Monaco Old Town
Much like Switzerland, Monaco is far from heralded as a budget destination in Europe. And with good reason. Nestled on the spendy French Riviera, Monaco is overflowing with glitz and glamor from fancy restaurants to million dollar yachts docked on the harbor.
It certainly can’t compete with Spain, Portugal, or Slovenia when it comes to value for euros spent.
But all things considered, this tiny principality known for its glamorous casinos, the Grand Prix, and Princess Grace (may she rest in peace) is worth a stop on your European itinerary.
More French Riviera tips:
• 10 Ways to save on a vacation to Nice
• Menton: A French Riviera gem
• A Budget guide to Marseilles
Fortunately, while it’s not exactly cheap, it doesn’t have to break the bank, either. Read on for a few of our best tips on saving in Monaco.
1. Go off-season
Timing your visit carefully can save Cheapos big on accommodation and flights into Nice (the nearest airport). For the biggest savings, plan your trip between November and March, avoiding the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
We found flights to Nice from New York (JFK) as low as $497 for week-long trips in November. From Nice, it is just a short train ride to Monaco. Search for cheap flights to Europe.
2. Bring your walking shoes
At .75 square miles, Monaco is tiny. So skip the bus or cab, and do your exploring on foot. Your wallet will thank you. Just remember to bring a change of shoes if you plan to go to a casino or club, as most require more formal footwear (no flip flops or sneakers).
If you do get tired, don’t stress hopping on a bus — at around €2 a trip or €5 for an unlimited pass, it’s very affordable to get around. An even better way to travel is on the water. Grab the Bateau Bus, a water taxi that will take you from Monte Carlo to the Old Town.
3. Free things to do
Believe it or not, there’s plenty on offer in Monaco that will cost you the bargain price of zero euros. Our favorite things to do in Monaco include:
• Sunbathing at Larvotto Beach
• Snapping shots of sweeping views of the coast from the Rock (Monaco’s Old Town)
• Searching Princess Grace’s Rose Garden for surprising blooms
• Listening to the organ music at Saint Nicolas Cathedral (where Princess Grace is buried)
• Gawking at yachts in the port
• People-watching outside the casinos
4. Get away from Monte Carlo
When it comes to eating, drinking, and sleeping, the further you get away from Monaco’s main tourist and administrative district (home to its casinos), the lower the prices.
The Hotel de France has basic but clean single rooms from €95 — but they’re typically sold out very far in advance. Generally, visitors to Monaco can expect to spend $120+ per night on a private room anywhere near Monte Carlo. Search for more Monaco accommodations.
For cheaper accommodation, you’ll probably have to leave Monaco altogether, but never fear; France is a diamond’s throw away. Try one of these hotels in Nice.
5. Make it a day trip
Keep your budget in check by limiting your stay. Tacking Monaco on to a vacation in Nice is a particular budget-savvy option. Hotels cost around half the price — you can stay somewhere comfortable for around $80 per night.
Transportation between Nice and Monte Carlo is also very cheap. Via bus, it’s 45 minutes and costs €2. Or, for the fastest trip overland, go by rail. The €5 train journey takes about 20 minutes. Just keep an eye on transit schedules to and from your accommodation — trust us when we say you won’t be up for the taxi fare to home-sweet-hotel.
Want to sleep closer and see Monaco’s glitz and glamour after dark? Look at accommodations in Beausoleil (within walking distance of the casinos) and Menton, France (about 5 miles away from Monte Carlo), starting at $40 per night.
6. Stick to Wi-Fi on your phone
Turn the roaming off on your smartphone and go with Wi-Fi only. Monaco is an outlier when it comes to cell service, and most providers don’t include it as part of Europe-wide roaming. In a space of around 20 minutes, this writer wracked up more than €60 in roaming fees even with an Orange Go Europe plan.
Related: How to buy and use a a SIM Card in Europe | The tops SIM Cards for a trip to France
7. Sip and nibble at happy hour
Skip overpriced convenience food aimed at tourists. Instead, grab a snack at a supermarket or pack a lunch to keep up your energy between sightseeing.
Then, after day-trippers have left but before you head back to wherever you’re sleeping, splurge on happy hour drinks and snacks (usually until 8:30 pm) or a fixed-price multi-course dinner in the Old Town for around €15-20.