8 Ways to Save Money in Paris During the Olympics

Even public transportation prices will rise during the 2024 Olympic Games. Use these ideas to save money in Paris.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Edited by Meg Lee

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As Paris gears up to host the 2024 Olympic Games, the cost of travel in France is undergoing its own bout of Olympic-size inflation.

Even public transportation prices are increasing, with prices for individual public transit tickets temporarily rising between July 20 and Sept. 8 to almost double their current prices. French government officials have said prices will temporarily cost 4 euros (roughly $4), up from the current starting price of 2.15 euros.

The good news is there are still ways to save money if you’re heading to Paris this summer for the Olympic Games.

1. Scope out the cheap seats

Not all Olympic sports are equal — at least in terms of admission costs.

Popular sports such as gymnastics and swimming tend to sell out quickly. Now, the only official way to get your hands on tickets for an event like women’s artistic gymnastics is through expensive hospitality packages. At the time of a NerdWallet analysis in mid-February, such packages start at 495 euros (about $540) — and that’s just for qualification rounds. For women’s gymnastics all-around finals, the cheapest available packages cost 3,750 euros (more than $4,000).

However, not all sports command high price tags. Certain admission tickets, including golf and rugby, start at 24 euros (about $26), according to a NerdWallet analysis of more than 100 ticket prices.

If you plan to visit Paris after the Games end and want to see some events, tickets for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games (Aug. 28 to Sept. 8) are generally even cheaper. Prices start at 15 euros or about $16.

2. Watch the Games for free

Some sports are free to watch. For example, you’ll need tickets for a reserved viewing spot at the finish line of the Olympic marathon, but it’s free to stand along most of the route. Road cycling and the triathlon also feature free viewing locations.

Then, there are the “celebration zones.” These are a set of about 30 free-to-visit venues around Paris where giant screens will stream the events.

3. Stay outside the city center

Many of the venues aren't located in Paris. (Map courtesy of Paris 2024)

Lodging prices have risen throughout Paris and the surrounding area. Vacation rental rates are 40% higher during the Games versus the two weeks before, according to AirDNA, a short-term rental analytics company.

But if you don’t mind being on the city’s outskirts, you’ll save by staying in the suburbs. AirDNA analyzed costs for available vacation rentals and found that average rates for rentals in Paris for the two weeks of the Games are $619 a night. Meanwhile, available rates for rentals in the suburbs are just $302 a night, according to data analyzed on Feb. 15.

Sure, you won’t be in the center of the action (or you’ll spend time commuting). Then again, staying outside the city might make more practical sense for some fans. After all, of the 35 Olympic venues, there are about a dozen in the Paris region, but not in the heart of the city. Also, a handful of venues aren't located near Paris. For example, sailing will occur on the Mediterranean in Marseilles.

4. Picnic like a Parisian

While tipping at French restaurants is largely unnecessary, dining out in Paris can still be expensive. Instead, grab fruit, cheese and a baguette at one of the city’s markets. It’s about a 20-minute walk from the famous Aligre Market to Bercy Arena, which will host some of the biggest events including gymnastics. Bercy Arena sits within Parc de Bercy, which can be an ideal spot to enjoy your haul.

Be sure to check market opening and closing times before you go, especially at open-air markets, where hours might be limited.

5. Don't overlook other events in Paris this summer

(Photo courtesy of Disney)

There's tons to do in Paris this summer besides the Olympics. Many of the city's most unique, summer events are even free. For example, Bastille Day celebrations include a symphonic concert and fireworks display near the Eiffel Tower. Held on July 14, those two performances are free to view (though get there early in anticipation of crowds).

There are also free or cheap music festivals. And Disney fans might enjoy the Disneyland Paris drone show, which is surprisingly affordable to watch. Disney park tickets in the U.S. easily top $10. Meanwhile, prices for one-day, one-park adult tickets start as low as 70 euros per day (about $76).

6. Get around by bike

Public transit prices are going up, and traveling by car likely means spending time in traffic. Biking might be a better way to get around, and one option is Vélib' Métropole, the city’s bike-share service. It has about 19,000 bicycles (including several electric options) and almost 1,500 docking points across the greater Paris area allowing for one-way rides.

Single rides up to 45 minutes cost 3 euros. You might consider the 24-hour pass (5 euros) or the three-day pass (20 euros).

7. Use the right travel credit card

Whether you’re headed to Paris for the Olympics or not, it’s always a best practice to bring the right credit card on your international trip. Most critically, pay with one that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, these fees can add up to 3% of purchases simply because you used the card outside the U.S.

If you’re open to paying an annual fee for a travel card, you might save more money in the long run. That’s because the best travel cards offer additional benefits like travel insurance, which can save you from buying a separate travel insurance policy. Many cards also offer to cover application fees for Global Entry, NEXUS or TSA PreCheck.

From there, consider cards that offer bonus points on travel categories or additional travel perks like automatic elite status in your preferred hotel or airline brand.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express are two popular premium travel cards, each of which offers benefits like these to varying degrees and comes with a nice welcome offer.

How the cards compare
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
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on Chase's website

The Platinum Card® from American Express
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Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

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• 5 points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 spent per year.

• 5 points per $1 on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

• 1 point per $1 on other eligible purchases.

Terms apply.

8. Pack like a pro

A trip to the Paris Olympics may call for some essentials that you might not need for a trip elsewhere. Citizens of certain countries need a visa to enter France. U.S. citizens with valid passports don’t need a visa as long as they’re traveling for tourism or business and for 90 days or fewer within each six-month period. But, residents of other countries should check the French government website to see if they need a visa now, to avoid paying expedited processing fees.

And purchase other essentials like portable smartphone power banks ahead of your trip. They'll likely be marked up at stores near the Olympic stadiums.

Plus, don't overlook items you shouldn't pack. The Olympics have strict rules about items that you can't bring inside the venues, such as certain cameras. Don't sacrifice your ticket (or your camera) because you can't bring your camera inside. Check out NerdWallet's Paris packing list to understand what you should and shouldn't bring with you to the Olympics.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

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