A Backpacker's Tale

Backpacking
France Travel Tips

Backpacking France is more than just visiting the City of Lights. Beyond the central metropolitan focus of Paris, the country is one of the only a few in Europe to touch bother Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts.

Home to some of the best wineries in the world, a renowned film festival and the French Riviera where the rich and famous play, the diverse country is tops on people’s lists for vacations to take.  When backpacking Europe visiting France is a must! 

Let’s take a look at what the country has to offer and some in-depth backpacking France travel tips.

Why
France

Traveling in France isn’t just about eating all the wine and cheese (but, let’s face it, you really should while you’re there); it is about experiencing the rich culture, scenery and historic sites around the country.

Another reason to travel to go backpacking France is because it is a main travel hub of Europe.

If you book early you can find some insanely cheap flights to Paris, France from major cities in the USA for a phenomenal price.

Best Time of the Year to
Visit France

France is a year-round country in terms of when to travel. While the weather differs between the seasons, what is important is what your trip aims to achieve.

Do you want to hit the infamous ski slopes or sip wine as the sun sets on the Mediterranean?

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when planning a trip to France when the locals take their holidays.

It is advised to skip visiting the country when the French vacation because the country – minus tourist operations – shutter.

The last six weeks of summer (think mid-July through the end of August) should be avoided. Other than that, it depends on what you prefer.

Peak Season- When it comes to backpacking France peak season is the typical summer season – May through September, plus around Valentine’s Day and during major sporting events like F1 and the Tour de France.

For winter sports enthusiasts, you can’t avoid peak season on the slopes.

Weather – France has a climate similar to New York, with a few microclimates tossed in to keep people on their toes as they move through the country.

Expect higher humidity and cooler summers near the Atlantic and Channel. Paris and the central part of the country have cold winters and warm summers – just like New York and the Mid-Atlantic States.

Southern France features ridiculously hot summers while absolutely freezing winters cause tongues to stick to poles in places like the Alps and along the German border. These are important things to consider when traveling in France.

France Travel Tips for Packing; Pack carefully and know the what the weather is before you go. Actually that is a good tip when you are packing for Europe in general.

Things You Need Before
Backpacking France

It is a question I get a lot ”Can I travel without insurance?”.

You can, but travel insurance isn’t that expensive and it protects you from many things that could happen while traveling.

At certain points I have traveled without insurance and t has cost me a lot of money. Now I never travel without insurance.

Hopefully, you will never need to use your travel insurance, but it is important that you have it. Yes, even when traveling in France.

So is travel insurance worth it?

It is up to you, but my opinion is to be better safe than sorry.

I use Roam Right and World Nomads and they are a company I recommenced.

The insurance is affordable and they offer fantastic coverage. They have phenomenal customer service.
Here are some of the things Roam Right Covers.

Trip Cancellation

Cancel for Work Reasons

Trip Interruption

Emergency Accident, Sickness Medical Expense, and Dental Medical

Personal Effects Accidental

You can read more about the perks of traveling insurance by checking out these two post. The first post is travel insurance worth it, and also my World Nomads Review.

I use RoamRight for all my travel medical insurance. They have excellent travel coverage, and I have never had a problem with them.

For example, I have a friend that recently contracted Dengue Fever. She spent five days in the hospital, and her bill was over $5,000. Luckily she had insurance, and they covered the whole thing.

Dengue might be rare in Thailand, but it does happen.

Another buddy of mine got bit by a dog and had to get $1,600 in shots which the insurance covered.

Personally, I’ve visited the hospital a few times in Asia and have saved hundreds by having insurance.

I hope you never have to use the insurance, but when it comes to backpacking Thailand, I think it is better safe than sorry.

 

Budgeting For
France

So you want to know the backpacking France cost! Well, that depends on where you are going, backpacking in France can either break the bank (Paris, I’m looking at you) or allow you to experience the country without damaging your wallet more so than other Western European countries. 

However, if you know how to travel Europe cheaply it can help reduce the cost of traveling in France. 

The cheapest way to get around the Europe is via second-class train or bus, or searching for inexpensive domestic flights on budget airlines.

One France travel tips is to always budget for a month in France a little more than what you are thinking.

