5 Budget Tips for Visiting Monaco
Updated: Jun 4
What comes to mind when you hear the word Monaco? Is it the Grand Prix, millionaire yachts, expensive high rises, the Monte-Carlo Casino? Those are all of the things that cross my mind whenever I thought about visiting Monaco. What those things all have in common is that they require loads of money, the amount that most of us could never dream of obtaining. So how could you possibly visit this country without blowing an insane amount of your budget on this single place?
Monaco is the world's second smallest nation after The Vatican City and is located along the Mediterranean in the French Riviera. Monaco has gained its independence 5 separate times with the first being in 1297 and the most recent in 1911. The history of Monaco is incredibly interesting considering how it has maintained fairly consistent control of itself with so many various empires and controllers throughout the ages. Monaco has the highest GDP nominal per Capital and has an economy that benefits greatly from tourism. This brings us to how you can keep your budget reasonable while visiting!
Tip #1 - Stay in Nice, France and Commute into Monaco
The very first and best way to save money when visiting Monaco is to not actually stay in Monaco. The hotels and apartments located within this Sovereign City-State are incredibly expensive and if you're looking to travel on a budget, the rooms that cost anywhere from $200-$500/ night will probably be too expensive. There is always a chance to find some special deals if you are a rewards member with one of the hotel chains that are located there such as Marriott, Wyndham, IHG, Four Seasons, etc., but this tip is with the assumption that you don't have that perk available to you.
If you are flying to reach Monaco you will most likely be flying in to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport, which is roughly 5 miles (8 Kilometers) from downtown Nice. From the airport you can ride the L2 Tram Line located just outside of either Terminal 1 or 2 and ride it into downtown Nice for €1.50 per ticket and takes about 30 minutes. There are plenty of hotels, apartments, or other accommodations available all over the city of Nice.
I personally had an incredibly pleasant stay at Hotel 64 Nice which is a 3 minute walk from Nice-Ville train station. This was perfect for me because I chose the commuting option of a train ride between Nice-Ville and Monaco-Monte-Carlo stations. The roundtrip ticket price for the train ride cost me €8.80. After waiting for the next train, the ride itself took 6 stops and arrived into Monaco after 20 minutes.
Something to be aware of if you decide on riding the train for this day trip is that there are 44 trains per day that service the route between the two stops but the last train to get you back to Nice from Monaco departs at 9:05pm (21:05). So if you plan on staying in Monaco later in the evening you could either take the bus (which the last one departs from Monaco at 11:42pm (23:42)) which would cost roughly €7 one-way, or you could take the much more expensive route of taking a taxi which could cost anywhere from €50-€100 for the ride.
If you are planning on spending late nights in the Monte-Carlo Casino, then it would end up being more cost effective to simply spend the money for a hotel within Monaco.
Tip #2 - Eat Meals in Nice/Pack a Lunch
As with everything else within Monaco, meals in the restaurants can be extremely expensive for a traveler on a budget. A typical meal for one person in Monaco is going to cost roughly €22-€40 which can cause quite the strain on the finances, especially eating multiple times a day. What I recommend is to start your day with breakfast in Nice. Either your hotel will provide you with breakfast, or you can find a café to get a filling meal before you take your ride into Monaco. For lunch there are 3 options to choose from to avoid the expensive meal.
Skip Lunch. If you had a large enough breakfast you may be able to hold off on eating anything during your day in Monaco until you take the train back into Nice (this is what I did and the moment I got off the train, there is an amazing fast food restaurant called O'Tacos Nice Gare with these massive burritos that you can fill with a variety of interesting items).
In your daypack, carry some small snacks to hold yourself over. It doesn't have to be much, some various nuts, granola, chips, pretzels, some fruits, anything that will hold you over as you're walking until you return to Nice.
Visit a grocery store in Nice and put together a nice lunch that you can carry with you for the day and pick a nice spot with a view over the city or in a park such as Saint Martin Gardens for a peaceful picnic. This will be both enjoyable as well as cost effective and budget friendly.
As I've made points of above, dinner would then be eaten at one of the many restaurants that are located within Nice, either located on Avenue Jean Médecin in the city center or one of the various streets around. You may also look to simply stick with grocery store bought food for dinner as well if you really would like to keep a low budget as the restaurant prices in Nice, although cheaper than Monaco, are still relatively pricey.
Tip #3 - Enjoy the Free Activities
The best thing to do in Monaco that is free is to walk the streets and sightsee. It's really that simple. As soon as you get out of Monaco-Monte-Carlo, you will be face-to-face with Port Hercule. From here you can look around at all of the various boats and yachts in dock as you walk the road that is used during the Grand Prix. The views from Le Palais des Princes de Monaco are incredible and if you time your visit you can observe the changing of the guard ceremony.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, or better known as Saint Nicholas Cathedral, is a short walk from the Prince's Palace and is beautiful inside. The cathedral is on the site of the first parish church in Monaco that was built in 1252.
Saint Martin Gardens is located near the cathedral and is decorated with various statues and information placards.
Another beautiful garden located within Monaco is the Princess Grace Japanese Garden. I imagine that it is incredibly peaceful to walk through during normal circumstances, I just happened to visit while they are deep into construction of a new building just beside the gardens so the serene environment was disrupted with sounds of heavy machinery.
One last free activity to do in Monaco would be to visit Larvotto Beach which is an artificial beach made of pebbles that is perfect for relaxing by the clear water.
Tip #4 - Bundle Your Entrance Tickets
For the activities that you might be interested in doing that are not free, it is always good to figure out if bundling your entrance tickets is possible, because you will be offered discount rates by doing so. The prime example of this in Monaco is the bundle ticket offered by the Oceanographer Museum of Monaco. This museum was founded by Prince Albert I and also includes an Aquarium with 6000 specimens.
During my visit in the beginning of 2023 at the ticket desk, the entrance fee for the museum was €19 but I was offered a deal where I could purchase a ticket for €26 and that would include my entrance into the museum of Oceanography as well as entrance into the Automobile Collection of the Prince of Monaco Museum. The discount is not extremely massive, but considering these were without doubt the two most enjoyable places I went inside of during my visit, I believe the combo is absolutely worth it.
Tip #5 - Visit in the Slower Months
This is not a tip that everyone is capable of doing due to their job or family restraints, but if you are looking to visit Monaco on a budget, this is absolutely the most obvious option for keeping your trip cheap. January and February are probably the cheapest months to visit based on room rates because the weather is cooler but not frigid cold. The premium time to visit would be in the spring (March & April) or the fall (October) due to more pleasant, warmer weather with the reduced crowds and rates. The closer you get to the Monaco Grand Prix in May, the busier it will get and then it will lead into the summer, which like most places in Europe, is the busiest time of year for tourists.
Most visitors to Monaco would be classified as well off monetarily as they look to visit to watch the Monaco Grand Prix, go to the Monte-Carlo Casino, relax in a yacht, or play a round of golf at a premium golf course. This does not mean that someone on a budget is incapable of visiting this historically interesting country, and I hope these tips from above will help make the budgeting for this trip easier. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions or comments to add, you can email me at email@example.com or message me on Instagram @travelinggibson.