Do you have any “Secret Paris” tips to share?
Do you have any “Secret Paris” tips to share?
With the euro at a 12-year low against the U.S. dollar, now is the time to travel to Europe. The euro and dollar are at near parity. TripAdvisor’s TripIndex™ Europe study, released last week, found that trips to the most popular European destinations are down an average of 11% in 2015 compared to 2014, with the figure rising as high as 25% for summer vacations. Travel expenses to Paris this summer (including airfare) are estimated to be down 17% compared to summer 2014.
In 2008, at the end of my first year in Paris, the euro was worth more than U.S.$1.60. That was fine by me, as I was being paid in euros. But the costs made it prohibitively expensive for some of my friends and family to visit from the U.S. Those who did visit were constantly doing the exchange rate calculations in their heads with every purchase… and constantly cringing.
While Paris still may not be cheap, keep in mind that there are deals to be found, beyond just help from the favorable exchange rate.
Restaurant prices are deceptively high in France when you look at them through American eyes. In the U.S., we’re used to adding tax and tip to our final bills. When the menu states that the main course is U.S.$20, we know it’s really $25 when all is said and done. In France, a €20 plat is really €20, or €21 at most when you count the spare change you may leave as additional tip.
Whether you’re visiting Paris for a short while, or living in Paris longer-term, be sure to read my earlier post on the 7 Best (Only?) Deals in Paris.
Of course another way to save money on a trip to Paris is to rent an apartment, not a hotel room. My apartment in the Marais, for example, sleeps up to 4 people (where it’s very difficult to find a hotel room that sleeps more than 2). It also offers other cost-saving advantages such as a kitchen so you can eat some meals in, free calls to the U.S. and 100+ other countries from the landline, and a washer/dryer.
Don’t forget that France can be incredibly affordable once you get out of Paris and the most touristed areas (such as Provence and the Côte d’Azur). If you’re looking to save money on your next European vacation, consider spending part of your stay outside the bigger cities.
Hopefully for tourists, the euro will continue to drop. Deutsche Bank predicted that the euro would be at $1.00 by the end of 2015, $0.90 by the end of 2016 and $0.85 by the end of 2017.” I’m not convinced. But even if the euro and dollar stay about even, I will not complain!
What are your top money-saving tips for visiting Paris?
In recent years, the Paris Mayor’s office (both under Bertrand Delanoë and now Anne Hidalgo) has launched an aggressive campaign to discourage car traffic in the city center. Last week, I wrote about the (very) temporary driving ban. I have also written about the city’s famous bike-sharing system, Velib’.
Personally, I’m a huge proponent of the Velib’ option in concept, but I’m an intermittent fan of the Velib’ in practice. It goes like this: 1) I start Velib’ing around (yes, “Velib’ing” is proper franglais), 2) I get all pumped up to Velib’ everywhere and avoid the metro, 3) I get out of town for a bit or winter sets in and it’s too cold to Velib’, 4) I forget how much I enjoyed the Velib’s and return to being terrified to cycle around Paris with its crazy traffic, so I take a few months off, then 5) Something finally prompts me to get back on a bike and the cycle starts again….
But for those of you who, like me, are still a bit terrified of Paris traffic, did you know that there are 700 kilometers of bike paths in Paris? Most are designated lanes on the streets (and oftentimes shared with buses and taxis… yep. Really smart.) Some bike paths now run in the opposite direction of the car traffic. I find this to be only slightly better for the cyclists’ longevity and disastrous for the unsuspecting pedestrian who doesn’t think to look both ways when crossing a one-way street. But the true bike lines are expanding and slowly drivers are getting accustomed to bikes everywhere.
Last week, Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced her plan to make Paris the « capitale du vélo » (bike capital of the world). The plan includes, among other initiatives, 1) doubling the number of bike paths in the city, to reach 1400 kilometers by the year 2020, and 2) creating at least two bike-only paths that run North-South and East-West across the entire city. If approved by the Conseil de Paris, this plan would require an investment by the city of over €150 million.
The idea is not just to encourage using bikes over cars as a practical matter, but to create a “cycling culture” among Parisians and tourists drawn to the city. Paris is not quite Amsterdam yet, but we’re at least moving in that direction…. slowly.
Before your next 2-wheel Paris expedition, check out this map of bike paths in the city and in the city’s two largest parks, the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes.
It’s also very helpful to load the Velib’ app onto your phone before you set out!
There seems to be a bit of confusion over the driving ban (or lack thereof) declared by the city’s Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, last week, in an effort to curb a temporary peak in pollution levels.
At first, the city was going to allow only cars with license plates ending in an odd number on March 17th, and then only cars with license plates ending in an even number on March 18th. In other words, half as many cars would be on the road each day. Of course there would be exceptions for taxis and emergency vehicles. To ease the burden, public transportation was free all day. In the end, the ban went into effect only for one day.
Paris is not the first city to experiment with this type of pollution-control measure. Beijing, for example, began enacting an odd-even scheme in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. It is also not Paris’s first attempt to limit traffic in the compact city center. Recent years have seen the explosion of the bike-sharing system, Velib’, more bike routes and more pedestrian zones.
What’s the problem with this approach? Perhaps, aside from the inconvenience, nothing. But some studies have shown that the odd-even approach deflects attention from more long-term solutions such as designing and purchasing cars with lower emission levels.
One thing is for sure, there’s far too much traffic in Paris. There are both environmental and practical implications of the growing congestion. Personally, I’d rather know I can jump in a taxi when it’s really necessary and be certain I can actually get somewhere quickly than have the right to drive around whenever and wherever I like. But I know most Parisians would not agree with me….
What do you think?
Last week I was featured in AngloINFO’s “Meet the AngloINFO Expat of the Week,” and decided to share my interview here as well! I truly enjoyed the interview process: reflecting on my time in France and on questions such as how I went about making friends in my new home, how I dealt with homesickness, and what advice I might have for others who may be moving to Paris…. Thanks to Jackie for organizing the interview!
For those of you who are not already familiar with AngloINFO, it’s a fabulous resources for anglophone expats. You can find AngloINFO sites for just about every region in the world, or if you don’t find your region, you should consider starting the AngloINFO site for your new home! I have been a contributer to the Paris & Ile de France site for several years now.
For more on AngloINFO, be sure to visit AngloINFO.com as well as their other social media outlets:
And of course the Paris page!
And again, here is the link to my interview.
What would be your number 1 piece of advice for someone moving to Paris?