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Introduction to Monaco

Although it's more a pre-breakfast stroll than a country, Monaco packs a lot of living into a little land. Most of the people who dwell here come from somewhere else, drawn by the sun, glamourous lifestyle and – most importantly – tax-free income.

This is the playground of Europe's elite, a country where Lady Luck might clean you out at the casino one day and put you on the Grimaldi guest list the next. It's one glittering, preening, swanking opportunity for people watching that shouldn't be passed up by amateur anthropologists.

For those whose 'things to pack' list doesn't include a backless ballgown, Monaco can still be a hoot. Although you won't find cheap digs, native culture or untouched wilderness, you can snap up a Prince Rainier commemorative mug, gawk at the limos outside the casino and surround yourself with topless wannabe starlets on Monte Carlo's beach. Live it up.

Full country name: Principality of Monaco

Area: 2 sq km

Population: 32,150

Capital City: Monaco-Ville

People: French 47%, Monégasque 16%, Italian 16%, other 21%

Language: French, Monegasque, Italian, English

Religion: Roman Catholic

Government: Constitutional monarchy

Head of State: Prince Prince Albert II

Head of Government: Minister of State Jean-Paul Proust

GDP: US$870 million

GDP per capita: US$27,000

Major Industries: Tourism

Member of EU: No

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Traveler Facts

Visas: No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1

Dialling Code: 377

Electricity: 220V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

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Monaco is a country that thrives on spectacle and glitz. The big one for the year has to be the Formula One Grand Prix, held in mid-May, when the world's best drivers hit the city streets and crossing the road becomes an extreme sport. Those who can't get enough of big, throbbing engines should also be in town in January for the Monte Carlo Motor Rally. Dedicated to showing off in all its forms, Monaco also hosts the International Circus Festival in January, the Great Magic Prize (an international prestidigitators' playoff) in March and the International Fireworks Competition (duked out in the natural amphitheatre of Monaco's harbour) in early August.

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Best time to Visit

The shoulder seasons - April/May and September/October - are the most pleasant times, climatically, to visit Monaco. Summer - June to August - can be very hot, and you'll be pressing flesh with most of Europe. Winter is a better bet, as it may be a bit rainy but it's unlikely to be too cold. Car-racing fans will probably want to be here either in January for the Monte Carlo Rally or May for the Grand Prix.

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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Euro


Budget: €6-10

Mid-range: €10-30

High: €30-65

Deluxe: €65+


Budget: €30-50

Mid-range: €50-80

High: €80-120

Deluxe: €120+

Monaco is not a budget destination - over 75% of its hotel rooms are classified as four-star deluxe. The one hostel that did exist was demolished, to re-open in 2008. You might get away with paying around US$20 a night for half a double room, otherwise head across the border into France to Beausoleil for cheaper options. If you manage to snap up one of the less expensive rooms in Monaco and you can restrain yourself from splurging at the casino, you should be able to scrape by on about US$40 a day. Buying your food at the supermarket in the Fontvieille shopping centre is one way to save a few precious euros.

Realistically, most visitors to Monaco will need around US$100 a day. This will pay for your midrange room, a couple of meals and maybe a turn or two on the roulette wheel. On the upside, there's not much more than a day's entertainment in Monaco, so chances are you won't be staying overnight anyway.

This is a nation that wants you to spend, spend, spend, and consequently they're falling over themselves to change your hard-earned foreign currency into casino-country cash. The official currency is the euro, but whatever you've got, you shouldn't have too much trouble changing it - there's a plethora of banks around the casino in particular.

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Monte Carlo Casino

If it weren't for the casino, Monaco would be just another little town on the Côte d'Azur, somewhere for Parisian public servants to take their secretaries for a dirty weekend. Instead, Monaco is a fairy tale land built on luck, where the glitterati advertise the fact that they've got so much they're throwing it away. You may not have two euros to rub together, but you can soak up the atmosphere and use the toilets for free, provided you can disguise yourself as a high roller with money to burn. However, if you want to penetrate the inner sanctums, you'll need a considerable wallop in your wallet. It's almost worth it just to view the over-the-top baroque splendour of the casino's architecture.

Musée Océanographique

If you've got a thing for fish, it's worth making the trip to Monaco just to come here. The museum is probably the best aquarium in Europe, with 90 seawater tanks and a display of living coral. There's also a display on the work of the late, great Jacques Cousteau, as well as other ocean explorers.

If you're unlucky enough to hit Monaco on one of those 65 rainy days, this is the perfect place to console yourself.

Palais du Prince

Monaco's royal palace has been around since the 13th century. Every Grimaldi since has found it necessary to leave their mark on the place, and as a result this is not one of Europe's most elegant castles. It is worth taking a look inside though - 15 rooms, including the Throne Room, are open to the public.

If you've already blown your cash and can't afford the entrance fee, the changing of the guard won't cost you a cent. It starts just before noon and is over within two minutes, so be on time.

In the south wing of the palace, the Musée des Souvenirs Napoléoniens has a collection of Napoleon's personal knick-knacks, including one sock, a handkerchief and a bunch of medals, coins, uniforms and swords.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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