Monaco is the second smallest nation in the world and one of the densest. Formally known as the Principality of Monaco, Monaco lies in the French Riviera and surrounded by France and the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco has one of the highest life expectancy rates at 90 years, an unemployment rate of 0%, crime virtually nonexistent, a tax haven for the rich, lowest poverty rate in the world, and the highest amount of billionaires per capita in the world. Think this is sounding a lot like paradise!?… it kind of is. Monaco is a constitutional Monarchy and the head of state is Prince Albert the Second,with his mother and father being non other than the famous American actress Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier the Third, former King of Monaco. Monaco has no natural resources so it relies on tourism, banking, gambling and of course sporting events like the Monaco Grand Prix. Come here and you will fall in love with the high-end gambling, the expensive cars that line the streets, the yachts and the glamour that makes Monaco such a unique (and expensive) country.
(click on a topic to skip to that section)
Getting to/around Monaco
Breakdown of Costs
Definitely Do’s and Don’ts
From Splurging to Saving
Good for Gay Lifestyle?
Noteworthy Places I’ve Been To
There are four separate areas of Monaco and all are easily accessible by just walking the country.
Monaco-Ville – This is actually not the capital of Monaco but the name of Monaco was taken from this area of Monaco. The most notable attractions here are the Palais Princier, the Oceanography Museum, and the Saint Nicholas Cathedral; which houses the remains of the ruling class of Monaco and of Grace Kelly.
La Condamine – La Condamine is famous for its yachts and being part of the Formula 1 racetrack (the formula 1 racetrack use the street of Monaco as it’s racetrack). The yachts of the Prince of Monaco are usually housed here as well.
Monte Carlo – The famous Monte Carlo Casino is located here. If you have enough money then you can go inside and gamble your life away. Monte Carlo host part of the Formula 1 racetrack, Hôtel de Paris, the Café de Paris, the Salle Garnier, Monacos only beach, and is world-renowned for being a top of the line tourist destination.
Fontvieille – One of the newest areas of Monaco, most of Fontvieille are high-rise apartments on land reclaimed from the ocean. Fontvieille also has Monaco’s only heliport which connects Monaco to Nice, France.
Getting to/around Monaco
By Plane – Monaco officially does not have any airports. The nearest airport is Nice Côte-d’Azur International which connects to most major cities in Europe. You can take the regular Rapide Cote D’Azur bus from Monte Carlo to Nice International Airport. There is also one heliport in Monaco with direct service to Nice (€100-€300 is the usual range; highest in May).
By Bus – There is actually no bus station in Monaco. Instead buses run through the country from Nice and other French cities. From Nice you can take the express bus from the airport or from Gare Routière in Nice.
By Train – Like most European countries Monaco has great service to surrounding cities. From Nice, Cannes, Menton, and Ventimiglia. To get to Paris you must connect through Nice and then you can take the TGV direct to Paris. Overall the trip is 6 and half hours.
By Boat – Coming by yacht could be one of the best ways to enter Monaco. If you happen to own a yacht then there are two main ports that yachts can use. Also cruises stop at Port Hercule or tender in (boats also stop in Nice and you can take a day excursion to Monaco).
By Car – You can rent a car and take the A8 to Monaco from Nice or the Italian border (this is the quickest route). The French Riviera will not fail to impress especially from Nice. Good advice is to rent a car from the Nice airport and take one of the four routes from Nice that hug the coastline (this is truly driving in style).
Because Monaco is so small the best way to get around is actually walking. Remember that Monaco sits at the edge of the Alps so sometimes steep climbing is necessary. There is a bus system in Monaco with over 143 stops. You may buy tickets on the bus, specific vendors or automated machines. There are taxis and but you can not hail a cab like you can in the States. You must call a taxi service from your hotel or by phone. Also it might be a good idea to rent a scooter if you can find one. Scooters are easy to use and the roads in Monaco offer scenic landscapes.
Breakdown of Costs
Hotels – Nothing in Monaco is cheap and this country isn’t really a budget paradise. If you’re coming to Monaco expect to pay serious amounts of money for a hotel. Even a 2 star hotel could cost you as much as 100 US dollars. On average a hotel will cost around 150 dollars to as much as 1000 dollars or more if you had the money to spend. Remember that Monaco is a small country so there are not too many options. You could always stay in the surrounding cities like in Nice or in Italy as well. The trains are cheap and easy to take and you will pay way less for a hotel than you would in Monaco.
Food – Food is expensive in Monaco as well but in the winter months food can actually be cheaper. On the low-end budget I would expect to pay around 10-20 euros and for the medium range I would expect to pay around 20-30 euros. Monaco does also have many other types of food like American, Japanese, Italian, Mediterranean, etc… overall expect to pay a little more than you would pay for food in the States.
