Expat Budget Planning: The Cost of Living in France



When people think of France, they usually think about the Eiffel Tower, about the beautiful Côte d’Azur, and about the romantic beaches of Brittany. Others might let their mind wander to the famous French cuisine, complete with different cheeses, baguette, and sea food, not to mention the wine. But before you can become one of the many expats starting a new life in France, you need to get an overview of the cost of living in your future host country.

Housing Costs

When you are planning your move to France, you need to keep in mind that the monthly rent might end up absorbing one third to half of your monthly income if you live in a particularly posh, urban area. Thus, a three-bedroom-apartment can cost you anything between 750€ and 1,800€ depending on where you decide to settle down. Of course, utilities make up another portion of the usual housing costs. These are comparable to utility costs in other Western European countries. In general, you can expect between 100€ and 200€ per month in combined utility costs.


If you contribute to France’s social security system, you qualify for public health insurance. The insurance is financed by tax deductions and covers about 70% of your basic healthcare costs. But while you are very well taken care of with the public health insurance, many expats decide to take out private insurance to cover the remaining 30% and ensure the comfort of private hospital rooms and top-notch medical services.

Driving and Getting Around

Expats who move to urban centers, such as Paris, will most likely use public transportation to get around. After all, in a densely populated metropolis like the country’s capital, owning a car can actually be a disadvantage. Many a foreigner has completely lost it over the crazy urban traffic. The good news is that, if you are lucky, your employer might even agree to reimburse you for part of your travel expenses.

However, those who move to a more rural area may inevitably have to get a car, in order to make up for the lack of a comprehensive public transportation system. Of course, buying a car in France is not exactly cheap and, with the insurance and gasoline prices, raises the cost of living immensely. If you travel long distances and like to use the toll roads, be prepared to spend a pretty penny on that as well. For a journey from Paris to Orléans, for instance, you can expect a little over 25€ one way.

Food, Clothing, and Other Everyday Expenses

With food and other everyday expenses, the costs depend very much on where you shop. Small and traditional businesses are usually at the higher end of the pricing scale while big grocery chains might offer bargain prices. Processed foods can be particularly expensive, while wine and cheese, on the other hand, are comparatively cheap. A bottle of good wine can cost you as little as 5€.

While you might find yourself at the heart of fashionable Europe, you should not expect to make a bargain when it comes to nice clothes. On the contrary, clothes are surprisingly expensive in France and often you can only choose between boutiques, specialty stores, and upscale department stores when doing your shopping. There are only two big sales throughout the year, in January and in July. Aside from these months, you should be prepared to pay the full price on your clothes or stock up on a visit to your home country.

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