Like most Americans planning a trip to Europe these days, I spent a good portion of pre-departure time obsessively checking the dollar/euro exchange rate. The news was not good. Record highs for the euro, record declines for the dollar - wasn't it just a few short years ago that our money was worth something? To make matters worse, everyone who knows that you are going to Europe feels the need to tell you how expensive it's going to be. Thanks, but, I'm already on my third monetary nervous breakdown, I don't need your help getting to the fourth.
Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not as bad as you imagine, and not nearly as bad as what everyone tells you. For example, I went to a movie the other day. The ticket cost 7.50 euro, which is roughly 11 dollars and some change. Now, for someone living in certain parts of the US (Minnesota, for example), 11 dollars might seem a bit high. But I live in DC now, where I pay 10 dollars to see a flick at the nothing special Ballston Commons Theater. New Yorkers pay even more, as, I'm sure, do movie goers in other areas. I'm in Paris. Paying one dollar more than usual doesn't seem like such a bad deal. The same is true for other items I've purchased -the prices didn't shock me one bit.
Of course, a nice dinner out might run you a bit high, and you can certainly find expensive items here, but that's really true of anywhere. If you're creative, look for deals like happy hours (they do exist in Paris!), reasonably priced prix fixe dinners, search for good prices at clothing stores, and buy picnic lunches at one of the many Parisian markets, the dollar doesn't seem so pathetic. Maybe I'm living in a fantasy world. After all, I don't have to rent a hotel or take every meal out like most tourists will have to do; those are expensive propositions. I guess I just feel that with a little effort - kind of like the one made by college students all over the world - you can live well without breaking the bank in Paris.
Then again, I just heard that the euro reached another high against the dollar...