Heads up: some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you click and make a booking or purchase, I’ll make a commission (at no extra cost to you). I partner with companies I personally use and the $$ goes towards creating more awesome, free travel content.
Thought Monaco was only for the uber rich and the high-rollers? Think again.
This teeny tiny principality nestled on the Mediterranean coast is known for being a playground of the rich and famous. Think of Monaco and your mind will probably stir up images of the Grand Prix, fast cars, super yachts, luxury hotels and the famous Monte Carlo casino. Monaco is undeniably sexy and flashy in every way.
I have always had a fascination with the glitz and glamour of Monaco, especially after watching 007 movies such as Never Say Never Again and Goldeneye.
So when I went to the South of France I was determined to see the country, even if it was well beyond my budget!
If you’re broke-ass but still want to live like James Bond (or a super sexy Bond girl) for a day, read on…
When I got off the train after a tedious night journey from Toulouse to Nice, all I wanted to do was check into my hostel, freshen up and sleep on the beach. Monaco could wait till tomorrow…well at least that’s what I planned.
But when I arrived at the hostel I was told I would have to store my bags and wait until the afternoon check-in time, so I helped myself to some free breakfast and got talking to a few people. They were going to Monaco for the day, and asked if I would like to come.
Rule #1 of traveling, when you arrive in a new place and people invite you somewhere, always say YES. You never know where it will lead.
I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, but I always say yes. So I used the communal bathroom to slip into the smartest clothes in my bag-a black dress and some smart flats. When visiting Monaco, one should make the effort to look the part!
I’m glad I didn’t turn the invitation down, because it turned out to be one of the best days EVER! The 5 of us thought we would have a casual day of sightseeing in Monaco, but we partied until we missed the last bus to Nice, I had my DSLR camera stolen, and we ended up sleeping on a billionaire’s yacht! True story.
Here’s what I learned from my 24 hours doing Monaco on a budget:
How to Do Monaco on the Cheap
Since we were doing the broke-ass option, we rode the #100 bus from Nice to Monaco which only costs 1 euro! This is the slowest option but you get to see some nice views as you travel along the coast stopping in all the various towns along the way. You can see maps and timetables on the Lignes d’Azur site.
I visited Monaco more than once during my time in France so I also had the opportunity to try the train, which is quicker and easier in my opinion. You can check the train times on Rail Europe.
(You can fly into Nice on low-cost airlines like Easyjet. Use Skyscanner or Vayama to get the best deal)
If only I had one of these flash cars…sigh.
Stay in Nice
Have no fear, just stay in Nice and visit for the day. I stayed in a fantastic little hostel called the Meyerbeer Beach, which is located only a short walk from the pebbly beach of Nice. There are no hostels in Monaco!
DON’T drink at Cafe De Paris
Most “Things to Do Lists” will tell you to have a coffee at Cafe de Paris. Since it’s the most touristy thing to do, it’s also the most expensive. If you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a drink here, I suggest you head towards the harbour.
DO Drink at Happy Hour in Brasserie de Monaco
I was surprised to find that Brasserie de Monaco had a reasonably priced Happy Hour! Located down on the harbour, this cool little spot serves homebrewed organic beers and if you get there between 5pm and 8pm, you can also enjoy 50% off the price! Yep that’s 2 euro for a half-pint and 3 euro 50 cents for a pint!
I can also recommend Stars ‘N’ Bars, which is a sports cafe filled with celebrity sporting memorabilia, and La Rascasse, which has a happy hour with live music that runs from 5pm to 11pm.
Make friends with the yacht crew
While out drinking at Brasserie de Monaco and La Rascasse with friends from my hostel, a girl in our group got talking to some crew members who worked on one of the yachts. So when we got carried away partying and missed the last bus back to Nice, we were saved from sleeping the night on the beach and found ourselves on a mega-yacht!
That was definitely one ticked off the bucket list…hang out on a billionaire’s yacht!
So moral of the story, make friends with the yacht crew and you might wind up on a big-ass boat.
DON’T Have your camera stolen
Of all the places in the world to have my DSLR camera stolen, I would never have thought it would happen in Monaco! But sadly it did. I guess since Monaco is a very wealthy place, it’s a prime target for thieves. I had taken the camera out with me not expecting to stay out so late, and when we got to one of the bars I put it down on a stool next to me. The next time I looked, it was gone. Luckily I was insured and got a police report for the theft.
Gamble at Monte Carlo Casino
If you’re broke-ass you might want to try gambling at Monte Carlo casino! Despite what we heard, you don’t have to dress like Bond to get into the casino, unless you want to whip out your tuxedo of course! Jeans, closed shoes and a shirt are fine for guys. A dress and flats is fine for girls, although you can dress up if you like!
The casino is really impressive, with lavish, opulent decor. Even if you’re not gambling, it’s worth going in there to take a peek at the interior, which is full of marble, chandeliers and magnificent paintings.
Unlike Las Vegas you can’t get free drinks which is annoying, and you can’t take photographs either. The casino has a main area for the tourists, but the serious gamblers pay to enter the Salons Privés deeper inside the building. I put 5 euro down on the roulette table and ended up winning 60!
If you’re savvy at gambling you could win enough money to afford to party with the elite at Jimmy’z where your average drinks are over €20 a pop. If you’re not…you might be hitchhiking home like some friends of mine!
Monaco is tiny measuring 2 miles long and little over half a mile wide, so you can certainly walk around it in half a day! That means you won’t be spending any money on cab rides and you get your excercise for the day. Monaco is built on a steep hill but there are all these crazy public elevators you can take to get up and down. It’s a weird place, let me tell you.
Chill at Plage du Larvotto
You might as well make the most of the sunshine and hit the beach, which is free, yay! Put on your best bikini and soak up the sun on Plage du Larvotto, Monaco’s only public beach.
Visit the Prince’s Palace
You can’t leave Monaco without seeing the Prince’s Palace. Walk up the hill to the top for the best views over Monaco and watch the Changing of the Guards performed at 11:55am each day. If you want to say you’ve been inside the palace, you can pay the 7 euro entry fee to see the lavish State Apartments.
Ride the party bus
If all this seems like too much effort, there is a party bus from Nice to Monaco that will take you there and back, get you to all the bars and give you cheap drinks…plus you get to meet other travelers too.
You don’t have to be rich to see Monaco in style!