Preparing for an upcoming trip to Paris and looking for the perfect place to stay for your budget? The options can be a bit overwhelming, and the room rates rather shocking. How many stars should you book? Which neighborhood is recommended… and which should be avoided? What’s for breakfast? Why are the rates so high?
We’ve got you covered with this tutorial on ways to save on your Paris hotel bill. We’ll show you how to find the perfect hotel at the right price. Read on!
A quick love letter to small hotels in Paris
First, a quick personal note. I love Paris’ small family-run hotels. Even in this age of globalized, normalized and homogenized travel experiences, Paris is still home to a good crop of independently owned and operated hotels. I’ve been visiting and reviewing these hotels since we launched EuroCheapo in 2001, and you can read all of my hotel recommendations here.
On EuroCheapo, we really dig smallish hotels with a unique sense of style, a fun history, interesting proprietor, or other unique angle. And while the city is also filled with standard chain hotels, an ever-increasing number of boutique hotels, and countless apartment rentals (all of which can be great, if that’s your thing!), Paris also still offers a wide array of interesting and independent small hotels that won’t blow your budget.
How to save on Paris hotels
So, how can you save on these hotels? Read my 13 tips below!
Related article: Also be sure to check out my tutorial on how to save on hotels throughout France. There are lots of budget options once you get outside Paris!
1. Know your seasons
While you’ll always find tourists in Paris no matter what time of year you visit, some seasons are simply busier than others and thus, more expensive. The city’s three main tourist seasons are, roughly speaking:
• Low season: November – March (excluding the holidays)
• High season: May – July, and September
• Shoulder season: August, October, and April
Low season, as we discussed in this article, is obviously the cheapest time to visit, although it also has the dreariest weather. However, hotel occupancy is way down in the city, leading to great deals on hotels that would normally be way to rich for our cheapo blood. Other advantages include no lines at museums, wide-ranging cultural offerings, and the chance to see everyday Parisians at work and play.
High season, running from early May to late July, and September, is the most popular time to visit, as the weather is usually sunny and, quite frankly, because many visitors simply don’t have a choice. Given vacation and academic schedules, this is the only time they can come. If this is your situation (and it is for the majority of our readers), make the best of it. Hotel rates will be at their peak, and lines will be long at top attractions. But hey, the weather will probably be great and you might wind up with a nice tan. (Here are some tips for beating those lines.) Note that September is also considered high season, as it’s a very popular time and the weather tends to be perfect.
Shoulder season, the transition period between high and low seasons, is an excellent (and cheaper) alternative to high season travel. Kids are back in school, lines are far shorter (or nonexistent), and the weather mild and comfortable. Hotel rates also drop considerably, as they compete for fewer travelers. If you have flexibility in your schedule, but still want decent weather, try coming during this period.
2. Find lower rates in August
August in Paris is a peculiar time to visit, as many of the city’s residents bolt from town on the first weekend of the month, taking off for several weeks of vacation. This leaves behind a city of tourists (along with some locals who either couldn’t or didn’t want to leave town). The hotels, however, remain open, but lodge fewer tourists than the earlier summer months and are thus forced to lower their rates.
The feeling in town is a bit odd. Everyday shops, food stands, and restaurants pull their grates down and lock up for several weeks, leaving behind just a handwritten message about the date of their return. Tourists wander the streets, many of them just fine with the fact that the tourist/local balance has been upended. (Read more about the pros and cons of visiting in August.)
Visiting Paris in August can be great for budget-conscious summer travelers, as deals abound. The same hotel room can be had for quite a bit less in August than it would have cost in June or July.
3. Watch out for fashion week and conferences
If you’re searching around for hotels for your dates and everything is coming back sky-high, you might be planning your trip during a fashion week or while a big convention is in town. While it can be fun to see the city packed with models and industry types, they also drive up hotel rates (and tend to take over museums with their special events!).
Avoid these upcoming fashion weeks:
• September 29, 2015 – October 7, 2015 (Ready to Wear)
• January 20 – 24, 2016 (Men’s fashion)
• January 24-29, 2017 (Haute Couture)
• Read more on the “Mode a Paris” website.
