Although France is one of the more expensive European countries to visit, there are some easy ways to save money while travelling in the country. France uses the euro, making it easy to pick up currency from anywhere in the world before you arrive.
While it’s easy to spend a small fortune in Paris, leave the capital behind and you will find that the prices drop significantly.
Cash is widely accepted in France, but cities are going more contactless following the pandemic. Even so, it’s best to carry some small change for public bathrooms and tipping.
Digital payments are widely used in built-up areas, but stick to cash in more rural areas.
ATM’s are known as Distributeurs Automatiques de Billets in France and can easily be found in airports, train stations and city or town centres. Almost all ATM’s in France accept Mastercard and Visa - American Express can be used in larger cities too. Travellers cheques can be difficult to cash, instead use a travel card, like , to avoid high exchange rates from your own bank back home.
Though airports like Charles de Galle have Travelex services to exchange money, fees are high and it’s best to try elsewhere. The exchange booths in Paris also have poor rates and you will need to have an ID with you to change money. Do your research if you must change money on the ground in France, but it’s best to have a travel card. Never accept the ATM’s exchange rate, always select “withdraw in local currency” to avoid high bank fees.
Cafes and restaurants in France (including ) include a 15 per cent service charge. It’s required by French law, and you will see it on the bill written as service comprise.
You can tip for drinks at the bar, 1 or 2 euros, but it’s not expected outside of the tourist areas. Tip taxi drivers for good service, round up the bill or leave 5% extra.
Tour guides also work on good service, and can be tipped a couple of euros per tour. Hotel porters and ushers at theatres often expect a tip; a euro is usually fine.
Check if there is a tourist pass for the city you are visiting - it’s an easy way to save money if you’re planning on visiting several attractions. Many museums and municipal sights in Europe also offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month, so plan your sightseeing around this.
Food can be another fantastic way to save money. Head to the local markets to prepare a fresh and delicious picnic for lunch; it’s what the locals do, and you will save a lot of money compared to eating out. French wine can be bought for just a couple of euros in a supermarket, so you can still feel like you are treating yourself.
Another money-saving tip is to make use of public transport and the extensive train network, as driving costs like tolls, parking, and fuel can really add up.
It’s unsurprising that somewhere as popular as France has problems with scammers taking advantage of tourists. It’s especially common in Parisian tourist hubs, including the Jardins des Tuileries, Musee D'Orsay, Madeleine, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, along the Seine, and near major train stations.
A long-running scam in Paris is a person finding a gold ring near you and asking if it’s yours. When you say no, they offer the ring to you to keep, then ask for a cut or share to buy lunch or something - the ring is worthless; you are just paying for their lunch.
Any sort of street magic trick or show involving an animal should be widely avoided. Thieves posing as joggers sometimes operate at parks, pretending to knock into tourists and steal their bags or belongings. It’s also common for people to pose as charity collectors or beggars and ask for donations.
In restaurants, it is unfortunately not unusual for tourists to get something they didn’t order or be ripped off for a meal. The Prix Fixe is a set price menu that makes it easier to know what you are ordering.
Try to speak a little French and be polite to the server - if in doubt, make sure to confirm the price when you order. Drink bills can be inflated too, especially in the area surrounding Moulin Rouge and Montmartre - never order without knowing the price first.
A litre of milk: €1.30
A baguette from a bakery: €0.90
1 bottle of red table wine: €10
Paris metro day pass: €8.45
Evening meal for two: €42
Ticket to the Louvre museum: €17
Last Updated 28 November 2023