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A Practical Guide to the Way of Life in Monaco

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Life in Monaco

At a Glance:

  • Monaco is listed as the most densely populated country in the world and also the second smallest nation in the world.
  • The average person can cross the entire country in under an hour on foot! Nevertheless, there are numerous alternative methods of transportation available.
  • There is plenty to do in Monaco, from visiting the glamourous casinos to experiencing the famous Grand Prix.
  • The principality borders France and the Mediterranean Sea, making for beautiful weather and a mild climate for the entire year.
  • Monaco offers an excellent healthcare system, including the Princess Grace Hospital which is fully run by the state.

Who would have thought that a daring and cleverly disguised attack made by François Grimaldi in 1297 would now, centuries later, be considered the birthing moment of the Principality of Monaco? François himself may have held the Rock, as the old fortress of Monaco is often called, only for a few scant years, yet the House of Grimaldi ultimately triumphed. To this day, Monegasques and foreigners living in Monaco alike are ruled by a descendent of this family, currently H.S.H the Sovereign Prince Albert II.

Get to Know the People and Language

In 2016, the population of Monaco stood at an estimated 37,900 people. Out of these, only around a fifth are of Monegasque nationality, making the native Monegasques a minority within their own country. In fact, French is the major ethnic group, followed by Monegasques, Italians, English, and various other nationalities.

In addition to citizens and residents of the principality, there are also numerous people who are not living in Monaco, but commuting from nearby French or Italian towns and cities, such as Nice. This can clearly be seen by employment numbers: Nearly 52,000 people worked in the country in 2015, a stark contrast to a population of less than 39,000.

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that there are various languages spoken in Monaco. French is the official language and Munegascu the ancient dialect of the region. The latter is nowadays even taught in school to prevent the dialect from dying out.

In addition, expats living in Monaco will find that English is also widely spoken, particularly in the business world and not least of all because of the Prince’s half-American heritage. Due to geographical closeness, Italian can similarly be heard on the occasional street corner, as is the case for many other languages from around the world, owing to Monaco’s international flair.

The Green Prince and Politics in Monaco

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world and operates as a constitutional state monarchy. The Grimaldi family can boast a 700-year rule and remain of high importance in the ruling of the country today. Changes to both the constitution and laws in Monaco can be proposed by the prince, currently HSH Prince Albert II. However, these changes must be approved by the parliament, the National Council, which is elected every five years. HSH Prince Albert II has been d믭 “The Green Prince”, due to his focus on environmental policies and sustainable development.

Monaco’s Warm and Wonderful Weather

Life in Monaco means enjoying the sunny coast of the Mediterranean Sea. As such, you can look forward to warm summers with average temperatures of around 25°C and mild winters that hardly ever see the thermometer dip below zero degrees, even at night. Rainy days are rare, even in the wetter months of April, October, and November.

Take Your Pick in Monaco’s Culture and Arts Scene

The principality is rightly considered a tourist hotspot and a haven for the arts. Artistic patronage has become a tradition for Monegasque lords and princes. Thus, supporting creative work, making culture accessible to all, and preserving the local heritage are all self-proclaimed goals of the princely government.

As such, you will find plenty of things to see and do while living in Monaco. There are various festivals throughout the year, such as the Spring Arts Festival, the Monte Carlo International Sculpture Festival, the World Amateur Theatre Festival, and the International Circus Festival.

Residents can also enjoy listening to the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra or the Monte Carlo Opera, visit various exhibitions and art galleries, as well as watch performances by the Ballets de Monte Carlo or plays in the Princess Grace Theatre. Or one can simply visit Monaco Cathedral to hear the cathedral choir sing and to visit the final resting place of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainer III.

For the horticultural lovers, Monaco boasts the stunning and tranquil Japanese Gardens on Avenue Princesse-Grace, providing a sense of peace amidst flashy and fast-moving Monte Carlo. Similarly, the Jardin Exotique perches on a cliffside of Monaco, and boasts over a thousand species of exotic plants.

And if that is not enough, you can always spice up your new life in Monaco with a visit to the famed Casino de Monte-Carlo.

