Visit France: The Practical Guide
Hi guys! Bonjour à tous !
Today I'd like to start fresh after getting a lot of questions about what to do and see in France for the holidays. Therefore, we're beginning a new article, that will be a resourceful travel guide to France. I will regularly update the informations and add content to satisfy a wide range of travelers. Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have carefully chosen to provide you with the best deals I found That said, not all of them are affiliates, I just really like their service or think it would be useful or even been recommended.
I am a total savvy freak, so I hope you like discounts and tricks as well, because you're in for a treat!
1) Going to France
Duh! Of course, the first step of a cheap trip relies on finding a cheap flight. I've personally used Momondo and JetRadar in the past to help me out and both were really practical. Momondo is very simple to use and I loved being able to switch dates with quick manips (instead a filling the whole informations again). JetRadar is best for US travelers it seems and I've only used it once so far, but it got me a great flight because it showed me all the flights from my favorite airlines and I got the option to choose which one was the best in terms of timing.
Having the choice between 32 flights to find the shortest lay over, and best time for departure and arrival was lifesaver. (I once spent 16 hours after landing stuck waiting for a train. Could have been avoided by choose a better plane for the same price *facepalm*).
I live in Malaysia and manage to fly (round trip) for less than 500€ every time I return to France. If you want to know how good that is, a normal (not high) fare would be about 1000€ for a round trip.
Register your potential travel dates and wait until they send you the lowest fares by email (it works only if you're not booking last minute).
A few more thing:
⦁ Flights are cheaper if booked early during the week and more expensive on Fridays and weekends
⦁ Always take the plane on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, these flights are the cheapest.
⦁ Some recommend tricking the "cookies" from the website by going incognito. (if you come several time to check the same flight, they price will go higher.) Except that most companies have figured that out already. Visit the website with your chosen flight once (not incognito), then come back the next day. Prices drop from the first to the second visit to create urgency and make us buy!
If you plan on booking through one of the following airlines, could you help me out and book through my following links (which won't cost you anything.)
I also discovered the Park Sleep Fly program that is meant to help you save time / money when leaving your car at the airport during your trip. Haven't used it personally so if anyone wants to share their experience with us that would be awesome!
Keep in mind that choosing a flight can be based on various criteria. Some people really need a direct flight (afraid to get lost, disabilities...) Others just need the cheapest rate possible, no matter how long the overlay last... Other have food, seats etc preferences. Know what kind of service you want before hand, that'll save you a lot of time.
Though some great adventures start by "I took my backpack and just went", you might want to have an idea of what to expect, in terms of costs / service. Affordable, franchised hotels such as Ibis Hotel, Formule 1 are no brainers. If you want some fantasy, extra service, or something cheaper, you can always consider some of the ideas below.
a) The friends of your friends could be your friends too!
One of my favorite trick when visiting a place I don't know, consists on emailing everyone I know that could have a friend or relative there, then asking them to put me in touch with their friends. That's a great way to
You might not just invite yourself right away, but you can ask them if they can refer you to a place / person who can take you in =)
Travel and make some new friends!
b) Couch- surfing.
As I mentioned just now, you could potentially find a place to couch surf through a friend. But maybe not. That's why there are websites such as CouchSurfing that can help you find a buddy's couch for you. Make sure to plan ahead, look for someone you share interests with and get to know them a bit. Your experience will only be improved!
If you're a nature lover, why not try camping? Sure, that's not worth a five stars hotel, but your wallet can't take on the 5 stars hotel, can it? So camping it is! If you're in France for one of the super awesome music festival we got, you'll certainly have to go through the camping phase anyway.
Prepare yourself properly (freezing during the night, burning hot past 7 a.m.) Just like hotels, camping can offer a wide range of amenities from the tiny one person tent to the big a*s mobile home. Try to find something near a place of interest, and with all the amenities you need (do you want a pool? A bar? A bowling alley??)
Though hostels are not that common in France, you can always bet on this cheap accommodation. Check below for a hostel that works for you. My tip is, if you've ever survived a night in a hostel in Bangkok or Manila, France will be just fine!
- e) Hotel and Resorts:
And if you really want to travel and sleeps like kings, there are various options available as well, such as a night in a castle or a beautiful resort:
Ok, so you managed to get to France and even find some place to crash. Great! Now let's see about transport:
a) The train:
Great to save some time, not money though train tickets can always be purchased cheaper if 1) You book in advance, 2) you're a student, under 26 years-old.
Hop to RailEurope to see their best deals. They work within several European Country and the French SNCF.
So, what's new in France? Well, the country has recently been hit by a wave of buses! For real though, it's now very simple to find a way to get across the country for as low as 10€. Sure, buses are slower but, since several companies have been implemented around the same time, they're highly competitive and that's a win for us. Most companies provide vehicles with free wifi, and sockets to charge your electronic devices. Suddenly sounds better, doesn't it?
