French Riviera on a Budget

Last year I wrote a post discussing how to travel around the Amalfi Coast on a Budget – which you can read here – and it was one of my website’s most successful articles to date. My blog is very much a balance of being on a student backpacker budget but trying to squeeze as much as possible out of that small budget, and so when thinking of where else in Europe might appear to be an unattainable destination for my readers, the French Riviera sprung to mind.

Like my last post, I’ll be looking at dates to visit in mid-July because the goal is for my readers to be able to travel to the best places at the best time possible for as little a price as can be. Of course, you can visit these places from October to April at a fraction of the cost, but you won’t get the incredible weather or the experience of visiting at the most exciting time of  year.

There are tens of towns along the coast, but the most popular with tourists are St Tropez, Monte Carlo, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Cannes. As one of the most desirable places to visit on the whole continent – particularly in the summer – hotels, restaurants and excursions along the french Riviera can cost more than a pretty penny. When looking online, for dates in mid-July (16-20th) I found that 4 star hotels in St Tropez started at around £300 per night and 3 star hotels around the same distance from the city centre at £165.

This is pretty much average for all the most popular towns along the coast, so my solution for saving money on accommodation first and foremost would be to book in the larger cities of Marseilles or Nice. If you’re flying into the French Riviera, you will fly into either of these cities, so to stay in either of them inconveniences you no less than any of the other towns. In terms of location, I would recommend staying in Nice, as it is directly between Cannes and St Tropez to the West and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Monte Carlo to the East. For the same dates in Nice city centre, you can book a 3 star hotel from as little as £49 per night and 4 star hotels start at £95. On accommodation alone, for a four night stay you could save upwards of £480.

Of course, basing yourself outside of the smaller tourist towns means cost of travelling between them and Nice, but there are plenty of ways to do so at an affordable cost. To Monte Carlo, you can take a train for €3.90 in each direction or the number 100 bus for €1.50. The train takes just under 25 minutes, whilst the bus runs every fifteen and takes between 30-45 minutes each way. To St Tropez, both the quickest and cheapest way is to take a train to Gare de St-Raphaël-Valescure for £12 and ferry from there to St Tropez for £14. Although this is the most expensive of all the commutes, if you’re thinking of visiting or staying in St Tropez anyway, you would have to pay this fee to get there. If this seems like a little too much for a day trip, there are plenty of other beautiful towns along the coast to visit instead. To Cannes, the train takes around 40 minutes and costs €7.20 each way or the number 200 bus costs just €1.50, but can cost between two and three times as long as the train depending on traffic. Lastly, to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the number 81 bus costs just €1 and takes 14 minutes each way.

Compared to getting around in other parts of Europe, the Côte d’Azur has not only direct and cheap connections between its biggest tourist towns, most of them are less than an hour from the other. In terms of food, I would advise booking a hotel that has breakfast included and perhaps just getting lunch or drinks in one of the surrounding towns instead of buying all three meals. Because Nice is a city, you’ll be able to find supermarkets and chain restaurants and bars which will decrease the cost opposed to independents elsewhere on the coast. Alternatively, you could look on AirBnB to find accommodation with a kitchen in Nice that means you won’t have to eat out at all and can just cook your meals at home.

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6 thoughts on “French Riviera on a Budget

  1. Great advice and I should know, I live on the Cote d’Azur. The advantage of staying in Nice is that there’s plenty to see and do, lots of readonably priced restaurants and great transport links up and down the coast by bus and train. Alternatively, hire an electric car or bike.

  2. Absolutely delicious! My mum and I had a lovely few days in Nice last year – the most surprising thing was just how cheap it was to use the bus to some of the hill-top villages like St Paul de Vence and even the famous perfume town of Grasse over an hour away – one euro fifty!! You’ve just made me want to go back. Thank you.

  3. Hi Caitlin. We did a similar trip a couple of years ago. Check it out at https://eduardocortereal.wordpress.com/category/france/page/1/ (scroll it a little bit down)
    Nice was one of my favorite places but we stayed in Villefranche sur Mer. Of course the mountain cities like Gras, Bar-sur-Loup, Gourdon are astonishing.. We rented a car so it was a bit different. But I’m sure that the train trips by the sea must be amongst the loveliest in Europe.

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