Experience Sensational Sports in Monaco

For those expats in Monaco who are more interested in sports, there is also plenty on offer. You will find numerous sporting opportunities, particularly in regard to water sports, as well as famous international sporting events. The Monaco Grand Prix, for instance, is world-renowned as one of the most difficult Formula One tracks, and the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters draws both participants and spectators from around the world to the city-state.

Should you nevertheless find yourself a bit bored while living in Monaco, then you can always hit the shops. Depending on your budget, you may have to be satisfied with simply window shopping at the jewelry stores and fashion boutiques around the Place du Casino, though.

Healthcare and Education in Monaco

An Introduction to the Public Health System in Monaco

Monaco offers an excellent healthcare system, with very high standards of care and numerous specialists available. The public healthcare system is based on contributions by employers and employees, both Monegasque ones and foreigners permitted to work in Monaco. Self-employed persons also have to contribute to their own public health fund in the Les Caisses Sociales de Monaco (C.S.M.).

Through the healthcare plan, the insured as well as their dependents (if resident in Monaco or France) are reimbursed for the majority of medical costs, from doctors’ fees to emergency transportation. Costs for basic and routine dental care, for instance, are covered, and only more complicated dental treatments, such as crowns, are not.

You might therefore want to talk to your employer about additional coverage for the expenses of any treatments not covered by the public healthcare system, or think about taking out a complementary private health insurance policy yourself.

Finding Local Healthcare Institutions and Doctors

There are a few healthcare institutions in Monaco:

Out of these, only the Princess Grace Hospital Centre offers emergency and general care and is fully run by the state. There are also a number of doctors, called médecin traitant, available in Monaco. Before going to a physician, make sure that they are contracted with the C.S.M. You can look up contracted doctors online.

Taking Care of Your Kids: Childcare and Schools in Monaco

Children in Monaco can go to nursery school starting from age three. Younger kids between the age of two months and three years may be sent to one of the day nurseries, called crèches (website in French), provided their parents are both working.

As there are only so many spaces available at these state-owned crèches, Monegasque citizens and long(er) term residents are favored during the application process. You might therefore have to look for privately owned alternatives instead.

State and Contracted Schools

The Monegasque education system is closely modelled on the French one. As such, children spend the first five years of their education, starting from age six, at a so-called école élémentaire. This is followed by another four years of collège. After that, expat children can optionally continue their education at an upper secondary school, a so-called lycée.

Classes are held in French, but with a very early focus on the English language. Some schools also offer additional French Language Learning assistance. Plus, a renewed focus is put on the Monegasque language (Munegascu), which is also taught in primary and secondary schools.

In Monaco, there are six state-owned primary schools, one secondary school (Collège Charles III), as well as two upper secondary educational institutions. A visit of either the city’s general upper secondary institution (Lycée Albert 1er) or the Lycée Technique et Hôtelier de Monte-Carlo is optional, however, as school in Monaco is only mandatory until the age of 16.

In addition to the state schools, which are free of charge for resident children, there are also some so-called contracted schools to be found in Monaco. These adhere to the same standards as state schools, including the curriculum, but are privately owned and charge tuition fees.

You can find an overview of all primary and secondary educational institutions on the public services website.

International Schools

At the time of writing in October 2016, there was only one international, non-contracted school in Monaco, namely the International School of Monaco. Classes are taught in both English and French. Students can sit the University of Cambridge IGCSE exam at the end of grade 11 and the International Baccalaureate Diploma in grade 13.

Tuition fees are quite high, though, and in the school year 2016/17 went up to 24,770 EUR in the final year of study. Furthermore, regardless of the application outcome, there is a non-refundable application fee of 200 EUR and, in the case of a successful application, a registration fee of 1,500 EUR as well as another 600 EUR in capital development fund fees.

Taking It to the Next Level: Institutions of Higher Education

There is only one institute of general higher education to be found in the city-state, the private International University of Monaco. The university offers various programs, from a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Entertainment to Sport Business Management. Alternatives to the university are more specialized institutes of higher education in Monaco, such as the École Supérieure d’Arts Plastiques, which is a visual arts school, or studying abroad, for example in neighboring France.

