The iconic cities are expensive.
London, Paris, New York, Tokyo… any city whose name frequently lands on a high fashion shopping bag is bound to be expensive. They are also among the most popular destinations in the world.
My goal last fall was to cover two of these cities, London and Paris, as economically as possible while still having a great time. In this post, I'm sharing what the trip actually cost.
How to travel to London and Paris on a budget.
Before going I researched a number of money saving options for my flights, accommodation and entertainment. Here are my strategies:
- I flew with SQM.ca. This is a secret shopper program. Unfortunately, it's only in Canada and I haven't found an American service that is similar. I flew into London and home from Paris. In exchange for keeping notes on my flights and completing a questionnaire after each leg of my journey which took about an hour, I received a 50% refund on my airfare.
- I stayed in hostels. You can see the hostels in each city here Sleeping with Strangers: the hostel experience part I (London where I stayed in a 4-bed dorm) and here Sleeping Alone: the hostel experience part II (Paris where I had a private room).
- I walked. I walked and I walked. It's not only a great way to see a city but it's cheap.
- I used public transit. When the distances were too far I took public transit. Both cities have fantastic subway systems and are easy to get around.
- I took the Eurostar between the cities. Departing from the London in the morning I arrived in Paris in the early afternoon – plenty of time to find my hostel and see a bit of the city. The ride was enjoyable and the service was great.
- I took advantage of free activities. I took free walking tours in both London and Paris. I went to the Tate Modern in London (free) and used a free local tour guide in Paris. There are many things to do that are free in these cities. Check out Affordable London! 32 free and low-cost tips
- I ate like a local. With the exception of a few meals in the hostel, I ate like a local. I went to pubs or small restaurants and often I would buy my food in a small store tasting the bread of the local baker or the cheese from a market.
Here's what I spent in London
When in London I spent four days as a tourist and four days at a conference. When at the conference, my food expense was somewhat lower but my travel expense was higher. The figures below are in Canadian dollars – in most cases right from my credit card and bank statements.
- Accommodation: $322.00 (a bed in a 4-bed dorm. This was provided for me at no charge by Hostelworld.)
- Public transit including transfers from the airport: $77.12
- Food: $183.76
- Entertainment -theater: $56.04
- Entertainment – concert: $41.23
- Cash for more food and miscellaneous: $172.50
Here's what I spend in Paris
I arrived in Paris on the Friday and flew out on the following Wednesday so I was there five days and nights.
- Accommodation: $623.50 (private room. This was provided for me at no charge by Hostelworld.)
- Public transit including transfers from the airport: $62.31
- Food: $171.30
- Entertainment – Dinner in the home of Sasha: $83 (this was provided at no charge by Voulez Vous Diner). Read Guest in a Paris Salon.
- Entertainment – Pantheon: $10.85
- Cash for more food and miscellaneous: $86.73
Adding in flights and transportation
My Eurostar trip between London and Paris was $164.05 (this was provided for me at not charge by Eurostar.)
My flight was $550.00 thanks to booking the SQM.ca and acting as a secret shopper.
The total cost of my 14-day trip to London and Paris was: $2604.39
$2604.39 is the total cost of the trip including the value of services I received free. (Yes, this is one of the bonuses of having a travel blog for almost five years.) Clearly, others would spend much more on food than me but my attitude is that there are plenty of great restaurants in Toronto. I travel for other experiences. I also rarely have a drink by myself so there is probably only a couple of glasses of wine in the budget. If I were to do it again and on my nickel I would go for a dorm rather than a private room in Paris. I think that was a waste of money.
There you go Brian (the reader who requested my budget). I hope that helps.
P.S. Tracey is in hysterics. There's no way that she would only spend $355.06 on food in 14 days. In my defense, breakfast was included at the hostels!