Hotels are all very well and good, but for some, nothing beats staying in a private home or apartment, particularly if you are a family on a budget. Fortunately, travelers with an independent streak have several options, including short-term rentals, B&Bs, and “aparthotels.”
In recent years there has been a boom in short-term rentals, and the Internet is now swimming in websites and agencies proffering hundreds of apartments smack in the center of the City of Light. Though the rates for two people can be close to what you’d pay at a hotel, the advantages include cooking some of your meals at home, saving yourself time and money. Other benefits are privacy, independence, and a chance to see what it’s like to live like a Parisian, even if it’s just for a week.
If you are more than two, and especially if you are traveling en famille, the benefits can be huge. Family suites and/or adjoining rooms are rare in Parisian hotels, so you’ll often end up paying for two doubles—somewhere around 250€ to 500€ per night—whereas you could rent a one-bedroom apartment with a foldout couch and/or extra bed in the living room for anywhere from 600€ to 2,000€ per week, or 85€ to 285€ per night.
So how should you book? While established agencies like the ones listed below come with more services and guarantees, rates also tend to be more expensive than Internet rental platforms like Airbnb.com, Flipkey.com, Homeaway.com, and VRBO.com, as many of the rentals listed on these sites are done by the owners directly, so there’s no middle man to pay. Agencies justify their costs by having cleaning staff, all-inclusive rates, and an office you can call when something goes wrong. They also can vet all of their apartments to make sure they are legal and that there is no funny business on the owners’ side. That said, when this book went to print, Airbnb-style rentals, where individual apartment owners use the website to rent short-term, were legal in France, as long as the apartment is the renter/owner’s primary residence. And there is no denying that thousands of people happily use Airbnb and similar sites and find great accommodations for very reasonable rates. The problem is that hugely popular sites like Airbnb cannot check up on every owner, so you cannot be entirely sure that your rental is legal.
Bottom line: If you want to minimize risk and are willing to pay more for it, go with a well-established agency like Parisian Home (www.parisianhome.com; [tel] 01-45-08-03-37), France Lodge (www.francelodge.fr; [tel] 01-56-33-85-85), Paris Attitude (www.parisattitude.com; [tel] 01-42-96-31-46), or Paris Appartements Services (www.paris-appartements-services.com; [tel] 01-40-28-01-28). In most cases, you will deal directly with the agency (not the owners), and the minimum stay is 4 days to 1 week.
Bed & Breakfasts
Though bed-and-breakfasts (chambres d’hôtes) are extremely common in the French countryside, in the big city, where privacy and anonymity are treasured, they are still relatively rare. A terrific way to find a quality B&B is to visit the city’s official B&B website: Hôtes Qualité Paris (www.hotesqualiteparis.fr). A partnership with Paris’s most well-established and trusted B&B agencies, the site offers a wide range of rooms for about 50€ to 140€ per person per night, based on double occupancy. A couple of other recommended agencies are Good Morning Paris (www.goodmorningparis.fr; [tel] 01-47-07-28-29) and Alcôve & Agapes (www.bed-and-breakfast-in-paris.com; [tel] 07-64-08-42-77).
Like apartment rentals (see above), these agencies and other B&B agencies are now in direct competition with massive Internet sites like Airbnb.com and Wimdu.com, which offer a stunning array of options at low prices. While the agencies listed above do not have as dazzling a variety of offers, their prices are competitive, and all have been in business a long time and know their clients. Knowing that your B&B hosts are on a first-name basis with a reliable agency can be a significant plus, and probably worth a few extra euros.
These utilitarian lodgings are a cross between a hotel and an apartment. Short on charm, aparthotels are decidedly practical: Units come with kitchenettes as well as hotel services like fresh towels, dry cleaning, and a concierge. Rates are generally higher than short-term rentals, but you do have the comfort of knowing you are dealing with a large company (if that makes you comfortable), with standardized apartments, organized websites, and customer service.
The best-known aparthotel company is Citadines (www.citadines.com; [tel] 01-41-05-79-05), which offers clean, comfortable units in excellent locations around the city. The cheapest rentals are the studios with pullout beds, which range from 125€ to 350€ a night depending on the season and location.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.