Calais has long been called the gateway to France and indeed, to the continent of Europe to those traveling from London the British Isles, and beyond. The city of Calais was a British possession for centuries, finally given up in 1558 after a surprise attack by the French.
Since then, the narrow straits between the UK and France have kept Calais on the map as an important transit point for travelers. From here the road and rail network stretches out across France to all points, including Monaco, one of the finest destinations on the Mediterranean Coast.
Traveling from sea to sea, you cannot fail but to appreciate the world of contrasts that is France. Go from the most Northern province, with its dairy farming, its silver seas, its gently rolling hills, through Paris and the heartlands, to the vineyards of the South, its glittering waters, and dramatic Alpine views.
It’s a journey that could have the potential to be legendary. From Calais to Monaco, the distance is approximately 775 miles, depending upon the route you take and the mode of transport you employ.
Here’s our guide to how you can make it an epic trip or how to minimize travel time to get to Monaco from Calais.
Calais to Monaco: Your Route Planner Guide
Between Calais and Monaco, there are a thousand distractions lying in your path that could take you days to get past, so before you start on this tour, you need to prioritize.
Is this a once-in-a-lifetime trip? If so, then put together a list of must-sees. Whatever you do, don’t put Paris on this list! It’s worth a trip all on its own and is impossible to do in a day!
The Champagne City of Reims
Instead, I would recommend Reims as a city stopover on the way. The center is quite walkable, and the cathedral is very memorable.
Reims is France’s champagne capital and the city where thirty of the Kings of France were crowned.
Lyon and the South
Further South, near the city of Lyon, the climate changes dramatically, the Rhone River widens, and the valley sides rise high with vines. The famous Mistral wind blows at your back, driving you on to the Mediterranean.
And then those names of historic southern France begin to appear: Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseilles, Nice, then finally, Monaco.
We have driven this distance over two days, arriving just outside Frejus by 6 pm on day two, and taken three days over the return journey through the Alps, where it was cooler, which is to be recommended in August.
By Rail: The Comfort and Speed of French Trains
The most genteel, absolutely relaxing way to make the trip is to let the train do the work for you. All you have to do is sit back and watch as the world slides by outside the window.
The TGV train is also one of the fastest ways to get from Calais to Monaco. There is a regular TGV train at 10:08 from Calais that gets you into Pais Gare du Nord with 2 hours to get across town to the Gare du Lyon.
Peek at Paris
Use the famous Paris Metro, or take a taxi through the city’s streets and maybe grab a sneak peek at some of the famous landmarks (for next time!).
From the Gare de Lyon, it will take another six hours to get to Nice on another TGV train. These trains travel at an average rate of 200 mph. If you can choose, get a seat on the top deck for the best views.
The train to Nice, features a bistro car too, if you would like to dine in style while the train races along its tracks.
At Nice, transfer onto a slower TER train. It’s only a 20-minute ride into Monaco, where you will arrive before 9 pm.
Ticket prices range from $122 for Standard Class to $250 for First Class tickets. Book ahead with Omio to get the best prices. The closer to the date of travel you are the higher price will be.
By Road: Driving or Bus Options Explored
Of course, taking the open road will give you all the opportunities for distraction, diversion, and all the secret discoveries that make road trips such an enduring draw.
France’s road network is comprehensive with convenient, and consistently good quality services along all of its autoroutes. Even the coffee in the machines comes with a little chocolate biscuit.
Discover Cars is a great place to start when looking for a good all-round rental service. Most European cars are stick-shift, so if you would prefer an automatic transmission, be sure to specify that when booking.
On top of car rental, and fuel, some of the motorways are pay-to-play. Called Peage, and with a blue-colored sign to let you know, they are the fast track to where you want to go.
Follow the green signs to save money on road tolls and see a lot more of the ‘real’ France, as these roads will take you through, what feels like, every town between Calais and Monaco, and it will take a fair bit longer too.
The only time I would think of taking the green roads over the blue would be on a so-called Black Saturday. These are days on the French holiday calendar when a large section of the population is either traveling to or from a holiday destination.
Traffic and How to Avoid It
The French media make a daily report of the number of kilometers of traffic jams in the country. The number this year was regularly close to 1,000 (600 miles). When you think that Calais to Monaco is approximately 775 miles, that figure doesn’t fall too short!
One year it was incredibly hot on the Riviera. In Monaco, the mercury reached 104°F, and we could only assume the temperature on the tarmac, queueing North to Lyon had to be intolerable.
