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The Solo Traveler Blog

London and Paris – what I spent in 14 days

4-bed dorm at YHA London Central

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.

There are many times a day. I took a morning train and this was my light breakfast.

There are many Eurostar trains scheduled between London and Paris every day. I took a morning train and this was my light breakfast.

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.

My energetic free tour guide – but please remember to tip.

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

My Parisian greeter, Christine and I.

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!

 

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  • simonlise

    your headline is so deceiving – it should have read ”what I would have spent if I had paid for it ” . . or else you should be sharing with us how to get it for free like you did. I understand what you do and I have no problem with it. But you are not travelling on a budget, you are travelling on someone else’s dime, very different.

  • solotraveler

    Thanks for a great contribution to the post.

  • Helga Boom

    I would like to add that there are cheap long distance buses running between the major European cities (e.g. Eurolines) and some companies that can only be booked online (booked way in advance the trip can be done for just a few euros). Eurostar or TGV are not so cheap. I am very environmentally conscious, and refuse to take a flight within Europe if there is an alternative. It can mean spending a day and night or longer on a not so comfortable bus, but I don’t mind. (I did travel once from Brussels to Beijing and back by public transport only and with no advance bookings, and that’s quite a distance.) Brussels to Istanbul by bus can be done in about 2,5 days. In my country the saying ‘time is money’ is very correct. The national public buses and trams are cheap (the further the distance, the cheaper also; a bus day pass is 5 euros), but very time consuming (with several transfers from one town to another). Going by bus from Brussels (the capital) to Ostend (the seaside) takes about 5 hours one way at a cost of just 5 euros (about 110 km); much less time by train of course. While the train is expensive and often problematic (with delays and cancellations); half price over the weekend. In expensive places like Europe or the USA I never go to a restaurant when travelling. And street food is rare (apart from fries stalls in Belgium, but they are almost all gone and become a relic). As a vegetarian I am also not in favour of fastfood joints or chains like Subways, and basically buy stuff at the supermarket and bread at the bakery. Sometimes I prepare my own warm dinner when the hostel has its own kitchen to use. Travelling in Asia is a dream for that matter, esp Thailand with its endless night markets and cheap food stalls almost everywhere… A good tip for budget travellers is to find out which museums are free on which days. London has many free museums. In Belgium national (state) museums are free on the first Wednesday afternoon of each month (helas not so interesting for a tourist or traveller, because it’s difficult to visit more than 1 or 2 museums in just one afternoon (from 1 to 5 pm)…

  • Debbie

    How do you determine how much you would tip in your travels?

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Wonderful additional tips Boris. Thanks!

  • ChicaTraveler

    Do you think it could be done on 80 a day (not including the flight to get,there?)
    Considering your expenses on food and local transportation and flying a cheap airline between cities instead of Eurostar as Boris suggests?

  • Boris

    Hello Janice,

    thanks for your reply in my comment: maybe my message was misunderstood a bit, of course you’ll get things for free etc to be able to keep this blog (which I love!) going and I guess u are already spending a lot more to maintain a flow here and support the site.

    Though, since the subject of this article was travelling on budget, I believe it would have been more interesting to provide the cheapest options in the market. That doesn’t mean to take the TGV iDbus between LDN and PAR that costs like 20E/15GBP but takes 8h, but to provide the cheap solutions even if there was no sponsorship eg TGV costs 160E but there is also BA and AF flying for 110 return and the same for the hostels etc.

    thanks again and enjoy ur next trips,
    Boris

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  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    I’m glad it was helpful. I’ll try to do more of these.

  • Chatoyant

    Well, I found it helpful, Janice! Thanks very much for sharing. As someone who is looking forward to retirement soon, these sort of ideas and budget sharing is appreciated.

  • http://the-travel-guru.com/ Roni Faida

    I had a free city tour when I was in Bratislava and I was amazed that some people weren’t going to tip. They only did it when they saw us pull out our money so I’m glad you mentioned tipping the guide.

  • http://the-travel-guru.com/ Roni Faida

    I totally got the point of the post. I travel to Paris all the time and I wouldn’t have done it that way either but as she said, neither would she if it hadn’t been comped.

    Travel bloggers get perks from time to time and there is no reason she shouldn’t have taken advantage of free accommodations. This post gives readers an idea of what is possible and her transparency was clear from the start.

  • Marcia

    This was good for me, as I am preparing to visit my daughter in Germany for a week and then travel solo to Paris for 5 days. Sort of gives me a ballpark idea. I’ll be staying AirBNB though, in Paris.

  • Johlet

    Very interesting to read! Thank you! We suffer now with the Rand being so weak. http://johced-ourjourneytoeverywhere.blogspot.com/

  • Wahee Waheeda

    awesome thanks for this Jan

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Hi Christina,

    I replied to Boris’ comment explaining the situation. Bottom line, there’s no way that I would have paid that amount for accommodation in Paris either. It’s what was provided to me (yes I’m fortunate. This is what makes it possible for me to publish Solo Traveler.) and I feel it important that I report honestly.

    I hope that other aspects of the post are of value to readers.

    Best,
    Janice

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Hi Boris,

    I travel a lot in order to gather the experiences necessary to publish solo traveler. I couldn’t afford to do so without some support. I know that I am privileged in this way and while I don’t want to make this support the story I also I don’t want to mislead readers. In my opinion it’s important for me to be transparent.

    As for the price of my accommodation in Paris, you’re absolutely right. That’s why I said at the end that I wouldn’t go that route if I were to plan my own accommodation.

    I hope you understand and I hope that the rest of the post has value.

    Kind regards,
    Janice

  • Christina

    I agree with you Boris. I could have done it cheaper too. Wasn’t much of a budget at all.

  • Boris

    How can you recommend how to travel solo, cheap when everything was provided to you for free?

    5 nights in a Parisian hostel and $623 is not a good deal for an experienced traveler.

    Boris, Paris (F)

About Janice Waugh and Tracey Nesbitt

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.52.44 PMI'm an author, blogger, speaker and traveler. I became a widow and empty-nester at about the same time. And then, I became Solo Traveler... Here's the full story. >>
Tracey NesbittI’m a writer, editor, food and wine fanatic, and traveler. On my very first trip abroad I learned that solo travel was for me. Here's the full story. >>

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