From small family-run hotels to international hotel chains, France’s hotel scene has something for every type of traveler. At EuroCheapo, our goal is to help our readers find the best cheap hotels in France, from independent hotels to B&Bs, pensions, country inns and surprise-free French budget hotel chains.
Before you hit “book” and reserve your hotels for your upcoming trip, keep the following tips in mind in order to score the best rate possible. After all, you’ll sleep tighter when you save a few euros.
How to find cheap hotels in France
Ready to save? Check out the following advice to save on hotels in France. Note: If you’re only spending time in Paris, be sure to check out our guide to saving on hotels in Paris.
1. Your hotel budget goes much further outside Paris.
First-time travelers to Paris often gasp when they first walk into their hotel room. “That’s it?” they stutter, as the door hits the side of the bed.
Yes, for the most part, affordable hotels in Paris have very small rooms, when compared to rooms that you’ll find in smaller towns in France or even in other European capitals (the average hotel room in Berlin, for example, is much larger than in Paris).
To top it all off, that tiny room in Paris can be quite expensive. It could cost you €135 … or more … and that would still be a good deal for Paris.
Fortunately, as you head outside the major French cities (especially Paris and Nice) into smaller destinations and the lovely French countryside, things change dramatically for the better. From Brittany and Normandy to Provence, hotels for the most part offer a better value (and have larger rooms!) than what you’ll find in Paris.
Then again, if you need to sleep near Paris, consider staying in an affordable hotel in a nearby suburb.
- Heading to Paris? Read our guide to saving on hotels in Paris.
- See our recommended budget hotels in Paris
- France itinerary: 10 days from Paris to Marseille
2. Sleep in a village inn or on a farm.
When traveling through France’s smaller towns, villages, and countryside, you’ll see plenty of hotels, but you’ll also see signs for other types of accommodation, including “chambres d’hotes” (guestrooms), “gites” (guest houses), and “Logis” (a network of small inns).
Logis (formerly Logis de France) is an association of independently-run rural inns, most of which offer fine regional meals in addition to accommodation. Logis sends undercover auditors to test out the guestrooms and restaurants at participating hotels, and classifies them by assigning a number of chimneys (for the hotels) and pots (for the restaurants). Logis serves a wide variety of budgets, offering everything from tiny cheapo-friendly village properties to extravagant chateaux, but nearly all have an abundance of charm.
Another French favorite is the “farm stay”, a sort of rural bed-and-breakfast option (although many offer delicious dinner options, often with locally sourced food). The best part? These can often be booked for less than a standard hotel! Check out the Gites de France website for more info.
3. Stars can be overrated.
We’ve written extensively about this before, but it’s worth repeating: Be savvy when considering a hotel’s star rating. Stars are a classification given to the hotel by a tourism board or government agency, and reflect the services, amenities, and room size — they do not reflect the quality of the hotel or user rating.
Many hotels game this system by adding lots of extra “stuff” to the room in order to get bumped up to the next star category. For example, a standard two-star hotel can throw in a hairdryer, cosmetic mirror, and safe in the closet… and suddenly get bumped into a three-star.
And conversely, perfectly good hotels can’t add certain services (like an elevator or a breakfast room) because of zoning laws, and thus get stuck in two-star territory.
So be smart about this and don’t strictly limit your options to only one star category. A charming two-star hotel may very well offer a much better experience than a hum-drum three-star hotel.
4. Try a French budget hotel chain for a surprise-free night.
Sometimes you simply need a cheap hotel. In France you’ll find several budget hotel chains competing for your reservation. Unsurprisingly, many of these are located outside the center city, in industrial-feeling shopping districts, or just off major highways. Two of the largest budget chains are:
Ibis: The largest economy hotel chain, by far, is Ibis, which operates 1,800 hotels around the world (mostly in Europe). Ibis operates three categories of hotel, regular old perfectly-pleasant Ibis, swankier Ibis Styles, and super cheap Ibis Budget (formerly Etap Hotels).
Hotel F1: A cheaper option than Ibis, F1 (short for “Formule 1”) hotels line the main French highways and city outskirts. We’re fans of F1, as rooms are clean and seriously cheapo… from €22, with free parking.