Our solution was to drive up through the Alps, through Draguignan to Castellane, then on to Grenoble. We crossed over to Chalons-sur-Saone before overnighting in Beaune. By then the hot weather had given way to thunderstorms, making the next leg of the journey much fresher.
Bargain Bus Rides
If you would prefer not to drive and would like a better-priced trip than the train, then the bus option could be a good one for you. Omio has a number of options that will get you across the country, but it will take up to 24 hours and will involve complicated transfers with local bus services.
There are better services by bus from Paris to Nice, but you have to get to Paris first. This is probably simpler if you have arrived in another European capital city to begin with, as services from regional centers are less comprehensive.
Air Travel: The Fastest Route from Calais to Monaco
Of course, if you are in a hurry, and need to be in Monaco before the sun goes down on that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, what can you do?
Get on the train to Lille airport where a flight will take less than two hours and cost as little as $40. Once at Nice, there is the option of a seat in a helicopter for $195, or a taxi for $60, or the train for $5.
So don’t panic, you will be able to make that meeting, that date, that premier, or confront that super-villain before their evil plans unfold.
Car Rentals: Enjoying a Self-Paced Journey
Book ahead and have a car waiting at Calais from Discover Cars and take the country of France at your own pace. Roll through Picardy and the Paris Basin. France is the seventh-largest exporter of grain in the world, here’s the evidence! It’s like the grain belt of America.
Visit Reims for the champagne and avoid Paris for your own sanity. Driving in the capital is not to be recommended.
Top Tip For Driving in France
My top tip is to check cities for Crit-Air emissions requirements.
Without the correct stickers on your windshield, you could end up with a fine of $200 or $400 or more.
Enquire at the rental company to make sure their vehicles comply.
Accommodation Enroute: Best Stops for Overnight Stays
By train or coach, I would take a stopover in Paris if I wanted to break the journey, despite what I said earlier! No, you won’t do justice to a city like Paris in a day, or even two, but a glimpse, or a taste might be allowed if you promise to return one day.
By car, you are spoiled for choice. If you are in a hurry to get South, you could do the drive in one go, if you had two to three drivers to share the work of driving.
If you’re like me and never want to hurry then Beaune is the ideal location for a one-night stop on the way. The town is not too large, so everything is easy to find.
There are Novotels and other large chain hotels on the way, associated with local services and the like, but for great service, and a breakfast you can’t beat, head for the Hotel de France. It’s across the street from the railway station and within easy walking distance of a beautiful town center.
Journey Tips: Making Your Calais to Monaco Trip Smooth
- Book early. Last minute is always exciting, but it limits your options, especially if you are on a budget.
- Don’t rush unless you have to. You never know when you will be back this way again.
- Eat in the on-train bistro or wait until the bus stops somewhere nice. Don’t eat in your car, you’re in France! Stop in the service stations or check out an auberge.
- Restaurants observe strict opening times, so do stop between 12:30 and 1:30. Unless you are in a service station on a motorway, you may find it difficult to eat after 2 pm.
- If you are traveling by TGV you need to be through the ticket barrier at least 30 minutes before the train departs or you may not be allowed to board.
Conclusion: Embarking on Your Monaco Adventure
By train, bus, plane, or automobile, every epic journey needs a worthy destination, an Emerald City that welcomes the worldly and wind-blown traveler.
Monaco is just such a city, sparkling at night with its millions of lights dazzling on every street, and during the day, with the Mediterranean Sea a quilt of turquoise diamonds, a fortune glinting in every visitor’s eye.
Sure, the trip across France was glorious, from the breeze-blown dunes of the Calais coast, through wheat and wine country, down to the fragrant lavender field of Provence. Now here you are, in the magical promised city, where beauty and excellence, history, knowledge, and speed combine to make a place that would have to be invented if it did not exist already.
FAQs: Addressing Common Concerns for Travelers
What currency do they use in Monaco?
Monaco is part of the Eurozone, so the same money that you use in France can be used in Monaco too.
Is Monaco in the same time zone as France?
Yes, it is. So there is no need to make calculations between departure and arrival times in either France or Monaco. Other European centers may differ.
Will my passport be checked when I enter Monaco from France?
While there is an official border it is not a ‘hard’ border, which means that it is likely you might cross a road and move from France to Monaco and back again. In fact, on the railway station in Monaco, the Northern platform is in France, while the Southern platform is in Monaco.
So, no, it is unlikely, but always keep your travel documents safe.