Home of the Monte Carlo Casino, F1 Grand Prix and ports with luxurious yachts frequented by the rich and famous, I barely spent any money here aside from the day pass for the city bus and a cup of coffee while going around the opulent casino. Oh, and I had a cheap burger meal at McDonald’s!
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Be inspired by Cannes’ quirky artsy spirit painted in the entire town. Since you’re in the wine and Champagne country, it’s a sin not to have a sip. Opposite the Cannes theatre where the world-renowned film festival happens is a strip of bars with good ‘happy hour’ deals. If you’re a foodie and dining in Michelin star restaurants is your thing, head to the old town for a few options with set menu that are fairly priced.
Posh, fancy, luxurious, ostentatious, expensive – these are the adjectives typically used by tourists to describe a holiday in France and Monaco. While partly true, it didn’t discourage me to plan a visit. Instead, I wore my creative travel-planning hat to find ways around the seemingly impossible mission of experiencing the countries’ beauty without breaking the bank.
After 9 days of hopping around Paris, Nice, Cannes and Monaco, happy to break the news that the ‘cheap and cheerful’ travel mantra can work for these regal destinations too! Interested to know how? Here are my top tips and snaps to get you travelling vicariously while planning your real visit.
1. BOOK ‘ON PROMO’ AND ‘OFF PEAK’ AIR TICKETS.
Dubai is a travel hub hosting lots of airlines. These carriers strongly compete and provide customers with tons of fare or service-based promotions that are of great value. Take advantage of these and book your flight to Nice or Paris if they are ‘on sale’ (discounts range from 10% to 40%) with ‘after summer’ (starting mid-September) travel dates. My friends booked theirs through Emirates Airline’s promo 3 months in advance.
2. STAY IN HOSTELS AND APARTMENTS OR COUCH SURF.
Reality check – ‘beggars can’t be choosers’, so if you can’t afford to splurge and your intention is to see the cities’ attractions, culture and people, then sacrifice on your temporary bed. We stayed in a combination of hostels and apartments, which we’ve researched and booked through hostelworld.com and Airbnb. You may want to consider Vintage Hostel Gare du Nord for Paris and ACCI Cannes Palais for Cannes. I also used to couch surf and won new local friends and stayed in their places for free!
3. TAKE INTER-CITY TRAINS AND PUBLIC TRANSPORT. WALK A LOT.
Europe’s railway system is one of most efficient in the world. Using Nice as starting point, the train ride to Monaco took only 20 minutes and 40 minutes to Cannes. Taking the bus is even cheaper with amazing scenic views but will take twice the time. When going around town, simply walk and admire the sights and sounds. Have fun figuring out and getting lost on their metro and tram system routes. Get a day pass instead of paying per trip, as you’ll save more. Never take the normal taxis, use Uber instead if you really have to and you’re in a group that can split the bill.
4. JOIN FREE WALKING TOURS.
To orient yourself and have an overview about the city’s basics, join a free walking tour once you arrive. The legit and passionate freelance guides operate on a ‘tip basis’ after the 2-hour walkabout. For Nice, find details at rivierabarcrawl.com while neweuropetours.eu/paris for Paris.
5. GO FOR FREE ATTRACTIONS AND EXPERIENCES.
You don’t have to pay for all museums and tourist spots’ entrance fees to appreciate them. And there are tons of free off the beaten path gems tucked away that are worth your while. Here are my recommendations.
Tour the world’s second smallest country, Monaco in one day. See its drone view through Jardin Exotique where every corner is simply picturesque.
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Of course, Paris won’t be complete without the Eiffel Tower. Instead of paying and battling the long queue to go up and dine at the expensive restaurant, watch its full glory from a distance. Chill and do your own picnic at the wide park in front of it, people watch, take photos, see street performers.
If you’ll follow all my suggestions, you’ll share the badge of conquering France and Monaco while travelling the ‘el cheapo’ way. Not to mention that with this style, after a couple more months of saving, you can conveniently jet set to the next country that you wish to tick off from your wanderlust list.
Keep exploring and happy travels!
'CHEAP AND CHEERFUL'
FRANCE AND MONACO - MADE POSSIBLE