Coronavirus Universal Credit & Benefits
14 May 2021
Few cities compete with Paris for sheer romance, beauty – and the beating a trip gives your wallet. You'll Louvre our rundown of MoneySaving tips, from how to bag bargain Eurostar and Disneyland tickets to free public Wi-Fi and the cheapest way to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Those in England and Scotland can holiday abroad from 17 May, with destinations categorised in a new ‘traffic light’ system. Initially just 12 destinations are on the quarantine-free ‘green list’ – see full details in our ‘Green list’ unveiled news story. We don’t yet know when rules will change in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Travel within much of the UK is now allowed, and holiday lets have opened, with restrictions, in England, Scotland and Wales. Hotels are expected to reopen in England on 17 May.
If you decide to book a trip, remember things can change quickly, and you may not be covered by travel insurance for coronavirus-related claims. You should also look for holidays, flights or accommodation which offer flexibility if you're unable to travel due to future restrictions. See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for full help.
Rail service Eurostar links London with Paris in just two hours 15 minutes (and it's a mere one hour 52 minutes from Ashford in Kent). What's more, it's arguably less hassle, with fewer queues and searches to endure than at airports, and a check-in time of just 30 minutes (45 minutes at busy times).
Standard fares from London to Paris can be over £300 there and back – yet it's possible to get them for as little as £58 return. Here's how to keep it cheap:
Book 180 days ahead to bag cheap'uns. As a general rule, booking early wins. Unless you know a sale is coming, the key is to start looking 180 days (about six months) before, when it releases tickets. As it limits the number of super-cheap fares, buying early improves your chances.
If you can handle seven-ish hours on a coach, National Express can be cheap as frites. These days it offers free Wi-Fi – just don't forget to take a sarnie and some water.
National Express runs services from London to Paris from £12 each way, plus a £1 web booking fee (£2.50 for phone bookings, and £2 at coach stations). It launches tickets 90 days ahead, so check then before cheaper fares sell out.
It's one of the world's most iconic views, but the queues are Eiffel-ly long. While you can walk around the bottom and take selfies for free, if you want to go up, you need to pay.
There are three floors to explore: the first floor, the second floor and if you've a head for heights, the very top. The price depends on how high you want to go – here are a few tricks to cut the costs and beat the hordes:
There's an amazing wealth of museums in Paris – but if you want to see a few, it can quickly add up. We've a few ways to curb the price.
Over 50 museums offer free entry on the first Sunday of every month, including the Musée d'Orsay, home of Impressionist masterpieces by Van Gogh and Degas. Or head over to the Musée de l'Orangerie for Monet's famous water lily series, and the Pompidou Centre for modern art by Picasso and Dali.
The Louvre, which houses the Mona Lisa, is free on the first Saturday evening of each month. Get there just before opening and prepare for a bunfight. See a full list of freebies.
Paris also boasts a host of fab free museums, including the Musée d'Art Moderne, a museum devoted to French contemporary art and sculptures.
If you can't visit the Musée d’Orsay or Musée de l’Orangerie on the one free Sunday a month, your Eurostar ticket gets you 2for1 entry to these and other popular museums and galleries by simply showing your Eurostar ticket at entry. See the full list.
The Paris Museum Pass gives entry to more than 60 museums and monuments. The pass costs €48 for two days, €62 for four days and €74 for six days.
The 'museum'-pass name is a bit of a misnomer. As well as covering the Musée d'Orsay, the Louvre and the Pompidou Centre, it also includes sights such as Versailles Palace, the Arc de Triomphe and, where standard entry's free, a tour of Notre Dame Cathedral. Holders can skip queues too.
The longer your stay, the better value it is – so do the maths.
Museum entry's typically about €10 per person, so as a rule of thumb, a pass is worth it if you squeeze in at least five of these sights for the two-day pass, seven for the four-day pass or eight for the six-day pass. Entrance to Versailles is a steep €18, so a pass is more likely to be worth it if that's on your list.
Forumite song_of_calliope is a fan:
I lived in Paris for seven years. My number one tip is to get a Museum Pass and visit as many as you can. You'll save a bundle and a ton of time queuing too.
The Paris Pass combines the benefits of the Museum Pass above and the pricey Paris Visite metro pass for travel. It also adds a few extra attractions such as a tour of the famous Palais Garnier opera house, a river cruise and a bus tour.
This is worse value than the Museum Pass, at €139 for two days, €209 for four days and a whopping €259 for six days. It's likely much cheaper to buy a cheap metro pass and a Museum Pass, then pay for extra attractions separately.
