Visiting France on a budget: tips and tricks

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 tips and tricks that can certainly save you a lot of money and help you visit France on a budget. Let’s begin:

Cheap Accommodation in France

As I said, France has a lot of famous luxurious hotels but that’s not what we’ll talk about here today. 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.

visit france on a budget

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. You can learn more about this on Love Home Swaps.

Cheap Transportation in France

France has a superb infrastructure and a very well connected rail line. 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.

visit france on a budget

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 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 want to learn more useful tips about train travel in France and Europe, check out this Eurail Pass guide.

France TGV

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 Air France’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.

Visiting France on a budget

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…

Another tip 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. 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. If you’re interested in taking a sightseeing tour in France, use this link and get 10% off.

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.

lille france

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

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.

Visit France on a budget

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 Air France special offer. Yes, this is an affiliate link, but the flights are so affordable, even I use it when booking my flights. If you’re a student, this STA discount code can help you save big on your flight to France and Europe.

For the best travel insurance deals for your trip to France, I always choose and recommend World Nomads.

If you’re looking for some budget-friendly tours in France, I personally recommend Intrepid  tours. Again, I am their affiliate but if you like learning about the country you’re traveling in and going to places not a lot of tourists visit, Intrepid is a great choice.

If you want to rent a car in France, this Sixt 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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21 thoughts on “Visiting France on a budget: tips and tricks”

  1. Ah I love France mainly because the wine is really cheaper than water, and very good too, even the table wine! I agree that its cheap to eat in France. The boulangeries are wonderful, and with so much good quality produce too. I’ve not heard of the logis before, but will check it out the next time I’m back.

    Reply
  2. I have been eyeballing France for a while and just kept putting it off due to price, but these are some great tips that I didn’t even think of. The most interesting to be was the Bienvenue à la Ferme program, which I relate to a WorkAway I suppose. It sounds like an awesome way to meet people, stay for cheap, and eat for cheap too! Also, I’m really loving the fact that wine is cheaper than water heheh.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this budget-friendly guide to France. Many think that going to France is an expensive choice but if we choose to get low-key then there are many choices. The Bienvenue à la Ferme program is something I want to experience! I wish that my country would also promote this kind of concept.

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    • Thank you, Blair. There sure are some budget tips for planning a trip to Frane and I’m glad you could get some useful information from this article.

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  4. I usually stay at my friends or use Couhsurfing whenever I travel. I’m so interested with bienvenue-a-la-ferme as you can stay at a farm! It also gives you a chance to get your own ingredients and cook it. I have always loved France especially Paris but I haven’t tried being so thrifty on this country. This is a good travel article for those with limited budget.

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    • Thank you, Emman. The bienvenue-a-la-ferme is certainly an interesting option that helps you not only to save money and eat fresh organic, food but also learn a lot about the culture in the French countryside.

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  5. I am a fan of budget traveling too. Actually, traveling cheap can not only save your money, but it has some benefits that luxury travel lack. For example- using AirBnB or Couchsurfing can allow you to meet new friends, and to understand better the local culture. If I have to spend more money- only for destinations and routes. Never for hotels or luxury restaurants. And when I go to France in the future, I will try to apply your tips. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

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  6. There are so many amazing places in France beyond Paris. the landscape is so beautiful with mountains , grasslands, sea and great architecture. I completely agree with you on using public transport passes. It helped me a lot on my Europe trip. Thanks for the tips on cheap dining too!

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  7. Wow I didn’t know about the train pass! I will definitely check it out since I would love to visit the Provence as well as Normandie, which are in totally opposite directions. The only thing that I find a bit worrying is that the French love to strike. The last time I was in Paris the SNCF was on strike, complicated things for so many travelers!
    Other than that, I love how you showed people that it’s possible and even easy to travel to expensive destinations on a budget. We did a lot of picnics while in France, with cheap but delicious baguettes and wine 🙂

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    • Thanks for commenting, Aryane! In that case, the train pass will definitely be the way to go for you! Indeed, strikes in France are not uncommon. I remember once I visited Marseille, the city’s public cleaning company was on a strike and the city was filled with garbage. These things do happen unfortunately but I hope it doesn’t happen when you decide to visit.

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  8. With expensive countries like France, it’s always good to know the tricks to save money. Getting a 2 or 3-day sightseeing pass is one of those things I do whenever I travel to any country. Also, France, as you mention, has a very well developed public transportation system such as buses and trains which definitely helps in cutting the budget. Also, the boulangeries and pattisieries are the best places to pick up delicious looking, fresh bread that isn’t expensive either!

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  9. These are some wonderful tips for first timers and travellers to France. Prix fixe menu sounds like the Thalis of India, Dan! I am sure you must have indulged in one on your numerous trips to India. buying passes and going for picnics are indeed great ideas to save money.But, as a traveller, I would like to pamper myself and indulge in some good food at an affordable resto. Overall, a very informative and useful article as usual from you 🙂

    Reply
    • Indeed I have, Meenakshi- I’m a big fan of thalis 😀 indeed there are many was to travel France on a budget while not breaking the bank. That’s why I wrote this article and I’m glad you could get some useful tips out of it

      Reply

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