I recently celebrated a milestone birthday with a BFF in France. It was her first time to Europe and I wanted her to enjoy it. I’m familiar with Paris and Southern France so I decided to plan out a week of sightseeing. Since her flight kind of hammered her pockets, my challenge was now getting us to see as much as we can in the cities we were interested in for as little as possible. With a lot of research time on Google and help from some very useful travel apps, I was able to plan out a budgeted trip that ended up being one of my best birthday trips to date.
I shared some photos from our trip in a travel group on FB and group members along with other personal friends have requested information on my itinerary, accommodation and sightseeing. Subsequently, I thought if they’d want this information why not do it on a blog post for others who may benefit from it too. So, here is the info as I promised ladies and for you too, Reader.
***all prices in USD ($) are approximations
Accommodation: Fortunately, I have a cousin who lives in Paris so we stayed with him during our 3 days in Paris. So, I Googled some B&B’s within the area and found one right next to the tram that takes you to the metro station (Chatillon-Montrouge.) It’s called B&B Hôtel PARIS Châtillon . We went in mid April and the prices for a room were about €60/night (Approximately $70.) Split that between two persons, that’s €30 ($35) each. You can also search for hostels and use AirBnB as well to find something within your budget and within the area of Paris that works best for you. The center of Paris can be quite congested and hotels can be pricey. I liked the fact that he lived in the south of Paris on the outskirts in a town call Chatillon which was easily accessible by metro. By Metro, Chatillon is about 25 minutes from the center of Paris.
Travel and SightSeeing: In Paris, just like many major cities, metro, bus and trams make it easy to get around. We purchased a Zone 1-3, 3-day metro pass for €25 ($28) which covered metro, tram and bus. The night before we did our sightseeing, we Googled the most popular sites in Paris and then listed which sites we wanted to see. Then, using the Paris map we downloaded from HERE Maps App along with the Paris Metro App, we were able to make a simple 3-day sightseeing itinerary with about 5-6 sites a day based on how close the sights were to each other. We then located the metro stations closest to each sight and used the Paris Metro App to get there. The good thing about the HERE Maps App is that it has an offline GPS locator so we could navigate the areas we were in even better. If you manage your time you could visit these sites in less than 3 days. Now for us to save money, we chose not to go into certain sites that charged. The only sight we paid to go into was the Effiel Tower which was like €17 ($20) to go to the top. Here is an itinerary of the sightseeing we did in Paris:
Start point: Take Metro from Chatillon-Montrouge to Concorde
Place De Concorde
Jardin de Tuileries
Le Palais Royale
Start point: Take Metro from Chatillon-Montrouge to Rambuteau
Le Centre Pompidou
Hotel de Ville (take metro from Ramuteau to Hotel de Ville)
Île de la Cité (walk from Hotel de Ville to Île de la Cité over bridge.)
Le Jardin de Luxembourg
Take Metro from Chatillon-Montrouge to Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel
Arc de Triomphe
Food: We did food shopping at local supermarkets. Some popular ones are Carrefour, Monoprix, LeaderPrice and Lidel. With B&Bs sometimes breakfast is covered and sometimes you have to pay. The good thing with accommodation on AirBnB is that you can try to get a place with a refrigerator and stove or microwave, do food shopping locally and make your own food if you’re on a tight budget like we were. During our sightseeing we’d pick up food from popular food chains, supermarkets and other places where we could purchase a meal for no more than €15.
We decided to take the train down to Nice in the French Riviera. We took the iDTGV train from Gare de Lyon(train station in Paris accessible by metro) to Nice Ville. We decided to live it up on the train and purchased first class round trip tickets for €150($172). However, I saw tickets as low as €30($35) one way. To get cheap prices on the train tickets I would advise that you purchase well in advance; at least 2 months or more. The train ride was a little over 5 hours.
Accommodation: I initially searched for a place on AirBnB and found places within our budget but my friend wasn’t comfortable with the options and preferred a hotel. She searched on Google and found a budget hotel called Hotel Saint Gothard. We got a room for €60($70)/night. We stayed there for 3 nights. It was definitely a budget hotel but it was in a perfect location! It was literally a 5 minute walk from the train station which eliminated having to get a taxi and it was 2 small blocks away from the tram that took you into the sightseeing parts of Nice. The room was small but it was clean and did the job. I don’t believe in paying an exorbitant amount of money for hotel rooms when I spend the most of my vacation time sightseeing and out of the room anyway. I really just use the room to sleep, shower and dress and for the WiFi.
