Wednesday, 29 July 2015

5 Top Tips for a cheap trip to Nice, Cote D’Azur in the school holidays

Get budget flights & only have carry on luggage

Flights to Nice only take around two hours from most UK airports, so no need for luxury.  Based near Stafford we consider lots of regional airports.  Birmingham, Manchester, East Midlands, Liverpool and even Coventry.

This time we got EasyJet flights from Liverpool to Nice for around £200 each. Flying out on a Thursday at 7am and back in on a Monday night at 9pm, meant we have five full days to enjoy on the Cote D’Azur.

Apparently there’s a work around to get better EasyJet prices.  Involving booking Flexifare tickets for flights a couple of weeks before you need the actual flights.  Then take advantage of being able to reschedule your flights to the ones you actually need.  A smidge risky, and you’ll have to be flexible, but possibly worthwhile if originally booking a flight outside the school holidays, then taking one inside the more expensive school break window.

The Bay of Angels from Castle Hill, Nice

Think location, and pay for *** but get **** service

We found a lovely little 3 star hotel in Nice that has a 4 star sister next door.  Hotel Gounod looks a little like a budget Wes Anderson film set, but it wasn’t.  It was a perfect little quiet boutique hotel with a well endowed neighbour.  You get to pay 3 star prices and via free access to its sister hotel next door you get 4 star facilities.

We had free wi-fi everywhere, 24 hour concierge, access to a roof top pool, jacuzzi, bar and restaurant.  Breakfast was quiet, simple, but had all we wanted to eat at that time of day.  I made four course comfortably, and could have had fruit and yoghurt if I wasn't in indulgent holiday mode!

Our standard room was a good size, had a massive comfy bed, air conditioning, modern bathroom with bath and shower as well as a fridge and wardrobe with dressing room.

It was a short and straightforward five-minute or so walk to the train station, and the same to the promenade and the Bay of Angels.

Use the airport bus

Travelling as a couple means taxis can be a little pricey, as in you aren’t splitting the cost across more people.  This time we took the airport bus at 6€ each.

Straight forward and the hotel website had helpfully advised on the stop we needed.

The return was even easier, as we realised you could pay the driver rather than queue for tickets like we did outside Terminal 2 at Nice airport.

Nice is easy to navigate, particularly if you pick up a free map from somewhere.

And if you get lost, just ask a bin man!

Bin men don't charge for directions in Nice!

Drink water with your meals, have an ice cream & take pizza to the beach

I mean, knock yourselves out with whatever you want to drink, but like in UK restaurants diners often don’t look at drinks prices and don’t realise the coke they’re drinking is near half the price of the meal on their plate.

French tap water, or l’eau de robinet, is as good if not better than what we use at home.  And like here restaurants are obliged to provide it for free when you are eating with them.  We tended to order one drink as a treat, and then rehydrate with a regularly replenished carafe of free tap water on the table.

There’s a vast selection of restaurants in Nice, and the prices are reasonable.  They are pretty easy to compare, as most restaurants do similar dishes.  Looking at the moules-frites (mussels and chips) price is a good benchmark indicator to a restaurant's price level.

Another little tip is to walk off your dinner, and find one of many ice cream parlours for your dessert. Instead of paying 8€ plus for a pudding, pay around 2€ for a ice cream in ANY flavour you like.

A deliciously delightful way to save money as you take in the evening vibe in Nice's old town.

Although we didn’t do it, some folks were getting takeaway pizzas and walking them to the promenade or beach to eat overlooking the sea.  Not waiter service, but many a pleasant spot to eat a five pound pizza.

Get the bus, or train to Monaco

A lot of visitors to Nice will make the short journey to Monte Carlo to see what all the fuss is about.

Well, there is a lot of fuss, and a lot of traffic, making taxis expensive and not entirely easy to arrange as a return.

The train costs under 8€ each for a return journey, and trains run every 25 minutes or so.  They are usually busy but air conditioned, and journeys take less than 30 minutes.

Unless you’re fluent in French I’d avoid the automated ticket machines and go to the ticket office which is well manned and serves a large queue quickly and in either French or English.

The bus, number 100, is even cheaper at €1.50 each per journey.  And while a little slower at around 45 minutes, it takes a much more picturesque route.  It also drops and collects right by the bigger port of Monaco, so you don’t even have to encounter the steps back up to the train station.

Can you do it better?

We thought we got a relative bargain city break to Nice.  Five full days in Nice, including eating out twice a day in very good, at least mid-range restaurants, costing us less than £1,400 for two in peak season and over a weekend.

That price included all flights, hotels, transfer, food, drink, snacks, a trip to Monaco, and a 1 hour boat tour around to Villefranche from Nice harbour.


However, do you think we could have done it even better?