Here's some tips from Paris intern, Robert Evans, about how to save money abroad. Check out his personal blog, too!
In this post, I am just going to go over some ways to make your experience abroad cheaper. Some of these have to do specifically with France, and others are just general ways. Some of these may also apply to people currently traveling and to people with future plans on traveling and less to people staying for an extended period of time.
Tip 1: Free calling and Texting – Talkatone & Test+
Nowadays, many people are relying on smartphones. These give you nearly all of the capabilities of a computer with a smaller screen and longer battery life if you know how to utilize them properly. Many people use Skype to make calls and video calls, which is also available for smartphones. This is an international app, however. The only requirement that it has is that the other person must also have the app. This means that you need a smartphone and/or computer to use Skype. Talkatone is free android and iPhone app that assigns you an AMERICAN phone number that people can call you from and from where you can make calls to other AMERICAN numbers. You can call land-lines, cell phones, toll free numbers, etc. I think it’s nice because only one of the people actually needs to have the app. Many apps these days require both people to have the same app, since you normally will be communicating via created accounts over a wifi connection. With this app, however, you can call your sick grandmother or cousins who may not use a computer/smartphone very frequently or even call your family if you are a foreigner to the US and have family in the US. Text+ works in the same way where you get an assigned number and you can receive and send text messages. The only drawback is that you will have two new numbers to remember.
Tip 2: 5€ meal deal
I love eating fancy meals just as much as the next person but, through my experience, you can never go wrong with a meal that has that natural “homely” taste. This obviously depends on what country you are in and how they prepare their food.
For example, in Ecuador, there are certain foods that you may want to avoid if you are visiting for a short period of time that is not long enough for your body to become accustomed to the different food styles and the different bacteria in the food. It sounds gross being said this way but, bacteria are natural in our bodies and foods and help in digestive processes. Your body can get temporarily sick in this way.
The meals and foods that I am talking about are in no way fancy but, where they lack in pizzazz, they make up for in taste and quantity. I think of these as the street foods, which can range from picking up a kebab on the corner of la Prensa y Zamora to downing an overloaded gyro and a bucketful of fries at a small family-owned Sandwhicherie down Rue de Vaugirard.
There are several things that I would like to express about these places:
(1) The different preparation styles can affect the body.
(2) The menu options can be limited.
(3) I haven’t seen it here yet but, in places like Ecuador, some will serve meals with maybe 2 options for each plate (2 soup options, 2 meat options for main plate, 1 desert option).
(4) If you have some time and are very hungry, I recommend sitting down because you will get served more food this way.
(5) Don’t hesitate to talk to these people as there are typically very friendly and you never know what stories and/or advice they may give you. I have done this on many occasions with the people who are providing me some type of job/service and it hasn’t come back in any negative form so far.
(6) Since these places serve a limited variety of food, the density of people at any given time is usually less than that of a restaurant that specializes in all type of Italian food. Thus the seating areas are usually smaller.
(7) I consider these places to be a type of fast food since you can eat quickly, have the option to take out, and have combo options. These eateries are actually cheaper than the better-known dominating food enterprises, such as McDonalds.
(8) While you can usually expect the food to be unique, the money that you are saving is money that would have gone towards higher-end washrooms, capability to pay by credit card or traveler’s checks, space, and sometimes even silverware. Then again, I think that to appreciate a culture, you have to visit it AND live it to actually be able to understand it from several different perspectives.
Tip 3: Wi-fi access
Many of us like to be able to depend on getting wifi access wherever we are because in this époque, it is very convenient and efficient to have the power to adjust your plans for unexpected things like getting lost, places closing, roads closed, etc. Some places here in France that usually offer wifi access, which is free at some places, are bars, MacDo, laundromats, and Starbucks. You can plan out the rest of your day while having a beer, eating with some friends, while you take your morning coffee, or while you do your weekend laundry. I say free because, in some cases, you are required to buy something or else you won’t get the code as it may be on your receipt. Other places may not require any purchase or only give you wifi for 30-60 min. This is more than enough time to look up how to get to the next museum or train/bus stop.
Tip 4: Get Your Barrings
This may sound silly, but if you are only equipped with a local phone, have no way of connecting to the internet, and have no map, knowing your directions can become extremely useful. Some very popular apps use directions like “Head west 1.5k on Amazonas” and, instead of guessing, wouldn’t you like to know the direction? This is also a very useful way of giving directions, especially when you are not familiar with the road names that people are telling you about and you only know your current location. This is how I have given directions on several occasions. It is useful for people who have troubles with maps. It is essential to know since these are basic elements of the world we live in but that we are slowly forgetting since technology does our thinking for us. The general rule of thumb is that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. If the sun is to your left and it is before noon, you are facing South. If it's to your right after 12pm, you are facing North.
Tip 5: Student discounts
There are a ton of opportunities for students to save a couple dollars here and there in Europe, and France. A lot of these can apply to touristic events, such as the Musée d’Orsay, L’arc de Triomph, etc. Others include movies and social events. Sometimes, the people working aren’t too worried about checking very deeply into the validity of your student ID. Ask your school or host parents for proof that you are a student in the city.
Tip 6: More food?
Yes, this is another tip about food. This is actually more about a specific place; Tribal Café located at 3, cour des Petites-Ecuries, 10th district. I personally recommend this place because of the friendly environment. It's located in an open alley that has other eateries and has a nice, local atmospheric feeling.The Metro stop is Château d’Eau and the bar opens in the afternoon. If you are interested in getting a little meal of couscous, meat, and veggies along with a pint of beer for 3.5€ every Friday and Saturday, this is the place to go.
Tip 7: Free language lessons
This is for people living abroad. I am not a frequent user of Craigslist, but was recently looking online for cheap French lessons after my friend told me about a church that gives lessons for 20€ for a year. I guess not everyone puts a monetary value on different types of knowledge. I made contact with someone who instead of asking for money, asks for help with Spanish and English. I could see this becoming a new type of market to extend the possibilities of learning to those who can’t or don’t want to spend lots of money. I know that I would offer any of my knowledge that someone valued for his/her knowledge that I value personally.
Tip 8: Free temporary room and board
This one is for traveling junkies who won’t be staying in a place for longer than a couple nights. There are several traveling sites where networks of people around the world offer their place or a couch to sleep on for a couple nights and will give you tours or other experiences of their own personal lives. One site that a friend told me about is called couchsurfing.org. They provide information such as comments from previous travelers, references, quick info (level of education, occupation, gender, age), biography, interests, what the person will provide, etc. Not everyone will provide a place to stay but the people who sign up are usually interested in meeting new people and creating a memorable experience, so you will get to see the big touristy places while also experiencing the hole-in-the-wall places to which locals are more accustomed. I feel that this is great for people who are traveling alone and would like to make some friends and close connections in other countries, since some people are also interested in extending their friend network.