Tips for budget-friendly independent travel to France from A to Z

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  1. Ideal time to visit France
    France has four seasons, and each season has its own unique beauty. VISANA recommends visiting in the spring (March-June) and autumn (September-December) as they are the two most beautiful seasons of the year. Also, from April to November is the low season, so you can save costs.

Moreover, you can also visit during the famous cultural events of Paris such as the military parade and fireworks on Bastille Day (July 14), the Nuit Blanche arts festival (October), and more.

  1. French visa application
    The French tourist visa application package includes the following documents:
  • Original passport with at least 2 blank pages and valid for at least 6 months
  • 2 recent passport-sized photos (white background, taken within 6 months)
  • Copy of household registration book
  • Copy of marriage certificate (if any)
  • French visa application form
  • Proof of employment: Employment contract/employment decision, 3-month salary statement, and leave request (if employed); Business registration certificate, 3-month tax payment confirmation (if self-employed); Leave request (if student)
  • Proof of financial means: Savings account with a minimum balance of $5,000 and account balance confirmation; Property ownership certificate such as land, car, stocks, etc. (if any)
  • Proof of travel purpose: Round-trip air ticket booking, hotel booking,detailed travel itinerary, and French travel insurance.

You can also refer to the necessary documents and procedures for obtaining a French visa in the article at

  1. Transportation in France
    The main modes of transportation in France are the metro and RER (regional express network) trains, or walking. Taxis are quite expensive and difficult to hail.

To travel to other areas, the main mode of transportation is the TGV (high-speed train). You should book in advance online to save costs compared to buying tickets on the spot. The most popular electric trains in Paris are the Metro and RER, which serve different regions of the city. Paris is divided into five main zones, and RER serves all five zones. In the central area, zones 1 and 2, both Metro and RER can be used.

Train stations are located all over the city, and they are very convenient as they have been built for hundreds of years with extremely scientific planning. RER trains can go to faraway places such as CDG Airport, Disneyland, Versailles, and Orly Airport, which are suburban and nearby areas of Paris.

RER trains are divided into 5 lines: A, B, C, D, and E, which serve the following main destinations in Paris:

  • RER A – Red Line: Goes to Paris Disneyland (Zone 5), La Défense (Zone 3), Chateau deVincennes, and Galleries Lafayette.
  • RER B – Blue Line: Goes to Charles de Gaulle Airport.
  • RER C – Yellow Line: Goes to Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and Orly Airport (Zone 4).
  • RER D – Green Line: Goes to Gare du Nord (for Eurostar to London).
  • RER E – Pink Line.

The Metro currently has 16 subway lines with 16 different colors numbered from 1 to 14, plus 2 additional lines, 3bis and 7bis, with a total of 381 stations. The Metro operates continuously from 5:30 a.m. to 12:40 a.m. daily from Sunday to Thursday, and from 5:30 a.m. to 1:40 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and days before certain holidays.

To navigate the city using the subway, you can:

  • Determine the starting station (the nearest station to your location) and the ending station (your desired destination) on the map.
  • Check which zone the stations belong to. If they are outside of Zone 1 or 2, you will need to take the RER train.
  • Find the shortest route, which transfer points to go through, whether to take the Metro or the RER train, and which line number. Try to choose a route with fewer transfer points since Metro stations are spacious and it takes a lot of time to walk between transfer points.
  • Walk to the starting station, find the appropriate train entrance for your chosen route, buy the correct ticket for the line and zone you are traveling to, and board the train.

When it comes to accommodation, there is a wide range of hotels and homestays available in various regions of France, from budget to luxury. If you want to save money, you can contact foreign students to renta room from them.

French cuisine is diverse and divided into many distinctive regions, but one traditional element that never changes is bread, especially baguette. As a budget traveler, you can enjoy a delicious and affordable sandwich from a supermarket.

For drinks, you can drink tap water from public fountains since bottled water can be quite expensive. Another tip for saving money is to visit the Vietnamese food area (in the 13th arrondissement of Paris), which offers reasonably priced food. Don’t forget to also try French street food, such as crepes in the Latin Quarter and falafel in Marais.

The currency used in France is the Euro. Don’t forget to exchange small bills and coins to buy transportation tickets, drinks, or phone cards. You can also use ATMs, but they may charge fees. Alternatively, you can exchange money at a Money Charger in the city or use an international payment card, but the fees could be high.

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