Visiting Monaco: The Basics
What and where is Monaco?
Monaco is a small country or principality on the Mediterranean coast, completely surrounded by France, but very near the Italian border. Squeezed into just 200 hectares, It might be the world’s second-smallest country (only the Vatican is smaller), but what it lacks in size it makes up for in attitude. A magnet for high-rollers and hedonists since the early 20th century, it’s also renowned as one of the world’s most notorious tax havens and home to the annual Formula One Grand Prix. By this guide, you can learn the basics of visiting the place.
Monte Carlo, and other wards within
Before we go any further, I’ll explain the difference between Monaco and Monte Carlo because they seem to be so often confused. It is the country or the city-state, whereas Monte Carlo is one of the areas or wards within. There are other wards of course: Monaco-Ville or its other name Le Rocher (The Rock) is the oldest part; Fontvieille is the newest area and reclaimed from the sea; La Condamine is the area by the old port. A total of ten wards, there is Monte Carlo, and nine other wards within the city-state. There are possible plans for building at least one other on land, once again, or reclamation from the sea.
Below a list of the ten wards as mapped above (the numbering is for illustration purposes only):
- 01 – Monte Carlo / Spélugues
- 02 – La Rousse / Saint Roman
- 03 – Larvotto/Bas Moulins
- 04 – La Condamine
- 05 – Monaco-Ville
- 06 – Fontvieille
- 07 – La Colle
- 08 – Les Révoires
- 09 – Moneghetti/ Boulevard de Belgique
- 10 – Saint Michel
How to travel
Situated along the French Riviera at the foot of the Maritime Alps, it offers easy access by car or air. The closest airport is a 30-minute drive, in Nice, France. If you decide to drive, we recommend renting a convertible. Top down is the way to go. After all, it’s the city of the Grand Prix and where some of the James Bond movies were filmed. There’s lots of parking, and lots of beautiful places to visit in the surrounding area (like Èze, Villefranche, Antibes, Nice, etc.)
Alternatively, you can arrange a helicopter to or from the airport through Heli Air Monaco. If you’re not feeling quite that extravagant, you can catch an Uber (for around €40), take a train (most of the time they don’t check tickets, but when they do you can buy one on the train for €12) or the airport bus (for around €25). Uber is what locals normally take, as it’s usually the fastest and easiest. That said, if you arrive during rush hour, definitely opt for the train or helicopter, as traffic getting into Monaco in the mornings and coming out in the early evenings can create sometimes serious delays (and I mean serious — up to 2 hours!)
How to go around
So long as you’re staying in the Condamine, Monte Carlo or Larvato areas, you can walk pretty much anywhere you’re going within 20 to 30 minutes. Knowing where the public elevators are will save you some sweat and get you to your destination faster. You can download and print a map of every “Ascenseur Public” here.
Unfortunately, Uber is not allowed to pick up within. Uber can only drop off within its borders. That said, you can hail an Uber in Beausoleil (which is in the borders and is a quick walk from most places within).
You’ll probably find it easier to use the excellent and very inexpensive bus system. You can buy yourself a ticket when you get on the bus, but it’s slightly cheaper to buy the ticket from strategically placed ticket machines where a single journey will be at a discount, or you can buy 12 journeys for the price of 6. When boarding the bus you pass the ticket over the electronic reader. It’s as simple as that. If you have to change lines, you do not need to use up another ticket as long as the changeover takes no longer than 30 minutes.