Monaco on a Budget: The Billionaires’ Playground

At less than a square mile in area, Monaco is the second smallest country in the world. But don’t let its size fool you—this city-state is one of the wealthiest places in the world. With France wrapping around it on three sides and views of the French Riviera at just about any place you’re at, Monaco is high on many travelers’ bucket lists. The good news? Visiting Monaco on a budget is possible with a little planning and flexibility.

Ready to learn how?

Let’s dive in!

Accessibility Note: Scroll to the bottom of this post for details on wheelchair accessibility in Monaco.

Best Way to Visit Monaco on a Budget

Monaco can be intimidating for the budget traveler. After all, with its nickname, “The Billionaires’ Playground,” it can be hard for anyone counting pennies to see how a trip to Monaco is feasible.

There’s no doubt about it—as a budget traveler, you’ll be limited in what you can do in Monaco.

But since this post is all about what you can do, below are the tips I’ll be covering to help you visit Monaco on a budget.

A cruise ship in Monaco.

How to visit Monaco on a Budget

  1. Spend the night in France, not Monaco.
  2. Arrive by bus.
  3. Once in Monaco, walk, bus, or ferry between destinations.
  4. Bring your own food, or pick up food from Le Port.
  5. Partake in free activities.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these points so you can get traveling to and saving money in Monaco in no time!

Budget Accommodation in Monaco

A view of the Monaco port.

First things first—if you’re traveling to Monaco on a budget, don’t plan on spending the night there. This is by far the quickest way to burn a hole through your pocket.

Instead, book a hostel or Airbnb in a nearby town in France. Remember, Monaco is smaller than one square mile.  Traveling to and from France is easy peasy.

At the time of this posting, Hostelworld only lists one “hostel,” in Monaco. It’s really a hotel—the Forum Hotel—starting at $87.90. 

Ouch.

So, does budget accommodation in Monaco exist?

Not really.

Moving on!

Budget Transportation to Monaco

Since you won’t be spending the night in Monaco, you’ll want to arrive by bus to save money.

Bus 100 travels along the French Riviera between Nice and Menton, cutting right through Monaco. This will give you plenty of opportunities to connect with cheaper accommodation while still being within a comfortable day trip journey from Monaco.

Try to snag a coastal side seat on the bus and keep your camera out for the Mediterranean views. When traveling to Monaco from Nice, that means you’ll want to sit on the right side of the bus.

In fact, riding Bus 100 its entire route is a budget-friendly tourist attraction in and of itself.

A view of the Mediterranean on the bus to Monaco.

And for only 3 euros round trip to Monaco, the bus price is unbeatable. When traveling from Nice to Monaco, the trip takes about 30 minutes. You can purchase your ticket onboard.

Travel Tip: Don’t take the Monaco Express 100x bus. It skips the Mediterranean route and wouldn’t save you much time.

I recommend checking Moovit for up-to-date information on bus stops and timetables on the route from Nice – Monaco – Menton.

Keep in mind that the bus doesn’t run super early or late in the evening. Also, there are reduced hours on Saturdays and Sundays. So, make sure to check with Moovit and plan accordingly.

Aim to queue up for the bus early. The bus line to Monaco can get long during the high summer tourist season.

If you’re the more adventurous type, and depending on just how close you stay to Monaco, biking or walking may also be a good option for you. 

Budget Transportation within Monaco

There’s perhaps no better advantage to being on a budget in Monaco than this fact right here: you’re in the second smallest country in the world.

So, able-bodied folks should plan on doing a lot of walking. And thanks to free public elevators and escalators, getting up and down the slopes of Monaco is a breeze.

In fact, if you’re in semi-decent shape, you can even walk around the entire country, crisscrossing through roads and elevators going up and down the mountainside. Speaking from experience here—I explored nearly all of Monaco on foot in a single day!

If you want to give your feet a break, or if you’re a person with reduced mobility, you’ll have the option to bus or ferry between destinations in Monaco.

Ferry station in Monaco.
Ferry station in Monaco.

Taking public transportation in Monaco is cheap—you can purchase tickets for 2 Euro from the driver. However, it’s best to invest a few extra Euro and purchase a day pass with unlimited rides.

