There's an easy way to find budget accommodations in Paris this summer. Accueil des Jeunes en France (AJF), Paris's youth accommodations service, has four offices that make reservations at no charge.
The AJF has 8,000 beds available during the winter and 11,000 in the summer. Staffers can find a room for you while you wait, but for the best selection, go early in the day.
The accommodations are in youth hotels, youth centers, student residences and budget hotels.
Rates depend on the location and the number of persons in a room. This summer the average rate will be 75 to 95 francs ($14.25 to $18.05 U.S.) per person for bed and breakfast.
Breakfast in France is often coffee, tea or hot chocolate, served in a bowl-size cup, with bread and cheese, jam or meat spread.
Check Out Washrooms
You'll also discover that at low-budget hotels, private bathrooms and showers are rare. There is usually one on each floor and is shared by all.
Inspect a room (and the washroom) before you pay. Unfortunately, you can't do this with the AJF system. It doesn't charge a fee but does take a commission, so you must pay for your first night when the reservation is made.
AJF offices are at these locations in Paris: Gare Du Nord (the north railway station), Arrivals hall, open daily; 119 Rue Saint Martin (opposite the Georges Pompidou Centre) near the Hotel de Ville Metro stop, open Monday through Friday; 16 Rue du Pont Louis Philippe near Hotel de Ville Metro stop, open Monday to Friday, and Saturday during July, and 139 Boulevard Saint Michel near Port Royal Metro stop, open Monday to Saturday.
Points to Remember
--Don't exchange traveler's checks at your hotel. You will get a much better rate at a bank or the office of the company that issues your checks.
--The Paris subway system (Metro) is economical and not nearly as confusing as it may appear at first glance at a map. Its 11 routes are color-coded on maps displayed at the subway entrances and in the cars. Just look for the name of the station at the end of the route you need to travel and that will match the name of the train you need. A special price is offered when 10 Metro tickets are purchased at once.
--Be careful to check prices before you sit at a sidewalk cafe. It's possible for coffee to have three prices, depending on whether you stand at the bar, sit at a table or relax in one of the sidewalk seats. The latter can be very expensive if you are in a trendy area.
--Before you schedule sightseeing, remember that many stores close for two hours at noon, some museums close on Tuesdays and some, such as the Louvre, are free on Sunday but are quite crowded then. Double-check your guidebook or ask for advice at your hotel.
Special Flight Pass
A new unlimited pass for flying within France is available for students and young travelers this summer. The special student/youth Le France Pass is valid on the Air Inter service between 30 French cities. The four-day pass costs 750 francs (about $142.50 U.S.); a seven-day ticket is 1,200 francs ($228 U.S.). You do not need to use the ticket on consecutive days, just within 30 days.
The pass is available to travelers under 26 or students under 27. For more details, contact STA Travel, 2500 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 507, Los Angeles 90057, (213) 380-2184.