Sunday 23 October 2016

How to stop Euro 2016 from breaking the bank

With hotel bills running into thousands, it will pay to sleep away from host cities

Published 05/06/2016 | 02:30

Cartoon by Tom Halliday
Cartoon by Tom Halliday

The cost of a trip to the Euro 2016 tournament will easily run into thousands of euro for the many Irish fans about to head to France to catch the action. For some, the bill could run into the tens of thousands. So with Euro 2016 about to kick off in five days time, here are eight must-knows to help you keep the cost of your trip to the football championship in check.

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Don't sleep in the host city

You could face a hotel bill of more than €3,000 for nine nights accommodation - should you stay in each of the three host cities to watch the Irish matches.

Hotels in host cities are charging up to five times as much for a room during the tournament as they normally would. Lille is the most expensive city to stay in, according to a survey by the hotel website,

The average price of a room in Lille on June 22 (when Ireland plays Italy) is €559, compared to €106 for the same date in 2015, according to Expect to pay at least twice the normal price for a hotel room in Paris on the day Ireland plays Sweden (June 13). The same applies to Bordeaux on June 18 when Ireland plays Belgium.

It will be particularly difficult to keep the cost of accommodation in Bordeaux down, according to Eoghan Corry, editor of the travel publication, Travel Extra.

"There isn't enough accommodation in Bordeaux for the size of the group arriving," said Corry. "To keep costs down, stay away from the city centre. Pick accommodation out in the countryside. There are tons of cheap beds around the Bordeaux coastline.

"If you can stay an hour or more out of Bordeaux, such as in the likes of Poitiers, you could get a hotel for around €45 a night - instead of the few hundred euro a night you'll pay if you stay in Bordeaux city. It will be a bit of a trek going into the city - but motorway travel is fast," he says.

Should you be going to all of the three Irish matches and want to base yourself at a location that has reasonable proximity to each stadium, consider the Loire Valley, advised Corry. You will face a long drive to each of the matches, particularly Bordeaux, but accommodation here will be a fraction of the price paid in the host cities.

"There are a lot of cheap campsites along the Loire Valley," said Corry. "Some of the cheapest places to stays are motels."

Corry recommended the Accor Hotel group for reasonably priced accommodation. Accor offers different categories of accommodation with one of its cheapest being the Formule 1 hotels. With the price of a room starting from €19 a night, a Formule 1 hotel could work out cheaper than a campsite. Rooms are basic but you get free wi-fi and a built-in shower. These hotels are typically located near motorways, however, so you'll need to drive to get to them.

Should you have already booked your accommodation, ring now to check that the room has not been doublebooked. It is customary in France to confirm your accommodation two weeks before you arrive.

Don't eat in the stadium

Eating and drinking out in the host cities will be expensive during the tournament as restaurants, cafes and pubs are likely to push up their prices.

"The best way to keep food costs down is to eat in simple French brasseries and opt for the 'prix fixe' set menus," said Tom Hall, editorial director with the travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet. "Food inside stadiums and fan zones will be expensive, so eat before you get there."

Even opting for 'prix fixe' menus will add up over your stay. Should there be a shopping centre nearby, it will often work out cheaper to eat there than on the main street. Of course, staying in self-catering accommodation during your stay gives you the freedom to prepare your own food for a fraction of the cost you'll pay to eat it in a restaurant.

Dodge tolls and pricey parking

Should you be driving during your stay, be prepared for motorway tolls, as they can be expensive. "It costs more than €70 in motorway charges from Lille to Bordeaux, for example - and that's one-way," says Corry.

Planning your routes carefully can help you avoid the worst of the tolls - though you're unlikely to dodge them all and you may have to drive for longer (and pay more for petrol) to get around them.

Avoid driving directly to the stadiums as parking will be pricey nearby, advised Hall. Get a shuttle bus or train instead.

Avoid driving fines

Get up to speed on French driving rules. Should you be bringing your own car, ensure it is equipped with reflective jackets, a warning triangle and headlamp beam deflectors. You could face high on-the-spot fines without them.

It shouldn't cost any more than €10 to buy a pair of headlamp beam deflectors or a warning triangle from your local motoring store (such as Halfords). You can buy a reflective jacket for a few euro from the likes of eBay - though you may already have received free jackets from the Road Safety Authority.

Check your rental car before you drive off

Take precautions if hiring a car. Inspect the car before you drive off in it - and record any defects. Read the contract carefully before signing it and check if the car hire company has charged you for additional services or insurance without your knowledge.

Confirm the company's fuel tank policy as there may be compulsory refuelling service charges or penalties for returning the car with insufficient fuel. Should your car break down or be in an accident while you're travelling, contact the rental company immediately - and follow the procedure it advises.

Failure to do any of these things could see you being hit with a major bill (on top of the cost of the hire itself) when you return the car.

Buy a travel pass

Public transport will be the cheapest way to get around a host city (unless you're cycling or walking). Even so, buy a travel pass if planning to use public transport and you're staying for a few days in Paris, Lille or Bordeaux. Paying for train or bus tickets individually can add up if you take a number of trips a day - so passes could save you a lot of money.

Should you plan to use the metro or RER when in Paris, for example, the Paris Visite card covers unlimited travel on the metro, RER and public transport (RATP) buses for a set number of consecutive days.

You can buy a one-, two-, three- or five-day Paris Visite card. A one-day adult card costs €25.85 for train journeys within five travel zones (that is, most of Paris), while a two-day card costs €39.30. There are cheaper cards which cover a smaller travel area (three zones).

However, bear in mind that the five-zone card covers your train trip from the airport (assuming you are flying in to either Charles de Gaulle or Orly airport) to Paris city centre so it could be worth the money. (Should you pay for your train tickets individually, a one-way trip on the RER into Paris city centre costs €10 from Charles de Gaulle airport or €9.30 from Orly airport.)

The public transport network in Lille is Transpole; in Bordeaux, it is Tbc. Check if there are any discounted travel passes for Euro 2016 fans. Tbc in Bordeaux, for example, has a one-day PassEuro for €3 which covers unlimited travel on trams and buses for a day of your choice during the tournament.

Don't get distracted

Be wary of pick pockets in crowded areas - and keep an eye out for distractions. "Many of the scams which target soccer fans involve a distraction," says Corry.

Park in secure areas should you be driving. "Fans who have attended matches in other countries have reported that cars with non-French number plates get targeted by thieves, so always park in a secure car park," says Hall.

Don't buy from a tout

Uefa's ticket resale platform, which allowed you to buy tickets from fans who no longer needed them, is now closed. Don't be tempted to buy a ticket from a tout or other websites as it is likely to be overpriced and it may be fake.

Should you not have a ticket at this stage, realistically your only option is to buy one from a trusted friend or relative who no longer wants it. Otherwise, remember you can still enjoy watching the matches live in the pubs and bars of the host cities.

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