The Eiffel Tower, the Sandy beaches of Saint Tropez, amazing wine, and tasty cheese… These are just some of the things that put France on the top of the bucket list for a lot of travelers. However, there are also a lot of them that don’t visit thinking that France is too expensive. Of course, France isn’t Cambodia or Vietnam price-wise and is among other things, famous for the luxurious hotels and fancy restaurants. Especially the capital, Paris, has the reputation of one of the most expensive cities in the world.
However, there are some ultimate tips and tricks that can certainly save you a lot of money and help you visit France on a budget. Let’s begin:
Finding Cheap Flights To France
If you want to visit France on a budget, the first thing you’ll need to figure out is your flight. It’s like finding the perfect moment to tell a joke – it’s all in the timing. Aim for the shoulder seasons – spring and fall – when the crowds thin out, and the airlines drop prices like hot potatoes. Summer in France is like a blockbuster movie premiere – everyone wants to be there, and they’re willing to pay top dollar for it.
Next, embrace the art of the layover. Direct flights are like front-row concert tickets – nice but pricey. Flights with a stop or two can significantly cut costs. Think of it as a bonus mini-adventure – a sneak peek at another destination before you hit the main event.
Don’t shy away from budget airlines. Sure, they might charge you for breathing too loudly, but they can offer some seriously wallet-friendly options. Just be sure to read the fine print – you don’t want to end up paying a fortune for your luggage. It’s like going to a fancy restaurant and realizing they charge extra for the ambiance.
Visiting During The Shoulder Season
If you want to visit France on a budget, you should seriously consider the shoulder season. Firstly, the weather is like Goldilocks’ porridge – not too hot, not too cold, just right. You get to enjoy the blooms of spring or the golden hues of fall without the extreme weather of the peak seasons. It’s perfect for leisurely strolls along the Seine or through the lavender fields without the risk of turning into a human popsicle or melting like a Camembert in the sun.
Secondly, the prices! Accommodation rates take a nosedive compared to the peak season. It’s like the hotel prices are on a post-holiday diet – slim and much more attractive. Plus, with fewer tourists around, you won’t have to elbow your way through crowds or queue for hours at popular attractions like the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower.
But wait, there’s more! The shoulder season is also when you can experience France like a local. The cafes are less crowded, giving you a chance to enjoy your café au lait in peace. The parks are serene, perfect for people-watching or a picnic with some locally sourced cheese and wine.
Cheap Accommodation In France
As I said, France has a lot of famous luxurious hotels but these probably won’t be your go-to option if you’re planning to visit France on a budget. Instead, we’ll discuss the myriad of different low-cost lodging options France has to offer. Some of them are:
Gîtes de France features listings of different types of low-cost accommodations in France. Most of these are how the French call them; Chambres d’hotes, which is an equivalent to bed and breakfast. Some of these allow visitors to rent an apartment or a house and this also allows you to save a few extra bucks cooking for yourself.
Logis is a network of 2,000+ hotel-restaurants in France. The places which are part of this network are mostly small inns and they are relatively cheap. However, most of these are located in small cities and villages. If you’re a food lover, this is a great way to experience the amazing French cuisine, as most of the facilities have meals included.
Want to learn more about traditional food? Check out my list of the best food destinations in Europe.
Bienvenue à la Ferme is a program supported by the French government that allows travelers to stay at farms. There are different accommodation options, ranging from no-electricity camping to bed and breakfast arrangements. This is also a great option for food lovers. You will be able to have a homemade meal with fresh ingredients from their own farms.
Hostels and Couchsurfing is always a great option to save a few bucks and meet a lot of new friends and let’s not forget about house swapping where you swap your house with holidaymakers from the country you’re visiting.
Cheap Transportation In France
France has a superb infrastructure and a very well-connected rail line and this is good news for all backpackers who wants to visit France on a budget. Therefore, there are a lot of ways for budget travelers to save money when traveling around the country.
Buses are also a cheap and convenient alternative. France’s bus system is very extensive and there’s practically no place that can’t be reached by bus, whether local or regional. If you’re planning to visit more places in France, buses are a good option as you can get tickets for short duration bus rides only for a few Euros. However, like it’s always the case: when something is so extensive, it can be a bit complicated to understand. So make sure you plan ahead and make sure you check the schedule for the local bus system.
