This guide to backpacking in France and budget trip tips was updated in May 2019. This article contains some affiliate links, which help keep this website running, at no extra cost to you.
Despite my early memories of the ‘rough’ side of France that included a school trip to Calais, it’s the wonderful history, rich culture, luxurious resorts, pristine beaches, and outstanding landmarks that have continued to make France one of the most popular destinations in the world.
For any traveller to experience and discover the hidden, most exciting, and budget-friendly side of France, the best idea, in my opinion, is to set off for independent travels and ditch the package holidays. Backpacking in France not only allows the traveller to mingle freely with the locals but also to learn the French language and culture in a more ‘local’ sense, away from luxury resorts.
- 1 Weather in France. Sun and Crowds
- 2 Backpacking in France – You Still Need Travel Insurance
- 3 What to Pack for a Backpacking Trip to France
- 4 Where to Go in France on a Budget
- 5 Accommodation in France
- 6 Food in France – Cheap Eats
- 7 Budget Backpacking Tips
- 8 Don’t Want to Backpack France Solo?
Weather in France. Sun and Crowds
Even though summer might seem like a good time to visit the vibrant country, spring remains the perfect visiting time because the temperatures are warm enough to have a great time outdoors. I once walked for three hours to the Eiffel Tower in Paris and, once at the top, was nearly in a state of collapse!
At this time also, the cities are less congested as locals tend to move to the Riviera to enjoy themselves in the balmy air and sun. This means the visitor gets to move from one place to the other more easily and comfortably.
Backpacking in France – You Still Need Travel Insurance
I’m a huge advocate of travel insurance and rant (lecture) about it constantly. Even though France is not too far away from the UK, I would still recommend it to cover medical expenses (you may need to get an emergency flight home), and for those petty situations like theft (hostels are not always the most secure of places). I have friends who don’t get insurance for countries close to home, but I just can’t do that, especially as I am accident prone and carry a LOT of electronics. For my last backpacking trip to Paris, I got ‘backpacking insurance’ which was the cheapest at the time. I price check a whole host of insurance companies for EVERY trip I take – time-consuming but necessary – since they all vary according to the country, the length of your trip and what time of the year you choose to go.
What to Pack for a Backpacking Trip to France
The best things to carry include maps and a guidebook, compass, comfortable clothes, gloves, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, sunglasses, sunscreen, water bottles, lightweight tents (as there are a lot of camping sites in France), utensils, and extra food and drink supplies.
Where to Go in France on a Budget
France is a very sizable country boasting numerous things to do and see. Before starting to move around, you should take time to come up with a comprehensive itinerary (if on a time scale) detailing what to do and where to go at different times or days and plan trains and public transport accordingly. You might even want to concentrate on just one region.
The best place to start adventuring is Paris (especially if starting from the UK via Eurostar), the capital city and business hub of France. Places to visit in Paris include Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre and various art galleries scattered around the city, the Eiffel Tower, and the upmarket Galleries Lafayette department store, if only for the views across the city.
From Paris, you can venture into the Provence region and marvel at the picturesque vineyards, villages, and historic towns, each with its own unique culture and cuisine.
Other places to go which are easily reached from the capital include Bordeaux, Avignon, Camembert, Marseille, Montpellier, and Nice.
Accommodation in France
France has a lot of comfortable guesthouses, hostels and campsites. It is advisable to book early since many of the main cities and towns book up fast, especially if you want to secure a good rate.
Food in France – Cheap Eats
Food in France normally ranges from fast foods to mouth-watering dishes served in very peaceful and beautiful environments. This means you can choose any manner of the culinary spectrum based on your personal budget.
The best budget tip is to shop at local markets. These offer a variety of meats, cheeses, among other lovely produce and can be found almost everywhere. Not to mention an abundance of French wine, without the bar tab mark-up.
Budget Backpacking Tips
I’m a walker and huge fan of hiring a bicycle for the day to save costs of day trips and other organised outings – especially in the smaller, more compact towns.
However, I have found the metros systems, such as the one in Paris, to be very affordable. Also, opt for the slower regional trains which can be a much cheaper alternative to the popular main departures.
Planning on seeing more of Europe alongside France? Check out some Europe backpacking highlights and tips from a backpacker to get started on a route that takes you through some of the continent’s best capitals.
Don’t Want to Backpack France Solo?
Not everyone wants to wing it, nor has the time to be more laid back and take things as they come and make huge changes to an itinerary. If you are looking for all the fun of backpacking and social travel, but with the help of a local to help you facilitate your journey, check out the G Adventures France trips.
France Tours for the Adventurous
If it’s your first time to France then take the Highlights of France trip. Begin in heart of Paris, before moving on to the world-class wine region of Burgundy, full of medieval villages and cuisine famed countryside for a taste of exquisite French living. The trip ends at Provence where you will have time to relax in the French Riviera.
France may be the epicentre of gourmet cuisine, couture fashion and a place where country you can enjoy the finer things in life but, as a budget traveller, you can always find ways of cutting costs and exploring your surroundings and living locally, without having to indulge too much.