Your dream trip to France involves the following scenarios: enjoying a picnic and wine from the top of the Eiffel Tower as you’re serenaded on the violin by some guy dressed like a French mime, dining in Michelin-starred restaurants as you gaze into the eyes of your beloved, and wandering in and out of hopelessly quaint boutiques.
Then you receive your credit card bill and have a heart attack. Oops. Paris is a notoriously expensive place to visit in France. If you’re on a budget, you’re more likely to find yourself nibbling on sad little sandwiches from the supermarket’s frozen food section than foie gras.
To put things into perspective, you’re looking at paying at least 60 to 90 SGD for a room for two in an Airbnb in Paris.
The good news is that France is a big country, and outside of Paris there are many cities and regions that will cost you a fraction of the price to visit in terms of food, accommodation and sights. Here are four destinations in France that are just as rewarding and way cheaper to visit..
When summer arrives, many Parisians hit the beaches in Brittany, a northwestern region of France with more than 2,700 kilometres of coastline. Not only is the region rich in natural sights, mostly revolving around beaches and precipitous cliffs overlooking the sea, and medieval towns, it’s also one of France’s most inexpensive.
Cost of accommodation: In Rennes, the capital of Brittany, you can rent a room in a centrally-located Airbnb apartment that accommodates two for 32 to 50 SGD a night.
- The standing stones at Carnac are France’s answer to Stonehenge, and are free to visit all year round except during peak season in summer.
- La Pointe du Raz is a dramatic promontory that extends into very inhospitable seas where many have lost their lives, a short hike up from the tourist parking lots.
- Notable cities you might want to visit include Rennes, Vannes and St Malo, while in the summer tourists flock to beach towns like Bénodet.
History buffs will relish a trip to the Northern region of Normandy, which is not only one of the more inexpensive regions in France but also where you can find some of France’s most famous sights outside of Paris such as the Mont St Michel Abbey and Claude Monet’s house.
Cost of accommodation: An Airbnb room for two in an apartment in the centre of Rouen, the capital of Normandy, can be had for 28 SGD to 40 SGD a night.
- If you only visit one sight in Normandy, let it be Mont St Michel, a tiny island that houses a very famous abbey and monastery.
- Normandy’s capital, Rouen, is only 1.5 to 2 hours from Paris and is home to lots of historical sights and museums like the famous Rouen Cathedral and the Gustave Flaubert Museum.
- Le Havre is famous for having been bombed like crazy during WWII and so looks totally modern today after having been reconstructed. The city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its postwar architecture and urban planning.
- The D-Day Beaches, where the Allied troops landed in WWII, are a must for history buffs.
The Alsace region in the Eastern part of France is one of its most scenic due to its colourful architecture. It’s also on the other side of the border with Germany, so you can get there by bus or train if you land in Frankfurt. Given its proximity to Germany, it’s no surprise that Alsace has some famous beer breweries—it’s the home of Kronenbourg which we’re all familiar with and which is the standard draft beer drunk everywhere in France.
Cost of accommodation: An Airbnb room for two in Strasbourg, the region’s capital, can be had for just 25 SGD to 40 SGD per night.
- Other than Strasbourg, check out Colmar, which is extremely pretty thanks to its canals and medieval, gothic and renaissance architecture. Colmar was also the inspiration behind the town in Howl’s Moving Castle.
- Rent a car and go down the Alsatian Wine Route, which will take you through vineyards and small towns. Or, if you can’t convince anyone in your entourage to be the designated driver, book a wine tour in Strasbourg.
Aquitaine is the Southwestern region where you can find Bordeaux, probably France’s most famous wine-producing region. When you’re sober, it’s also worth checking out the many castles and beaches. Note that Aquitaine is one of the more expensive destinations in France, though still much cheaper than Paris in most respects.
Cost of accommodation: In Bordeaux, you can get a nice room accommodating two in a B&B or Airbnb apartment for 35 to 65 SGD a night.
- Bordeaux is a must-see, so allocate at least a few days for the city. There are numerous historic sights and museums such as la Flèche Saint-Michel, the famous bell-tower.
- The vineyards of Aquitaine are a must-visit whether you’re a hardcore wine fan or just an alcoholic. If you’re too lazy to rent a car there a numerous wine tours which can be booked from Bordeaux.
- Saint-Émilion is a wine-producing area 42 minutes’ drive from Bordeaux with a medieval city and UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Aquitaine is also home to Biarritz, a chi-chi coastal city that’s like a slightly cheaper but still expensive version of Nice. Take a day-trip there if you don’t want to spend too much.
Budget tip: Budget flights are often cheaper than taking trains, so check the website of carriers like Easyjet, Ryanair, HOP and Volotea. Buses also offer a cheap way to get around between towns and cities—use sites like Comparabus to compare the tickets of various companies. Finally, if you speak French or are just really good at using Google Translate, Blablacar offers car-sharing, which can be a very cheap way to travel between towns and cities.
Image credits: Joanne Poh, Gianmaria Zanotti, Isriya Paireepairit, Virginie
Have you ever been to France? Share your experiences in the comments!