Cheap Food in Monaco

Based on what I’d heard before arriving, I expected not to be able to afford (or willing to spend money on) the pricey meals that were supposedly the pulse of Monaco. 

Much to my surprise, when I got off at the bus stop in Le Port, I soon found a cafe selling pastries and sandwiches at similar prices to those in the French Riviera (think 1 – 7 Euro). 

When visiting Monaco on a budget, you should aim to buy sandwiches like these.

This cafe was just beside an also reasonably priced pizza shop. And both were outside of a supermarket.

While meals in the Le Port district tend to be the least expensive in the country, there are a few restaurants in Monte Carlo that won’t max out your credit card. 

Although I hadn’t planned to eat in Monte Carlo, hunger struck there, and this is how it went…

I happened across a cafe located a couple of blocks from the Casino de Monte-Carlo.  I ordered the cheapest item on the menu—a big plate of pesto spaghetti with bread for 9.5 Euro.  It was far from the best pasta I’ve had, but it was edible. 

Water at that cafe was 3 Euro, which leads me to this: bring your own water bottle and refill it at the many water fountains located throughout Monaco. That’s an easy way to save money in Monaco.

While on the topic of food, Monaco isn’t known for its local cuisine, so don’t be disappointed when you see a variety of international culinary options.

Long story short? If you’re traveling to Monaco on a budget, you won’t be missing out by bringing your own food. 

Free Things to do In Monaco

We’ve established that Monaco is expensive but it’s cheap to get there.

Now, you may be wondering: are there any free things to do in Monaco besides walking around?

Yes, there are!

Let’s take a look at them.

10 free things to do in Monaco

  1. Atrium of the Casino de Monte-Carlo
  2. Casino Square
  3. Saint-Martin Gardens
  4. St. Nicholas Cathedral
  5. Palace Square
  6. Monte Carlo Harbor
  7. Japanese Garden
  8. People and car watch
  9. Larvotto Beach
  10. Sainte-Dévote chapel

Because of how easy it is to explore Monaco, these budget-friendly activities are an easy walk, bus, or ferry ride from one another.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these free things to do in Monaco.

1. Atrium of the Casino de Monte-Carlo

The outside of the Casino de Monte-Carlo.

Whether you’re visiting Monaco on a budget or as a billionaire, a trip to the Casino de Monte-Carlo is a must.

The best part?

Visiting its atrium and slot machines are free.

But there’s a small catch—you’ll need to have a shirt on and something on your feet.

It seems silly, I know. But if you plan on paying to enter the Table Games area, the dress code is super strict. Sneakers, flip flops, shorts, and hoodies are among some of the banned attire.

Unlike the rest of the casino, children are allowed inside the atrium.

You can read more about the Casino de Monte-Carlo here.

2. Casino Square

Casino Square, which is one of the best free things to do in Monaco.

If you were hoping to leave those shoes and shirts off to admire the Casino de Monte-Carlo from Casino Square, I’ve got bad news coming your way—you could get arrested.

Signs are everywhere in Monaco reminding visitors that it’s the law to have shirts and shorts on in all public areas. The exception, of course, is the beach.

So, after your shirt and shoed self enjoys the inside of the casino, take time to enjoy Casino Square.

There are nice gardens and fountains here where photography buffs can frame great photos of the casino. My amateur photo attempt can be seen in the photo above.

This is also a prime people-watching spot, which we’ll talk more about shortly.

3. Saint-Martin Gardens

Cacti in Saint-Martin Gardens which is better for visiting Monaco on a budget than Cactus Park.

Here’s an insider Monaco on a budget tip: skip pricey Cactus Park (formally called Jardin Exotique de Monaco) and head to the free Saint-Martin Gardens instead. 

The Saint-Martin Gardens are located on a hillside below the cathedral. There are a plethora of cactuses there, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out too much on Cactus Park. 

In fact, you don’t need to go to Cactus Park or the Saint-Martin Gardens to see cacti in Monaco. The country is filled with them. So, you can fill your camera with cactus pictures throughout your day of exploring.