With totally free public Wi-Fi (the French pronounce it 'wee-fee') at 300 tourist spots, including parks and museums, uploading your holiday snaps has never been easier.
Look out for the Paris Wi-Fi logo, then select the network PARIS_WI-FI_ and sign up. You'll get two hours free.
EU rules, which came into effect in 2017, slashed the cost of using your mobile in most parts of Europe, including Amsterdam. It meant you wouldn't be charged any extra fees to use your UK allowance of minutes, texts and (most) data.
On 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile roaming ended following the Brexit transition period, meaning mobile providers are able to charge if they wish.
When we checked with the major firms after the Brexit trade deal had been agreed, EE, O2, and Vodafone all said they had "no plans" to end current free roaming arrangements, although this isn't an indefinite guarantee. Meanwhile, Three said it "will retain" free roaming. But it's best to check with your provider to be sure – and of course, even if they don't charge initially, they may decide to reintroduce roaming fees in due course. See our Brexit need-to-knows for more information.
Even with 'free' roaming, you need to keep an eye on your allowance. If you're likely to hammer your data allowance – for instance if you'll be streaming or uploading lots of holiday snaps – try to use Wi-Fi instead.
You could easily spend €100s ticking off Paris's attractions, but there are countless free hot spots that don't cost a cent. Here's our rundown of, as Del Boy would say, the "creme de la menthe" of free sights.
Notre Dame Cathedral. Entry's free to Notre Dame, one of the world's most famous cathedrals, with its gargoyles and bells.
Oscar Wilde's grave. Pay your respects to Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf and more at Paris's famed Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Take a 'free' walking tour. Get to know Paris with a free tour from WEGO, City Free Tour or Sandemans. At the end they ask you to pay what you think it was worth – the typical tip for a two-hour tour is €15. So while 'free' is stretching it, feedback is fab. Reservations are recommended.
Paris's best parks. Grab a picnic and wander through one of Paris's dozens of green spots. Two of the most inviting are the Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Tuileries. The city's oldest square, the Place des Vosges, is also beautiful.
6. Take the ultimate Paris selfie at the Trocadero. The Eiffel Tower is the world's top spot for selfies, according to website AttractionTix, narrowly beating Disney World in Orlando and the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. To get the best angle, head to the steps of the Place du Trocadero.
7. Cross the famous Pont Alexandre III. Mosey along one of the French capital's most ornate bridges, Pont Alexandre III, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
8. These streets are made for walking. Paris's compact size makes it perfect for pedestrians – some of the best times can be had just ambling around areas such as the Marais district, the Latin Quarter and along the Seine.
9. Visit Paris's Holocaust memorial. The Memorial of the Shoah honours French victims of the Holocaust, telling the story through photos and a wall of names.
10. Get a panoramic view of Paris. Take a stroll up Paris's historic hilltop Montmartre, take a look inside the free stunning domed basilica, the Sacré Coeur, and sit on its steps for far reaching views across the city.
Unless you're holding out for a sale you know is coming up, it's usually best to book Paris flights as early as you can. Unlike with package holidays, business folks will be willing to pay top whack at the last minute so prices soar.
Most flights to Paris from the UK arrive at Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly – see getting from the airport below for more.
Easyjet flies to Paris from various UK airports, including Gatwick, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Southend. It releases seats in tranches five times a year. Prices are fluid and move based on demand, so if you can pounce when they're launched, you're often getting the very cheapest deal. See Easyjet Tricks for this and many more hacks for the budget behemoth.
Ryanair flies from Manchester to Paris. Our Ryanair Tips guide can help keep costs firmly on the ground.
These aren't the only options though. A host of airlines fly from the UK to Paris, including Air France, British Airways, Flybe, Iberia and Vueling. But don't just check one airline's prices – use the right comparison site. We like Kayak* and Skyscanner* – see our Cheap Flights guide for a full list, plus more tricks to slash flight prices.
There's no getting around it – finding a place to lay your head in Paris can be an expensive business. But posh Parisian apartments can be half the cost of similar hotels.
We found a £230/week one-bed apartment in Montmartre, compared with £525/week for a similar quality three-star hotel nearby. Our Holiday Rentals guide shows how to find them, what to watch for and how to cut costs.
Alternatively, consider renting rooms in private homes through sites such as Airbnb. We found rooms in the Latin Quarter for £30/night, compared with £85/night for a three-star hotel. See more on Renting a room.
Hostels may be dirt-cheap, though they're not necessarily dirty. Take a look at this 18th century mansion near the Palais Garnier opera house – yep, that's a hostel. (The BVJ Opera, starting at €19 for a dorm bed.)
