Some of you may have seen my recent guest post on the TravelCandy showing you how to live the millionaire lifestyle in Monaco. However this city is not purely the reserve of the super rich. Bargains can be found although you may have to hunt a little harder for them, so here are my top tips for visiting Monaco on a budget for those you do not have a six or seven-figure bank balance.
Travel from the airport
Whilst you can arrive in style in a helicopter or limousine, these options are pricy. The seven minute transfer in a helicopter will set you back over €100 each, and if you want a private flight then expect to pay nearer t0 €900. Not exactly Monaco on a budget!
A taxi works out cheaper for two but is still priced around €100 one way (£75) from the airport. Better options are to book an Uber or take the bus.
An Uber from the airport to Monaco Cap d’Ail costs between €48 – €62 (GBP £35 – £46). If you have not already registered, you can obtain a free UBER ride to the value of €20, by registering on the UBER app and using this promotional code: TTG4L
Definitely better priced, but certainly not realistic for a cash strapped backpacker trying to visit Monaco on a budget. Other alternatives are a dedicated airport transfer bus costing €22 each for a single (€33 return) or better still, jump on the local buses or train.
The 100 bus from Nice Port to Monaco costs just €1.50 each way and the bus from the airport to Nice is a further €1.50. You can also grab bus 23 from the airport to St Augustin and from there take the train along the coast to Monaco for just €3.80 each way. It’s a gorgeous route with breathtaking views over shimmering waters and craggy hillsides.
Personally I always feel a little more intrepid when jumping on public transport even if it is only a short journey in the South of France and this definitely fits the mark for Monaco on a budget.
Travel In Monaco
Monaco is tiny so the best way to travel around really is with your feet. Be warned however, this is not for the faint hearted with steep hillsides, winding roads and a confusing array of lifts to get you from one part of the town to another. Goats would certainly feel at home!
If you really can’t face the steep climbs there is an excellent network of buses that you can jump on for just €2 a journey of €5.50 for the day.
Pre book hotels as far in advance as possible to get the best deals. Hotels.com allow you to earn one free night for every ten nights stayed and you can redeem the free night for a room up to an equal value of the average of your prior ten nights. If you manage to bag plenty of nights before arriving in Monaco you may be able to redeem your free nights and stay for free.
Another option is to accumulate points with an hotel chain or use a branded credit card. For instance, Hilton offer a credit card which earns you loyalty points for every pound of spend and a loyalty programme whereby you can redeem points for free nights.
If you simply don’t have enough points or nights to stay for free, check out the options on Hotels.com. You may be surprised at some of the deals as we only paid £190 for two nights over New Years and that was for the four star Marriott. Not exactly a bargain but compared to prices in London for the same period, a positive steal!
Your final option would be to book an hotel or hostel just over the border in France. For instance, in Menton the two star Richelieu hotel is just £29 a night this January, and in Nice we stayed in a budget hotel for £36 a night. The train or bus journey between Nice and Monaco takes well under an hour making it possible to trip in and out of Monaco easily.
Buy a Cote d’Azur Card which entitles you to free access to over 160 attractions along the Riviera. It’s valid for either 3 of 6 days or 6 of 12 days and costs €39/€54 respectively.
In Monaco you can enter the Jardins Exotiques and the Aquarium using the pass but it also includes access to free wine tasting, Segway rides, treetop experiences, paddle boarding, kayaking and many more activities in the area. It does pay to get organised and plan your activities to save the maximum amount of cash as indulgence in multiple activities daily will save you a fortune.
We managed to save just €4 each because we only did a city tour of Nice, the Monaco Aquarium and Les Jardins Exotiques. Still €8 is €8, but if you spend less time drinking and snoozing as we did, then you can save a fortune with this card.
Of course if you are on a mission to visit the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix you may have to allow extra. One top tip is to attend the Thursday practice session as the tickets usually cost a quarter of the main event price.
Now it’s fair to say food in Monaco is on the pricey side so you have a few bargain options. One is to head to one of the Carrefour supermarkets and fill up on breads and sandwich fillings to DIY breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perhaps not the most exciting dining options but not everyone wants Michelin starred restaurants!
You can of course, get fast food sandwiches from McDonald’s and Starbucks for similar prices to the UK.
If you are happy to dine out but do not wish to pay for Entrees in the region of €25, head away from the main marinas and you will find some more reasonably priced restaurants down the side streets. One such eaterie, La Bambi is just off the main marina road and offers pizzas for around €12 – €15.
If you happen to visit at New Year and want to celebrate with some bubbly but do not want to pay local prices, bring your own bottle, bag yourself a spot on the marina decking and prepare to see in the New Year with plastic cups and a cold bum!
Otherwise refresh yourself with free tap water available in most restaurants and bars. Be warned, some establishments will be less than forthcoming in offering water instead encouraging you to buy sparkling water or Evian for which they can charge. Be firm and ask for l’eau de robinet.
If you want a drunken night out in uber cool bars, you will need to accept the reality that it is going to be an expensive night (unless you fall lucky and sneak into a private party). Whilst the backstreet restaurants and bars are less expensive than those lining the quays, they absolutely are not a bargain!
Why You Should Visit Monaco on a budget
So there you have it. My top travel hacks for visiting Monaco. Don’t let this country’s reputation dissuade you from visiting as it truly a stunning place with dramatic coastline, incredible Art Deco architecture, dramatic, vertiginous cliffs and an old town to rival the best in Europe.
Even if visiting Monaco on a budget you will be able to revel in the pretty scenery and meander to your heart’s content before retreating to the less pricey shores of the South of France.
You may also like our first attempt at making a video montage of Monaco but don’t expect a professional finish! It’s on the list of skills to improve in 2016!
Have your say
Perhaps you have been to Monaco and found some amazing money saving tips, if so please feel free to share them below.