I have seen other articles on attending the Monaco Grand Prix and staying in parking garages, and thought my recent experience may help some people. Flying over from America to rent a car to sleep in a parking garage did not seem ideal (all the props to those who do it though). Fortunately I have a friend living a short 30 min train ride away in Nice.
I flew direct to Nice airport from JFK and used points for the flight. The flight cost approx. 700 without points and appeared to be cheapest 6-8 weeks before the day you fly. This is obviously a big variable for people and the biggest expense.
Where to Stay:
If you are fabulously wealthy, by all means stay in Monaco, but that was not practical here. Nice is a short train ride away and absolutely awesome. There is a ton of great food, beaches, English speaking bars, and most importantly affordable housing options. Hotels are an option but Airbnb really shined for me. I paid about 70 per night and the place could easily fit four. Airbnb also lists some hostels for 25ish a night if you are really doing this on the cheap. I would recommend staying in or near Old Town Nice. That is where all the good food, bars, etc are located. The train station makes all of the French riviera and into Italy accessible and is cheap.
How do I get to Monaco:
The main train station is centrally located and pretty easy to find. If you made accommodations far away there is tram as well as a bus. The trams/buses have inspectors everywhere so make sure you pay and validate. The main French Train line is the SNCF and their app is fantastic so download it. The train service is less then stellar, and at rush hour nobody pays. Race day they corral you into a security check to force everyone to buy a ticket. Try to get there with plenty of time before your planned train. The train goes west towards Cannes, and east towards Ventimiglia, which is the Italian border. To get to Monaco you want the Ventimiglia train. There are a few coastal french beach towns along the way and you should visit them time permitting
The train lines also run the Italian Thello service. It is a few euros more, but it is important to keep in mind they are separate service and tickets are not interchangeable. The Italians get very saucy if you try to board a Thello train with a SNCF ticket. Ask me how I know.
Overall, it is not that scary. The machines are in English and the line is not that complicated.
Price Ranier III’s Private Car collection:
If at all possible got to Monaco before Thursday. It is a insane, insane, fabulously wealth place. I saw two, count them two, Bugatti Veyron’s just chilling. I saw a guy waxing his Lambo on the street because where else would that happen. Just go walk around the track. It is dope. Also if you want to see a real life Bond Lair go to the Oceanographic museum of Monaco.
More importantly, is the Royal prince’s car collection. Formula one car’s, Ferrari’s, Rally Cars (Including a Ferrari Rally Car), old stagecoaches, weird art with thousands of eyeless dogs, it is peculiar and spectacular. Try to go before the race weekend starts and it will be empty.
Monaco looks very simple on a map (BTW offline download the map in Monaco because you may not have service, Mine went back and forth (Project Fi)) but is one big mountain with private gardens, escalators and all sorts of crazy rich people shit to get lost in. Accordingly, I have included my friends instructions on how to get there from the train station because they saved my ass.
Exit Monaco train station in exit closest to where you came from (Nice)
Walk down tunnel when you hit daylight go right 20 meters
Cross road to get to promenade near Starbucks 100m
On the left take stairs down
Garden on right. Take stairs down again.
Right at bottom of second stairs. On right past the stamp museum is the collection. (Pity the person who picks a stamp museum over a sweet car museum)
If your into F1 History checking out Tip Top bar is cool. Alot of F1 driver’s hung there back in the day and it is surprisingly affordable.
Alot of people will preach to go the practice or qualifying days to save money. If you can live with traveling all the way to Monaco and only seeing those, then all the power to you. I originally did not plan to go to qualifying opting only for race tickets, but my friend got a pair of free Quali grandstand tickets very last minute. The seats were awesome, and I have no idea what they cost. I am not a lot of help here, but Kimi was on pole, and it was awesome.
Night Before the Race:
I heard of the madness of the night before and needed to see it for myself. We did not do everything right but I will tell you how to do it if i did it over.