Admittedly, the views of Monaco from Cactus Park are incomparable to the Saint-Martin Gardens. But as you walk around the mountainside of Monaco, you’ll still get to enjoy amazing—and most importantly, free—views.

While you’re at Saint-Martin Gardens make sure to snap some pictures of the beautiful Oceanographic Museum. At 16 euro per adult, the inside will be left to your budget savvy imagination. 

4. St. Nicholas Cathedral

An outside view of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco.

As expected from a European country, Monaco has a cathedral.

If the St. Nicholas Cathedral looks new to you, you’re right. It began construction in 1875, finishing in 1903. As new as that sounds, it was built on top of a former parish built in 1252.

That’s sounds more like it, right?

The St. Nicholas Cathedral has a couple of other names—Monaco Cathedral (to tourists) and Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate (to Catholics). It’s located right in Monaco’s historical district.

Stopping by St. Nicholas Cathedral is an excellent and free activity to do in Monaco in conjunction with a visit to the Saint-Martin Gardens.

5. Palace Square

A view of the Prince's Palace from Palace Square, which is a great budget activity in Monaco.

Palace Square is home to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, which is where…well, the prince of Monaco lives!

It’s an interesting piece of architecture to look at, and just as great, the views from the plaza overlooking Monaco are some of the best free views in the country.

But aside from enjoying the views, aim to arrive at the Royal Entrance of Palace Square by 11:55 am. For more than 100 years, a Changing of the Guards ceremony has taken place there.

It’s quite the sight to see, but even if you don’t arrive in time for the changing of the guards, a visit to Palace Square is a wonderful activity to do when visiting Monaco on a budget.

6. Monte Carlo Harbor

Monte Carlo Harbor filled with yachts.

When you think of Monaco, what comes to mind?

Yachts, perhaps?

Monaco is built up along a small slice of Mediterranean coast. But what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in packing its harbor with multi-million dollar yachts.

Sure, they’re untouchable for budget travelers like you and me. But they’re fun to gawk at, and thanks to the Monte Carlo Harbor, you can freely walk up and down sidewalks catching glimpses inside these gas-guzzling beasts.

7. Japanese Garden

Monaco's Japanese Garden with a mountain backdrop is free to visit.

Step away from the crowds around the harbor and casino and enjoy a mini peaceful getaway at Monaco’s Japanese Garden.

The Japanese Garden was built in 1994 at the request of Prince Rainier III. He was fascinated by Zen design and hired Yasuo Beppu to create a garden that combined styles from both Japan and Monaco.

The Japanese Garden is free to enter and won’t take you much time to walk through.

But you’ll be able to take some great photos and admire the mountain backdrop behind Monaco.

8. People and car watch

A yellow car in front of the Casino de Monte-Carlo.

People and car watching are some of my favorite free things to do in Monaco. And the car part says a lot, given that I normally don’t look twice at them. 

So, where’s the best place to people watch in Monaco?

The casino, hands down.

It’s fun to sit in Casino Square and observe people pour into and out of the Casino de Monte-Carlo. And it’s pretty easy to pick out who are the wannabe rich folks and who are the real rich ones.

Let’s put it this way—I never believed in the saying about “smelling money” until I visited Monaco.

Now, you may be wondering: what about car watching?

You can do that in Casino Square, too, although the cars are staged.

So, if you want to see fancy cars in action, walk along any street in Monaco. Seriously. It’s that easy and there are that many of them.

9. Larvotto Beach

People sunbathing at Larvotto Beach.

It may come as no surprise that for as ritzy as Monaco is, a portion of its beach requires a fee to access.

But before you despair, know that a portion of Larvotto Beach is free.

During the summer, Larvotto Beach gets packed. Personally, I preferred spending my time exploring the streets of Monaco, knowing that stellar beaches in the French Riviera are abundant.

But if you’ve been dying to get out of those shirts and shoes, this is your chance to do so.

10. Sainte-Dévote Chapel

The Sainte-Dévote Chapel on a sunny day.

This cute little Sainte-Dévote Chapel will greet you when first entering Monaco by bus if you’re coming from Nice.

