Shared baths, skipped breakfast, overnight trains, cold hard cash. You don't have to live in hostels and campgrounds (unless, of course you want to) to spend, easily, less than $40 per person per night on accommodations in Paris.

I'm already assuming that you're looking only at hotels rated three-star/moderate and below. These tips will help you whittle the rates down a good 10 to 40 percent below the asking price.

Before we begin, something that is not so much a tip as a point to remember: by and large, in the U.S. you're charged by the room. In Europe you're charged by the head count.

This is why, as a frugal Assistant Scoutmaster who doesn't believe tent camping was invented with cold rainy nights in mind, I can cram 16 Boy Scouts into one cheap motel room for $50 in the USA. But when I took them to Europe I had to pay for lodgings on a per-scout basis (though I did usually get a "bulk discount").

What I mean is, while a four-bedded "quad" room will be cheaper than renting two double rooms, you are not going to convince the hotelier to charge even less for your willingness to squeeze four people into one double room. It just doesn't work that way over there.

Know where the cheap hotels are in Paris

Where to find cheap hotels in Paris - Though there are several concentrations of inexpensive hotels in Paris, the most atmospheric neighborhood packed with cheap digs is Montmartre.

Actually, I should say, lower Montmartre—the streets where they filmed Amèlie, filled with cafes and Middle Eastern fabric shops that surround the Abbesses Métro stop, between the Gare de l'Est train station and the steps up to Sacre Coeur—not the more famous, tourist-laden tangle of tarted up medieval streets atop Montmartre hill behind the church.

Know your travel seasons

In addition to the November-to-March low season, July and August are also considered slow periods in Paris. Some hotels will close (at least for a week or two), and you can often bargain for good rates from the ones that stay open.

Multiple trade fairs during May, June, September, and October tend to book up the city's four-star and luxury hotels. Major holidays are also considered high season: Easter, Bastille Day (July 14), Christmas, New Years.

Shop around

Call a number of hotels from the train station when you arrive. If the city doesn't appear to be full (if everyone has vacancies), don't settle for the first place with an empty bed.

Find the perfect balance between where you want to stay (a sumptuous suite with a private pool overlooking Notre Dame) and what you want to pay (not enough to afford that).

Find out what the lodging market is like in town on that day, pick your ideal hotel, and then bargain. If you play it right, you can end up netting yourself twice the room at half the cost than the bozo who was on the train next to you, blindly follows his guidebook's advice, and grabs the first room he finds at the first price quoted him.

Look into lodging alternatives

B&Bs, rental apartments, hostels, campgrounds, couchsurfing, convents, house sitting... there are so many of these budget options I needed to create a whole separate section on this Website just to fit them all in. Full Story

Learn to share... the bathroom

Cardinal law of inexpensive European hotel rooms: you pay more to have a private bath in the room.

If you don't mind sharing the common bathroom down the hall, you can easily save 25%–50%. Just like that. Just for being willing to carry your bathroom gear down the corridor, and for occasionally have to wait a bit for someone else to vacate the facilities.

In most places (aside from hostels), you usually share the hall bath with, at most, four or five other rooms, more often two or three. Frequently you get it all to yourself; there was just no space to install a bathroom in your bedroom, so you have to use a private one out in the corridor.

What's more, in the vast majority of hotels even the bathless rooms usually come equipped with at least a sink, they just lack the shower/tub or a toilet (and some even have the shower as well, just not the commode). That means for simple ablutions and the hand-washing of your clothes you're still all set.

And don't worry, you can still hear nature calling from just down the hall.

(Sadly, inexpensive hotels in Paris, as elsewhere in Europe, are increasingly slapping shower stalls into the corners of tiny rooms in order to raise the price.)

Avoid breakfast

I don't mean don't eat breakfast, just don't eat it at your hotel. If you have the option of opting out of breakfast and getting something knocked off your hotel bill, do so.

Usually a hotel breakfast costs anywhere from $7 to $35 per person, and normally consists of croissants and/or rolls, maybe some packaged jams, coffee or tea, and juice.

Six main hotel rip-offs
Hotel breakfasts aren't the only rip-offs at the inn. Here's the skinny on some perfectly legal hotel scams:
• the minibar
• the telephone
• the parking garage
• the breakfast
• the laundry service
• the taxes
You can get a café au lait and croissant from the corner café for $7 or less. Plus, if you patronize the local café, you get the chance to rub elbows at the bar with locals on their way to work rather than share a hotel breakfast in a room filled with other tourists. Only on very rare occasions and in the very cheapest hotels do they charge you as little for breakfast as the local cafe would.