Daily Budget – Depending on what you want to eat and transportation needs, expect to budget between $65 and $80 a day. It is a good budget per day when backpacking France. 

For a month in France, expect to spend just shy of $3,000.

That includes hostel dorm rooms, eating out, partying (just a little), transportation and checking out the all-important sites like the Louvre.

One suggestion to take note of when traveling in France is save as much a you can before leaving.

Paris has some of the best bakeries in the world.

Eating in France

Eating cheaply when backpacking France can be done, if you’re ok sustaining yourself on crusty baguettes, cheese and fresh fruits and veggies.

Groceries will cost about $12 a day, $84 for the week.

However, France is also a foodie’s paradise, so if you’re craving some of the renowned French cuisine, budget far more a day… to the tune of $20 to $30 – and that is without factoring in the wine.

If you want to eat your way through the bakeries, expect to spend between $7 – $10 a meal.

Best Ways to Get
Around France

There are plenty of different ways to travel through the country. As one France travel tip I suggest using on of these three ways whether you are backpacking around the cities or heading into the French Alps. 

Eurail – Perhaps the most popular is Eurail Pass, the vast network of trains, which run through the country. Purchasing a pass is the way to go, as individual tickets can easily tack on quite a few Euros. I know what you are thinking. Is a Eurail Pass worth it?  I think Eurail is one of the quickest and easiest ways to travel France. 

Busabout – A hop-on/hop-off bus operator, is another way to see the country without spending too much money.

Local Transport – Locally, cities have buses and metro systems, which typically average around $2.50 each use.

Tour Companies in Europe I recommend.

G Adventures –  After reading Gap Adventures reviews it is easy to see why they are one of the top tour companies in the world. G Adventures offers fantastic tours of Europe. 

Intrepid Travel Tours – Another very popular tour company. Intrepid focuses on small group tours, and also gets you off the beaten path a bit. Check out. Read my Intrepid Tour Review.

Where to Stay When
Traveling France

Hostels- I have a massive soft spot for hostels. I love the atmosphere the vibrant atmosphere, cheap price,how easy it is to make friends.

 Hostels are your cheapest option, and more than likely you will leave will a ton of new friends from all corners of the world. Without a doubt the best place to book hostels online is Hostelworld

Hostel help reduce the cost of travel in France. And they are a favorite of budget travelers. 

Bear in mind these quick tips when booking backpacker hostels in Europe.

When looking for the cheapest hostels, keep these travel tips in mind.

1- Typically, The average hostel dorm room cost between $25 -$45 a night.

2- Dorm rooms are cheaper. Naturally, private rooms are more expensive.

3- Camping hostels usually give you more space and are also less expensive.

4- Hostel prices go up on the weekends.

5- Location is a big part of this price difference. For example, a hostel in Paris, France is almost double the price of a hostel in Nice, France. Although, if you do your research you find some of the bests hostels in Paris can cost under $20. 

One Europe Travel tips I recommended you follow is book your hostels early. I have slept on the street a few times because I waited until the last minute and everything was full..

Airbnb – Airbnb has taken the accommodation world by storm. It is a fantastic option when traveling through Europe.

Guess what use this link, sign up to Airbnb, and get $35 off your first stay for FREE.

Hotels – Sometimes hostels get old and you need your own space. For hotels I find great deals on tripadvisor.

Top Spots to
Visit in France

France is known for its stunning countyside, beautiful coast, iconic cities. Let’s explore a little more of France. 

Paris

3 Things to see in Paris

Sightseeing in Paris is nothing short of wonderful. However, it is important to plan your Paris Itinerary careful. Here are some of my favorite things to do in the city of lights. 

Climb the Eiffel Tower – Head to the top of the Eiffel Tower to check out the view from the landmark spot. If you want to save some money, instead of taking the elevator, opt to climb the 700 or so stairs to the top.

Explore the Louvre – Sure, the Mona Lisa is a lot smaller in person than you would imagine, but no trip to Paris can be complete without a stop in the infamous Louvre.

This art museum is home not only to this work of art, but Aphrodite and more masterpieces to delight.

Stand in the Shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral – Check out the French Gothic architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral. Opened in the 1300’s, this iconic church is a must when in town.

