If you were to ask people from any nation around the world what their number one country would be that they want to visit, there’s a good chance that it’s going to be France. France, known for its fantastic history, great scenery, and safety for tourists, is a prime destination during all parts of the year.
On the other hand, the French know that tourism plays a massive role in the industry, and as such, are able to nickel and dime visitors. That’s where we come in, though. If you have wanted to visit France but have been put off because of the massive prices that can come with a visit, here are five essential tips for traveling to France on a budget.
Fly into Paris
There isn’t really a wrong place to fly into in France, but there are some airports that stand above the rest for international travelers. Nice Cote d’Azur Airport and Lyon Saint Exupery Airport are fine options, but if you really want to save money, it makes sense to fly to the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. The largest city in France also has the largest airport and by far the most options.
Because of the multitude of options, flying into de Gaulle is fairly cheap. There are about 20 United States cities that fly directly to Paris, ranging from New York to Detroit to Los Angeles. No matter where you are in the country, there should be an airport within driving distance that can take you directly to de Gaulle without needing to stop in New York City, Montreal, or London along the way, all while saving you money.
Avoid the Toll Roads
Here in the United States, we’re used to toll roads which are mostly owned by private companies and offer the fastest way to get across large states on roads that are maintained frequently. We tend to think of other countries not relying on toll roads, but that isn’t the case. France is one of those countries that has a massive amount of toll roads, and they can add up quickly when driving around.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other roads throughout France where you can avoid these tolls. Though you’ll have to drive a few more miles (or kilometers, if you will), you’ll avoid the massive tolls and get more of the French scenery. If there are routes where it would make more sense so that you can save on gas, then it’s best to prepay for a toll pass as the cost will be a fraction of paying at the gate.
In Fact, Skip the Car
The toll roads can be unavoidable if you want to see all of France, but even then, you can skip them completely if you don’t drive at all. One thing that we Americans aren’t really used to is having access to railroads which will quickly take you from one major city to another. Sure, we have railroads, but they can be incredibly expensive and slow. That’s not the case in France where all major cities can be scene cheaply and easily.
Trains are running on a daily basis, and you’ll be shocked at how cheap they are. Paris and Nice are nearly 500 miles away from each other, so you might think that trip would cost over $100. However, it’s barely above $20 and the trip is just under six hours long. That type of value for travel can’t be beaten, so feel free to see all of France for just a few bucks.
Focus on Lunch
Dinnertime is huge for the French, and restaurant prices reflect that. While most of us are used to lunch and dinner prices being about the same for any restaurant picked at random, French dinner prices can be nearly triple the cost. If you want to visit France’s finest restaurants, going in the middle of the day could save you hundreds.
As for the smaller local restaurants, you can spend next to nothing for lunch depending on what you get. If you go for the plats du jour, you’ll get a dish that’s only a few bucks. Other cheap options are the formules and menus, which are two and three-course meals. If you plan on staying, fresh groceries can be bought at markets for cheap, too.
Visit the Vineyards
Let’s face it, one of the reasons why many of us want to visit France is because of the world-class wine. France is home to some of the best wines in the world, and buying them can be a lot of money when purchased on the shelves.
However, if you visit one of the wineries directly, you can save a lot. Even if you aren’t going for the top-rated wine in the world, there are plenty of fantastic vineyards to visit where you can get fine wine without breaking the bank.