Yorick, a British clergyman, decides to go to France and begins his journey with a jaunt from Dover to Calais, where he has supper after this short trip. While he is eating, he is approached by a poor monk, who is asking for donations. Yorick decides that he will not give the monk any money. Instead, Yorick starts to criticize the monk by saying that hardship exists all over the world: this reality does not give someone the right to eat the bread earned by others. The monk remains silent and leaves.
Yorick soon feels ashamed of his words and realizes that he had no right to criticize the monk. Yorick decides that he will buy a chaise to make his journey faster, but when he gets outside, he does not see Monsieur Dessein, the master of the hotel. He climbs inside a chaise sitting in the courtyard to start writing his preface. All this time, the monk has remained outside, on the premises of the inn.
In the preface, Yorick describes the different types of travelers: the first two are those who travel for petty reasons -- sickness or mental health. The third type consists of those who travel because they are forced to do so by their parents in order to obtain a better education and those who travel with the endorsement of the clergy. The last category of travelers is made up of the Simple Travelers. These travelers are themselves divided into Idle Travellers, Inquisitive Travellers, Lying Travellers, Proud Travellers, Vain Travellers, Splenetic Travellers, The Travellers of Necessity, The Delinquent and Felonious Traveller, The Unfortunate and Innocent Traveller, The Simple Traveller, and The Sentimental Traveler. Yorick places himself in the last of these subsets.
Monsieur Dessein refuses to give Yorick the chaise, saying that it is not in good shape and that it would not withstand the journey; instead, he offers to take Yorick to his Remise to look at other chaises. Upon arriving at the shop, Monsieur Dessein realizes that he has the wrong key and then proceeds to search out the right one, letting Yorick wait at the door with a young and pretty lady of good breeding. Yorick and his new companion are interrupted by the same monk who approached Yorick earlier. Because he saw the monk talking to the young woman, Yorick fears that the monk has been criticizing him for being cruel. Observing that the monk is holding a horn snuff box, Yorick decides to give the monk his own snuff box in apology for his earlier behavior. They exchange snuff boxes and the monk then takes his leave.
Monsieur Dessein returns and Yorick decides which chaise he wants to buy. The lady and Yorick are shut inside the chaise by Monsieur Dessein, who eventually comes back to tell them that the lady’s brother has arrived at the hotel. The lady leaves and Yorick continues his journey, ruminating on the lady's beauty.
When Yorick arrives in Montreuil, a landlord tells him that it would be advisable to have a servant accompany him during his journey, and that it will be easy to procure one because Englishmen are known for being generous. The landlord brings out La Fleur, a young man of good temperament and nice looks but few skills, and Yorick agrees to take La Fleur along.
The next day, Yorick and La Fleur begin their travels, Yorick in his chaise and La Fleur on a small horse. They are later obliged to share the chaise when La Fleur’s horse is spooked by a dead ass in the road.
When they arrive in Nampont, Yorick and La Fleur meet the man whose his ass has died, who is headed towards Spain. La Fleur wants to offer this man money but is refused, since the man asserts that he considered his ass a friend and mourns the loss of the ass for that reason. The journey continues to Paris. Once he arrives there, Yorick sends for a barber to prepare him for his meeting with Madame de R***, to whom he was supposed to deliver a letter from Madame de L***, the young lady from the Remise.
After getting ready, Yorick takes a stroll through the town and meets a lady who is working in a shop. He asks her for directions towards the Opera Comique and she explains the route to him a few times. The two flirt during this exchange.
Yorick buys a pair of gloves from the lady in the shop before going to the Opera house. At the Opera, Yorick befriends a French officer, who himself intervenes to help a poor dwarf whose view of the show is blocked by a corpulent and rude German. Yorick also encounters a virtuous fille de chambre, whom he had met earlier in a bookstore, and engages in a flirtation with her.
When Yorick returns to the hotel, he is told that a police officer came to check his passport. Because he does not actually have a passport, Yorick begins to panic, fearing imprisonment in the Bastille. He decides to go to Versailles to visit a Count who may be able to help him out of his passport dilemma. After he arrives at Versailles, Yorick visits Count de B***. He explains his plight, and the two converse about a few different matters. When asked his name, Yorick points at the name of the character Yorick in Hamlet. The Count, believing that Yorick is the court jester who appears in the play, gives him a passport immediately. Yorick wants to correct the Count, but is embarrassed and thus unable to do so; he simply heads back to Paris.
After spending some additional time in Paris, Yorick directs his journey towards Italy. He stops to visit Maria, a young woman with an addled mind whom Yorick knows by way of the Shandy family. After encouraging Maria, Yorick continues towards Lyon.
Yorick stops at an inn one night but, since there are no more individual rooms left, he has to share a room with a lady and her fille de chambre. The new acquaintances all agree to share the room under the condition that Yorick remain quiet, a promise which he breaks when he can’t sleep. An argument takes place between the lady and Yorick, and the chambermaid steps between them. The novel ends abruptly with Yorick reaching out and accidentally touching the chambermaid.