Moving in France

On the move within France

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Moving is never easy, whether you move abroad or across town. Here are our top tips for relocation within France to make moving as painless as possible.

It can be just as much work to move around the corner as to move around the world. And whereas your company may have handled your initial move to France, you'll probably be on your own if you simply want to upgrade your apartment within France. Here are the basics for planning your move within France with a minimum of disruption to your life.

Moving companies

There's always the old-fashioned way, of course: packing your stuff yourself and renting a van to transport it. If you want to make it easier on yourself, you'll need to locate a moving company. You can read more about international moving companies in our guide to relocating your things to France and how to work with a relocation agency.

Start by collecting several quotes as prices can vary widely; companies will also offer several packages or formules that will each be priced differently.

The company will want to send a sales rep to look at your belongings, estimate their total volume in cubic metres, and explain the formules; these appointments should only take about 15 minutes, but you won't get a quote without one. Don't forget to review the insurance policy, for which you'll probably have to fill out a form estimating the value of your valuables.

The most common packages are:

  • the do-it-yourself package where the company provides only the manpower to put the boxes and furniture in and out of the truck. The company should provide boxes and packing equipment.
  • the breakables-only package, where you pack everything that doesn't break and the company packs everything that does, including lamps and pictures.
  • the full-service package where all you do is show up


You'll be expected to unhook all your appliances yourself; don't forget to defrost your refrigerator the night before and empty the reservoir in your washing machine. The movers will be grumpy if they are confronted with clean-up problems the day of the move. 

The team will include two or three movers; if you're moving in or out of a big city apartment building, remember that any extras will cost more eg. equipment to move furniture through windows, extra personnel to move furniture in buildings without elevators, parking problems, etc.

Also keep in mind that moving on a Saturday will cost 15 to 25 percent extra and may not even be possible; many moving companies, especially in the provinces, work only Monday to Friday.

If you're moving a long distance, the moving company will probably propose an overnight transport; enquire where the truck will be parked overnight and whether or not your belongings are insured against theft (this occurs but rarely, but extra insurance buys peace of mind).

Change of address

You're well-advised to individually contact the most important services (your bank, your mortgage company, your employer, etc.). For your mail, La Poste can forward it all for you for a fee. Mail forwarding, réexpédition définitive de La Poste, will typically cost you a fee for six months; it can be extended for another six months for free.

You can get the form in person at your local post office or find out more online at the postal service website; make sure to submit the form at least five days before your move date. The postal website has a lot of helpful moving tips (in French) and can offer other services to help with your move.

If you benefit from any French social services or if you pay French income taxes, a online government service also makes it easier to change your address with several offices at one time (pension funds, social security funds, the post office, employment centre, tax service and vehicle registration).

Leaving your apartment

If you're a renter, you must give a three-month notice, in writing, to your landlord. Read about what to do when you leave an apartment in France.

After you move out, you must schedule an appointment with your previous landlord to turn over keys and do an inspection of your apartment, état des lieux, before you can get any of your deposit back. Other than cleaning up, make sure to leave all electrical fixtures as they were when you moved in; normal wear-and-tear is not supposed to come out of your deposit, although what constitutes normal wear-and-tear is sometimes the subject of debate.

At any rate, your landlord is not obligated to refund anything immediately and may indeed take up to two months after your departure to send the check. Read about renting and your tenant rights in France.

The easiest way to set up utility services at your new address is to transfer your existing service contracts, faire basculer or le basculement; this speeds things up and saves on the fee for establishment of service. Presuming you and not your landlord paid these bills, you still must contact utility providers, ie. EDF/GDF, telephone, water, after you leave so they can calculate how much you owed up through your move date; this is called le relevé. Read about setting up utilities in France.

You'll probably be able to transfer your home insurance policy and assurance habitation, although it can be tricky to get the timing right so that you're insured through your last date at your old address and immediately on arriving at your new home.

You will also need to set up telephone, internet and television; read about setting up communications in France. With France Telecom, depending on how far you're moving, it may be possible to retain your phone number (typically for a fee); if not, they may provide a free service to notify callers of your new phone number for six months.

Watch out if you're trying to establish DSL service at a new address; it can take up to 15 days to re-establish service at a new phone number or potentially much longer if you're moving to a zone non-dégroupée, where the lines are still controlled entirely by France Telecom and which has not been optimised for the new telecom services.

Officialdom

If you have a carte de séjour, don't forget that you're supposed to register your new address with your new préfecture within eight days, although there isn't always a penalty other than a potential raised eyebrow if you show up after that deadline. You may also want to contact your embassy or consulate to let them know where you are.

If you own a car, you must update your car registration, the certificat d'immatriculation previously known as carte grise, at your new préfecture within 30 days. If you're changing département, you must report the change of address but you are not expected to change your licence plate to match the number of your new département, nor does your driving licence in France need to be updated. Check with your local town hall (mairie) to see what specific conditions apply to your situation.


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First published 2008; updated 2016.

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