What is a Gite? Accommodation in France Explained.
Like many countries, France has different accommodation options for you to consider when you visit. When you are looking to book accommodation in France you will come across terms such as gite and chambré d’hôtes that you may not be familiar with. We have learned a lot about accommodation in France since our first visit and will guide you through the different types based on our experience.
France, with its diverse regions and vibrant cities, offers a great range of accommodation options to suit every traveller’s preferences and budget. From luxurious city hotels and quaint countryside châteaux to cosy bed and breakfasts and charming boutique guesthouses, the possibilities are endless. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the captivating world of French accommodation, explaining what to expect from the different types of accommodation offered and making informed decisions for your upcoming adventure.
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 vans in other countries
- Hotel – this has the exact same meaning in France as it does in any country
- Campgrounds – 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.
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 amenities 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.
We love staying in Gîtes in France as they are located throughout the country and generally offer great facilities at a reasonable price. Self-catering is something we seek out and gîtes tick the box with this. It’s also great to be able to learn about the location from the owners who are usually not too far away.
Chambre d’hôtes (Bed and Breakfast)
The chambre d’hôtes in France is the equivalent of 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 in France ranges from grand chateaux to smaller houses and they are readily available throughout the entire country. 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.
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 to get 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.
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 campgrounds.
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.
There is 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.
We use hotels regularly when we visit cities or sometimes as a quick overnight stop while cycle touring. The big difference we notice from hotels in Australia is room size. Expect rooms to be smaller than you might be used to, especially in cities like Paris and at the lower end of the market. In our experience not all hotel rooms have tea and coffee-making facilities so make sure you check when booking if this is something you seek.
When we are looking for a cheaper hotel option we check the Campanile or Kyriad brands of hotel. They are most often found on the outskirts of towns and offer basic accommodation at a great price. Many times these hotels don’t review particularly well but we have never had a problem. In our experience, they have always been nice and clean and comfortable and the staff helpful and friendly.
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.
We have stayed in this style of accommodation on a number of occasions and love it. The food is always great and it works out well from a budget point of view. Breakfast usually consists of a croissant, baguette, ham, cheese and coffee or tea. Some places have yoghurt and cereals as well. Dinner is usually 3 courses and simple but tasty food. Alcohol is purchased separately and not part of the standard price.
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.
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, Mercure, Adagio, Ibis and others) and Louvre Hotels (Royal Tulip, Campanile, Premièr Classe and others) which 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.
There are campsites all across France and many also offer accommodation in cabins as well. Some campsites can be like holiday resorts 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.
We spent 3 weeks cycling touring from Normandy to the Pyrenees and camped the majority of the time. We loved the experience and recommend it to anyone considering it. We created a more detailed article about camping in France going through all the different things we learned from the experience. Over the 3 weeks, we stayed in everything from basic municipal campgrounds to 4-star resort-style campgrounds.
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.
We try and find this type of accommodation if we are cycle touring and not camping. We have found some great places in the middle of larger towns and cities and love using them. These days we head to booking.com in the first instance to see what is available. The fees seem to be less than Airbnb and there are plenty of reviews to check on the quality. Self check-in is the norm for most properties although we have been met by the owner for some of the properties.
The only downside we have found with this style of property is that you usually need to clean the place before you leave. We stayed in one place where they expected us to clean all the windows as well as the bathroom and kitchen. To top it off, we had to supply our own cleaning material as well. It’s not usually a big deal but expect that some level of cleaning will be required.