Ready ? Set… GO !!!
Your First Budget Trip to France begins now…
My son traveled to France on his own for the very first time last spring. As you can imagine, I was just a tad bit worried that things would go smoothly…
Budget Travel in France (or anywhere else for that matter) is particularly difficult. With limited funds, your planning must be perfect. You can’t just change courses on a dime (pun intended). Make sure to book well ahead, but leave a little flexibility just in case.
Here are the tips that I provided him, with the hopes that this might also benefit other first time budget travelers to France. It’s by no means all-inclusive, but hopefully this will get you started. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me !
Bring : Passport to check in, reservation number, and make sure your luggage has name tags
Arrive: At least 1h30 before departure (only if first leg is domestic, otherwise 2 hrs for international), go directly to counter to check in using automated machines and your reservation number. The machine will print out your plane tickets. Wait until the agent comes forward to check your passport and tag your bags before going on to the gate.
- Photocopy all your stuff : Passport, driver’s license, debit card, important phone numbers (Friends, International Banking numbers, Mom, Dad, etc) > email to yourself
- Bring smartphone and charger with adapter for Facebook Video and/or Facetime chats. For Iphones set up icloud tracking in case stolen. T-Mobile has a great overseas program at no extra charge.
- Pack 3 jeans, 5 tees, 2 shorts, 1 hoodie, 1 long sleeve warmer shirt for layering, underwear, socks, bathing suit, etc. You can do just a backpack, or a rolling suitcase, or both. Wear your bulky clothing onboard if space is an issue. Don’t forget your toothbrush/toothpaste, razor, etc. Shampoo will be available at the hotels and hostels.Planes are cold, so make sure to have something warm even in the summer. Drink lots of water.
- Bring stuff for onboard: Headphones, music, books, magazines, snacks (food sucks on planes), ear plugs, etc. If you have a cold or stuffy sinus, bring medication to avoid a really painful sinus headache. Use a small daytime backpack that you can also use when in traveling later.
- Bring good quality lock for hostel lockers, bring ear plugs for snorers and noise. Eye mask can be really useful also on the plane and during your jet lag.
Jet lag :
To get over jet lag quickly, make sure to adjust to the local time right away, even if you are tired. Go out into the sunshine, it helps regulate your clock. Taking a shower can also help. Don’t go to bed before 8pm if possible. Eat at regular meal times, drink tons of water. Light exercise is actually great for jet lag – so get out there and go for that walk!
Don’t exchange dollars at the airport exchange counter, instead use debit card for purchases (you get charged a small percentage). You can also pull cash at the ATM (you will still likely get charged a flat fee of about $5, and watch out for thieves at the ATM). Make sure to call your bank to let them know you are going overseas otherwise they will block your card (sometimes they do anyways, so make sure to have their toll free international phone number somewhere handy).
Tips Managing your daily budget : (50€ minimal budget and it’s going to be tight…)
# days x 50€ + cost of accommodations and major transportation = your budget
- $30 Food (that’s just 10€ per meal)
- $15 Entertainment, souvenirs, misc.
- $5 Misc transportation (Metro, Bus, Train outside of major trips)
Budget saving tips :
- Shop at the grocery store instead of getting fast food
- If you must get something fast your best choices are a boulangerie for a sandwich, a kebab, slice of pizza, or bread and cheese from the marché
- Rather than buy a can of soda from a vendor, purchase a quart of juice at a grocery store for the same price that you can drink over the course of the day.
- Walk everywhere instead of purchasing bus tickets > it’s cheaper and you get to see more…
Navigating to Paris :
- At the CDG airport, pick up your luggage and take the one and only exit (it’s a big circle, just keep going). There are restrooms if needed on same floor once you exit.
- Locate the Information desk and pick up a Paris Map, ask questions if you have any, then proceed to the elevators located behind the information desk.
- Enter the elevators and exit on the level that takes you to the CDGVAL airport shuttle train to Terminal 3/Roissypole (free) to catch the RER B train to downtown Paris. To buy tickets, the easiest is just to wait in line and ask the agent for tickets and to direct you to the right train dock.
