Hello, everyone! I was thinking about what there is to share regarding things I found helpful from my recent Paris trip, and I came up with the Paris Pass and the VAT refund. The Paris Pass ended up being a very smart decision on our part, and the VAT refund… it was quite a show. But hey, I’ve gone through it and I can confidently say I know what I’m talking about in this post!
One of the best things I did for my the Paris trip was to get the Paris Pass. Surprisingly, lots of people around me never heard of it or just didn’t think about it, so thought I’d do a post to break down what it includes and if it’s worth your money. The Paris Pass is a sightseeing city card that pretty much helped me get around + see everything on my list in Paris.
What does the Paris Pass include?
- Paris Museum Pass: Free entry to top Paris museums + monuments, as well as fast track entry. There’s nothing better than having to skip the long line at a major attraction!
- Paris Attractions Pass: Free entry to 13 attractions (see list here) + one-day tour on a hop-on-hop-off bus + a river cruise, + more. Loved the hop-on-hop-off bus option because we utilized this as transportation, to get from place to another. Also, it’s perfect for when you’re tired of walking.
- Paris Visite Travelcard: Free unlimited travel on the metro, RER (train) and buses
- Paris Guidebook with all the museums, attractions, contact information, maps, tips and itinerary suggestions
- Extra special offers at shops and restaurants in central Paris (there are some great deals like 10% off your purchase at Galeries Lafayette, which is the department store we went to for shopping)
How does it work?
- Pick either a 2-day, 3-day, 4-day or a 6-day pass
- Fill your information to check out (Sign up & save 5%! Should have a pop up on the bottom right corner when you first enter the website)
- Check your email for the confirmation with a voucher
- Print your voucher and pick it up at the Big Bus Ticket Shop (11 Avenue de L’Opera 75001 Paris). It’s really close to the Louvre and the Jardin du Palais Royal. The closest metro station is Pyramides if you’re planning on taking the metro!
- You will receive your Paris Pass package when you present your voucher to an agent
- The Paris Pass is activated as soon as you start using it!
Is it worth it?
We wouldn’t have been able to see + do everything we did if it weren’t for the Paris Pass. Also, it was nice to have the transportation and tickets pre-paid. We chose the 2-day pass (€131), and this is what we got out of our Paris Pass:
- Metro (10 times)- €14.50
- RER C train to Versailles- €3.65
- Bus (once)- €1.90
- Paris Big Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour- €34
- Louvre Museum (admission + fast track entry)- €15
- Arc de Triomphe- €9.50
- Notre Dame Cathedral- €10
- Palace de Versailles- €18
- Montparnasse Tower- €14.50
- Ô Chateau Wine Tasting- €30
- Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise- €15
We didn’t end up doing the wine tasting + river cruise, but if we had done everything and bought the tickets all separately, we would’ve spent a total of €166.05 (the 2-day pass cost us €131). Even without the two we couldn’t do, we still got our money’s worth out of the Paris Pass. So if you’re asking me if it’s worth it, I’d say yes! Now, onto the shopping for designer goods and the VAT refund. This literally drove me crazy but it turned out to be worth it, so read on (:
What exactly is a VAT refund?
VAT stands for Value Added Tax in the European Union countries. Whereas tax is an additional amount at checkout in the US, a tax averaging around 20% is already included when it comes to goods in the EU. The good news is that, you get 12% of that tax refunded if you’re a non-EU resident.
- In France, you must spend a minimum of €175 at one store (minimum threshold is different for each country). If you’re planning on buying an item that is below this minimum purchase threshold, check out department stores so you can buy goods from multiple other brands in one place!
Note: If you plan to shop at a department store, move on to the next paragraph.
- Tell the store associate you need VAT refund paperwork. Show them your passport and you’ll receive an envelope with the refund paperwork + receipt.
- Get your paperwork stamped by customs at an airport tax refund counter (plan additional time in case the line is long at the airport)
- Choose to receive your refund either immediately at the counter in cash (10.8%), or by credit card (12%, but need to wait approximately a month)
- Mail the stamped paperwork – The envelope you already have should be pre-paid for postage and have mailing addresses printed on them. All you have to do it just drop it off in the mailbox next to the tax refund counter
If you shop at a department store like we did, there might be an extra step:
- After shopping and you have met the minimum threshold (€175), find a tax refund point IN the department store ON THE SAME DAY with your receipts + passport
- Choose a method of repayment (cash or credit card)
- Receive a tax refund slip
- Take it to the airport tax refund counter, scan it (this “stamps” it for you), and just mail the stamped paperwork
It’s an additional step you had to go through but we wanted to take care of all of the shopping in one place. We went to Galeries Lafayette and the crowd + lines were ridiculous. A separate line for the tax refund in the department store is always long, and you have to get the tax refund slip on the same day, so plan in advance! Going on a Sunday afternoon was not the best idea, but if you have no choice but to shop on a busy day like we did, shop smart by making a list of specific items you plan to buy, screenshot the price in US dollars and compare them in the store.
So, was my hassle worth it?
It was super annoying and stressful but YES. I got myself a belt and a wallet for my boyfriend! Here are my savings:
US: $568.00 (including 8.25% tax)
France: $436.54 (after conversion)
After the VAT refund, the wallet was $383.76 (saved $184.24)
US: $487.125 (including 8.25% tax)
France: $430.39 (after conversion)
After the VAT refund, $378.35 (saved $108.775)
Obviously, you’ll save the most for French goods when in France and that’s why you see my savings on the wallet was greater than on the belt. However, it’s still a better deal to buy any designer goods abroad than in America. If you went to Europe recently and have any tips or fun stories from your trip, I’d love to hear them! Let me know if you have any questions regarding this post. As always, thank you for reading!