4. Book early, last-minute or both
These days, it can be difficult to know whether or not to book your hotel in advance or wait around until the last minute to snag a deal. As we discussed in this post on when to book your hotel, it really depends on when you’re traveling and what your priorities are. Here are a few tips:
• Visiting during low or shoulder season and just want the best deal? You could probably wait until the last minute for rates to come down. This would be a good strategy if you just want to find a last-minute deal on any three- or four-star hotel.
• Visiting during high season? Book in advance for the best selection at the best rates, especially if you’ll be in town from May-July. Waiting too long runs the risk of limiting your options, and could cause you to book something expensive in a less-than-ideal neighborhood.
• Visiting anytime and have a specific hotel you’d like to stay in? Book it in advance to secure your room. Especially if you plan to book any of the city’s most popular hotels (like those on our list of the “Top 10 best budget hotels“), they will fill up.
• Feel like playing the game? Another strategy that’s recently become popular: You could also book a hotel well in advance with a refundable rate that allows you to cancel. As the travel date gets closer, you could continue to search around for a better deal. However, take note: You often pay a premium for these refundable rates, as the non-refundable rates for the same room might be 10-15% less. Also, be sure to read the terms for cancellation, as many “refundable” reservations actually become non-refundable several days before check-in. If you’re going to play this game, know the window during which you can cancel.
5. Understand that stars are not user ratings
Most of the hotels that we’ve reviewed on EuroCheapo are two- or three-star hotels. Note that these stars don’t reflect a customer rating, but rather the hotel’s category, from 0 to 5, given to the hotel by the city’s tourism board. The more services and amenities a hotel offers, the higher the star rating. Tourism officials regularly visit the hotels, inspect and check off the amenities: elevator, breakfast room, air conditioning, safe… check, check, check, check!
However, as I wrote about in this article, star ratings can offer a lopsided view of hotels, especially in Paris where it can be difficult or impossible to obtain permits to do renovations (like adding elevators or expanding bathrooms). This can limit the star power of properties in old buildings, and keep perfectly fine, spic-and-span hotels stuck in the one- or two-star category. Meanwhile, other properties sloppily game the system, adding a long list of ho-hum amenities and services that you’re unlikely to use (laundry services, telephones, DVD players) in order to inflate their star rating.
In short: Don’t corner yourself into thinking that you absolutely need a four-star or three-star hotel. If possible, be flexible, fall back a star, and you could find some great savings.
Check out this list of recommended two-star hotels in Paris. Many actually offer better hotel experiences than “fancier” and (more expensive) three-star hotels.
6. Be comfortable, but don’t pay for amenities you don’t need
At the same time, understand what you need in order to be comfortable. Find the right balance: Choose a hotel that offers those things you need, but don’t pay for services and amenities that you won’t use. Here’s a cheat sheet:
• Are you willing to share a bath with another room (or several rooms)? If so, you can sleep very cheaply at these one-star hotels.
• Do you need an elevator? Private bath? Free Wi-Fi? It’s possible to find all three in a well-run one-star hotel (like the Hotel Tiquetonne). However, these three amenities will generally put you in two-star hotel territory, where you’re also likely to find rooms with TV and nicer bathrooms (with hairdryer).
• If you need air conditioning, you’ll almost certainly have to bump up to the three-star category, where you’ll also likely find a minibar, safe, and other extras. Keep in mind, however, that you’re really only likely to take advantage of the air conditioning during the warmest summer months (July and August). Some AC systems won’t even work during non-summer months.
7. Consider budget-friendly hotels in the center
I visit Paris several times a year to stay on top of our hotel listings, and when I do, I tend to sleep in the city center. I’d actually rather choose a one- or two-star hotel in the center, than have a three- or four-star hotel in the outskirts of town. Why? I like being able to walk out the door of my hotel and get to the Louvre, or dinner, or a park quickly. I love to walk in Paris or take a Velib’ bike — and a central hotel makes getting around easy and limits the number of times I take the Metro (and makes cabs unnecessary).