If, however, your hotel insists that breakfast is included in the rate and you cannot opt out, then you have carte blanche to bring your daypack down to breakfast with you and load it up with enough extra food to make at least a decent mid-morning snack if not a light picnic lunch out of it. Full Story

Crowd the clan into one room

If you don't need the privacy, don't rent a separate room for the kids, as it will cost twice as much.

An extra bed in your hotel room will cost, at most, 35 percent more. Cots and cribs cost even less (sometimes nothing, if the kids are young enough).

Triples or quads (rooms with three or four regular beds already in them) are more expensive than double rooms, but less expensive than one double plus one single, or two doubles, respectively.

You get my drift. If you find you do need a bit more privacy on occasion, ask if a hotel has family suites, where two separate rooms share a common door to the hall, or there are two bedrooms within the guest quarters.

Snuggle up: Double beds cost less than two singles

This is a rule of thumb slowly fading from the French lodging scene, but still in some hotels you will find that a room with a double bed ("un grand lit" a double or queen) will cost a bit less than one with two single beds ("duex petit lits")—mainly because they have to wash only one set of sheets.

In point of fact, a "double" bed often ends up being two singles pushed together with a queen-sized sheet stretched across both.

Bonus hint: if the seam in the middle bothers you or the gap begins to widen as the cots underneath slowly slide away from one another under your weight, unmake the bed and rotate the pair of mattresses 90 degrees to that the seam is now horizontal.

Beware the tax man

The visitors tax ("taxe de séjours") of €0.20 to €1.50 per person per day (depending on the class of hotel) may or may not be included in the quoted room rates. This tax must be paid for every guest over the age of 12.

Interestingly, the cheaper hotels tend to lump it into the quoted rates, whereas expenive hotels nearly always tack the tourist tax on at the end when you go to pay your bill. » more

Be cheap: Ask for the least expensive room

Yeah, seems pretty obvious, but you'd be surprised how often people overpay for one room when another in the same hotel costs less just because it's slightly smaller, or doesn't have "the view," or isn't one of the recently renovated rooms.

If they quote you one price, always ask "Do you have one that is cheaper?" Which brings me to:

Bargain with them

We Yanks have earned something of a reputation for constantly asking for cheaper rates than those quoted or posted—or at least European hoteliers complain that we do so, and tend to chastise me, the travel writer, for continuing to recommend this tactic, even though I see locals doing it as much or more often than Americans do...but I digress.

If it's the dead of winter and the hotel is empty, try to haggle the price down a bit, maybe 10%–30%.

Don't bother trying during major holidays, at the height of the high season, or when the place is booked solid.

Pay in cold hard cash, baby

If you pay be credit card, the hotelier will charge you the posted, official rate and then has to tithe a certain percentage of that to the credit card company for the sake of your convenience.

If you pay cash, he gets to keep every last Euro of it, so he's likely to knock a few bucks off the price to sweeten the deal.

Always ask, after the price is quoted, "Is that the price if I pay with a credit card? What if I pay with euros?" Often the rate will magically come down.

Also—though you didn't hear this from me—if you pay cash, it leaves the hot*el free to underreport their income to the tax man.

The room may cost €80, and they'll claim they sold it to you for maybe €60, and then you have to pay just €70 in actual currency because, for them, that €10 is pure profit.

Useful French phrases for lodging
Hotel un hôtel (ehn oh-tel)
B&B chambres d'hôtes (shaamb doat)
apartment meublé (mow-blay)
single room une chambre pour une personne (oou-n shaum-bra pour oou-n pair-sohn)
double room with two beds une chambre pour deux (oou-n shaum-bra pour douh)
double room with one bed une chambre avec un grand lit (oou-n shaum-bra ah-vehk ehn grawn lee)
for two nights pour deux soirs (pour douh swa)
with/without bath avec (ah-vek)/sans (sahn) bain (baahn)
Is breakfast included? C'est compris le petit déjeuner? (say coam-pree luh p'tee day-zhuh-nay)
May I see the room? Puis-je voir la chambre? (pwee-zhuh vwah lah shawm-bra)

 

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