Accommodations You Can Afford--It won't be a suite at the Ritz, but you'd be surprised what comfortable accommodations the budget traveler can find in Paris. If you don't mind the occasional oddly shaped room or lugging your baggage up some stairs, you'll find that staying in a hotel in Paris doesn't have to significantly lighten your wallet. Though they may lack 24-hour room service and complimentary shower caps, these small, mostly family-run lodgings offer some things that most luxury hotels can't supply: hominess, intimacy, and a degree of authenticity.
In general, budget-priced French accommodations are reliably clean and comfortable. On the other hand, if you are used to the amenities offered for the same money in North American motels, you may be disappointed. Many hotels are in old buildings that date from a less expansive era; rooms tend to be smaller than you would expect, even in expensive places. Toiletries are minimal and towels are small and scratchy. Also, most budget hotels in Paris do not have air-conditioning, but then again, Parisian summers are not known for their high temperatures. Many hotels do offer cable or satellite TV, which generally means access to English-language channels like CNN, MTV, and BBC. The difference between cable and satellite is entirely technical.
Don't be afraid to ask for what you want when making reservations. This is especially important if you're reserving by phone or fax: Tell the management you want a large room, a quiet room, a room with a view, a bathroom with a tub, or simply the most recently renovated room that's available. Ask to see your room before checking in, and if you don't like it, ask to see another.
If room size is important, you would do better to reserve a triple or suite in a modest hotel than a double in a higher-priced one. Budget triples are generally larger than comparably priced doubles. Also, if you're looking for a double room, note that a double bed is cheaper than two twin beds, but the twin beds are likely to be in a larger room.
Rooms facing the street tend to get more light, but can be noisier. Hotels often have double-paned windows, but noise can be a problem in lively areas. Also, acoustics in old hotels can be unpredictable; your neighbors' noise may be as annoying as street noise. If you are a light sleeper, ask for a room on the courtyard, and pack earplugs.
Though generally quite clean, bathrooms in Parisian hotels can be a bit of an adventure. They generally range in size from tiny to small, with a few exceptions. Some rooms have only a sink or a shower; most have a toilet with a shower or a tub. If you do get a full (toilet and shower or tub) bathroom, it will always have a sink. Rooms without facilities can be a bargain if you don't mind sharing a bathroom with other guests in the hotel (there is usually a charge for the shower). More hotels are adding full bathrooms, so cheap bathroom-less units are dwindling. Rooms with a tub tend to be nicer (and more expensive), but if you take this option you may have to deal with a hand-held shower and no curtain--so watch where you aim! The hotels below offer private full bathrooms unless specified.
Breakfasts (unless otherwise noted) are continental, meaning croissants, rolls, jam, and a hot beverage. A "buffet breakfast" will usually be an expanded version, including cereal, yogurt, and sometimes cheese or ham. Eggs often cost extra. Surprisingly, there is rarely an extra charge for having breakfast delivered to your room. If you are anxious to get going and are not a big eater, you will usually spend less at a nearby cafe or bakery.
If your bathroom does not have a hair dryer or your shirt needs ironing, blow dryers and irons are often available at the front desk. Almost every hotel that doesn't have a safe in the room will have one at reception. For online addicts, a few hotels are beginning to include phone jacks in rooms that accept North American phone plugs (RG-45), and others have modem jacks for French phone plugs. Be sure to bring appropriate adapters.
High season is generally late spring to early summer and early fall; during these periods reserve at least 2 months in advance. The dead of winter and August are lighter months, and more space is available. There are also annual trade shows and events, like the Foire de Paris in late April or the Fête de la Musique in June, when hotels are booked solid.
If you do come to town without a reservation, try to arrive early in the day and head to one of the tourist offices in the airports, at the train stations, or at 127 av. des Champs-Elysées. For a small fee, the staff will book a room for you.
Be flexible about what part of the city you stay in. Paris is relatively small and well served by public transportation. Even on the fringes, you aren't more than a half hour from the center of town, where hotel rates are highest.
Tip: Seeing Stars & What They Mean--The French star ratings, which are posted on the outside of all hotels, are based on the size of the rooms and the number of amenities and have nothing to do with quality. It is not unusual to find a well-kept two-star hotel that is far nicer than a dumpy three-star that happens to have hair dryers in all its bathrooms. The only thing you can count on is price: Under French law, the more stars you have, the more you are allowed to charge.
Best for Business Travelers: Ideally situated near one of the city's main business districts, the Hôtel Keppler, 12 rue Keppler, 16e (tel. 01-47-20-65-05; e-mail email@example.com), is a quiet, well-run hotel with a lot of amenities for the money. Its good address will impress your French business associates and show them that you're malin (shrewd).