Rail passes are, in my opinion, the way to go for longer trips. You can buy a month’s pass for $202 USD and travel wherever you want and if you’re 27 or younger you can get a 20% discount. This ticket also includes a discount on ferry crossings from Cherbourg to Rosslare (Ireland). You can also use the ticket to go to Mannheim, Nurnberg, and Prague. The rail pass is obviously a good choice if you want to thoroughly explore France and are planning to stay longer.
But if you’re thinking about just covering a few cities and taking a couple of one-day trips around these big cities don’t go for it. However, if you want to travel deeper, from the lavender fields, through the Alps, to the charming small villages, the rail pass is the way to go.
If you’re on a tight schedule and just want to visit a few touristy places, the best way to go is by flight. For domestic flights, the best discount airlines are Ryanair and EasyJet. Surprisingly, oftentimes the fairs provided by these companies can be even cheaper than a train ticket. However, don’t forget about the big airlines either.
For example, I just came across Qatar Airways’s Discover the World at a low price program that has flights around the world some of which are even cheaper than the price offered by budget airlines! If you’re looking for a cheap flight to or from France, make sure to check it out. On the other hand, if you’re traveling around France via train, you can get some good deals on Trainline.
Finally, if you’re thinking of renting a car in France, use this link and save up to 30% on a car rental for your upcoming trip.
Cheap Dining In France
The cuisine is certainly one of the main reasons to visit France, a country that’s known for being the gourmand’s paradise. France is home to some of the world’s finest chefs and French restaurants are famous throughout the world. However, the refined meals served in some of these restaurants are normally accompanied by an exorbitant check. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t experience the French cuisine if you’re on a budget.
Let’s start with breakfast. Boulangerie (bakery) and patisserie (pastry shop) are part not only of the typical French’s day but they’re also part of French culture. Get ready for displays that are a feast for the eyes and taste even better than they look. The typical breakfast of croissant/bakery and a coffee will cost you around 5-6 euros. Another option for cheap morning meals are the local markets, where you can find a variety of locally-grown, fresh fruits.
For the rest of the day, you can combine a large meal with a couple of snacks. If the locals can do it, so can you. If you want to eat in a fancy restaurant, I suggest you go there for lunch instead of dinner. The reason: to avoid the tourist rush. Also, consider a picnic. It’s a great way to have a decent meal with less than 10 Euros. It’s really cheap if you buy all of the ingredients from the market and there’s nothing like a picnic along the Seine…
Always Ask For Prix Fixe Menu
Another tip for people who want to visit France on a budget is to always ask for a prix fixe menu. Prix Fixe provides a mix of starters, main dishes, and desserts for a fixed price. This is always much cheaper than ordering a la carte, or off the menu. And don’t miss on the house wine, which might be cheap but the quality is just as good as bottled wines in most countries. A glass of this type of wine will cost you even less than ordering a Coke. Needless to say, there’s a house wine for practically every meal you can imagine.
Visit France on a budget: Sightseeing
If you’re in one of the big cities, get a 2 or 3-day Pass which will allow you to use public transport for free. Another benefit of the pass is the free entry to the museums and tourist sights. You can buy the passes at the local tourist offices and even in some hotels. France also has a lot of stunning cathedrals and the best part is: most of them are entry-free which is again, great for people who plan to visit France on a budget. If you’re not spending a lot of time in a city, going on a sightseeing tour that covers most of the city highlights might be a good idea.
You might still think that France is an expensive country but there are actually a lot of bargains you can get in France. The first thing that comes to my mind is the open-air daily markets. You can find these in every city and small town. Go out there, explore the markets, buy some fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, staples of bread and have a picnic. A lot of locals do that too.
Almost every city has a brocantes or a flea-market. These are vibrant, colorful places where you can find a lot of cheap souvenirs and authentic unusual gifts. The most famous brocante in the country are probably the ones at Lille and the island city: L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
Just like every European country, France has a lot of free walking tours in most popular tourist destinations. Aix en Provence, Lille, Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux, Beziers, Nimes, Montpellier, Strasbourg, Paris. All of these places have free walking tours covering the most popular local sights. I know you might think that most of these cities are expensive, especially during the spring and summer but like I mentioned traveling on a budget is completely possible. One good example of that is this article with cheap things to do in Nice and this one featuring some hidden gems in Paris, which are, by the way, two of the most expensive cities in the whole country.
