What You Need to Know About Renting a Villa in the French Riviera

By Cheryl Antier

So you’ve decided to to take a vacation in the south of France, and you’ve been looking into renting a French Riviera villa rather than staying at a hotel. There are many advantages to renting a villa.

A villa in the French Riviera offers many advantages over staying in a hotel. For example, at your own private villa, you will have complete privacy and security – most villas in the French Riviera have security fences and many are gated and offer security guards who monitor visitors.

Having your own French Riviera rental villa also means that you will have access to a full kitchen with all the dinnerware and cookware being supplied. That way, you can cook your own meals, and not have to eat out for every meal. For someone with a special diet, or who’s traveling on a budget, this can be a major benefit. (And it gives you the additional advantage of being able to eat when you want to – many restaurants in the French Riviera serve food only during lunch and dinner time and are either closed or only serve drinks and ice cream or other sweets during between meal times.)

Also, depending on your needs and the number of people traveling with you, French Riviera villas provide several bedrooms and may be able to sleep up to ten or more guests, which means you can travel with your family or staff and everyone will enjoy luxurious surroundings. Chances are, whether you want to stay in St. Tropez, Cannes, Monaco, Nice or anywhere else on the French Riviera, you can find the perfect French Riviera villa to suit your needs and budget.

However, there are a few things you should know before you sign on the dotted line. Renting any property in the French Riviera can be a little complicated, even if it’s just for a short time. Here are a few things you should know:

Are you going to rent from an individual or an agency?
If the French Riviera villa you’ve got your eye on is being rented by an individual, there is a good chance that they won’t accept credit cards. This means you’ve got two choices. The first is to pay through a bank or wire transfer – and of course, there will be fees involved, whether you’re from a country inside the European Union or from somewhere else.

One of your options is to talk to your hosts, and find out if they would consider using PayPal. It has the advantage of being instant, there are limited fees for you – or for them, as long as they have an individual account, not a business one, and it will save you a lot of paperwork.

If you’re renting your French Riviera villa from an agency, pay attention to your contract however, because sometimes agencies act on behalf of individuals, and while they may accept payment with credit cards, you may be charged additional “agency fees or surcharges.” (Sometimes the amounts can be negotiated, sometimes not. And you should be aware that some smaller agencies still do not accept credit cards and will also require payment through bank or wire transfer – merchant fees for credit cards here are very high, and for smaller businesses, it’s just not worth it.

Checks outside the European Union are usually not accepted, and even European Union checks from countries other than France are usually not accepted – but it never hurts to ask.

Rental Periods:
Most rental property on the French Riviera – whether you’re renting a villa or one of the many beautiful French Riviera hotels, run from Saturday afternoon to the following Saturday morning. Prices are, of course usually determined by the season, and you can expect to pay a significantly higher price during high season. Here is something else you should be aware of – high season isn’t just during the summer months. For most French Riviera villa rentals and hotels along the French Riviera, high season also includes: School vacations, special fairs or other events (such as the Cannes Film Festival, Nice’s Carnival or Monaco’s Monte Carlo race) and certain times of the year – summer, New Year’s, etc. are always considered high season. As a general rule, low season runs from December through May.

Which means that if you’re flying over on a different day of the week, you might have to stay in a hotel until Saturday afternoon, unless you’ve made other arrangements with your host. (You should be aware that it can be very difficult to find lodging during high season, so if you’re not traveling on a Saturday, make sure that you’ve book all additional accommodations before confirming your reservation at your private French Riviera villa and paying the deposit.) Many of the best French Riviera villas are booked up to a year in advance – and are often fully booked throughout high season, so you may need to plan your trip accordingly.

Most rental villas in the French Riviera charge a “breakage deposit” or a “breakage and cleaning deposit” in addition to other deposits or fees that might be included in the rental agreement. Provided there has been no damage (above normal “wear and tear”), this deposit is usually refundable. However, read your contract to find out if it will be refunded when you leave, or if it will be mailed to you or deposited in your bank account, and how soon. (Some contracts give the owner 15 to 45 days before the deposit is refunded.) The amount you are required to pay for a breakage deposit is generally about 25% of the entire rental fee.

Cleaning Surcharges: A cleaning surcharge may be deducted from the breakages and cleaning deposit that you paid in advance. This money is not refunded, and can range from 20 Euros up to 45 Euros a person. Check your contract to verify how much this fee is.

