Saving money on your vacation to France doesn’t mean you have to cut corners; the tips below will actually provide you with a more deeply enjoyable and authentic French experience:

Stay outside of Paris

The smaller towns surrounding the city are well-served by the RER suburban train lines, and RER’s excellent maps will give you all the information you need. The lodgings in these smaller towns are far less expensive than those inside the city limits,  and often they will be much more peaceful as well. You can find family-type pensions (lodgings) and small hotels that include the price of an authentic breakfast in their nightly rate. You can find the best places to stay with reviews on sites like Orbitz or Priceline.

Choose one place to stay for a full week

Whether you are staying at an Airbnb apartment, a bed and breakfast, or a regular hotel, you will often receive a significant discount if you stay for seven nights. Also, you’ll enjoy the opportunity of finding out about the most affordable local cafes and tucked-away attractions if you give yourself a few days to get oriented to one area. Most deal sites will give you discounts on staying longer.

Use ATMs and credit cards

You’ll get the best exchange rate on your dollars by paying for larger expenses with your credit card. Use ATMs at French banks (not free-standing ATM machines in stores) to withdraw cash every few days for your smaller out-of-pocket purchases. Don’t try to plan ahead by changing all your dollars to euros at a bank in the United States before you leave home. It’s not safe to walk around with a huge amount of cash in your wallet, and your American bank branch won’t give you the best exchange rate, anyway. Don’t forget to call your bank and credit card issuer ahead of time to tell them about your travel plans! If they see your card being used in a place that’s far from your home, they may freeze your account because they’ll be concerned that someone has stolen your card. Here are the best credit cards to use for travel.

Avoid money-changing bureaus and traveler’s checks

The money-changing kiosks that you’ll see at airports and tourist centers are positioned to offer maximum convenience, but they stay in business by giving customers a poor exchange rate. Traveler’s checks used to be the most common way to safeguard funds while traveling abroad, but they are becoming obsolete in these days of global banking systems. Many merchants won’t accept them at all, and those who do accept them will charge you whatever exchange rate they feel like.

Eat fresh food from local markets

France deserves its reputation for wonderful food, and some of the very best options are readily and inexpensively available from traditional open-air markets. You can pick up a fresh-baked baguette and some amazing cheese, and if you add some fruit and wine to your bag, you can assemble an outstanding picnic lunch. Some markets are open daily, others once or twice a week, so it’s good to stock up on specialty items and pack them along for snacks when you’re on the go.

Traveling on a budget is not difficult to do if you plan ahead, and by living a bit more like the locals, you’ll enjoy a vacation free from the anxiety of over-spending.