What is a Gite? French Accommodation Explained.

This page runs through the different types of accommodation you can expect in France. While it is similar to many countries, the terminology is different and we will take you through each of the different terms and what they mean. We have stayed in most of these different types on our various trips to France.

French chateau accommodation

There are six types of accommodation in France you are likely to see when booking a holiday. While you will be familiar with some of the terms, others will be new to you.

  • Gîte – a holiday home or house typically found in rural areas of France
  • Chambre d’hôtes – equivalent to a bed and breakfast in many other countries
  • Refuge – basic dormitory style accommodation for hikers and climbers in the mountains
  • Motor home – known as RV’s or camper van in other countries
  • Hotel – this has the exact same meaning in France as it does in any country
  • Camp grounds – similar to most countries these would include spots for tents, motor homes as well as the ability to rent cabins onsite.

We will take you through each of these types in turn and explain what they mean as well as some of the options that are available for each of them. We also share where to book them.

Gîte

In France, a gîte is a holiday home that is available for rent in predominately rural areas and villages. The typical gîte is a converted outhouse or a separate wing of a larger house and you will find the owner close by. There are gîtes available to suit every budget and they are located everywhere in France. They offer a unique experience and the ability to immerse yourself a little deeper into French culture.

Gîtes also have a rating system through an organisation called Gîtes de France. It is based on “épis” or “ears of wheat” with 5 being the most luxurious. There is no obligation for gîte owners to be part of this scheme so those that do not have it are no better or worse than those who do. Like the hotel rating system, this system used to be based entirely on amenity rather than quality, although this is changing meaning the rating is more indicative of quality than it used to be.

The Gîtes de France website lists over 50,000 properties and allows filtering on a wide range of options to ensure you find the property that suits you. It also provides reviews from people who have stayed at particular properties. Gîtelink is another major site that lists many properties across the country. It is slightly different in that it links you to the website of the property you wish to look at. You will find some properties listed on both sites. There are numerous other sites as well for you to search and some of these will appear these days on sites like booking.com and airbnb.com.

Two riders Cycling to Cauterets in the French Pyrenees

Chambre d’hôtes (Bed and Breakfast)

The chambre d’hôtes in France is the equivalent to a bed and breakfast in other countries. The accommodation will be located within a house which you share with the owner. This type of accommodation ranges from grand chateaux to smaller houses and are readily available in all parts of France. Many Chambre d’hôtes offer evening meals as well as breakfast, which is referred to as ‘half board’.

Staying in this style of accommodation is a great way to meet French people and get away from the usual hotel offerings to try something a little different. You will often find this type of accommodation in peaceful rural settings.

Chambres-hotes.fr is a French website that lists over 20,000 properties across France. There are many filter options and the site also includes guest reviews to give you a better idea about the property. You will also find these types of properties on booking.com and other sites.

Refuge

Refuges are located high up in the mountain regions of France to provide shelter for climbers and hikers. The accommodation is very basic and you will share rooms with other guests in a dormitory style arrangement. Evening meals are available in some of the more popular refuges while in others you will need to bring your own food. Sleeping gear is not supplied and there may or may not be showers available. Access is by foot only in most cases.

If you plan to undertake some hiking or climbing in the French mountains then this style of accommodation is highly recommended. Make sure you book well in advance for the busy periods as they are very popular and you cannot guarantee getting a spot with short notice. Refuges are located in stunning locations and waking up high in the mountains is a magical experience.

This website provides some further information if you are considering this style of accommodation.

Motor Home

If you plan to travel around the country extensively or follow the Tour de France a motorhome or camper van is something to consider. A significant advantage is that it combines your mode of transport with your accommodation. Many of the camping grounds cater for motorhomes or you could choose to stay in an ‘aires de service’ for a small fee or free of charge. Services offered at these can include water, grey water disposal, electricity, toilets and off street parking. You can find an extensive listing of these here. The camping sites listed above will give you details on other camp grounds.

There are many companies offering motorhome hire. Motorhome Republic compares prices across 11 different fleets, while others such as francemotorhomehire.com, Avis and Hertz are specific to their own fleets.

Hotels

There are a wide range of hotels available across France from the height of luxury to basic rooms with shared bathrooms. In the busy cycling areas you are likely to find hotels catering specifically for cyclists and as such include facilities like bike storage, bike cleaning and maintenance as well as great advice on riding in the local area. Check out our destination pages for details of these in specific locations.


Demi Pension

Something you will also come across in France is the demi-pension option. This generally means dinner, bed and breakfast and is a very cost effective option. We have used this option numerous times and have always had a great experience with it. The dinner options generally include 3 courses and alcohol is purchased separately. Prices for this type of accommodation will vary depending on the region you are staying in, but can start as low as €50 per person per night.


Star ratings

Like other countries France uses a star rating for hotels with 5 stars being at the top. The star ratings in France are based more on the facilities and services a hotel offers, rather than the quality of those facilities. For example one of our favourite hotels is a 2 star hotel but still lovely, very clean and well presented. In general, expect hotel rooms to be on the smaller side compared to what you are used to. This very much depends on a range of factors such as location, price and age but we have found rooms quite small in some instances.


Booking sites

We made great use of booking.com on our last trip which gives plenty of information and reviews about hotel properties. Of course there are many other sites to choose from, for example, Tripadvisor.com, trivago.com or Expedia.com. The 2 major French hotel chains are Accor Hotels (Sofitel, Novotel, Mecure, Adagio, Ibis and others) and Louvre Hotels (Royal Tulip, Campanile, Premièr Classe and others) who have a large network of hotels across the country at different price points. Many of the large international hotel chains such as Hilton, Intercontinental and Ritz Carlton are present also in France, typically at the top end of the market.

Camping

There are campsites all across France and many also offer accommodation in cabins as well. Some campsites can be like a holiday resort with pools and various activities to keep kids occupied. But there are plenty of sites that will be quiet and tranquil, allowing you to get away from it all. Campingfrance.com lists over 9,000 campgrounds across the country.

There are also options to camp for free subject to certain regulations which you can find here. This gives you the opportunity to get out into nature and away from the crowds. You will also find a network of small camp grounds often run by a local farmer or land holder as another option. These are generally simpler sites with basic amenities. Rural-camping.com provides a directory of such sites.

Holiday house/unit

Renting a holiday house or unit is another great option and gives you the opportunity to stay in some amazing properties. When travelling for an extended period this type of property is great to catch up on a bit of washing and also gives you the ability to cook your own meals.

These days airbnb is the go to site for this type of accommodation although there are still plenty of other sites out there to choose from such as cottages.com and frenchconnections.co.uk. We rented a number of self catering properties on our last trip and all of these turned out to be great. The checking in process was always easy and exactly as it was explained on the web site.

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