Reservation Deposit: To reserve your French Riviera villa, most individuals and agencies require a deposit of between 35 and 50% of the total amount, as long as you’re reserving your villa at least 90 days in advance. If you’re reserving a French Riviera villa with less than 90 days advanced notice, be prepared to pay the entire amount up front. Also, most of the time, you’ll need to pay the remaining balance at least 30 days before your arrival. (Whenever possible – and especially during high season, it’s highly recommended that you reserve your French Riviera villa in advance, to ensure that you get the villa of your choice.

It’s always a good idea to inquire about cancellation fees, before finalizing your plans. In many contracts, you may only receive part of your deposit back – and in some cases NONE of the deposit is refundable – which means that if you do have to change your plans, you may be out of your money with no recourse. (In fact, it’s always a good idea when traveling abroad to buy travel insurance, in the event that you have to change your plans unexpectedly.

If you’re thinking about a French Riviera villa rental, you may also have questions about what services are included in your rental contract and what additional services may be available to you, should you want them. Here’s a basic list, although you should always ask the rental agency or individual host for specific details relating to your French Riviera villa:

Bed linens/Towels: These are usually included with your French Riviera villa rental. However, most of the time – especially if you’re only renting the villa for one week, linens will usually not be changed during that time, unless they become soiled. If you need additional linens or towels, just ask.

Dinnerware/Cooking Utensils/Basic Household Items: These are also usually included in your French Riviera villa rental, and may also include items like fondue pots, barbecues, outdoor tables and chairs, etc.

Housekeeping: Most villa rentals will include basic housecleaning services at least once or twice during a weekly rental. If you want a full-time housekeeper or service more often, it generally costs extra. (Fees for this run anywhere from 15€ to 20€ an hour.)

Gardner/Pool Service: If your French Riviera villa rental includes a private pool, pool cleaning services are usually included in the contract. The notable exception to this is if you have a wild party and your guests leave the pool very dirty.

By the way, most swimming pools – unless they are indoor pools – are not heated. If you are renting your French Riviera villa during low season when the weather is cooler and you’d like to have the pool heated, expect the charges to be anywhere from 100€ to 150 € a week additional cost. And during certain times of the year, there may be no guarantee that you’ll be able to use the pool, because of weather/climate conditions.

Gardening/yard services are usually included in the contract, whether or not any yardwork or gardening is done while you’re there.

Electricity/Gas/Water: This should be included in your French Riviera villa rental fees. If you find an agency that charges an additional fee for the use of utilities, look for another, more reputable agency to rent your French Riviera villa from, because you’re being taken advantage of.

Additional Services (Available for an Additional Charge):

Cook: Some of the more luxurious French Riviera Villa Rentals may include the services of a cook, while with others, a cook is available for an additional fee. (Fees vary widely and can run anywhere from 20 € to 50 € per person, for the people in your party, with additional charges being added for guests not staying with you.) Fees can be charged by the hour, by the week or by the meal. Most of the time, this includes the shopping (although not the cost of the ingredients themselves), the preparation/cooking and the serving/presentation) of the meal.

Au Pair: If you’re planning a stay of two weeks to a month at your French Riviera Villa, and you have younger children, you might want to consider the services of an au pair. They usually speak English as well as French and often a third language as well. They will provide basic and advanced services, such as taking care of your children, and tending to things like baths, dressing, play time and even tutoring.

Babysitting: If you’re staying less than two weeks, hiring a babysitter is usually the best option. Babysitters can go with you on outings, or stay at the villa with your kids while you’re going sightseeing, out to dinner or on other occasions as needed.

Masseuse or Personal Trainer: The services of a masseuse or personal trainer should be made in advance, but they will come to your French Riviera villa, so you won’t have to leave the comfort of home. Fees vary.

Chauffeur/Guide: Again, these services are usually available on request. Check your contract to see if there is additional insurance required. The fees should include all taxes, etc. so check your contract for your French Riviera villa rental.

If you’re going to need any additional services or staff, it’s a good idea to make arrangements before you arrive, and the cost will be included in your French Riviera villa rental agreement. That way you can be assured of receiving the services you need.

Learn all about where to go and what to do in the French Riviera from an American who lives there! Discover the best places to eat, stay and shop. Why settle for an ordinary vacation, when you can create an extraordinary one? French Riviera Vacation Guide

Written by J. Lee

A seasoned world traveller, J. Lee writes about his weekend trips away, travel for work, and his many Europe vacations.

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