For a reasonably comfortable stay, including a hotel room for two, a light restaurant lunch and a proper restaurant dinner, plus moving around, café stops and museum visits, you need to allow at least €100 a day per person. By counting the pennies, staying at youth hostels (around €1020 bed and breakfast) or camping (from €5), and being strong-willed about extra cups of coffee and doses of culture, you could manage on €40 a day or even less if you're eating street snacks or market food.
For two or more people, hotel accommodation may be cheaper and is nearly always better value than hostels, which are only worth staying at if you're by yourself and want to meet other travellers. A sensible average estimate for a double room would be around €45, though perfectly adequate but simple doubles can be had from €25. Single rooms are sometimes available, beginning from around €22 in the cheapest hotels, though often you'll have to take the cheapest double. Breakfast at hotels is normally an extra €4.50 upwards, for coffee, croissant and/or bread and orange juice about the same as you'd pay in a café (where you'll generally find the coffee and ambience more agreeable).
As for other food, there are large numbers of reasonable restaurants with three- or four-course menus for between €10 and €18; the lunchtime or midi menu is nearly always cheaper. Picnic fare, obviously, is much less costly, especially when you buy in the markets and cheap supermarket chains, and takeaway baguette sandwiches from cafés are not extortionate. Wine and beer are both very cheap in supermarkets; buying wine from the barrel at village co-op cellars will give you the best value for money. The mark-up on wine in restaurants is high, though the house wine in cheaper establishments is still very good value. Drinks in cafés and bars are what really make a hole in your pocket: black coffee, wine and draught lager are the cheapest drinks to order; glasses of tap water are free; and remember that it's cheaper to be at the bar than at a table.
Transport will inevitably be a large item of expenditure if you move around a lot, which makes some kind of train pass a good idea, although French trains are in any case good value, with many discounts available two sample one-way fares are Paris to Toulouse, €80, and Paris to Nice, €96. Buses are cheaper, though prices vary enormously from one operator to another. Bicycles cost about €12 per day to rent. Petrol prices have been rising steadily and at the time of writing were around €1.05 a litre for unleaded (sans plomb), €1.10 a litre for super and €0.80 a litre for diesel; there are 3.8 litres to the US gallon. Most autoroutes have tolls: rates vary, but to give you an idea, travelling only by motorway from Calais to Montpellier would cost you €62.
Museums and monuments can also prove a big wallet-eroder, though many state-owned museums have one day of the week (often Sun) when they're free or half-price. Reductions are often available for those over 60 and under 18 (for which you'll need your passport as proof of age) and for students under 26, while many museums and monuments are free for children under 12, and nearly always for kids under 4. Several towns operate a global ticket for their museums and monuments.
Pages in section ‘Money and costs’: Youth and student discounts, Currency and the exchange rate, Travellers cheques, Credit and debit cards, Wiring money, Banks and exchange.
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