My favorite sleeps in the center include:
Central Right Bank:
• Popular and cheapo pick: Hotel Tiquetonne
• Marais country cottage: Hotel Jeanne d’Arc
• Gilt-y pleasure in the Marais: Hotel de Nice
• Hidden romancer: Hotel Chopin
• Colorful and convenient: Hotel du Nord
• Bastille hotspot: Hotel Daval
• Upper Marais and reliable: Hotel Paris France
See more Right Bank picks near the Louvre and in the Marais
Central Left Bank:
• Kooky Notre Dame neighbor: Hotel Esmeralda
• Jazz Age favorite: Hotel La Louisiane
• Old school charmer: Hotel Saint Andre des Arts
• Mural-filled fun: Hotel de Nesle
• Luxembourg Gardens neighbor: Residence du Palais
• Friendly and family pick: Hotel Marignan
• Academic and quiet: Hotel des 3 Colleges
• Blvd St-Michel old timer: Hotel de Suez
• Balconies a-plenty: Grand Hotel des Balcons
See more Left Bank picks in the Latin Quarter and in St. Germain des Pres
8. Head outside the center to find a deal
The counter argument to this, of course, is that if you’re willing to ride the city’s efficient Metro system to and from your hotel, you could choose a hotel situated farther afield, including in the nearby suburbs, and find an excellent deal (including on three- and four-star hotels).
For more about this, check out these posts on cool hotels in the 12th arrondissement, and recommended hotels in the nearby ‘burbs.
9. Drill down when you search
This might seem a bit obvious, but it’s worth mentioning to those new to searching for hotels online: When doing a hotel search for your travel dates, whether on EuroCheapo or any other site, use search filters to drill down to find properties that works for you. Don’t just assume that the hotels on the first page are going to be the best bet for your trip. In many cases, these might be too expensive or not fit your needs.
Instead, use filters strategically to limit hotels to those in your preferred neighborhoods, star rating, price range, and user review score. The deals are there, but they might take a bit of clicking to uncover.
10. Consider a trendy new hostel
While we’re at it, why not consider sleeping in a hostel? They’re not just for “youths” anymore — most don’t have any age limit, and many offer rooms with private bath. Here’s a list of reviewed hostels in Paris.
Also to consider, the brand-new Generator Hostel, with swanky new rooms and a cool location near the Canal St-Martin.
11. You might need to call to reserve
Paris is unusual in that many of the city’s most popular small budget hotels are actually not bookable through online reservation websites (for example, Booking.com, which powers EuroCheapo’s online reservations). Look at the list above of my favorite central hotels. More than half of these are not actually available to book through our system.
So why are we listing them? Well, because we still think they offer an extraordinary value. However, you’ll need to call or email them directly to reserve, or book through their own website. (We include phone numbers and websites in our reviews.) Don’t want to mess around with that? Then simply stick to our “bookable” hotels. Do a city-wide search from the search box above (or on our Paris homepage) to see what’s available to book immediately.
12. Watch out for extra charges
When searching around for your hotel, read the fine print to see what’s included.
• Wi-Fi: It should be — and is free in most, but not all, hotels in Paris. If it’s not included, be wary.
• Breakfast: It almost certainly is not. Check to see how much it costs. More about this below.
• Safe: Most hotels will let you leave valuables in the hotel’s safe or will provide you with a safe in your room. Check to see if it’s free to use. Most are, but some hotels will nickel-and-dime you here.
• Water: How thoughtful of the hotel to leave bottles of water for you in your room! Watch out, it isn’t free. In fact, it probably is exorbitantly expensive and should only be gulped down in the direst of circumstances. Instead, head to the grocery story to buy water as soon as check in, and pick up other goodies and snacks.
• Minibar: Please, for the sake of your budget, resist. Pick up snacks at the grocery store.
13. Just say “non” to overpriced breakfasts
In Paris, hotel breakfasts are a huge up sell for hotels and tend to be not worth the cost. When you’re checking in, the receptionist will ask you if you’ll be joining for breakfast every morning. Take the opportunity to ask what’s included and how much it costs. Is it just a piece of baguette, croissant, jelly, juice and coffee? (This is likely.) You can get the same thing at a neighborhood cafe or (better yet) bakery for much cheaper — and, in the case of the bakery, it will still be warm!
Conversely, some hotels will offer a full buffet, but usually with a hefty price tag (some up to €20!). We’d rather start with something cheaper outside, and then splurge one of these budget-friendly prix-fixe lunches a few hours later.
Search hotels in Paris
To see hotels available for your travel dates, do a search in the box above or from our Paris homepage, where you can also see a list of our reviewed and recommended budget hotels.