LIVE LIKE THE LOCALS

Passionate about Paris just like Chris Harrison? On your next visit, consider­ renting a furnished apartment to stretch your travel dollars while enjoying more space and privacy. ­Hotels in central Paris average 200 euros a night (about $235), with extra fees tacked on for taxes, phone calls, and Internet connections, according to Glenn Cooper, owner of Rentals in Paris, an ­apartment-rental company. Besides, he says, "Rooms are often so small, you can barely walk around the bed."

For a stay of a week or more, furnished flats often cost less and come with kitchenettes, laundry facilities, and televisions. Many also include DVD players, local phone service, and high-speed Internet connections. Google "apartment rentals Paris" and you'll find hundreds of choices, ranging from tiny fifth-floor walk-ups for less than $100 a night to lavish antique-filled apartments in chic neighborhoods for $880 a night. Discounts are often available for longer stays and those during the off season.

Families with young children (and small groups traveling together) appreciate an apartment's sleeper sofas and a kitchen that's available 24 hours a day. Business travelers also see the advantages of a home away from home. Andrew Steven, a London-based Microsoft executive, opts for a short-term apartment rental over a hotel whenever Paris business trips run more than a few days. He says he saves an estimated $750 a week on food and lodging. "Even after a long day, it's a pleasure to cook what you want - and mix the drinks the way you prefer," says Steven. Plus, entertaining business colleagues in an apartment is more interesting than meeting them in yet another restaurant or bar. "They really appreciate the difference," he says.

Apartment living means you quickly feel like a Parisian as you get to know the local butcher, baker,­ and café owner. "Every time you go into a bakery to buy a croissant, everyone - including the other shoppers - will say, 'Bonjour,'?" says Steven, who speaks "restaurant and taxi" French. "Throwing in a few mercis and s'il vous plaits makes things quite smooth."

The Internet provides thousands of apartment-agency listings that offer virtual tours of properties and the convenience of e-mailed responses to any questions you might have. Be aware that many of the largest companies are simply brokers who market properties managed by someone else and who may not have intimate knowledge of all their listings, says Adrian Leeds, who runs the online publication French Property Insider. "Look for a boutique agency with a small selection of nice apartments and an agent with firsthand knowledge," she advises. Ask the agent to describe in detail the apartment's location, amenities, and its cancellation and payment policies. Be clear about any extra charges for linens, cleaning, phone, and utilities. Renting directly from an owner is usually cheaper because there's no agency commission, but Leeds cautions that it's a riskier proposition. ("What are you going to do if the hot-water heater breaks and the owner is in the south of France?") - Elizabeth Pope