Best for Romantic Atmosphere: With its 18th-century ceiling murals and wedding cake plasterwork, Hôtel St-Jacques, 35 rue des Ecoles, 5e (tel. 01-44-07-45-45) offers Second Empire romance at affordable rates. You'll think you're staying at a private home at the cozy Ermitage Hôtel, 24 rue Lamarck, 18e (tel. 01-42-64-79-22), where antiques and floral prints combine with beautiful views of Montmartre.
Best for Families: Spacious doubles with connecting doors can be found at Hôtel Vivienne, 40 rue Vivienne, 2e (tel. 01-42-33-13-26), which also features baby cribs and family-friendly management. Hôtel La Motte Piquet, 30 av. de La-Motte-Piquet, 7e (tel. 01-47-05-09-57) is a 5-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower and has a family-sized duplex and a kid-loving poodle.
Best Overall Values: On the Right Bank, the Castex Hôtel, 5 rue Castex, 4e (tel. 01-42-72-31-52; www.castexhotel.com), is centrally located and has large, well-kept rooms. The Grand Hôtel Jeanne d'Arc, 3 rue de Jarente, 4e (tel. 01-48-87-62-11; www.hoteljeannedarc.com), is attractive, comfortable, and in a good location near the Marais. On the Left Bank, the Port-Royal Hôtel, 8 bd. Port-Royal, 5e (tel. 01-43-31-70-06), though slightly out of the center, offers quality lodgings and charming decor for an unbeatable price.
Best Location: Bring earplugs to the Hôtel Esmeralda, 4 rue St-Julien-le-Pauvre, 5e (tel. 01-43-54-19-20), a charmingly creaky establishment that's in the middle of everything. Just across the river from Notre-Dame, it's only 5 minutes from St-Germain-des-Prés; the Louvre, Les Halles, and the Marais are all about a lovely 15-minute walk away.
Best for Travelers with Disabilities: Little Hôtel, 3 rue Pierre Chausson, 10e (tel. 01-42-08-21-57) is one of the only budget hotels in Paris to offer wheelchair-accessible rooms on the ground floor. The hotel is conveniently located near the Gare de l'Est and the Canal St-Martin.
Best for Flights of Fancy: The stone walls, colorful fabrics, and wacky bed curtains at the Hôtel du Globe, 15 rue des Quatre Vents, 6e (tel. 01-46-33-62-69) will make you think you're living in a comic book, but in fact, the sleek St-Germain neighborhood is just outside the window.
Best Rooms with a View: Would you like to gaze over the city's rooftops while you have your morning croissants and coffee? Splurge on a room with a view at the Timhôtel Montmartre, 11 rue Ravignan (place Emile Goudeau), 18e (tel. 01-42-55-74-79; www.timhotel.com). This classy hotel is just next door to the famous artists' studio, the Bateau Lavoir. Minutes away, Hôtel Regyn's Montmartre, 18 place des Abbesses, 18e (tel. 01-42-54-45-21; www.regynsmontmartre.com), charges a little extra for the view from its fourth and fifth floors--and it's entirely worth it.
Best Splurge: The Hôtel de Fleurie, 32-34 rue de Grégoire-de-Tours, 6e (tel. 01-53-73-70-00; www.hotel-de-fleurie.tm.fr), has it all: a great location in St-Germain, handsomely decorated rooms (with air-conditioning, pink-marble bathrooms, cable TV, and hair dryers), peace and quiet, and a very friendly staff. It's popular with the French when they come to the capital to enjoy a dose of metropolitan life.
Best Youth Hostel: In a historic mansion on a quiet side street in the Marais, Youth Hostel le Fauconnier, 17 rue de Fauconnier, 4e (tel. 01-42-74-23-45; www.mije.com), has a pleasant courtyard, and all rooms have private showers! Run by the Maisons Internationales de la Jeunesse et des Etudiants, MIJE hostels are nearby: Maubuisson, 12 rue des Barres, 4e, with 111 beds; and Fourcy, 6 rue de Fourcy, 4e, with 190 beds. Reservations and information are available at the informatoin listed above. Reserve well in advance.
Best for Nightlife Lovers: Hôtel Beaumarchais, 3 rue Oberkampf, 11e (tel. 01-53-36-86-86; www.hotelbeaumarchais.com), is within walking distance of the city's three nightlife centers--the Bastille, the Marais, and rue Oberkampf. Air-conditioning and double-glazed windows allow you to sleep late, and the bold color scheme will give you a jolt of energy in the morning.
Best for a Taste of the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: The Hôtel Nicolo, 3 rue Nicolo, 16e (tel. 01-42-88-83-40; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org), is in the heart of one of Paris's most expensive residential districts. If you'd like to live in gilded surroundings, even on a budget, you might enjoy the hotel's traditional French charm.
Best for Serious Shoppers: The Hôtel Chopin, 10 bd. Montmartre, 9e (tel. 01-47-70-58-10), is tucked away in the Passage Jouffroy shopping arcade. Across the street is the Passage des Panoramas; Galeries Lafayette, Au Printemps, and other department stores are only a short walk away.