- Purchase either one way individual tickets to Paris for about 10€, or even better get a RER Train and Metro Week Pass called the “Navigo Découverte” for about 30€.
Navigo Découverte :
Smart card week (also available by month) pass valid on bus, metro, RER, Ile-de-France (Transilien) trains. 5€ card fee PLUS pass price 21,25€ + 5€ photo.
You will save a little money with the pass even for just four days, and it is so convenient to use rather than buying individual tickets. You will need a small photo for the pass, about 5€ in the photo booth (available at just about all train stations). The pass makes a great souvenir after you leave.
- Other transportation options to Paris include the RoissyBus for 11€, Air France Car for 17€. The EasyBus website allows you to book your tickets in advance for extra savings and less hassle.
- Check this website for more information: Paris by Train
Safety while travelling:
Use common sense, and be aware… Be wary around Gypsies! Pick pockets come in all sizes and shapes : adults, teens, and children. They are super common on the RER, metro and busy tourist areas and often target those leaving the airport. Some of the most common scams in Paris include the friendship bracelet scam, the deaf/mute scam, and the petition pickpockets scam.
Also be vigilant about where you use your debit card, don’t use it anywhere sketch. Avoid bringing everything with you, just bring small amounts of cash as needed. Leave your passport in your room all locked up. Only take with you what you could stand to have lost or stolen.
Keep a fake wallet in an outer pocket where a thief might look to throw them off. Fill it with those fake credit cards you’re always getting in the mail and a few add some small change.
Check out these articles for more complete information :
How safe is Paris for Tourists ?
Tourist Safety Tips – PARIS version
Tourists Beware – What NOT to Wear as a Tourist in Paris
A few ideas on WHAT to visit in PARIS:
Here are a few ideas to get you started :
- Arc de Triomphe for the view from the top
- Pompidou for the museum and street artists
- Sacré Coeur for the best sunset view
- Notre Dame for the beauty and view from the towers, and the area around it for the shopping
- The Catacombs for a creepy experience
- Bâteau Mouche for a cheesy but fun experience, there are a few different companies to choose from
- Rue Montorgueil for its daily food market
- Rue des Rosiers for its street food
- Place des Vosges for its great impromptu free concerts
- Holocaust Memorial for a moving experience
PARIS > try St Christopher’s Inn (fun location)
- 2pm check-in, 10:30am check-out. A valid passport is required for check-in
- Every bed comes with a curtain, linens, power points, a reading light and a secure personal locker. Free (poor quality) WiFi and internet lounge available. Online check in with a 24 hour reception. Insured lockers available. Showers (limited water flow).
- A continental style buffet breakfast is included every morning (limited hours/quality)
LYON > Counter Culture Hostel (new hostel in awesome location). It’s definitely a party hostel, so girls be forwarned…
- Check in from 14:00 to 03:00, Check out before 12:00.
- No curfew. Reception available 24 hours.
- Must be under 35 years old
- For the tame like me, try SLO Living Hostel (book early it fills up fast).
Navigating from Paris to Lyon :
Take the metro to Gare de Lyon (which is in Paris, but goes in the direction of Lyon). Purchase TGV tickets from the counter “Train Grande Ligne”. You want to go to the Lyon train station called “Lyon Part Dieu” to get downtown. Make sure to ask for the cheapest tickets, depending on the time the prices vary widely. If you have some free time before the train leaves, there is plenty to do in the area and a luggage drop off “Consigne” for about 7€ per locker is located downstairs.
Keeping in touch :
Call or text or chat or Facebook or send a pic or something every day to your loved ones at home; it will reassure them. No need to add any prefix to the French phone numbers if calling from within France. If calling France from outside the country (like the United States), add “+33” and drop that first zero. Any French number that starts with 06 is a cell phone and can be texted. To call a US number from France, add “001” (that’s the United States country code) in front of the area code.
Social Media :
Take some videos and post photo essays to your favorite social media websites, it will make your friends jealous and your family happy!
-Mom (Girl Gone Gallic)
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