A Travellerspoint blog

Budget France - It does exist

We consider France a budget destination. Here are a few tips.


View Dordogne and Occitanie & Around France and through Switzerland 1998 & Provence 2014 & Pays de la Loire & Around France with Jean 2000 on Beausoleil's travel map.

Aix-en-Provence street market at Place Richelme

Aix-en-Provence street market at Place Richelme


France does not have to be expensive. We started on a budget and enjoyed it so much that we just continued our low-priced practices. Here are some of the things we do to save money. It is also a great way to meet the local people and get a taste of French life.

Downtown Barr in Alsace

Downtown Barr in Alsace

Accommodation: For hotels, try regional ones instead of international brand names. We use the Logis de France chain of small family-owned hotels. They come in all price ranges and are clean, comfortable and friendly. The Logis de France are not just hotels, but also have excellent restaurants. However, the meals can cost more than the rooms. We have our main meal there if we're there in time for lunch but not in the evening at higher prices. Food will be good but you pay for what you get . . . to paraphrase. They also have half board and full board options which can be nice if you are not near any towns. Logis de France English web site

If you can base yourself somewhere for a week, Gites de France are rental apartments or houses in rural areas and small towns that are often incredibly cheap. You have the option of doing your own cooking and that saves a lot of money if you don't mind cooking. We usually do cold cereal in the morning and bread, cheese, fruit and wine in the evening. We eat out at noon because we're usually touring someplace far from the house. If you are in a group, Gites are often a fantastic bargain. We recently rented an entire small château for under 500 euros for an entire week. We had three bedrooms, a huge kitchen, two separate living areas, two full baths and a WC along with a full dining area, tv, foosball and billiards. Try doing that in a hotel! Gites de France English-language web site

*****

Restaurant Le St. Andre in Bonnieux

Restaurant Le St. Andre in Bonnieux

Restaurants: You don't have to eat in expensive restaurants. Have a typical French breakfast of croissant and coffee at a small cafe or bar, eat dinner at noon when it's cheaper and have bread, cheese and fruit for dinner in the evening. We call it a French picnic and love it. Bakeries and pastry shops have take-out style foods that are excellent and inexpensive and supermarkets have deli sections that are cheap and good. Stay away from major tourist areas because they tend to be more expensive. If you are in a tourist area, walk a few blocks from the main attraction and prices will go down. Contact the local tourist bureau and ask for help finding budget food and lodging. They know where to send you. One trick we use is to ask local folks where they eat. Do not ask where they recommend you eat because they will send you to the nearest tourist restaurant. Ask them where they actually eat. It will be good food and reasonable prices and very friendly. This has never failed us and we've found some really nice restaurants this way.

*****

Leased Peugeot parked in Domme

Leased Peugeot parked in Domme

Transportation: We usually stay a month or more so we lease a car. We get a brand new car, fully insured with 24-hour roadside assistance all paid before we leave home. If you want to save money here, get a manual transmission. If you will be in a city most of the time, don't get a car at all. They are an expensive nuisance in a city. Check public transportation options because most cities have good transportation and often excellent bargains on day or week passes. Check those passes carefully though because some of them are actually more expensive than simply buying a ticket for each trip. Be very wary of tour companies and passes. It's usually much cheaper to go directly to the city transport web site for their passes. Here is more information on leasing a car in France: Leasing a Car in France by Beausoleil

Other options are car rental, bus and trains. With car rental, order ahead and do your research. We've used Kemwel, AutoEurope and a couple others. Check age limits both young and old and be sure you are insured for all the countries you will visit with that car. Sometimes, it's easier to rent a car in each country and take the train or bus between countries. Here is more information on renting a car in France: Renting a Car in France by Beausoleil

*****

Leaving Strasbourg for Paris

Leaving Strasbourg for Paris

Trains in France are prompt, clean and safe . . . although they do have strikes fairly often. It's good to keep up with the news and have a Plan B. We once planned a trip to Paris that involved a lot of day trips by train and were met with the longest train strike in French history (up to that time). They didn't strike all the trains on any one day so by following the news, we were able to plan around it. When using trains, keep in mind that the slower local and regional trains are much less expensive than the high-speed TGV trains. We always use the regional trains when we can. If you do use the TGV, book well ahead to save money. You might also look at the Ouigo trains that run with the TGV. They are very inexpensive and don't go everyplace, but if they are going where you want to go, it is a real bargain . . . and fast. Ouigo Train web site For general information on trains in France, here is a great web site: The Man in Seat 61 web site

*****

Bus stop 23 at the Nice Intl. Airport

Bus stop 23 at the Nice Intl. Airport

If you're planning to use the bus, keep in mind that each French region has its own bus service and they do not coordinate. This makes connecting and scheduling a bit difficult. If you are staying within one region, it's not a problem. There are some pan-European bus services now that cross regional borders and they may be worth a check. We haven't used buses except very locally so I can't help there. The local buses are usually a great bargain especially in Provence.

As far as flying, we avoid it whenever possible. There are budget airlines and if you are going a great distance, it may make sense. The generally accepted rule is that if the trip is five hours or less by train, take the train. Longer than five hours, take the plane. You have to factor in the time it takes to get to the outlying airports used by the budget airlines, cost to get to that airport, going through security and the general aggravation of flying. I would much rather take the time to enjoy a pleasant trip on the train and see the scenery than go through the process of flying.

*****

AutoRoute Toll Booth

AutoRoute Toll Booth

When you are driving, avoid the AutoRoute where it has tolls which is most of France. The smaller National and District roads, designated by signs starting with N or D, are very nice roads and do not have tolls. We actually prefer them because they go through the quaint towns and villages along the way where you will find reasonably priced and excellent restaurants. The AutoRoute has restaurants but they cost more than the food they serve is worth . . . at least to us. To get an idea of the cost of tolls or the lack of tolls, go to the Google or Michelin web sites and ask directions between two points. The web sites will give you routing and cost involved. Here are the two web sites. If you right click and choose to open in a new tab or a new window, you can check the map web site and close it and you will be right back here where you started. Google Map web site and Michelin Map web site

Here is some more information about roads in France: What are the different roads like by Beausoleil

Clisson from Château de Clisson

Clisson from Château de Clisson


Everyone says they want to avoid tourists and meet the locals, traveling on a budget does just that . . . and saves quite a bit of money in the process.

Here is some more information about Logis de France: Blog entry Stay Where the French Stay by Beausoleil

Here is some more information about Gites de France: Blog entry Rent a Gite de France by Beausoleil

Posted by Beausoleil 10:42 Archived in France Tagged hotels markets france rentals apartments restaurants budget money

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Comments

I love this blog you've set up Sally. Such helpful info! I've added it to the External Links section of the France guide article.

by Peter

We have stayed in Gites de France very happily in the past.

by ADAMYAMEY

"One trick we use is to ask local folks where they eat." Sound advice!

by ADAMYAMEY

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