The Cost of Living in France
This article lays out the practical information you need to set a budget and all the different costs to consider, from rent and food to transport and healthcare. Let’s get started!
8 min read
Planning to move to France for work, studies, or simply a (very beautiful) change of scenery? Before you move, it’s a good idea to consider the cost of living in France, especially because it can vary significantly from one region to the next. This article lays out the practical information you need to set a budget and all the different costs to consider, from rent and food to transport and healthcare. Let’s get started!
The cost of living in France
While the average cost of living in France is quite high, it really depends on where exactly you choose to live. Take Paris: The French capital is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the world. Yet there are many other parts of France that are just as attractive, and where it’s much more affordable to live.
Whatever your plans are in France, you’ll need to think things through carefully and set realistic expectations for your living expenses. That way, you can avoid breaking the bank and can make the best choices for your budget. Keep reading to get an estimate of the average costs for essentials such as food, housing, transport, healthcare, and leisure activities.
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How much to budget for rent
Once you’ve made the decision to move to France, a top priority will be finding a place to live that fits your preferences — not to mention your budget. Keep in mind that rent prices mostly depend on the size and location of your apartment or house. Although Paris is still very popular among expats, it’s also the most expensive city by far, and the most difficult to find a place. To put it in perspective, a recent study by Statista shows that between Strasbourg and Paris, the average price per square meter differs by a factor of three. When it comes to the cost of living in France, price differences like those add up quickly!
Here are general estimates for how much you can expect to pay in monthly rent for a 25m² studio apartment in different French cities:
- Paris: up to €800 per month.
- Nice: €520 per month.
- Lyon: €500 per month.
- Bordeaux: €460 per month.
- Lille: €430 per month.
- Marseille, Toulouse, and Montpellier: €400 per month.
- Nantes, Grenoble, and Rennes: €370 per month.
- Clermont-Ferrand: €340 per month.
The further out you live from the city center, the less you’ll be paying in rent. In Paris, rent costs can vary by up to 20% between the center and a place on the outskirts.
The average cost of food in France
In France, as in many capital cities, eating well comes at a cost. On average, French people set aside around €300 per month for food. This figure can vary depending on the city where you live and how much you consume. Generally, the cost of food is higher in Paris than in other parts of France.
For basic food products and services, on average, you can expect to pay:
- 1 bottle of water (1.5 liters): €0.70
- 1 liter of milk: €1.20
- 1 baguette: €1
- 6 eggs: €1.50
- 1 kg pasta: €1.50
- 1 kg rice: €1.95
- 1 kg potatoes: €1.80
- 1 coffee in a bar or restaurant: €2
- 1 fast food meal: €8-10
- 1 meal in a mid-range restaurant: €20-40
Want to enjoy the French way of life without spending a fortune? In our blog article, learn 12 tips to save money on your monthly grocery bill!
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Budgeting for bills and subscriptions
Just as living costs are relative depending on the size of your house or how much food you eat, your budget for bills and subscriptions can also be difficult to nail down. Again, it all depends on the size of your home, where you live, and how much energy you consume, among other factors. Still, you’ll likely have some unavoidable costs such as energy, water, and phone bills.
Energy bills — gas and electricity
Ever since the energy market opened up to competition, French consumers have been able to choose between different tariffs.
The regulated tariff is set by the public authorities following recommendations from the Energy Regulation Commission in France (Commission de régulation de l'énergie, known as the CRE). Only established suppliers Engie (for gas) and EDF (for electricity), as well as some of their local partners, are authorized to market electricity and gas at the regulated tariff.
The market price is freely decided by each supplier. It can be fixed or index-linked:
- Fixed price: The supplier commits to a set price for the duration of the contract.
- Index-linked price: The supplier indexes its prices according to changes to the regulated tariff. In this case, the prices are subject to change when the regulated tariff does.
TV and phone packages
Packages and subscriptions for TV, landlines, and cellphones range from around €20 to more than €70 per month.
The infrastructure of French public transport is very well developed, allowing you to get around easily. Again, the costs will depend on where you live and how far you need to travel each day. If your home is far away from your workplace, money spent on transport could make up a significant portion of your monthly costs.
These approximate rates will help you plan for your transportation costs:
- Annual transport pass in Paris: €925.10
- Annual travel pass outside Paris: between €500 (Nantes) and €816 (Marseille)
- 1 liter of gas: approx. €1.80
- Self-service bicycle use: Prices vary by city, and year-round subscriptions are available. In Paris, an annual self-service bicycle subscription costs between €37.20 and €99.60
- Return flights from Paris to Barcelona: approx. €150
- Eurostar round trip from Paris to London: approx. €100-150
- Round trip from Paris to Marseille by train (TGV): approx. €140
To reduce the impact of transportation on your living costs, remember that France offers plenty of discounted rates, especially for students, people working in certain sectors, large families, and retirees.
Budgeting for healthcare
The French social security system covers approximately 70% of medical costs, such as doctor appointments, hospital care, and more. Anyone who makes social security contributions or has been living in France for at least three months can make use of the French public health system. Your healthcare costs will be determined by the kind of treatments you need and the prices charged by various practitioners, such as family doctors, dentists, or optometrists.
One important thing to note: Doctors in France are free to set their own prices. That’s why it’s a good idea to use designated "sector 1" professionals if you can. The tariffs they charge are almost completely reimbursed through social security. Alternatively, you can reduce the amount you pay for healthcare by finding doctors who charge lower prices.
Here are some estimated costs for medical consultations at the "sector 1" rate, as well as how much gets reimbursed through social security:
- consultation with a family doctor: €25 (€16.50 reimbursed)
- consultation with a specialist: €25 (€16.50 reimbursed)
- consultation with a gynecologist or ophthalmologist: €30 (€20 reimbursed)
- consultation with a dentist: €30 (amount reimbursed depends on the treatment)
(Source: Campus France)
Another tip: Most French people take out private supplementary insurance (“la mutuelle”) for health costs not covered by social security.
How much to budget for leisure activities
France is famed for its rich cultural life — but not all activities come with a high price tag. There’s something for all tastes and budgets. The amount you spend on leisure will depend on several factors, such as where you live, your age, and your lifestyle. Discounts and special rates are available for children, students, unemployed people, large families, or retirees, as long as you can provide proof of your status. And on the first Sunday of every month, some museums in many French cities such as Paris, Rennes, and Lyon will let you visit their permanent collections free of charge.
Here are some examples of leisure costs in France:
- Movie ticket: €8-14
- Entry to a museum or national monument (on average): €12
- Theater ticket: from €10
- Nightclub entry: €10-25
- Municipal swimming pool entry (on average): €3
- Paperback book: €5-10
- Daily newspaper: €2-3
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