France Travel Tips
Wine, Cheese, the Eiffel Tower, snooty waiters – France is famous for a lot of things and is one of my favorite countries in the world. It’s beautiful, has great food, great wine, history, and a carefree atmosphere. There’s nothing like a picnic along the Seine or a day through the French countryside to make life seem beautiful. France is everything that people make it out to be and then some. Its long history lends itself to beautiful ruins, castles, architecture, and culture. Traveling France is a very expensive affair, second only to travel through Italy in mainland Europe. Those on a super tight budget will find it hard (but not impossible thanks to 3 Euro bottles of wine) to experience everything France has to offer. Make sure you go to France with a few extra Euro in your pocket so you can soak in all the food, wine, and beauty you see.
- Accommodation: Dorms rooms will cost about $27-40 USD per night with rooms in Paris being on the upper end. Private rooms in hostels will cost $90 USD or more. Budget hotels begin around $67 USD per night for a double room. Accommodations are cheaper outside Paris, Bordeaux, and the French Riviera.
- Food: Buying your own food in France can be very cheap. There are many bread, cheese, and meat shops around. The market is your friend! It’s common to pick up some ingredients and have a picnic. You can make your own lunch for around $13 USD for two people including wine. Pre-made sandwich at cheap local shops will cost about $5-7 USD. Eating at a restaurant will cost $20-35 USD for a meal including a glass of wine. If you shop for all your food, you can expect to spend around $50-65 USD for a week’s worth of groceries.
- Transportation: The best way to get around France is via the trains. Overnight trains cost the least while the fast TGV lines cost the most. A typical TGV train can cost around $107 USD. City transit systems cost around $1-2 USD per trip.
- Activities: Wine tours cost around $67 USD per day. Most attractions and museum entrance fees cost between $10-20 USD.
Money Saving Tips
- Have a Picnic – Eating out in France, especially in Paris, is an expensive affair. Restaurants can break a day’s budget quickly. Thankfully, there’s nothing more french than a picnic. Head to the local market, buy some wonderful cheese, bread, fruits, and meats and have a picnic and watch people go by. You can have a great meal for less than $10 USD.
- Take the Train – Train travel in Europe is really cheap and it’s the easiest way to get around France. The TGV line (high speed train) can be expensive but if you get the slow train or have a Eurail pass, you’ll save money.
- Drink wine – In France, the wine is cheaper than water. While you shouldn’t skip drinking water, drink wine over other forms of alcohol and save big. A nice bottle can cost as little as 3 USD!
- Shop at the markets – Want great French cuisine? Do what the locals do and head to the outdoor markets. Visit the cheese guy, the fish guy, the breadmaker, and everyone else and get the best local ingredients to make yourself a perfect French meal. It will save you a lot of money from the restaurants.
- Pre-game your night out – Drinking in bars cis incredibly overpriced, especially in Paris. Drink cheap wine before you go out and save on drinks a the bars.
- Skip the Clubs – Clubs in France are expensive and charge an entrance fee around $27 USD. Drinks cost $13 USD or more. If you don’t want to spend a $100 USD in one night, skip the clubs.
- Couchsurf – On of the best ways to save money is to stay with locals via the service Couchsurfing. The service connects locals with travelers who need a place to stay. It’s a service I’ve used many, many times. It’s also a cool way to get introduced to locals.
Top Things to See and Do
- Paris - Paris has everything – the Louvre, impressionist museums, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, parks, clubs, culture, and great food. This list goes on and on. Paris is especially good for people who love art and food as the city has a long rich history with both. (Enjoy all the amazing pastries!) It’s as magical as people say and, while it would take a lifetime to really see it all, four or five days gives you a good idea. This is one of my favorite cities in the world and I always find something new when I am here. Take your time, drink some wine, and enjoy the city of lights. Read More: Here is a sample itinerary for 5 days in Paris.
- The D-Day beaches, Normandy - Learn about the WWII Allied forces D-Day landings along the beaches of northern France. There are memorials and museums detailing the history of the event. You can still see some of the old bunkers and fortifications.
- The Palace of Versailles - Located very close to Paris, the old palace of the French kings was built by Louis the 14th. This palace was constructed during the height of French power and seeks to show off the tremendous wealth of Louis. It’s as awe inspiring today as it was back then. It was used by the French Kings until the French Revolution in 1789. See More: Check out this video tour of the Palace of Versailles.
- Explore the Loire Valley – The Loire is one of the loveliest places in the world with with tons of vineyards and chateaus. You will find some of the best wine in the world, beautiful small towns, and great food. It’s an area not to be missed.
- Drink Wine in Bordeaux – Some of the best wine in the world is made here. It’s an expensive destination and not for someone on a tight budget but it’s beautiful and worth all the Euro you will spend! Bordeaux has one of the longest shopping streets in Europe, amazing seafood (eat at Le Petit Commerce), is close to the ocean, and, of course, the wine. It’s a magnificent place to upscale your backpacking trip. Next to Paris, it’s my favorite place in France.
- Hang out in Nice – They say Nice is nice but you’ll have to find out exactly how nice it is on your own. This seaside town in the south is a popular destination for budget travelers wanting to soak up some sun in Southern France but might not be able to afford expensive Cannes or Monaco. The beach here isn’t that great bit the central location makes it easy to explore the rest of the coast (and its better beaches).
- Explore history in Lyon – The area around Lyon has wonderful castles and small villages. It’s great for those looking to explore the French countryside. If you want a look at medieval France, this is where you should go. The whole place is a UNESCO World Heritage site and truly feels like you have stepped back into the past.
- Hob nob with the rich in Monaco – This tiny kingdom is home to tiny streets, beautiful buildings, a world famous casino, and gigantic modern yachts. Hang out with the well heeled of society who flock to the Cote D’Azur from other parts of France during the summer.
- Visit St. Tropez – If life in Marseilles is too mundane for you, catch a boat out to St. Tropez and relax in beautiful hillside towns, swim in azure blue water, and bump shoulders with the rich and famous.
- See Alsace – This northeast region of France is a beautiful place to visit. Colmar is an old town, and the main attraction. Some of the buildings date back to the 1300s.
- Parc de la Villette – This park is host to a science museum and some other odd attractions. There is a large collection of architectural follies, theme gardens, and open space for activity and exploration. It was designed for children as well as adults and is a neat place to check out.
For more information, scroll up and click on the city guides for even more money saving tips, prices, and things to see and do in each city.