B & bs and gîtes
Throughout France, mainly in rural areas but also in towns and cities, you can find B&Bs and gîtes.
B&B's are known in French as "Chambres d'hôtes" and are generally available on a nightly basis. By law, breakfast MUST be included in the advertised price for a "chambre d'hôte". Bear this in mind when comparing prices with hotels, where breakfast is NOT included in the room price.
Gites or gites ruraux are holiday cottages, and generally rented out as a complete accommodation unit including a kitchen, mostly on a weekly basis. There are very few near or in the cities. Finding them requires buying a guide or, for greater choice, using the internet, as you will not find a lot of signposts on the road.
Traditionally, gites provided basic good value accommodation, typically adjacent to the owners household or in a nearby outbuilding. More recently the term has been extended, and can now be used to describe most country-based self-catering accommodation in France. Hence it includes accommodation as varied as small cottages villas with private swimming pools.
During peak summer months the best self-catering gites require booking several months in advance.
There are thousands of B&Bs and gites in France rented out by foreign owners, particularly British and Dutch, and these tend to be listed, sometimes exclusively, with English-language or international organisations and websites that can be found by keying the words "chambres d'hotes", "gites" or "gites de france" into any of the major search engines.
There is a large number of organisations and websites offering "gites". Literally the French word gite just means a place to spend the night; however it now largely used to describe rental cottages or self-catering holiday homes, usually in rural parts of France.
A France-wide cooperative organisation, Gites de France regroups on a voluntary basis more than 50,000 rural accommodations and was the first in France to offer a consistent rating system with comprehensive descriptions.
Despite the name, Gites de France offers B&B as well as holiday rental gite accommodation.
The "Gites de France" rating system uses wheat stalks called Epis equivalent to stars, based on amenities rather than quality - though generally the two go together.
Through its website, bookings can be done directly with owners or through the local Gîtes de France booking agency no extra fee for the traveler. Although an English language version is available for many of the website pages, for some departments the pages giving details of an individual gite are only in French.
There is no particular advantage in using Gites de France rather than one of the other online gites sites, or booking directly with a gite. The procedure is pretty standard for all gite booking sites, whether French or foreign - with the advantage that absolutely all the booking process can be done in English if you use an English-language portal, which is not always the case with Gites de France.
After making a gite booking you will receive, by post, a contract to sign gites only. Sign and return one copy. When signing write the words "Read and approved", and the name of your home town, before signing and dating the contract. You will normally be asked to pay a deposit of a quarter to a third of the booking fee. The rest will be required one month before the start of your holiday. When you arrive at the gite a security deposit, specified in the contact, should be given to the owner in cash. This will be returned at the end of your stay, less any fuel charges and breakages.
Another great resource for booking Gites and Villas in France is Holiday France Direct, It enables you to deal directly with the property owners and offers customers discounted ferry travel with Brittany Ferries. www.holidayfrancedirect.co.uk
Self catering accommodation in Brittany with wheelchair access.
Camping is very common in France. Most campsite are a little way out of the city centre and virtually all cater not just for tents but for Camper Vans/Caravans also. While all campsites have the basic facilities of Shower/toilet blocks, larger sites tend to offer a range of additional facilities such as bars and restaurants, self-service laundries, swimming pools or bicycle hire.All campsites except for very small "farm camping" establishments must be registered with the authorities, and are officially graded using a system of stars.
In coastal areas, three-star and four-star campgrounds must generally be booked in advance during the months of July and August, and many people book from one year to the next. In rural areas, outside of popular tourist spots, it is usually possible to show up unannounced, and find a place; this is particularly true with the municipal campsites that can be found in most small towns; though even then it may be advisable to ring up or email in advance to make sure. There are always exceptions.
In France it's forbidden to camp:
in woods, natural, regional and national parks
on public roads and streets
on the seaside
less than 200m from watering place used for human consumption
on natural protected sites
less than 500m from a protected monument
everywhere where it's forbidden by local laws
on private properties without the owner's consent.
Hotels come in 5 categories from 1 to 5 stars. This is the official rating given by the Ministry of Tourism, and it is posted at the entrance on a blue shield. Stars are awarded according to objective yet somewhat outdated administrative criteria area of the reception hall, percentage of rooms with en suite bathroom....
Rates vary according to accommodation, location and sometimes high or low season or special events.
As of 2004, the rate for a *** hotel listed in a reliable guidebook falls between €70 cheap and €110 expensive for a double without breakfast.
All hotels, by law, must have their rates posted outside or visible from outside. Note that these are maximal rates: a hotel can always propose a lower rate in order to fill up its rooms. Bargaining is not the norm but you can always ask for a discount.
Hotels located in city centres or near train stations are often very small 15-30 rooms which means that you should book ahead. Many newer hotels, business oriented, are found in the outskirts of cities and are sometimes larger structures 100 rooms or more; they may not be easy to reach with public transportation. The newer hotels are often part of national or international chains and have high standards. Many older hotels are now part of chains and provide standardized service but they retain their own atmosphere.
When visiting Paris, it is essential to stay in the city; there are cheaper tourism hotels in the suburbs, but these cater to groups in motor coaches; they will be hard to reach by public transportation.
Along the highways, at the entrance of cities, you find US-like motels ; they are very often reachable only by car. Some motels e.g. Formule 1 have minimal service, if you come in late you find an ATM-like machine, using credit cards, which will deliver a code in order to reach your assigned room.
short term rentals
Travellers should definitely consider short term villa/apartment/studio rentals as an alternative to other accommodations options. Short term can be as few as several days up to months at a stretch. Summer rentals are usually from Saturday to Saturday only July & August. This type accommodation belongs to a private party, and can range from basic to luxurious. A particular advantage, aside from competitive prices, is that the accommodations come with fully fitted kitchens.
Hundreds of agencies offer accommodation for short term rentals on behalf of the owner, and can guide you into finding the best property, at the best price in the most suitable location for you. An internet search for the location and type of property you're looking for will usually return the names of several listing sites, each of which may have hundreds or thousands of properties for you to choose from. There are plenty of sites in both English and French, and the rental properties may be owned by people of any nationality.
France is a diverse and colourful country, and you'll find everything from stunning log chalets in the Alps, Chateaux in the countryside and beach front villas on the Riviera...plus everything in between!