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How To Visit The South of France on a Budget

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So as you’ve heard us mention before, Italy is overwhelmingly hot and humid during the summer. We thought this was a great excuse for us escape the heat for the month of August and go live somewhere by the sea. So for the last couple of weeks we have been living in Nice, France and have been enjoying the beauty of the South of France to the fullest! Neither of us had ever visited France before this trip, but we knew to expect a couple things: gorgeous coastlines and a high cost of living. Having spent most of our lives in Southern California and having previously been residents of both Malibu and Calabasas, we definitely understand a high cost of living and how to live on a budget.

Considering that we have had multiple people ask us, “How the hell are you living in Nice for a month?” we thought it would be a good idea to share our advice on how to visit the….

South of France on a budget

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Rent an apartment in the Center of Nice

We were fortunate enough to find an apartment in the heart of Nice using AirBnB for half of the price we would pay to live in Los Angeles for a month! The center is perfect for us this month. We are a 5 minute walk from both the grocery store and the sea, a 10 minute walk from our gym and only about a 2 minute walk to the train station.

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Take day trips on the train

Aside from affordable rent, Nice is also beneficial for the long term traveler in that it is very central on the French Riviera. If you take a train 30 minutes east you can reach Monaco. If you take a train 30 minutes west, you will be able to reach Cannes.

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From our experience, both of these cities can be done in one day, and ought to if you’re looking to save money. Both Cannes and Monaco are reminiscent of Beverly Hills meets Santa Barbara, where you’ll find the world’s most extravagant and as expected expensive fashion, jewelry, etc. Don’t get caught up in the glamour of it all and think that you need to spend money on things you don’t need. You’re sure to walk away with buyer’s remorse if you do. Instead, enjoy some time at the beach, head to a pool party, and either pack a lunch or have an affordable meal at Planet Sushi (a chain that has restaurants in Nice, Cannes, and Monaco).

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It isn’t Nobu, but it also is only about 5 or 6 EUR per roll! Definitely does the trick.

In regard to train tickets, you should be able to get a return ticket to Cannes for about 14 EUR and a return ticket to Monaco for about 8 EUR.

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Cook your meals

This one is tough because one of the best parts of traveling is eating. Food is one of the best ways to experience culture and one of the most enjoyable parts of visiting a new destination. However, when we can, we prefer to cook our own meals.

Not only is this the healthiest option, but it is also by FAR the most affordable option. Other than kebabs and pizza, you’ll be hard pressed to find a good plate for under 20 EUR in the South of France. Instead, we keep dinner healthy and spend about 20 EUR (for the two of us) at the grocery store/supermarket to get chicken, veggies, and either potatoes or rice. For breakfast and lunch we usually will stock up on eggs, Greek yogurts, and sandwich fixings which usually cost about 10 EUR per day (and that feeds both of us). So rather than dishing out 50 EUR per meal you’ll spend no more than 30 or 40 EUR a day if you’re traveling with a companion, or closer to 15 – 20 EUR a day if you’re traveling solo.

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Avoid the private beaches

The French Riviera is famous for private beaches where you’ll find an array of lounge chairs, umbrellas, and cabana boys walking around serving people in white polos. Nice itself has 15 famous private beaches. However, situated intermittently in between these private beaches are the public beaches. They’re just as beautiful, just as fun, and FREE! The private beaches generally charge about 10 – 20 EUR entry per person and then charge you for your lounge chairs, drinks, food, etc. SO the public beaches are definitely the way to go!

One thing to note is that you won’t find your typical sandy beach in Nice. Rather than sand, you’ll find pebbles. Yes, they hurt a bit and they aren’t very enjoyable to lay on. Our suggestion is to buy pool rafts from the souvenir shops and use those as your lounge chairs. They sell them near the beach for 5-12 EUR each and ours have worked great every day! Then not only will you have something to lay on the beach with, but also something to lounge in the sea with. Two birds, one stone.

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Groupon for gyms, restaurants, etc.

When we first arrived we spent a couple hours researching gyms in the area and narrowed it down to two which we decided to check out. Each gym had a 1 month membership rate of about 100 EUR, which was a bit expensive for us. Fortunately Groupon is used all over Europe and we found a great deal for a gym nearby: 1 month for 29 EUR. BOOM! 70% off. Success!

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Picnic

Part of being in France is drinking wine. This is something that we’ve become quite accustomed to in Italy! The problem is that restaurants, wineries, chateaus, etc. all drive up the price of wine like crazy. For the price of a couple glasses of wine at most restaurants you could buy a full bottle, a baguette, some cheese, and prosciutto. So head to the market, pick up some things to make a picnic, and go enjoy a nice sunset at the beach.

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SUP or Kayak

Nice has multiple places that offer stand-up-paddle and kayak rentals. This is definitely an affordable alternative if you don’t happen to have a yacht. Prices are typically in the 10 – 15 EUR per hour range.

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Chateau de Nice

Arguably the best view in the capital of the French Riviera is from the Chateau de Nice. Near the Chateau you’ll find a park with a children’s playground as well as plenty of open area for activities. Did we play in the children’s park? Of course we did. We had ourselves a nice little race to the top of the rope pyramid thingy majig (pretty sure that is the scientific name for it).

On Tuesday and Saturday mornings there is even a yoga class organized by a nice woman named Berta at the top of the Chateau. The class is only 10EUR and offers amazing views of Nice.

2 Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for sharing all of your stories! I would love to hear more about the non-travel side of traveling regarding phone plans and money conversion, any advice?

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