Monday, 25 October 2010


So you’re wanting to do something different this Christmas, or New Year, or indeed whenever…but you’re broke. Fear not! A last-minute break in Paris is still within your reach - you just need to be a smart traveller...

Þ The internet is your friend. Use websites such as Expedia, Skyscanner and to help you get the best deals.

Þ Travel unsociably. Whatever your method of transport – ferry, train, coach or plane - it's worth travelling as unsociably as you can. Travel will be much cheaper at 4am on a Thursday morning than it will be at 4pm on a Friday. This will slash costs considerably and this way you may even be able to travel first class rather than bucket class at a fraction of the cost.

Þ Stay outside of the city. Or at least in less popular districts (in Parisian lingo, arrondissements). Paris is much smaller than, for instance, London – if you travel an hour outside of central London, you can still be in London; however, you can be out of Paris in 20 minutes and in any of its quiet and more business-oriented areas. The town of Levallois-Perret, for instance, is stuck out on the end of line 3, but is only 20 minutes' metro (or less) from the boulevard Haussmann (where all the big shops are) and has many inexpensive but perfectly acceptable hotels that are primarily aimed at businesspeople – usually spitting distance from the metro station itself. Furthermore, it has a town of its own to explore, as well as being walking distance from the upmarket and leafy suburb of Neuilly, from which you can also access Paris by metro. Other suburbs you might want to consider as your base are La Défense (close to the Arc de Triomphe) and Vincennes (close to the Chateau de Vincennes and to Disneyland Paris as well as not being far at all from the Louvre and the aforementioned big shops by RER).

(snow in the lesser-known 15th arrondissement)

Þ Avoid the traditional tourist traps. As well as covering accommodation, this also includes attractions and food. While I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to go to Disneyland, Versailles, or many other local attractions, Paris and the surrounding area has so much more to offer. Always try to look off the beaten track for eateries (of which Paris has many), and instead of going up the Eiffel Tower for your very expensive view of the city (of which half is missing because you’re standing on it), instead go to the top of the big department stores for your FREE view of the city in its entirety. A book such as Unexplored Paris, by Rodolphe Trouilleux, is also a worthy investment so that when friends and family ask what you did in Paris you have a better reply than “oh, just the same tourist tat you did when you went.”

Þ Vote with your feet! While Paris’ metro and RER system is simple to use as well as being fairly functional and cheap, arguably the best way to see Paris is on foot, which is both inexpensive and rewarding. Try the box set of cards detailing 50 city walks in Paris (Martha Kay and Christina Henry de Tessan) - just pick out a card and Paris is your huître (or oyster).

Bianca Summons

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