If you are into eating snails, drinking wine by the bottle, tall pointy objects, or really small pictures of old ladies, then France is the place to be. In all seriousness, France is amazing! First, it has world class cuisine. Many of the most famous chefs in the world studied somewhere in France. Second, the southern beaches are unreal with a laid back, but extremely sophisticated atmosphere. Third, the arts and culture are everywhere to be seen. Look at all the museums or famous architecture all around the country. Finally, coming from the United States, the BREAD is unreal!
The downside to all these elegant and sophisticated aspects of France is the price… A budget can quickly be drained by spending a week or two in this beautiful country. This is not to say it cannot be done. Some of my fondest memories of the country were drinking $6 – $8 USD bottles of wine with the locals at parks, the beach, or eiffel tower. Some of my best meals were a $2 USD loaf of bread that lasted me and my buddies the entire day. It can be done on the cheap, but might not be the sexy cafe type of travel you see in the movies…
Top 6 Things to Do
- Eiffel Tower – This is one of the most popular places to visit in the world. Nearly 7 million people travel to this pointy object every year. Thus, it will be busy, but always worth it. I recommend going at night to watch the light show with a bottle of wine and try to join a group of locals. Share your travel experiences and learn about their culture and country first hand.
- Louvre – Wow, is this an absolutely incredible museum. I am normally not a museum guy, but they have everything from mummies from Egypt to the Mona Lisa. You can easily spend a good part of a day walking around and learning about so much history. Also, don’t forget to snap the iconic picture of the outside square!
- Visit the Palace of Versailles – It is outside of Paris a bit, but well worth it. The architecture and landscaping makes it one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Every turn will leave your breathless. This is an easy day trip to leave and come back to Paris.
- French Riviera – Visit some of the most breaking beaches in the world. These are not your typical backpacking party beaches, but are extremely sophisticated and posh. Visit towns like Nice for the pebble beach and amazing food. Next, stop by Monaco and test your luck in the casino of visit for Formula One. Lastly, don’t miss out of Cannes. Go in May and see if you can see the stars at the famous Cannes Film Festival (Don’t forget to bring your yacht).
- Eat – Go out of your comfort zone and eat some snails or french prepared frog legs. Have at least one meal here that you will never forget! Might be a little spendy, but have a glass of wine at home to save money on the bill.
- French Alps – Do not miss out on this overlooked part of the country. First, it has amazing scenery every direction you look. Second, amazing hiking trails if you are there in the summer. Finally, go skiing. Some of the best skiing in the world can be found in the French Alps.
Food and drinks are not cheap in this country, but there are things you can do to get the experience, while saving some money.
- Go to the local outdoor markets. You can get traditional dishes from cooks that do not have the traditional cost
- Eat bread!! French bakeries do not mess around. This bread will run circles around the bread you get at home. This can be an amazing snack or buy some fresh fruit and make it a lunch.
- Get out of the touristic areas – Like everywhere, these area tend to have higher prices and not always with the highest quality. Walk a few blocks and find a little local spot.
- Always ask for a menu before you sit down. The last thing you want is to already order a drink and find out the cheapest thing on the menu is 40 Euros.
- Buy cheap local wine instead of going out to drink. This here will drastically make your pockets fatter!
Overall Country Cost – $$$ (3/4)
Hostels – $16 – $30 USD per person
3 Star Hotel – $120 – $200 USD
Breakfast – $3 – $10
Lunch – $5 – $12
Dinner – $5 – $30
(Note: Lower prices are for bread and fruit. Low scale sit down restaurants will be the upper end of quote.)
Many people fly into Paris and explore the surrounding cities by bus or train. Easily, you could spend 10 days exploring Paris and the surroundings. If you have more time or do not mind long train rides spend a few days in the french rivera (Nice, Monaco, Cannes). Do a loop from paris to see Bordeaux its natural beauty. Many cities to hit on the way as well.
Many people use France as a through trip on a Europe backpacking trip. Easy access to London via the train and easy access to Spain via a train. When I was in France I hit the South of France between Spain and Italy and swooped back after London to explore Northern France. Be versatile and you can see a lot!