3 Things to do in Paris

Take a River Boat Ride – Hop on board a boat that cruises down the Seine and see Paris from a different perspective. Some operators even offer hop-on, hop-off opportunities at major Paris landmarks, along with champagne.

Snap a Photo in Front of Moulin Rouge – The easily recognizable red windmill makes a great pic. Stop inside and witness where the can-can dance was born at this French cabaret.

Get Cozy at a Boulangerie – Try Maison Kayser, which serves up more than 60 different kinds of bread. Paris is the first place to add to your France itinerary. 

Of course, there are plenty of day trips from Paris France

Nice

3 Things to see in Nice

Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain- Head to the Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain to check out the pop art and new realism collections.

Cathedral of Saint Nicolas – Sure, churches are everywhere, but the Cathedral of Saint Nicolas offers one of the best examples of Russian Orthodox architecture outside of Russia.

Nice’s Flower Market – One of the most famous spots in the city, Nice’s Flower Market offers gorgeous fresh petals and produce, plus cafes and shops. Bonus: every Monday, the market switches up and turns into an antique one. Nice is one of the cheapest cities to visit in France. 

Things to do in Nice

Take a stroll down the French Riviera – via the Promenade des Angelais. Chill out, bike, jog or just take in the beauty of the area.

Wander through Vieux Nice – The old Nice oozes old world charm and is worth some time exploring.

Hike up Castle Hill – Climb the 100 or so steps and treat yourself to a sweeping view of the Alps and sea.

Lyon

Things to see in Lyon

Tour Metallique – Often called the Eiffel Tower’s little sister, check out the Tour Metallique. It measures in at 80 meters high.

Visit Perouge – A popular spot for filmmakers, this medieval city takes people back in time. It’s built into the side of a hill and behind ramparts, adding to the charm of the old village.

Snap a photo of The Great Stone –  The Le Gros Caillou. This stone has a story – apparently it is the heart of a bailiff who was turned to stone – and dates back to the Jurassic period according to geologists. Without a doubt Lyon is one of the best places to visit in France.

Things to do in Lyon

Have an Afternoon Tea – It may seem like a more British thing to do, but Lyon has some great spots for afternoon tea and snacks. For something different, try Cha Yuan, an Asian café with more than 100 teas.

Eat All the Time – Yes, eating is a necessity, but the food offerings in Lyon are fabulous. Try Magali et Martin, owned by a French-Austrian couple. You won’t be disappointed.

Wander through the Maison Thomassin – This 14th-century mansion was built by a family of cloth craftsmen. Today, it is restored and offers gorgeous sculptures and more to take you back in time.

Avignon

Things to see in Avignon

Don’t miss the Palais des Papes, Palace of Popes – This UNESCO World Heritage site is the largest gothic palace on the continent and gorgeous. One of my France travel tips I have to mention is the wine! France has amazing wine, I suggest drinking it even if you are not a wine lover.

The Notre Dame des Doms – Not to be confused with Paris’ Notre Dame, Avignon’s version – the Notre Dame des Doms delivers a gilded Virgin Mary and cathedral, as well as being the final resting place of Pope John XXII.

The Pont St-Benezet – Clocking in at more than 800-years-old, the Pont St-Benezet is a fantastic ruin. While under 1/5 of the original structure still stands, visitors are treated to spectacular views of the city and beyond.

Things to do in Avignon

Take a wine tour – This region in France has got some great wineries and tours that leave from Provence and head into the Cotes du Rhone.

Shop ‘til you drop at the Les Halles – Avignon’s largest covered market, 40 merchants sell everything from fresh cheese to spreads and beyond.

Running every day but Monday, Saturday mornings there are free cooking lessons from local chefs. Sample the cuisine and then wash it down with some wine.

Get active – Either hire a bike and treat yourself to the numerous paths or get a boat and hit the water.

OTHER THINGS TO DO WHEN TRAVELING FRANCE

Sip champagne in Champagne. Because … isn’t it obvious?

Honor those who died in battle and experience the beach in Normandy for an afternoon.

Live it up in the south of France and hit up Cannes (preferably during the Cannes Film Festival) and pretend you’re a celeb.

Visit Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris.

Pin It on Pinterest