Lastminute.com sells 'secret' hotels at big discounts in Paris and worldwide, where you know the star rating, description and rough location, but don't know the name till you've paid... Unless, that is, you use our Uncover Secret Hotels tips.
You can also grab discounts through Priceline, a US booking site (it works for Paris and other European cities too). The Priceline Loophole trick is fiddly, but devastatingly lucrative, as forumite Bengt found:
I stayed at Mercure by the Eiffel Tower and paid around €50 per night for a nice double. Rack rate [ie, the original, official cost] was well above €250.
One of the best ways to spend abroad is to use a specialist travel credit card that gives you near-perfect exchange rates every time. See our Travel Credit Cards guide for full info and other best buys.
Paying on a credit card means you'll also get the super Section 75 protection on anything over £100 (about €117). This important law means your credit provider must take the same responsibility as a retailer if anything goes wrong.
Alternatively, if you want to take cash, use our TravelMoneyMax tool to ensure you get the very best rate.
Ooh la la! OK, 'naked' is an exaggeration, but it got you reading. The point is, don't wait to get travel insurance. Without an active policy from the day you book, in the event of cancellation, injury or illness, or death in the family, you're uncovered and have no recourse.
It's these eventualities that cheap travel insurance is there to protect you from – and you can often massively undercut holiday firms' policies.
Bottled water can cost an eye-watering €10 in restaurants, so you're best off asking for tap water. And don't let any snooty waiters deter you – by law, you have a RIGHT to get it free in restaurants.
Here's the magic phrase in case you don't know: une carafe d'eau, s'il vous plait. Say it like this: ewn kah-rahf dough, seel voo play.
Avoid buying coffee every time you need to 'oui' by downloading the free Toilets in Paris loo-finder app on Google Play or iTunes.
It maps free public conveniences, including Paris's 400 free self-cleaning sanisettes (see pic right) and lavs in metro stations.
Parisians may gripe about the metro services that cross the city, but on the whole they are frequent and reliable. Nowhere in the centre are you more than 500 metres from a metro station, and a trip anywhere costs a flat rate of €1.90 (though it can be more for the fast RER trains).
There are tricks to slash the cost though. For starters, download the free Next Stop Paris app, which gives handy instructions and works offline.
Visitors are steered towards the pricey Paris Visite pass, but there are often cheaper options. You can buy the following from metro stations, and they are valid on the metro, RER, buses and trams in central Paris.
For speed and ease – a carnet of 10 tickets. Grab a carnet (book) of 10 tickets at any metro station for €14.90, saving €4.10 on buying individually.
They're valid on metro lines, RER fast trains within zone one and buses (except Orlybus and Roissybus).
A week's unlimited travel for €27.80. A week's Navigo pass is fantastic value at €22.80 for zones one to five. It's more of a faff to get though, as you first need to buy a €5 Navigo Discovery smart card, which they load the pass onto (it requires a passport photo).
Annoyingly, the passes are valid Monday to Sunday, rather than just for seven days from when you get them – so they're less likely to be worth it if you're buying later in the week. Yet even if you're not staying a full calendar week, it beats buying a carnet if you'll make 16 journeys on it. You can only buy the pass until 11.59pm on Thursday during the week it's valid.
Most flights from the UK to Paris land at Charles de Gaulle Airport, about 14 miles from the city centre, or Orly, nine miles to the south. While it's tempting to just jump in a cab, that can cost €40+, so check out the alternatives:
From Orly, the total cost comes in at €12. – for the Orlyval train to Antony RER station (10 minutes) and from Antony to Gare du Nord, Gare du Luxembourg or other central stations on the RER (25 minutes). The Orlyval train runs every 4-7 minutes, and RER trains leave every 10 minutes (not between 12am and 6am).
Get your glad rags on and catch an opera for €10 at the Palais Garnier opera house (the one haunted by the Phantom).
It's normally €12 just to look around, but from 11:30am the ticket desk sells 'sixth-category' restricted-view seats at €10 for that day's performances. Carmen get 'em! It's worth giving the box office a call before heading out.
Tickets to the cabaret at the legendary Moulin Rouge can cost hundreds of euros, but there are wallet-friendly alternatives if you can be spontaneous.
Head to one of three official Kiosque Théâtre ticket booths where you can grab unsold tickets for cabaret, theatre, ballet and comedy shows on the day of performance at 50% off. Tickets typically cost €25, though some start at €15. There are kiosks on Place de la Madeleine, Place Raoul Dautry in Montparnasse and Place des Ternes.
