No one who works for PokerStars Blog is a millionaire, yet we have been coming to Monaco as long as the European Poker Tour (EPT) and we’re still alive.
That’s because over the years we’ve found out how to survive in Monte Carlo on a relatively meagre budget. Whatever you may think, our per diem doesn’t stretch to anything lavish, but we no longer approach Monte Carlo with a terror of bankruptcy.
We’re happy to share some of our tips for how to survive in Monte Carlo on a budget. Of course, you can break the bank if you want to, but you absolutely don’t have to.
MONTE CARLO ON A BUDGET
Broadly speaking, your biggest non-poker expenses in Monte Carlo, as with any destination, will be involved with a) travel, b) accommodation and c) sustenance. And, as with any destination, there are various options for all of them.
Let’s take a look at each in turn.
The nearest airport to Monaco is Nice, and by European standards, most flights to the airport are relatively cheap. Plenty of low-cost airlines, including Easyjet, Jet2, RyanAir and Wizz Air fly to Nice, and their presence tends to keep the prices of more mainstream carriers down too.
You then need to get to Monaco itself, and here’s where you have plenty of other options. The most expensive route is in a helicopter (costing €210 per person) or you can get a taxi for around €75. But for the budget traveller, you can get to Monaco by bus or train for less than €20.
As detailed in our Complete Guide to Monte Carlo article:
BUS: The number 80 bus (previously the 110 AirportXpress) runs between Nice Airport and Monaco every 45 minutes, seven days a week. It leaves outside Terminal 2 and there are at 15 minutes past the hour. The journey takes approximately 50 minutes and there are nine stops in Monaco, including outside the Monte Carlo Bay Resort, the Meridien Hotel and the Fairmont. The first bus is at 8.15am and the last at 8.15pm. It costs €19. Full details: https://www.nice-facile.fr/en/bus-110-airportxpress-nice-airport-monaco-menton/
TRAIN: A direct train runs from Nice’s central station to Monte Carlo four or five times per hour and costs less than $5 for a single ticket. The first train is around 5:40 a.m. and the last at 9.25 p.m. Trains run in the opposite direction at between similar times and with similar frequency. Local buses 98 and 99 link the airport to Nice’s central railway station. English language websites, including TheTrainLine.com have full timetable and reservation details. Click for more information: https://www.thetrainline.com/en/train-times/nice-to-monaco-monte-carlo
Of course, if you can get a much cheaper flight to Paris than anywhere else in France, you can take a train from Paris to Monaco. You’ll need to change in Nice.
When you’re actually in Monaco, you’ll find that most parts of the city are reachable on foot. You can actually walk the complete width of the country in about an hour, so you’re never really out of reach.
But there’s also a pretty good bus service through Monaco. Seven routes run from 7am through 9.30pm, linking all parts of the Principality. From 9.20pm through 12.20am, this becomes an evening service, and then on weekends, there’s a night bus from 12.20am through 4am.
You can pay through contactless cards for all journeys and a 30-minute ride is €2. You can change buses in that time for no extra cost. Alternatively, you can but a €5.50 day pass and ride as often as you want.
The Monte Carlo Bay Hotel is in the Larvotto Beach area of Monaco, serviced by Line 5 and Line 6.
Read more information and see timetables at Visit Monaco.
Monte Carlo is a very expensive place to stay, but there are two ways to make it slightly cheaper.
The first is to win your seat to either the EPT or the FPS via an online satellite. Many of the qualification tournaments offer complete packages, where travel and accommodation expenses are included.
This will give you a room in the official PokerStars hotels, which will mean the highest standards and the easiest access to the tournament.
The second tip for more affordable trips to Monaco is to remember its proximity to France. It’s possible to stay just across the border in France and then make the very short trip into Monaco every day. By and large, accommodation is slightly cheaper in France than it is in the Principality.
We have previously stayed in the Riviera Marriott Hotel La Porte de Monaco, for example, a four-star hotel that is officially in France. It’s a lovely high-end hotel, at the other end of the Line 6 bus route from the tournament venue.
There are also numerous AirBnB properties in and around Monaco. If you search for Beausoleil, instead of Monaco itself, you open up the properties that are just over the border. You can find some excellent apartments for a fraction of the price of a hotel room.
The obvious focus of your trip to Monte Carlo will always be the poker, and you’ll no doubt hope to spend as much time as possible at the tables. When that is the case, you only really get to eat at the venue during your tournament breaks. Thankfully you can buy some reasonably priced (for Monte Carlo) food at the Sporting Club snack-bar, and PokerStars has also laid on a pancake and smoothie stand, which is free for all players.
Our single most valuable nugget of advice, however, is this: learn how to pilfer your breakfast buffet for at least one additional meal.
It may sound grubby. It may sound underhand. And it may sound cheap. But that’s the specific point of any article titled Monte Carlo on a budget. Take a bag to the breakfast room and make yourself a sandwich that you can wrap in a napkin. Then pick up a couple of pieces of fruit too.
Even if you have to leave it in the hotel room, you can pop back during a break and eat that, saving yourself at least €20 per day.
It would be a shame, of course, to spend all of your trip to Monte Carlo eating contraband baguettes. And there are a good handful of reasonable restaurants within a shortish distance of the tournament room for you to try out when you’re at the EPT.
In addition to Le Vietnam, Zamane Couscous, Miami Plage and Il Giardino, mentioned in our Complete Guide article, you might also want to try Tip Top, in the Metropole Shopping Centre. This is reasonably priced and, most importantly, perhaps, open until 5am. You can usually go deep in a tournament and still get some food.
There are also some decent supermarkets not far from the venue. Try:
Marché U et Drive
7 Bd d’Italie
17 Av. des Spélugues
(This is in the Metropole shopping arcade)
17 Av. des Spélugues
We’ve had picnics on the beach in tournament breaks. In addition to being cheaper, it gives you some fresh air and some sunshine.
Good luck on your Monaco adventure. Hit us up in person for any more information — and we’d be very happy to hear any more tips you might have.