Thrifty Living: We'll always have Paris – if we can do it on the cheap

Half-term in paris, and even though it would be easy to let the financial reins loose somewhat, the whole point of changing a modus vivendi is that you must keep going, no matter where you are and even if you're using foreign money which, as we know, is like operating in a Monopoly world.

So, how to begin? First, book your tickets well ahead. Spontaneous sallies abroad are only for Elton John, or those able to take the whole family on business expenses. Do your research. Bargain online tickets for the Eurostar are often available in batches as travel companies flog unsold tickets back. It's worth finding out how much your journey might cost, and then holding fire for a week or so and going back online to see if you can get a cheaper deal. I did this once and saved £400. (Obviously, this only works if you can remember what the original deal was, so midnight online research after a few whiskies is inadvisable).

Second, where to stay? Hotel rooms in the City of Light/Lurve/Lautrec (delete according to inclination) cost anything from €100 (£75) up. A night. Which is fine if you are à deux and want a romantic night overlooking the Eiffel Tower, but if you are travelling mob-handed, it makes sense to rent an apartment. A central apartment will cost about €150 a night, but you'll be able to squeeze about four people in. Six, if you bring camp beds. Seven, if you can stuff the toddler in a cot.

So, did I break the bank? I hope not. Here are some key economic tips I discovered en route. They could probably be applied wherever you're off to at Easter, unless of course you are going to the Caribbean (in which case, why are you reading this column?)

Museums. OK, Paris museums don't have the uniform freebie status of our own national collections, (bless 'em), but worshipping at the shrine of the "Mona Lisa" isn't ruinous. Museums in Paris are free on the first Sunday of each month. At other times, anyone under 18 is free and 18- to 25-year-olds usually get a reduced rate. Full admission is only about €8, anyway.

Taxis. Don't bother. Paris has a tiny number of taxis and a brilliant, cheap underground system that runs 24/7, so what's the point fighting over the one car available at the Gare du Nord? Far better to brave the vagaries of public transport. Get a map, buy a carnet of tickets and you'll feel like a real Parisienne as you zoom betwixt Cadet and Gaite (who thought up these station names?).

Food. Avoid those giant cafés in the key sightseeing areas of Montmartre, the Latin Quarter or the Louvre. Here, the prices are racked up in honour of their tourist-friendly location. We hung out at little bistros off the main boulevards, where breakfast – croissant, orange juice and coffee – can be yours for two quid, and formule lunches – a large, hot, properly cooked main course and calorie-packed dessert – cost €13.50. Three courses of spectacular supper fare ranged from €16 to €30 per person. As the children happily munched on rabbit (we told them it was chicken) and heavenly pot au chocolat, I wondered what visitors to Britain must think of our outrageously priced, generally disgusting restaurant fodder, served with disdain. Of course, if you are renting an apartment you can channel Amélie, shop for delicious market fare for the evening meal and knock up something casual and elegant to eat, which you'll serve alongside a slice of lively cheese and a bottle of outrageously cheap wine from Monoprix.

Tourist tat. Go for it. Shopping for anything else is a waste of time. Everything sold in the chains (Zara, H&M, Virgin) is the same sort of price as at home. Designer stuff in the home of couture is obviously a non-starter. However, pens that play "La Marseillaise", lighters with flashing Tours Eiffel, and illuminated Arc de Triomphe key-rings for €4 apiece are brilliant gifts. True Parisian junk is so antithetical to the beauty, history and style of the city that it almost seems perversely clever to invest in it instead of a tarty Louis Vuitton bag.

The only other thing to remember is to buy a French SIM card, or leave your phone at home. A mate of mine went to Australia for three weeks, armed with a new iPhone. He was so excited with his toy that he used it with abandon, only to receive a £2,670 phone bill when he got home. It sort of took the shine off his tan.

cash@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
news
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

    Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

    The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

    £43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all