The group Théâtres Parisiens Associés, which runs 50 theatres in Paris, slashes tickets by up to 50% for shows' first performances. You need to book directly at the theatre – see current deals.
Go for a spin along the banks of the Seine for €5 with the Vélib' cycle hire system – the Paris cycle scheme that inspired London's Boris bikes.
You don't need to be a member. Just hire a bike with a credit card and return it when you're done.
For journeys of 30 minutes or less you pay nothing extra on top. The next 30 minutes costs €1, with rising costs for journeys of more than one hour. It takes a €150 deposit, refunded after you return your bike.
While you're not required by law to wear a helmet, they're recommended so you may wish to consider taking one.
Going to see the big mouse is top of many kids' lists, but the prices definitely aren't Minnie. If you're heading to Disneyland Paris, check early doors if you can get cheaper tickets – here's how to magic 'em up for less.
Check specialist ticket agents. These, which include AttractionTix, bulk-buy from the parks and then resell, sometimes at a discount to customers (not always, check first). So use the theme park's own ticket prices as a benchmark, then see if these agencies beat them. Be careful though – see more on what to watch out for in our Cheap Disney Tickets guide.
Bust queues for free. Queues are a bugbear at Disneyland, yet this trick helps. On popular rides, you can use the free FastPass system: at their entrances, you can get a ticket letting you skip the main queue if you return at a set time. Rides include Indiana Jones and Space Mountain. You can only FastPass one ride at a time, so plan your day.
Take a picnic. With a captive audience, restaurants can be pricey. Many assume you can't take your own food into the park, but you can. Disney just says you can't bring in cool boxes or tables.
Also see the forum's long-running Disneyland Paris thread, where forumites post deals and kindly answer questions.
Restaurants' advertised prices by law have to include a service charge (normally 15%), so there's no obligation to add anything on top. The standard reward for decent service, though, is to add a few euros as a pourboire (tip) – less than you would in the UK, so perhaps €1 to €2 at small restaurants and €3 to €5 for a fancy meal.
As in restaurants, service is included at cafés and bars. If you're buying drinks at the bar there's no need to tip – if they bring drinks to your table, the same rules apply as in restaurants.
Aside from that, tipping etiquette is similar to the UK, so consider a euro or two for hotel porters and 10% for taxi drivers.
A Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) and European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) give you treatment at state-run EU hospitals and GPs at the same cost as a local. So if they pay, you pay – if it's free for them, it's free for you.
The cards don't cover private healthcare, so get treatment from a state provider in France (conventionné).
If you already have an EHIC, it will continue to cover you for the entire time it's valid, so you MUST check it's still in-date as they expire after five years.
If you need to renew, or apply for the first time, you'll receive a GHIC instead – but it does the same thing. For full help, including how to get one for FREE (never pay), see our Free GHIC or EHIC guide.
Open year-round, the Bois de Boulogne campsite is set in leafy parkland near the Seine. For hardy types, it's the best of both worlds – a city centre location with plenty of green space.
There's a children's playground, a café-restaurant, morning bread service, and a free shuttle bus to the nearest metro station, Porte de Maillot.
If you take your own tent, pitches start at €27 for up to six people. Or you can rent tents, cottages and even gypsy caravans.
When paying in hotels, shops and restaurants, they often ask if you want to pay in pounds or euros.
In general, always pay in local currency. If you select pounds, the overseas store/bank does the conversion, and rates tend to be awful. Full info and explanation in Martin's 'Pay in euros?' blog.
There are a wealth of apps with maps for tourists – one of the best freebies you can use offline is Ulmon.
An alternative is the free Navmii app, which cleverly turns your smartphone into a sat-nav using GPS. It works offline with pre-loaded maps and comes with a walking option.
Also check out Google Maps apps for Android and Apple. If you don't want to use data out and about, you can save an area to your phone to use offline. Search for Paris, then touch the bar at the bottom showing your search results, and select 'download'. See our 50+ Overseas Travel Tips guide for more.
A good ol' fashioned paper map is always handy too, in case your battery runs out. You can grab 'em free from Paris tourist offices.
Paris's exquisite food can come at extreme prices – so cut costs by having a delicious picnic in a park or even your hotel room.
Pick up fresh croissants and pastries from boulangeries for breakfast. For other meals, head to supermarkets or food markets to create a delicious platter of baguettes, cheese, meats, olives, salads, macaroons and vin blanc.
Competitive supermarkets include Monoprix, Carrefour and Franprix (check out its cheap Leader Price brand).
Paris has over 80 outdoor food markets: one of the most popular is Marché des Enfants Rouges in the Marais district, where you can tuck into delicious food (closed Mondays).
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