5. Watch out for extra charges.
When searching for hotels in France and comparing your options, be sure to see what’s included in your room rate.
- Is Wi-Fi free? It should be at this point, but there are still some hotels charging for it.
- Is Breakfast included? (See my next point.)
- Do you need a late checkout? Compare the hotels’ policies.
- Is parking offered? Is it free? (More on this below.)
Note that in France a tourism tax, called the “taxe de sejour“, is charged per person per night. This charge is almost never included in the room rate that you see when you book your room, but is mandatory for hotels located in most tourist destinations in France.
Until recently, the tax was set at a standard €1.50 per person per night, although this has changed slightly recently due to a new law passed in 2015. In any case, expect to pay a couple more euros per night in tourism-related taxes.
6. Ask what’s for breakfast before you pay for it.
Speaking of breakfast, a hotel breakfast in France is usually a bit less robust than what many North American travelers are expecting. A typical French hotel breakfast includes a choice of pastry (usually croissant, sometimes also pain au chocolat) and part of a baguette, butter and jam, coffee or tea, and juice. Possible additions include fresh fruit, yogurt (and muesli), hard boiled eggs, cheeses, and fruit. In all but the ritziest four-star hotel buffets, you can forget about omelets, bacon, sausage, etc.
You’ll be asked at check-in if you’d like to have breakfast. As the options are usually pretty limited and breakfast is almost never included in the room rate, it’s best to ask in advance what the breakfast consists of before committing to it. Or, at the very least, only commit to one day of breakfast if you’re staying for several days. You can test it out, and then see if you can do better elsewhere. You’ll most likely find a nearby cafe that offers something even better at a more reasonable price.
7. Driving? Think about parking when choosing your hotel’s location.
When choosing your hotel’s location, consider your parking options. I’m always a fan of sleeping in the old center cities of French towns. In Avignon, Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Chartres, Aix-en-Provence… I tend to look for hotels that are in the historic old town (“centre ville”), and sometimes within the old walls, too. It’s where all the action is, including the top sights, restaurants, and activities.
While these central spots are often convenient for those arriving by train (many stations are within a quick walk of the old center cities), those arriving by car might have an expensive surprise awaiting them. Be aware that many of these historic centers are pedestrian-only zones, and hotels in these areas almost never offer free parking for guests.
This shouldn’t dissuade you from choosing a hotel here, of course, as parking options will be offered by the hotel — however, you’ll most likely have to pay top dollar for it. Garages inside the “old centers” tend to be the most expensive anywhere. When comparing hotels, you might find hotels within a quick walk of the old center that offer free onsite parking. It might be worth the walk to avoid an overpriced garage.
8. Should you book early or last minute? It depends.
As I wrote in my article about when to book hotels for the best rates, if you have your eye on a particular hotel, book it. If it’s a popular, top-rated property, or you’re visiting during the high season, you should just go ahead and secure a room as far in advance as possible.
However, if you’re more flexible about where you stay and you’re not traveling during peak travel times or when a local festival or business conference is happening, you could take a chance on scoring a last-minute deal. It only makes sense to play “wait and see”, however, if you do preliminary hotel searches and see lots of availability for your travel dates. If you see only a few hotels available, you’d be better off booking something right away, as waiting could force you to stay in a far-flung location or pay through the nose.
9. Finding super high rates? Be wary… and be flexible.
If your hotel searches are turning up surprisingly expensive rates, you might have stumbled into festival or conference dates. (This is a regular issue travelers face when unwittingly booking Paris trips during fashion weeks.)
Try adjusting the dates back or forward a week. If you see a big change, visit the website of the city’s official tourism office to determine if your visit is coinciding with a special event or business conference. If you have flexibility with your itinerary, it might be wise to change course and visit at another date.
10. Book on EuroCheapo!
Naturally, we can’t wrap up the article without mentioning that EuroCheapo offers reservations at thousands of cheap hotels in France. Sleep better knowing your not blowing your budget in your sleep.
- Do a search on our homepage for your destination.
- Check out our recommended hotels in Paris, Nice, Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg.
Have a tip about ways to save at hotels in France? Share with us in our comments section below!
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