France Travel Guide
France is considered one of the top destinations in Europe and usually a must-see country on any bucket list. And while the French are doing their best to make the country even more comfortable for travelers, it has a lot of historic sites, stunning coastlines and picturesque chateaus to check out right away. France is home to Montmartre hill, the Cannes Film Festival, the Eiffel Tower and of course a magnificent city of Paris. While the seniors may grumble that the wine was far better when it was produced by small rural vineyards, you shouldn’t believe it, French wines are still among the best in the world. With the French croissants are appetizing, the cheese is delicious, the Eiffel Tower is still a popular rendezvous spot for lovers. The cultural and culinary splendor of France is flanked by a wonderful variety of landscapes and architectural masterpieces like Chartres Cathedral, Reims Cathedral, Mont Saint-Michel abbey and historic spots of Strasbourg and Lyon. With the streets full of stylish and charming girls, France is a leading country in the fashion design industry. Entertainment in France is as diverse and vibrant as its city are. Cote d’Azur attracts travelers with excellent beaches, the Alps are famous for great skiing and hiking trails. While each province has its unique cuisine with lots of cozy restaurants, the food in France, as well as any other thing, is quite expensive. With so many things to see and to do in France it would be really hard to get it all on a tight budget. If you’re going to backpack in France it would be wise to save some extra money before you go and get the most out of your France trip.
There is no problem with finding a decent accommodation in France. With lots of options available, the period from July to August is the time for summer holiday in France so book your accommodation in advance. There are hundreds of youth hostels (auberges de jeunesse) in all major cities and at many resorts. Dormitory rooms cost between 19-35 EUR per night, depending on hostel location. Private rooms in hostels will range from 63-80 EUR per night. Expect to pay around 43-85 EUR per night for a room in a budget hotel. They usually provide TV set, heating and free WiFi. Some rooms have shared bathroom facilities while others include a shower. Airbnb is great in France allowing you to keep a little bit more money in your pocket. With the lowest rates at 25 EUR for shared room, and 50 EUR for a studio apartment. Campsites run between 10-17 EUR per person depending on the region and camping level. In remote areas like Alps and Pyrenees, there are mountain huts or refuges (gites d’etape), accommodating mostly cyclists, skiers and hikers. These come for around 20-45 EUR per night. Most of mountain huts are only available through the summer months, from June to September.
While eating out in France is quite expensive in general, there are several ways to cut your food expenses. Restaurants usually display their menus outside, so it’s quite easy to control your budget. Most eateries offer a cheaper lunchtime menu. In tourist areas there is always a chance to grab some snacks. Since boulangeries (local bakeries) offer premade sandwiches, croissants and pastry, snacks here will set you back 5-8 EUR. Stick to local open air market to get cheap and fresh food. Do as the locals do! There is no better way (for a backpacker) to experience the French cuisine than to shop in the market. On the other hand, restaurant meals will cost about 25-50 EUR average. Fast food will be much cheaper with prices around 10 EUR for a combo meal.
Getting Around France
France has an extensive railway network. The fares depend on distance, travel time and passenger age. There are a lot of long-distance bus routes in France. Buses are generally cheaper means of transportation. France is quite friendly country for hitchhikers if you stay away from highways. The language barrier is the most common difficulty in France, so make sure to learn some basic phrases or get a sign saying where you’re going. Underground transit systems are great throughout France and cost between 1-3 EUR per trip. Monthly pass is around 30-80 EUR. Apart from Paris, Lille, Marseille and Lyon have rapid transit systems. If you’re under 27 or older 60 you can get extra discount by purchasing a card. Check the discount here. A train ride from Paris to Marseille, for example, will cost around 40 EUR and will take a little more than 3 hours. A train trip from Paris to Rouen costs around 12 EUR. To get the best deals, book in advance. In addition to intercity trains, there are tourist trains in France. The most popular is Le Train Jaune or The Little yellow train, which runs across the Pyrenees region of Languedoc-Roussillon. Bus companies have their fares generally lower and especially useful in regions not covered by the railway network. Each region has its own local carriers (gare routière). A bus trip from Paris to Marseille will cost around 25 EUR, while from Paris to Rouen for just 5 EUR. Megabus, Ouibus and FlixBus are major bus companies. With lots of cycling routes and trails, France has lovely cities to be explored on bike. Velib rental service can be found in all major cities and is of great help here with quite affordable prices.