Transportation in Monaco

Due to its relatively small size, getting around Monaco is not difficult. There are plenty of public transportation options available, even including a boat bus, and walking is also a feasible option. Driving your own car, on the other hand, is often more of a hassle than an easy journey, due to severely limited parking spaces, generally heavy traffic, and even road blocks during the Monte Carlo Formula One Grand Prix.

Getting Around on Public Transportation in Monaco


There are six bus routes in Monaco which operate during the day and throughout the week. In addition, the bus de nuit runs until 00:20 during the work week, as well as until four o’clock in the morning on weekends. An interactive map of routes and timetables is available in French on the website of the Compagnie des Autobus de Monaco, including information on the night routes, as well as the boat bus across the Port Hercule. At the time of writing in October 2016, this ”Bateau-Bus” ran between 08:00 and 19:50 daily, with equal rates to that of the buses in the principality.

Tickets are available on the buses themselves, in a number of shops, at some bus stations, or at the office of the Monaco Bus Company (located at 3 Avenue President J.F. Kennedy). Make sure to have the exact fare ready when buying on the bus, as change is not given. At the time of writing in 2016, prices started at 2 EUR per single trip, with various passes also available, for example a monthly pass for 27 EUR and an annual one for 199 EUR.

Children under the age of five years travel for free and reduced fares apply for quarterly or annual subscriptions made by those aged 25 or less. Resident seniors (age 60+) can even get an annual customer name card for free use of the public transportation network.


If you are planning on taking a cab in Monaco, you will not be able to simply hail one on the street. Instead, you have to call ahead to book or go to one of the taxi ranks. You can find a map with the locations of ranks and cab call phones on the website of Taxi Monaco Prestige.

The services offered are not limited to just the principality, but also include journeys to destinations further afield in France, Italy, Switzerland, and even Spain, although particularly the latter will cost you a pretty penny. The 30-minute trip to Nice’s airport, for instance, will set you back around 90 EUR.

Driving a Car on Monte Carlo’s Formula One Track

Owning and driving a car in the principality famed for driving and cars is ironically not necessarily advisable, as free parking is scarce and traffic typically very heavy due to the principality’s high population density. This is made even worse by full or partial road blocks during the Monte Carlo Grand Prix in May.

If you nevertheless plan on driving in Monaco, check for public car parks on the Monaco-Parkings homepage. On this site, you can find information on parking rates, real-time information on availabilities, and more. There are more than 40 such public car parks around the city, with the first hour of parking free.

You can furthermore check online for live traffic updates, weekly forecasts, and information on road closures.

Registering a Car in Monaco

Residents of Monaco, i.e. those with a Monegasque ID or a residence card, can register their car in the principality with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Office. You can check which documents you need on the public services website. This initial registration needs to be renewed on a yearly basis and includes paying your vehicle tax.

Driving Licenses

You have up to one year to exchange your foreign driving license after having moved to Monaco. In order to do so, you need to hand in a completed application form (downloadable on the public services website), as well as all supporting documents, at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Office (23 Avenue Albert II).

Supporting documents for your application are:

  • your valid foreign driving license (original)
  • Monegasque ID or residence card (copy)
  • ID photo (33x43mm)
  • statement or certificate from the country that issued your driving license, confirming your right to drive (this could, for instance, be a penalty points statement)
  • medical certificate (only for drivers aged 70 or older)

At the time of writing in October 2016 , you had to pay a fee of 78 EUR when exchanging your license.

Also bear in mind that the legal age for being allowed to drive in Monaco is 18 years old.

Why Not Walk or Cycle?

Walking or cycling will get you around Monaco without any problems and for free to boot. You can, in fact, get around the city on foot in less than an hour’s time. Plus, there are several public escalators and lifts available throughout the city-state to help you to tackle the steep and rocky terrain in Monaco, and ease your journey on foot or by bike. You can check the public services website for a map of local walking and cycling routes, as well as up-to-date information on potential path closures.

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    Meeting international people from various cultures and personal backgrounds is what's InterNations all about!

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    Via InterNations, I quickly found other American expats at the French Riviera and immersed myself in Monaco's glamorous nightlife.

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