I've tried OuiBus for my last trip: it was well organized, on time, I had some wifi and I paid 35€ for a round trip Paris - Bordeaux. By train, it would have cost over 100€ (even with a member card or best deals). This company is under the French SNCF (Train company) so it's certainly the most reliable option. Not as fast as a train, for sure, but less risky than a carpool and if you choose to travel overnight you won't see the time fly!
Sure, hitch-hiking doesn't have the best of reputation, but eh, it's always worth trying. I don't recommend you try to hitch-hike for hundreds of kilometers, it can help a lot if you need a ride in the next town, doesn't it?
The world leader in carpooling Blablacar is available is several countries throughout Europe and was implemented a few years ago in France. Used it a couple times and met some lovely people! I love the choice of features, smoker or not, pet friendly, music etc. If you start looking ahead of time for popular destinations, you'll definitely find a great deal!
Check Facebook Groups as well if you plan on traveling from and to a popular destination, there's plenty of groups offered by some regular commuters.
Bike rentals fare can vary a lot from a place to another. In France most big cities have bikes available. Here's the thing, you get the first 30 minutes for free, so if you change bikes every 20 minutes or so, you can get yourself a free trip!
a) Three Stars Restaurants:
Yes, France is famous for its Haute Gastronomy! You might want to try one of these extraordinary culinary experiences, but it comes with a cost! Some of France best restaurant includes:
- Paul Bocuse (Lyon)
- L'Assiette Champenoise (Tinqueux, near Reims)
- Le Petit Nice (Marseille)
- Guy Savoy (Paris)
- More here
But that doesn't mean you have to take a second mortgage on your house before visiting France! You can eat very well in a variety of restaurant.
My number one tip is to go with the flow: eat the specialty of the place you're visiting! Also, always leave room for some dessert, you don't want to miss out on crème brûlée, charlotte aux fraises or macarons!
If you're not planning on trying a new restaurant at every meal, try to find sandwiches and snack from food vendors, markets or small shops! Keep in mind that though fast food and franchise (erm... Subway anyone?) can offer some good food for you money, you'd be much better off with a sandwich bought from a bakery anytime.
- Discovering France Specialty with Buzzfeed
Try your best to avoid the familiar places like Starbucks or Burger King to fully enjoy the experience. Even take away pastas are more worth it!
To find a good restaurant anywhere in France, I found the website http://www.manger-ou.fr/ pretty useful (it's in French though). I'm willing to bet that anywhere you go, you could simply ask around "what's the one dish / restaurant to try here?". (Parisian are not famous for helping out tourists in the street but smaller cities should be fine as long as you're polite when asking). If you're not keen on asking, give a look the following (free) apps:
⦁ Trip Advisor :
⦁ Food Reporter:
5) Tours and Activities:
If you like to have as little trouble for the organization as you can, booking a tour is a good options. France is such a massive (#1 Touristic destination in the world) tourist magnet that there are plenty of options to pick from. I recently talk about two travelers and their Tour from Paris to Cannes here and discovered the agency 4 Roues Sous 1 Parapluie, which offers numerous ideas. Give a look on their blog here for more info. I know first hand that they have delightful offers great for families or couples in search of an original and authentic visit in France.. That said, if you're not into road trip, here are a few options:
I hope it doesn't come as a surprise! The Giant Groupon offers a large variety of choice, plane tickets, tours and activities, lunches and more. They're just anything you could dream of!
The name says it all! Paris City Vision is great in all things from the French capital city. Trip on the Seine, climbing the Eiffel Tower, diners in the best restaurants in town... But it's not just the City of Lights! They offer competitive programs to go visit the marvelous Mont Saint-Michel, the beach from D-Day on the coast of Normandy and even all the way down to Marseille. They're #1 in France, professional and reputable. A great match.
The Versailles Express Tours offer exclusively tours to the Palace of the Sun King. The Palace is renown for offering grandiose shows in summer, such as the mesmerizing Fountains Night shows. One of the best activity for a family, combining history, art, to entertainment.
Recommended to me by one of my close friend who took the London to Rome tour with some friends last year: She couldn't stop talking about how everything was so well organized and that the group travel experience was simply amazing. Reputable and youth-centered, their package are best for those looking for a restless and exciting voyage!
If you'd rather not book a tour and customize your stay, here are lists (of lists!) of some of the best activities in France:
A) Best Adventure Parks in France:
New tip: I once spent 130€ for 2 days - 2 parks - 2 persons + 1 hotel night (2 pax)
Crazy uh? If you book during promotions, through websites like Groupon or even buy them off from LeBonCoin and get some of the best deals!
That said if you want to do a big nice family trip, sleep in Disneyland, go to their website to get one of their package. The experience in itself is just amazing and your children will never forget it!
- Book your discounted tickets here
The Parc Astérix, lesser known than the massive Disneyland is a really fantastix (sorry bad pun) amusement park suitable for families. The whole park is themed as the franchised Astérix et Obélix, a famous comic / cartoon / movie franchised and offers a variety of attraction, enjoyable for the little ones, as well as teenagers =)
- Book your discounted tickets here