Related: How to visit Paris in a day
Free Walking Tours In France
This guide to visiting France on a budget couldn’t be complete without mentioning a few popular free walking tours across the country.
- Sandemans New Europe offers a classic free walking tour that meanders through the heart of Paris, taking you to landmarks like Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Seine River.
- Free Tour Lyon will take you through the hidden traboules (passageways) and the vibrant Vieux Lyon (Old Town).
- Riviera Bar Crawl & Tours offers a glimpse into the blend of French and Italian influences, the famous Promenade des Anglais, and the charming Old Town.
- Free walking tours in Bordeaux, like the one from Bordeaux Free Tour, will take you through the neoclassical quays of the Garonne River and the bustling Saint-Pierre district.
- The Marseille Free Walking Tour leads you through the vibrant Vieux Port, the historic Panier district, and offer views of the iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde.
France Travel Costs
Exploring France on a budget is like savoring a fine wine – it’s all about quality, not quantity. Let’s uncork the costs and see how you can experience the charm of France without your wallet waving the white flag of surrender.
- Accommodation: Hostels can range from €20-€40 per night for a dorm bed, offering a mix of affordability and a chance to meet fellow travelers. Budget hotels and guesthouses hover around €60-€100 per night.
- Transportation: Train travel, especially on the high-speed TGV, can be pricey, with tickets ranging from €30-€100. Regional trains are more budget-friendly. Buses are the wallet’s best friend, with companies like Ouibus and Flixbus offering fares as low as €5-€20.
- Food: A simple baguette sandwich or crêpe can cost about €3-€7. Casual bistros offer plat du jour (meal of the day) for around €10-€15. And don’t forget the local markets – they’re a goldmine for fresh, affordable produce.
- Sightseeing: Many of its marvels, like Notre-Dame (pre-fire) and the Champs-Élysées, are free to explore. Museum entry fees range from €10-€15, but look out for free entry days.
- Miscellaneous: Set aside a little for those oh-la-la moments – like a fancy pastry or a glass of Bordeaux. About €10-€20 per day should cover those little splurges that make the trip memorable.
A Few More Money-Saving Tips
- Drink wine– In France, wine is literally cheaper than water. Don’t stop drinking water but choose wine over any other alcohol. You can get a decent bottle of wine at the market for as low as 3 EUR.
- Pre-drink before going out– French bars are ridiculously overpriced, especially in the metropolitan cities like Paris. You can save a lot of money on drinks by drinking some wine before going out.
- Use the benefits of being under 27 –France has an array of extensive discounts for young people under the age of 27. This is applicable to train tickets, museum passes and a lot of other things.
- Save in café bars – having a quick drink and a snack while standing at the counter/bar will also help decrease your bill.
- Search for group tours– you can find a lot of group tours where you will travel with strangers but it’s going to be much cheaper than traveling alone. One good example is the Best hop on hop off Paris tour.
- Find free things to do- from street art attractions to historic sights and fascinating museums, there are a lot of free things to do in most big French cities. Just do your research before you go and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of interesting free or cheap activities.
France is everything that people say it is- and much more. The rich history, castles, the amazing architecture, the charming villages, the mesmerizing Alps, the culture in the metropolitan cities… All these make France one of the most beautiful countries in the world. And the French people aren’t at all arrogant as people normally assume they are.
However, keep in mind that it can be quite difficult to fully experience France on a super tight budget even if you’re applying all these tips. Have some extra Euros in your pocket when visiting so you can see the best France has to offer.
Helpful Resources For Visiting France On A Budget
Get the cheapest flights to France using this Qatar Airways special offer. Yes, this is an affiliate link, but the flights are so affordable, even I use it when booking my flights.
For the best travel insurance deals for your trip to France, I always choose and recommend SafetyWing.
If you want to rent a car in France, this AutoEurope coupon gets you 15% off on all car rentals.
And last but not least, if you want to save on all booking.com rentals in France, use my discount code. Alternatively, if you want to stay in some of the nicest hotels in France, use this special offer to get you great discounts on all Radisson hotels in France.
Have you ever visited France? Do you think this article gave you some good tips on how to visit France on a budget? Let me know in the comments!
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