France is a vast and varied country. I’ll never get tired of visiting it. Paris was the first place overseas I ever traveled to, and 10 years later I finally got to go back! To break up the long ride from Barcelona, I stopped for a couple nights in Montpellier, one of the few French cities I had never visited before. Are you contemplating a vacation to France? See what I spent in five days.
Bus to Montpellier $27.67
3 tram tickets in Montpellier $5.06
Overnight bus to Paris $39.25
10 metro tickets in Paris $19.90
Overnight bus to Turn, Italy $49.75
2 nights Couchsurfing in Montpellier $0
1 night in an 8-bed dorm at The Loft Boutique Hostel Paris $29.97
1 breakfast at smoothie stand in Montpellier $4.30
1 lunch at snack stand in Montpellier $6.28
1 lunch at Creperie Jean Moulin in Montpellier $7.52
1 lunch at Cafe de l’Ours (inside Musee d’Orsay) in Paris $10.17
1 lunch at Cafe Panis in Paris $16.18
1 dinner at McDonald’s in Montpellier $1.67
1 dinner with wine at Au Pied de Fouet in Paris $25.10
1 dinner at Autogrill between Paris and Turin $9.37
Musee d’Orsay $12.16
Sainte Chapelle & Conciergerie $16.74
Replacement charger cable at Orange $18.71
Extra charger cable at Smarteez $10.90
2 bottles of water $5.51
Public restroom at Polygone $0.55
1 Orangina $1.99
Average Spent Per Day: $63.75
How I Saved
- Sleeping on buses
You’ll see my transportation budget is way higher than my accommodations budget. Part of the reason that happened is for about a third of my time in France, my transportation and accommodations were one and the same. Sleeping on a bus is rarely comfortable. In fact, thanks to a really creepy male seatmate, another overnight bus I took in Italy was as uncomfortable as it can get. But spending $40 on one overnight bus ride is far more sensible than spending $40 on a daytime bus and another $30 or more on a hostel after you arrive.
Couchsurfing completely saved my butt in Montpellier. This southern city is quite expensive to stay in. The cheapest tourist lodging I could find was about $60 a night. Ouch. Having a host who could take me in for free brought my accommodations budget down as low as it could possibly go.
- Taking advantage of the system
The trams in Montpellier work on the honor system. Each ticket is about 1.50 euro, which doesn’t sound bad, but you have to pay for each connection you make. Because my host lived pretty well outside the city center, I knew all my tickets would add up. So I have to confess…I cheated. I’d buy a tram ticket before getting on board, but then wouldn’t validate it. Instead I’d pocket the card and validate it on the next train I took. Or I’d buy one ticket, validate it and when the time came to make a connecting train, I’d hop on and cross my fingers nobody was checking. Nobody ever did.
- Using a collapsible water bottle
You can see in my miscellaneous budget, there was one very hot afternoon when I forgot to bring my collapsible water bottle with me. I wound up buying bottled water twice to make it through the day. Can you imagine how expensive it would be to only buy bottled water? Not to mention the toll it takes on the environment. I’ve never left home without my own bottle again.
- Visiting free attractions
I did shell out for a couple museums in Paris. But for the most part, I opted to visit free attractions. In Montpellier, I spent a lot of time people watching on the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle or simply walking around the city center. In Paris, I spent an evening on the Champ de Mars beneath the lit-up Eiffel Tower and also took a swing through Notre Dame. It’s a good thing exploring on foot doesn’t cost a dime – it’s my favorite thing to do in a new place!
What would you do with five days in France? Get ideas for top Paris attractions.