It’s not so much the chapel itself that’s noteworthy, but its location tucked beneath two hills with buildings towering over it.

The Sainte-Dévote Chapel is open to the public and free to enter. It’s not on the typical tourist route, so you just may have the entire place to yourself.

Shopping

A shopping street in Monaco.

If you’re anything like me, you’d rather spend your extra few Euros on a trip to a nearby town than purchasing a new outfit. 

However, if seeing wealthy people walk around leaves you feeling bit by the shopping bug, do so in Le Port. 

The clothes start out more affordable in Le Port than in the Monte Carlo area. And any discounts they may be running may make you feel like you’re actually getting a deal.  

Monaco Souvenirs

You’ll be able to fill up on relatively affordable Monaco souvenirs in the historical district. 

The most popular souvenirs seemed to be collared t-shirts with “Monaco” plastered in bold across them, outlined in shiny bling.  At only 5 Euros per shirt, they’re perfect for those visiting Monaco on a budget. Just keep in mind you won’t be allowed to try them on before purchasing them.

If 5 Euros is pushing your budget, there’s always the option to buy some postcards. 

Views like these is a great thing to seek out when visiting Monaco on a budget.

Restrooms

Don’t worry about spending your precious change on restrooms; free public restrooms in Monaco are plentiful. 

As an extra bonus, they’re clean and had plenty of toilet paper and soap when I visited.

Monaco FAQ

Below are answers to some other common questions you may have about Monaco.

What language do they speak in Monaco?

French is the primary language in Monaco, but almost all residents speak English. You’ll have no trouble getting around Monaco as an English speaker.

How many days should I spend in Monaco?

If you’ve traveling to Monaco on a budget, you should plan to spend only one day there so that you don’t have to spend money on expensive accommodation. Since it’s such a small country, one day is plenty of time to experience Monaco.

A park in Monaco with a mountain backdrop.

Is there a dress code in Monaco?

Generally speaking, as long as you’re clothed and have shoes on when you’re not at the beach, there isn’t a dress code in Monaco. However, there is a dress code for certain parts of the Casino de Monte-Carlo and fancier restaurants.

Is Monaco worth seeing on a budget?

Yes, even as a budget traveler Monaco is absolutely worth seeing. With the suggestions and modifications described in this post, you’ll get to experience Monaco for very little money.

Wheelchair Accessibility in Monaco

A wheelchair accessible pedestrian path in Monaco.
A pedestrian sidewalk outside the Monaco Cathedral.

Monaco is a bit of a double edge sword when it comes to wheelchair accessibility.

The stretch along Monaco’s coast offers excellent accessibility. Sidewalks are wide, drop-down curbs are everywhere, and the terrain is flat.

Tourist attractions within Monaco are generally adapted to offer excellent wheelchair accessibility. However, the State Apartments at the Prince’s Palace are not accessible.

An accessible brick sidewalk in Monaco.
Brick pedestrian sidewalks like this one are common in Monaco.

There are free public elevators throughout the country that will take you up and down some of the steepest areas.

However, the downside to the double-edged sword is that, despite the elevators, you may have to navigate some steep inclines or take a car to travel between places.

Also, a handful of sidewalks in Monaco have small steps built into them. They’re easy enough to pop over with your wheelchair, but it’ll be uncomfortable (note to mention annoying) to travel that way over a longer distance.

Cobblestone is located in some pedestrian areas. But for the most part, you’ll encounter sidewalks with smooth brick and pavement.

When it comes to travel, the buses to and within Monaco are fully wheelchair accessible. Ferries are also accessible.

A wheelchair accessible space on the bus to Monaco.
An accessible spot on the bus to Monaco.

The port in Monaco also offers superb wheelchair accessibility, if you’ll be arriving via cruise.

Ready to Visit Monaco on a Budget?

I hope this post has gotten you excited to explore The Billionaires’ Playground. Not only is visiting Monaco on a budget possible, but it’s easy. So, hop on that bus and get exploring!

If you’ve been to Monaco, I’d love to hear about your budget experience and tips. Alternatively, if you have questions about visiting Monaco on a budget, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help.