The waiting is soon over for Part II!
Which country could possibly only be 2 km² large? No, it is not Vatican City. But the second smallest country on earth, the country in between France and Italy: Monaco.
Monaco is…let’s say, special. You can usually become a traveler anywhere you go. As you probably know from your own experience, or the one you will soon make, it is always possible to find a way into the locals life and experience it. But in Monaco, there is no chance of becoming a local, becoming a traveler unless you live there (which I used to). Every single tourist in Monaco will stay a tourist, sadly. It is nearly impossible to explore the city/ country as a local. Because the country is exclusive, it is not for everybody. And it wants to stay that way.
To understand why the tiny country by the Mediterranean Sea is so unique, you need to have a bit of background information: in Monaco, you do not need to pay neither income nor inheritance tax. And the country does not trail tax offences committed in other countries. So it is a paradise for the wealthy people. (Note: I am not saying that every citizen in Monaco has committed any kind of tax offence.) In addition, it is a principality and ruled over by the royal Grimaldi family and its head (currently: Price Albert II.).
Due to that you will be overwhelmed by the amount of luxury and exclusivity there is. In front of the Casino and Hôtel De Paris you can see the most expensive cars. And then you turn around and see women walking past you with handbags and jewellery that cost more than your car. You always find yourself gazing towards the sky-high buildings. So all in all, it is different. But interesting.
If you want to visit Monaco, two to three days should be enough. The cheapest hotels start around 130€ per night and the most expensive ones…well, they do not have a limit (speaking of 1700€ per night for a 4-star hotel). But the ‘cheap’ hotels have a high standard and are just as satisfying and good as any other. Just be sure that breakfast is included in the price, because the prices of some cafés are very high.
Food in Monaco is the same as in e.g. France. A normal lunch with a glass of wine costs you about 23€. You can also beat the tourist track a bit by strolling through ‘Condamine Market’ for some local bites. The only thing where you need to be careful is when you go out at night – the drinks are a bit more expensive than in your average bar around the corner. 🙂
A great way of seeing the country is by bus. A normal bus ride only costs 2€ and the ‘Grand Tour’ with an open bus is priced at 21€, but you learn a lot about the country as well. For example that the country often goes by the name ‘Monte-Carlo’ as well.
Maybe this is not all unicorns and rainbows what you have read here, but I want to be honest about the countries and the experiences I have had. I do like to come back every now and then to Monaco, I lived there at the ages of 4 – 8 after all. But I am happy that I only spent that time of my childhood there when my character was not formed yet, where I was not yet learning what is important in life. I am happy that I learned these things later in a different country. Because Monaco is exclusive, glamorous, perfect to some, but frankly, also superficial. You are a nobody if you are not wearing the newest Gucci sneakers and having a Louis Vuitton bag from last season is not gladly seen. Either you play with the big and rich and adapt to the system of buying the newest things, driving the fastest car, owning the biggest boat, or you do not belong there – and the people let you feel so. Maybe you are asking yourself, then why the hell does she enjoy going there if she does not live there anymore?? Because I know what life looks like in that tiny, perfect – yet not so perfect bubble, and it makes one down-to-earth. If you come back from visiting Monaco and have a look at the city from a different and neutral angle, you recognise that money is not everything, that it somehow is barely anything. And all that glitters really is not gold.
- Restaurants: 10%
- Taxi: round up
- Guides/Staff: 3-4€
- Do hire a cab if you need to, that way you can also avoid having to drive around by yourself in an expensively hired car. But be careful, if you hail a taxi from the street in Monaco, they will not stop. So just call the taxi company in advance.
- Always be sure to take an ID with you. The bars, restaurants etc. can be very strict.
- You should never confuse Monaco and France. Even though French is the main language spoken there, Monegasques get offended when you call them French.
- You are allowed to wear swimwear at the beach of course, but as soon as you leave the beach and go into the city, you should cover up and put shoes on. Or else you might get yourself a heavy fine.