France on a limited budget
- the thematic guide to France
on the cheap - getting by on a limited budget
has many reputations; and one of them is that France is not a cheap
In matters of costliness, most
relative. France - like any developed country - is expensive compared
to Latin America, India, or other developing nations. It is cheap
compared to Dubai or Sweden; but compared to most other European
coutries, it is somewhere in the middle.
In reality, there are plenty of things in France
cheaper than in the UK or the Netherlands or Germany or Switzerland,
even cheaper than the USA; and others that are more expensive.
Fresh food tends to be cheaper in France than in
northern countries; but processed food, instant pre-packaged microwave
meals, tinned food and other industrial products are more expensive.
Bread and cakes tend to be more expensive, specially processed sliced
white bread; but sometimes this is because French consumers demand
Admiring the sites needn't cost anything...
and restaurants tend to be cheaper in France than in the UK, notably on
a quality-for-quality basis, though the margin of difference in hotel
prices has narrowed in recent years. And the cost of emergency medical
treatment (a visit to the
doctor or the dentist
minor A&E treatment in a hospital) is far lower than the cost
private treatment in the UK or the USA - and largely reimbursed for
travellers with a European health insurance card, or private insurance.
In the end, the cost of living and
France depends on your lifestyle. If you want to live "à
"à l'américaine" in France, you will pay a
premium; if you follow the
old adage "When in France, do as the French", and avoid expensive
choices, then your euros will go
I afford a holiday in France?
if you can afford a holiday anywhere in Europe, you can afford one in
France, as long as you work within your budget. If in doubt, avoid
expensive hotels and tourist traps, try alternative solutions. If
visiting Paris, check out our budget
tips and Free
For the rest of France, check out our guide to Free tourist
, and to France's
, which are free to visit.
What is the cheapest way to travel
Cheap travel ?
It depends a lot on the kind of travel you are interested in.
Public transport or private transport.
Bus and coach
As regards public transport, the
cheapest way to get round France is now by intercity
Long a creaky state monopoly, intercity bus services were opened up to
competition by Emmanuel Macron back in 2015, and several companies now
operate fast comfortable and cheap services all over France. The most
extensive network is operated by SNCF subsidiary Ouibus
out prices and routes)
with services throughout France and to
neighbouring countries. For more detail, see Coach travel in France
is the low-cost subsidiary of SNCF and also runs some cut-price train
services (including TGVs), though this network is not nearly as
extensive as the bus network. You can book on Oui trains at the lowest
price on the Trainline
website (this site can be used for any train journey, not just Oui
The cheapest domestic flights within France are operated by (you
guessed!) Ryanair and Easyjet. Easyjet
operate French domestic services out of Paris CDG or Orly,
Biarritz , Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon
Basel-Mulhouse (though not all destinations from each) ., Ryanair
operate just a few domestic services in France, for instance
Paris-Beauvais to Béziers, and Brest, Lille,
Nantes and Tours to Marseille. Ryanair also operate flights to several
French airports from Charleroi, just over the border in southern
Belgium. Some other supposedly "low cost" operators run a few cheap
domestic routes in France, but their prices are generally way higher
than those of the two market leaders.
To avoid motorway tolls, check out the no-tolls routes links
on Driving in France
For car sharing (if you speak French) try blablacar.com
an option, and as there are not too many
hitch-hikers on the roads in France nowadays, the chances of getting a
lift are better than they were at one time. But if hitch-hiking, avoid
motorway slip-roads beyond the blue motorway sign, as pedestrians are
not allowed on motorways. You can hitch-hike on motorway rest areas, as
pedestrians are obviously authorised here. Carry a destination plaque
(for instance Toulouse) to show where you're headed and maybe a small
country flag on your backpack.
Cycling and hiking
Check out Cycling
Accommodation : alternative
solutions to expensive hotels
Well of course, there are cheap hotels
(not always much fun for a stay
of more than one or two nights); among the cheapest chains are Formule
1 and Première Classe
slightly more up-market are comes the Ibis budget
chain, then there are the mid market economy chains such as
B&B hotels Ibis
But if you are planning a long stay (a week or
two) how about trying a gite
(a holiday cottage)
, or B&B
Gites come in all shapes and sizes, but it is often possible to find a
gite for a week at less than the cost of an economy hotel room for a
week. Gites and B&Bs are plentiful in France.
and backpacker accommodation in France
For students and backpackers, there is also hostel
in most French cities; there are a number of organisations running city
hostels. The French youth hostel association FUAJ
one of these.
are the cheapest places in
Generally speaking, anywhere but Paris and the Riviera. But even Paris
need not be too expensive if you prepare your holiday carefully, book
your hotel on the internet
and follow the advice on our budget
tips and Free
That being said, rural areas are
cheaper than the seaside, and cheaper than big towns and cities. Among
regions of France are Auvergne
These are very attractive regions with hills and mountains, and regions
that are underrated in tourist terms. Auvergne was ranked as one of the
top six regions in the world to visit by Lonely Planet in
For more details on all regions,
see the About-France.com guide to
the regions of France
In north-eastern France, the regions of Lorraine
to be the cheapest of all for holidaymakers.
do you make your euros go further ?
in advance! In warm weather, picnic for your midday meal, but
stock up from the local "boulangerie" or supermarket before you set out
on a day's trip, so that you don't have to rely on roadside
garage-shops or cafés. As well as saving money, you will get
a lot more
choice for your midday meal. In hot weather, instead of stopping for an
ice-cream or a drink in a café, stop at a supermarket and
buy a box of
ice-creams or a big bottle of cold drink, then stop by the wayside. A
box of four icecreams from the deep-freeze counter in a supermarket can
cost less than just a single identical ice-creas in a café;
and you can
buy a litre and a half of coke in a supermarket for less than a 25
centiliter glass in a café.
As for eating out, look for unassuming places, and places
from the main tourist traps. You'll probably eat better and for less.
If you eat a meal midday, Chinese restaurants often offer good value,
and well-balanced meals too.
is the best time to visit France?
if you're not bound by children, May, June and September are best, as
you can usually get better rates in hotels and holiday rentals
the tourist attractions such as Mont Saint Michel (right) are less
crowded. Avoid the French
periods, and check out the least busy holiday weeks
But take care: some attractions do
not open, or open for shorter hours, outside the main tourist months.
value in France
Follow these links and make your holiday money go further in France
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