Pack a backpack with some beer and wine/possible some snacks or eat before. Everything is expensive in Monaco and this problem gets a lot worse the night before the race. Get off the train farthest away from where you came and take the elevators up. Remember Monaco is a giant mountain, so if you do not you will end up walking up it. Head right for Place Du Casino, crack a beer, and find a seat to watch the madness.
Billionaires roll around the circle and showboat. I saw a Ferrari Laferrari next to a C4 Vette and a Lamborghini Aventador. I like to think this is the only place where that happens. The cars steal the show but the people watching is a very close second. The ostentatious Russian billionaires with a string of call girls were probably my favorite for the sheer ridiculousness.
You can walk down the race course toward Rascasse and observe all the crazy rich yacht parties you are not invited too. When you approach Rascasse you see basically a bunch of portable clubs going bananas. Drinks are really expensive and I am a cranky old man in a young man’s body so I did not stay long. If that is your scene though have at it, if it is not, just go take a look. Someone told me the driver’s do burnouts Sunday morning at Rascasse to burn up all the booze, puke, etc from the party. After seeing it that makes perfect sense. Last train was at 11:40 or you can try to sleep where your tickets are. Uber is an option if there are a few of you. You have to walk outside of Monaco to get one (I think it is illegal in Monaco).
I only bought a General admission race ticket for Le Rocher at about $100. A real seat is probably a minimum of $500 for raceday. General admission is a big pain in the ass, however the view is spectacular and it was surprisingly easy to follow the race. Follow the signs for Rocher and you are taken to pretty much a rock wall next to the course. People get there very early or camp the night before to get a lower spot by the TV. That is insane. You can go much later, go higher, do a little light climbing, and have a much better view with no TV.
I bought a portable small blanket like this. We threw it down on some bush/weeds and stomped them down until we had a relatively flatish surface. It was less then ideal but you could see most of the race course and you are at THE GOD DAMN MONACO GRAND PRIX!. The speaker system is the best I have ever heard at a racetrack. You can hear everything the announcer says over the cars and it is in Italian, German, English, French, And maybe some other stuff I forget. Bring snacks, water, booze in a backpack. Keep in mind you get searched every ten feet in Monaco so don’t bring anything dumb. If I could do it again I would have gotten chairs. They were 10 euro at the Maxi prix across from the train station in Nice. I also pulled up live timing on my phone. Following a race you are watching live is difficult, but this was surprisingly easy.
Ferrari robbed Kimi of the win by handing it to Vettel in the pits. Oh well that’s racing.
You can travel back to the train station and wait in the impossibly long lines to get in the too crowded trains ooooorrrr you can walk a bit and go for a swim in the ocean. This is the rough layout of where to walk to get to the beach. You will probably be hot and tired and taking a ploof in the ocean is exactly what you need. Throw a swimsuit in your backpack so you don’t have to swim in your underwear (oops).
You can walk back to the Monaco station (about 15 mins) or walk to the next station down the line along some beautiful rocky paths (about 45 mins). It is likely the train will still be crowded, but you definitely avoid hell and the view along the way isn’t bad at all.
The Indy 500 starts at 6 PM French time. I am in France how the hell do I watch the Indy 500? You go to Wayne’s bar in Old Town Nice and ask them to put it on if is not already. It is a British tourist bar and everyone speaks English. I lucked out with Fernando jumping the F1 ship to race there this year. There was alot of European interest in the race. Other bars around there will also probably play.
One day I will go back with alot of money and do Monaco right. Unfortunately, I am nowhere near that financial position and I needed to see the Monaco Grand Prix. I could not find all this information in a single place and just wanted to help anyone trying to do the same in the future. I am a engineer not a writer, so sorry if you suffered through my writing. I have also done Le mans, Indy 500, Pikes peak, 24 Hours of Daytona, and many other races on the cheap if anyone is interested for informatio. I also have more pictures posted on my instagram Le_racecar.