According to Mastercard’s 2018 Global Destination Cities Index, Paris is not cheap. Revealed to be the world’s third most popular city destination, beaten only by Bangkok and London, Paris was visited by 17.4 million people in 2018 alone. On average, each international visitor to the city spent a whopping $301 per day.
In light of this, students may well see Paris as an expensive and unfeasible option. However, as perhaps the easiest destination in continental Europe that one can reach from the UK, the City of Lights may still be considered as a beacon for student travel and cheap weekend getaways.
the time of the train will only be revealed to you 48 hours prior
The most expensive part of any trip is travel and accommodation, this is particularly true for Paris. Rarely included in bargain Ryanair offers and with last-minute Eurostar train fares being through the roof, it seems that a cheap trip to Paris often needs to be planned far in advance. For students, however, with their flexible timetables, reading weeks, and four-day weekends, a last-minute trip may actually be more economically viable than first thought.
Eurostar Snap, Eurostar’s offshoot, offers low-cost tickets amounting to £25 each way. Whilst you can pick your day of travel up to 30 days in advance, the time of the train will only be revealed to you 48 hours prior. Moreover, for the price of a single Uni Express ticket, those on an even tighter budget can get a last-minute Flixbus right into the centre of Paris (at least, if one can stomach the eight-hour bus ride). With the University of Warwick not too far from London, a rather spontaneous trip to Paris can be a cheap feat.
plan your trips to coincide with when your friends are on their year abroad and accommodation may well be free
Mastercard’s Index shows that accommodation costs accounted for over 40% of all average visitor spending in Paris. As with many capital cities, finding a cheap place to stay for the night is difficult. Whilst the high price of hotels and Airbnbs in Paris should be of no surprise, even hostels – every student’s best friend – are relatively expensive, with the cheapest rooms starting at £30 per night.
Perhaps one of the only solutions to this is to try and pack visiting Paris into two days. It is definitely possible to see all of the major touristic sites and get a feel for the city in a short period of time. A whirlwind tour of the place may be more purse-friendly when accommodation costs come into play. Alternatively, for those with great networks and no shame, plan your trips to coincide with when your friends are on their year abroad and accommodation may well be free…
Accommodation notwithstanding, Paris is deceptively affordable in many ways. Free walking tours are an easy way to see the city and learn about its history and tour guides are happy to accept whatever payment you can afford. Furthermore, some of the tourist attractions and almost all of the museums and churches in Paris are free to EU nationals under 26, meaning that a trip to the City of Lights can actually work out cheaper than visiting other European cities. Seeing the ‘Mona Lisa’ at The Louvre, the gargoyles at Notre Dame, and the stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle will not set you back a penny.
So, is Paris doable as a student? Yes.
For getting around the city, metro travel is as cheap as 1.5 euros per journey. Likewise, it is very possible to walk to most places in Paris, giving you the chance to see more of the city for free.
Finally: eating and drinking. A city famed for its cuisine, eating in Paris is just as expensive as one might expect. Although breakfast can be made cheap with pain au chocolats galore and midday hunger pangs can be cured by baguettes, the average dinner will usually cost around 20-25 euros.
Whilst some areas of Paris may be cheaper, particularly student areas like the Latin Quarter, the cost of dining out in Paris for a few days can hit the budget hard. However, unless one sticks to supermarkets and fast food, there are few ways to escape this. Ultimately, a plateful of escargots is all part of the experience.
Alternatively, on the alcohol front, student areas and happy hours in Paris are surprisingly affordable with prices mirroring most bars in the UK – 2.5 euro shots, 5 euro drinks and 7 euro cocktails.
So, is Paris doable as a student? Yes. As expensive a city it is, the key to making Paris affordable is finding cheap travel there and back, doing a whirlwind visit to save on accommodation, and taking advantage of being an EU student (for as long as we can, anyway).