Other Activities – So as a whole Monaco is pretty expensive country to be in. If you want to gamble expect to bring some cash with you and expect to lose it. I would have a budget on how much you’re spending on for gambling (you have to wear a suit and tie… this is that kind of establishment). Some of the things to do in Monaco include an entrance fee. I would recommend going to the Oceanography Museum and check out the Aquarium that lies beneath it (it was really not that expensive at about 15 euros recently). If you want to take the Azur Express or the trains that take people around Monaco… they cost around 6 euros. If you’re looking for something unique then how about come during the Grand Prix of Monaco. To get a seat in the stands you need to pay anywhere from 90 euros to 500 euros. Because the Grand Prix goes through the streets of Monaco, the residents rent out there terraces. These can coast anywhere from 8,000 euros to over 100,000 euros. I would also plan to visit the surrounding French and Italian cities. Do get there you would have to arrange to rent a car to visit these surrounding areas… Particularly the city of Eze is worth visiting.
Monegasque people are quite friendly and many ways resemble French culture. But don’t make the mistake of calling a Monegasque person French. In general it is polite not to be loud in public. In general Monegasque people are very fashionable people (I mean France and Italy do lie near Monaco). In general Monegasque people will help you out if you ask for help as much as possible. It would be a good idea to know some French as this is the main language of Monaco.
Really the official languages of Monaco are French and Monegasque. Monegasque is closer to Italian than French but is still part of the Romance languages. Most people know how to speak French and Monegasque but if you’re trying to converse just in English… that might be a little harder. Monaco is educated and does have experience with English-speaking foreigners so you will eventually find someone who can help you. Italian is also another major language spoken in Monaco due to Monaco being less than 10 miles away from the Italian border.
Definitely Do’s and Don’ts
Do walk along side the ports and marvel at the yachts. They seem to get bigger and bigger.
Don’t rent a car unless you are leaving Monaco. Monaco is a very tiny country and it’s best to walk it or use public transportation.
Do gamble if you have the money. You can visit the famous Monte-Carlo Casino but make sure you have the proper dress code (suits, ties.. basically fancy attire!)
Don’t forget to go downstairs and visit the Aquarium inside the Oceanography museum. The Aquarium is very pretty and I remember enjoying my time there. The Oceanography Museum has been around at least for 100 years.
Do think about escaping to near by Èze, surrounding French cities or to Italy. For example Nice is only around 30 minutes away at most and Èze is even closer. Both are fantastic places to visit.
Don’t forget to visit the tombs of Grace Kelly and other Royalty through Monaco’s past.
Do go to the Fontvieille Shopping Centre… I remember the shopping center was very elegant… even had chandeliers inside of it…
From Splurging to Saving
I’m not sure there is a world for saving in Monaco. Most things will cost you a great deal but that is part of coming to Monaco. As a whole, food is not that expensive but that depends on where you are eating. You can of course find very high-end restaurants which are excellent and you maybe even want to plan this in your budget (while in Rome do as the Romans do right!?). But there are options for lower budget dining. During the afternoon you can find simple cafes along the beach that serve food like pizza and sandwiches. There are other bar type of establishments that serve cheaper food.
Of course if you want to have a night and spend loads of money there is always the option to eat at the water front of the Monte-Carlo. There are a lot of fine restaurants with some being world-renowned and quite famous. Note that these places are very expensive and they do require a dress code. The Hotel de Paris in particular is famous for its high-end restaurants (I would recommend staying here as well. The hotel is very exclusive though and is one of the best known in Europe). Of course if you don’t have the type of money to stay in Monaco then I would recommend that you save until you do or stay in a surrounding French or Italian city. Part of the experience of going to Monaco is to take part in the riches and look at the excess. So don’t feel bad spending on luxury because that is what Monaco is about.
Good for Gay Lifestyle?
In general Monaco is okay for a gay lifestyle. Monaco does not recognize same-sex couples for marriage but it is legal to do same-sex activity. There really is no establishment that is gay in Monaco (you would have to go to the surrounding major cities to experience that… like Nice, Marseilles or Lyon). There does exist a small LGBT community in Monaco that handles events. With strong ties to France though Monaco tends to have the same attitudes like France, which are favorable towards gays.
Monaco, for the most part, is a Catholic country so many people do believe that homosexuality is immoral. Of course this is Europe and if you were a same-sex couple holding hands you might get stares but nothing would happen to you. Monaco is one of the safest countries in Europe and has the highest percentage of police compared to the amount of citizens.
Monaco is absolutely beautiful in the spring and summer time but of course this is the most popular time to be there. My suggestion is to try to come during these times but avoid events like the Grand Prix as prices can jump for hotels. Winter is actually not a bad time to go either as the weather is mild for Europe.
It might be a cool story to arrive by helicopter or by the sea… both are fabulous.
The country is small.. you could literally walk the entire length of it with in a few hours.
One of the coolest parts was to see the Monte-Carlo and all the expensive cars parked outside it. Everybody was taking pictures with the cars (I even have some).
Monaco uses euros so make sure you bring some with you. Of course if you have a credit card and would like to draw money that would be possible as well.
images by: shawnvoyage