could have at that restaurant, but it's certainly often the best budget option

 
A sampler gets you lots of variety and a full meal for the price of a single dish (Photo by Foodie Buddha)

Tips to save money on dining in France and eat better for it

 

Do not leave 15% when the gratuity is already included

 
 (Photo by Nate BW)

If you cannot avoid the breakfast charge, make the most of it

 
 (Photo by Unknown)

Be your own chef and you can save money and add an extra cultural experience to your trip

 

Lunch at a fancy restaurant will often cost less than dinner

 
Crepes come in both sweet and savory varieties—so you can get both a meal and dessert! (Photo by Wally Gobetz)

Become a street food gourmet

 
You'll find crepe/sandwich stands all over Paris (Photo by J. Hendron)

From crèpes to quiches, there are many excellent (and inexpensive) French versions of fast food to try

 
Go for an appetizer sampler, a first course, and a dessert—skipping the steak—and you'll have a much more filling and interesting meal (Photo by Quinn Dombrowski)

Skip the big slab of meat and order two starters instead—more variety, lower cost

 
A sampler gets you lots of variety and a full meal for the price of a single dish (Photo by Foodie Buddha)

Eat less; save more

 
 (Photo by Unknown)

Bottled water costs $2–$10. Eau de robinet (tap water) does not.

 
 (Photo by Didriks)

Pick the Château My-Brother-In-Law, last-year's vintage

 

Planning for a trip to France

★★★
T-Mobile offers great plans for travelers (Photo courtesy of T-Mobile)

T-mobile offers the cheapest international roaming—it works in 140 countries and costs as little as $10–20 per month for voice and data.

 
An aggregator/consolidator like Auto Europe can let you compare car rental rates side by side (Photo courtesy of AutoEurope.com)

How to find the lowest rates on a rental car in France

 
The national speed limits in France are 50kph in towns and cities, 90kph (soon going to 80) outside of cities, and 130kph on autoroutes (major national highways) (Photo Public Domain)

Obey the speed limits of pay the (high) price

 
 (Photo courtesy of WikiHow)

How to get the best deal on plane tickets to France

 
A good aggregator, like Skyscanne.net, goes right to the best deals, even if they're from a non-traditional source like Norwegian or Wow (Photo courtesy of Skyscanner.net)

Aggregators search all the booking engines, airline sites, travel agencies, and airfare discounters in the blink of an eye

 
 (Photo )

Oh, waiter! There's a scam in my soup!

 
A cost matrix for flying from New York to Paris in mid-February that shows the big benefits of flight flexibility (Photo courtesy of Google Flights)

Some flexibility on your travel dates can save you up to 50%

 
 (Photo courtesy of FlyInternational.com)

Why pay retail when wholesale airfares to France are available?

 
Skype is the cheapest way to make international calls (Photo by Skype)

Use Skype (and an internet connection) to make and receive free voice and video calls—or have your friends and family Skype your cell in France for 10¢ per minute or $1–$2 per month.

 
Credit Cards (Photo by Frankieleon)

Using credit cards in France

 
You can book a shore excursion via a third party for much less than the ship charges (Photo courtesy of Viator.com)

Book your own cruise excursions for up to 40% less than the cruise ships charge

 
 (Photo )

How to decide if a rental car is the best choice for your France vacation

 
A train ticketing machine in France (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

How to get the cheapest fares on French trains

 
 (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

Timing is the key to saving a bundle on airfare to France from North America

 
 (Photo )

Buy at the right time - The sweet spot is 6–12 weeks out

 
 (Photo logos courtesy of Priceline and Hotwire)

How opaque fares work—"Express Deals" on Priceline and "Hot Rates" on Hotwire

 
Parisian ATMs (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

Using debit cards to get cash at an ATM (point d’argent) in France

 
You'd pay a 3% foreign transaction fee on all purchases with this Chase Visa card (and many others) (Photo courtesy of Chase Bank)

What are foreign transaction fees and how can I avoid them?

 
 (Photo by Zhanyanguange)

Just what are Duty Free Stores in airports and when is Duty Free shopping a savings?

 
Hotel garages are expensive in every country (Photo )

The hotel garage will often be far costlier than a nearby public garage or other parking option

 
Explore all of France-or all of Europe—with a rail pass (Photo by Akwa)

Unlimited train travel in France, or France and some neighboring countries, or even all of Europe—Is a Eurail pass worth it?

 
EasyJet, one of the oldest and best low-cost carriers in Europe (Photo by Rob Mitchell)

Fly across Europe for as little as $25—welcome to the wonderful age of no-frills airlines, the little jet engines that could

 
There are better credit cards for travel out—there some you can even design yourself (I just thought this one was funny) (Photo by Ross Angus)

Where to get a low-fee credit card for traveling

 
 (Photo courtesy of Drivethedales.com)

How to get the most out of renting a car in France with the lowest cost and least hassle

 
Fare alerts courtesy of Airfarewatchdog (Photo courtesy of Airfarewatchdog)

From fare alerts to e-savers, deals newsletters to price predictors

 
Changing money (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

How to exchange your dollars for euros at the best rates (and lowest fees) possible

 
Credit card safety measures mean it will often be declined abroad if you don't warn the bank first (Photo Ruhow)

Call ahead to notify your credit card issuer of you travel plans

 
Shopping advice (Photo )

Top shopping tips for a trip to France to help you bring home the best gifts and souvenirs from your French travels at the best price

 
 (Photo by Peter Linke)

Not all local advice is honest advice

 
 (Photo Public Domain)

Sightseeing discounts for children, students, seniors, families, and teachers

 
 (Photo by Geoff Collins)

Get your airfare to France and rental car together and save on both

 
 (Photo courtesy of SCNF.com)

Young adults, families, seniors, and couples can get 25%–50% off all trains with a French railcard

 
You'd pay either $10 or 5%, whichever is greater, on each cash advance with this Wells Fargo Visa (and many others) (Photo courtesy of Wells Fargo Bank)

How to avoid the high fees and charges for credit card cash advances

 
 (Photo courtesy of Europe by Car)

How to arrange for a short-term lease on a brand-new car in France—cheaper than a rental for longer periods, and far better insured

 
Gas in Europe is expensive (Photo by Images Money)

Prepare for REALLY expensive gas—like $7 per gallon

 
Fly into London cheaply, and then elsewhere on a low-cost carrier (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

London is the cheap airfares turnstile of Europe, so fly cheaply into here and then elsewhere in Europe or North Africa on a no-frills airline for far less

 

Roundups of deals and sales from many sources

 
Fare alerts courtesy of Airfarewatchdog (Photo courtesy of Airfarewatchdog)

Get automated updates on low fares and dropping plane ticket prices

 

Topics in France

 (Photo clockwise from top left: "Spring" courtesy of French Moments; "Summer" courtesy of Armand69; "Winter" courtesy of Dreamstime; "Autumn" courtesy of TheWorldExplored)

When it is high, low, and shoulder season in France?