Travel and Sightseeing: through my Google searching I found a blog called The Best of Nice which offered a lot of info about sightseeing in Nice. As soon as you exit Nice Ville train station there’s an information building in front. There you can get a map of Nice and touring information. So I asked them about daily metro passes and they directed me to Agence Lignes d’Azur Theirs which was across the street from the train station. This is where we were able to get more information on buses around Nice and purchase 2 day passes each at €5/$6 each which served us for the time that we were there. We were also able to get a bus schedule for the Bus 100 to Monaco and they showed us where we could board it.
Since we spent the first 3 days doing a lot of sightseeing in Paris, we slowed it down a bit in Nice. We spent the afternoon of the first day we arrived, which was Thursday, walking along the Promenade de Anglais which is the street near the beach. We took the tram to Place Messena and walked over to the promenade. Friday, we took the tram to Place Messena again and walked over to Vielle Ville/Vieux Nice (which has a huge out door market on Saturday) and then over to The Nice Chateau/Castle Hill where, if you take the elevator or stairs to the top, there are beautiful views of Nice from all sides!
Overall, we got around Nice like we did in Paris.
Food: We had breakfast at the hotel for €6/$7, we purchased food at Monoprix supermarket that wasn’t too far from our hotel, local restaurants and bistros where you can get a meal for €15 or less and a Subway where 6 inch subs were €4/$5.
Accommodation: We didn’t need accommodation because we only spent a day there but I know you can probably find something reasonable on AirBnB if you desire to spend a couple of nights there.
Travel and Sightseeing: I searched the internet for tours to Monaco but the majority of them were over our budget. The Best of Nice blog is where I found out about the local Bus 100 that goes to Monaco for €1.50/$2 with beautiful views along the way. Perfect! You can also take the train from Nice Ville to Monaco which, I believe is a quicker ride, but it’s €9/$10 and it’s an inland ride so you don’t get to see the coastal views. We used the HERE App Nice map and a paper map to find our way to the bus. You have to pay with cash though. You can’t use your metro pass from Nice or from Monaco. The bus ride was about 40 minutes.
We went to Monaco on Saturday. Before we left the hotel we asked the front desk clerk about Monaco and she told us about some sites to visit. She told us to go to Le Jardin Exotique for beautiful views of Nice and beautiful plants from all over the world. We winged the rest of our sightseeing in Monaco. We got off at the Place d’Armes stop, followed some signs, asked some police officers how to get to Le Jardin Exotique and found ourselves at a bus stop where we were able to purchase a day pass for €5/$6. We took the Bus 2 to Le Jardin Exotique and it definitely gorgeous views of Monaco! There was a public toilet outside of the garden and in there a lady had free maps of Monaco with the bus routes and destinations on the back. Perfect! So we used that to find some other sites to visit. We took the same Bus 2 to the opposite direction to La Roche/Monaco Ville where the Palais Princier is located. At this location there is the prince of Monaco’s palace and more beautiful views of Monaco. Afterwards we went down to The Monaco Grand Prix which is also accessible by using Bus 2. The Casino et Salle Garnier is accessible by Bus 1. Monaco is quite small so it’s real easy to navigate the city and see a lot in a short period of time by bus and walking.
Food: We had food remaining from some shopping we did at the supermarket. So I took some food along with us to eat. Since it was the end of the week money was tight but we made it.
Additionally, you can also take the train from Nice Ville to Cannes if you’re interested. Though we wanted to go, we didn’t get a chance to squeeze it into our itinerary. Sunday, we relaxed in the morning, packed our stuff and took the train from Nice Ville back to Paris and left Paris Monday morning.
Excluding airfare, for the entire week (which included accommodation, travel, food and everything else) I spent about €600/$690. With all that we got to see, I thought that was quite good. It would have been even less if we bought regular IDTGV train tickets to Nice instead of First class. Though time consuming, planning everything ourselves really helped us to save money and I believe that you could probably save more than I did! Just remember, Google is your friend! Everything that I have mentioned in this blog post and more can be found by just doing some research on Google. With the help of Google, travel apps and asking locals and fellow travelers, you can travel cities easier, on your own pace and within your budget.
I hope this helps for the next trip you plan. If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask.