How much does it cost to live in France? Add up the numbers to see if France’s cost of living – or the cost of living in Paris – is affordable and what budget you need to cover France’s cost of living.
The cost of living in France is higher than in neighbouring western European countries, although Paris is one of the main reasons for this. The rest of the country, particularly the countryside and the south of France, has a lower cost of living for internationals.
In comparison to global rankings, however, the cost of living in Paris fell 18 places to rank as the 62nd world’s most expensive city, according to Mercer in 2017, although this is partly attributed to the weaking of local currency and economy.
In some parts of France, however, expats won’t earn as much as they might in other countries, or larger French cities. Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of money to enjoy a good quality of life in France, especially farther away from major cities. You can get a basic overview of the cost of living in France in this guide, including food, housing, healthcare, education, transportation and more.
This guide to the cost of living in France covers:
- Cost of living in Paris
- Cost of living in Marseille
- Cost of living in Lyon
- Housing costs in France
- Utility costs in France
- Cost of public transport in France
- Cost of groceries in France
- Education costs in France
- Healthcare costs in France
- Childcare costs in France
- Cost of dining out in France
- Tax costs in France
- Social security and pension costs in France
Cost of living in France
If you think the high costs of living in France, particularly in major cities, is too much to handle, keep in mind that France also boasts one of the highest standards of living in the world. It ranks above average in work-life balance according to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
There is also a generally strong sense of community. French people tend to be more civically engaged, meaning they truly care about what happens in their country. This could be because they have more of a stake in it financially, as a country with an extensive French social security system, but it is still a point in France’s favour.
Paris attracts expats for a number of reasons: Some want to live the romanticised idea of Paris, while others head there for the better variety of jobs in Paris, where many international companies are located. The cost of living in Paris, however, is estimated as slightly more expensive than Los Angeles by Numbeo.
In Mercer’s 2017 cost of living report, Paris (62) ranked more expensive than Amsterdam (85), Munich (98) and Brussels (104), but cheaper than London (30), New York City (9) and Zurich (4).
Numbeo calculates the cost of living in Paris as:
- 20 percent more expensive than Madrid
- 22 percent more expensive than Rio de Janeiro
- 10 percent more expensive than Munich and Rome
- 6 percent more expensive than Brussels
- 5 percent more expensive than Hong Kong
- 1 percent more expensive than Los Angeles
- 3 percent less expensive than London
- 16 percent less expensive than Tokyo
- 17 percent less expensive than New York
Lyon is the third largest city in France, and known as a gourmet haven. It is an excellent city for living and working as a hub for banking as well as pharmaceuticals, software and other industries, attracting many expats who work in those fields but also increasing Lyon’s cost of living.
Lyon is the only other French city to rank on Mercer’s cost of living report, ranked as the world’s 137th most expensive city in 2017, falling from 132nd in 2016.
The cost of living in Lyon is:
- 21 percent more expensive than Rio de Janeiro
- 19 percent more expensive than Madrid
- 9 percent more expensive than Munich and Rome
- 5 percent more expensive than Brussels
- 3 percent more expensive than Hong Kong
- about the same as Los Angeles
- 5 percent less expensive than London
- 17 percent less expensive than Tokyo
- 19 percent less expensive than New York
Cost of living in Marseille
Marseille is heralded as one of the most international cities in France, and the number of expats living there supports the claim. Being a port city, it is perfect for international businesses as well as enjoying the relaxed lifestyle of a coastal resort. Needless to say, the sandy beaches are an attraction for many expats. Compared to Paris’s living costs, the cost of living in Marseille is more affordable.
The cost of living in Marseille is:
- 2 percent more expensive than Madrid
- 3 percent more expensive than Rio de Janeiro
- 8 percent less expensive than Munich
- 9 percent less expensive than Rome
- 13 percent less expensive than Brussels
- 14 percent less expensive than Hong Kong
- 17 percent less expensive than Los Angeles
- 22 percent less expensive than London
- 34 percent less expensive than Tokyo
- 36 percent less expensive than New York
The cost of living in Paris is considerably higher than in other parts of France.
French housing is notoriously expensive if you go for the atypical metropolitan apartment. Residents can spend up to 50 percent of monthly salary on rent alone in cities such as Paris and Lyon. When you go from a one-bedroom place to one with multiple bedrooms, the prices skyrocket even more. Residents can reduce their cost of living in Paris, however, by moving to a less metropolitan area or living in Paris’s suburbs.
For a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Paris, for example, get ready to pay up to EUR 1,200 a month, or double that if you want two or three bedrooms. Lyon is much cheaper in terms of accommodation, with prices starting around EUR 600–800 per month for a downtown one-bedroom apartment, or EUR 1,100 for a three-bedroom apartment. Marseille is cheaper, with one-bedroom apartments starting at around EUR 550 a month and three-bedrooms for EUR 950.
If buying property in France, French property taxes tend to be much lower than other countries, especially compared to the UK. You could potentially sell your property in the UK and buy a home in France, with sufficient money left to enjoy a comfortable living. Read more about buying property in France.
Paris has basic utility costs similar to the rest of Europe, totalling an average of around EUR 160 a month for an apartment of 85 square metres. Basic utilities in this case refers to water, heating, electricity and garbage collection. In Lyon, the cost of utilities is slightly less, and in Marseille the cost drops down to around EUR 85 a month. In smaller cities in the south of France, utility bills can be as low as EUR 45 thanks to the clement weather all year round. Read more in our guide to utilities in France.
The cost of electricity in France is not high compared to EU standards. The average cost of electricity in France is around EUR 0.169 per KWh, lower than the EU average of EUR 0.219 and the UK average of EUR 0.195 per KWh.
The cost of internet in France is also relative, with basic packages starting from around EUR 20–30 per month. If you have a television, you will also need to account for the cost of an annual TV licence (EUR 137 in 2016). Read more in our guide to telephone, internet and TV in France.
Though the cost of living in Paris is higher than rural France, one of the benefits of living in a well-developed, metropolitan city is the extensive public transport system. Expats living in Paris, and most other major cities in France, will find they won’t need a car. The French metro system and other public transportation is quite good and not expensive; for example, a one-way ticket in Paris is about EUR 1.90, and a monthly pass around EUR 75, but there are different discounts on offer. On top of that, some employers pay subsidies for transport costs if you use public transportation to get to and from work. Read more about trains, metro, buses and taxis in France.
In rural areas, public transport is not as well developed. Many expats living in the countryside tend to have their own car, with fuel costing around EUR 1.65 a litre.
The cost of taxis varies around France. If you take a taxi in Paris or Marseille, for example, the fee will start at EUR 5 and increase by about EUR 1.30 per kilometre. Elsewhere the starting tariff is cheaper at around EUR 2.50, and then increases EUR 1.80 per kilometre. To work out taxi fares for your journey in France, you can use an online taxi fare calculator.
There are many factors affecting grocery spending. Buying from specialty shops instead of bigger chains or French supermarkets will increase the cost of living in France. However, as a general rule, you should budget at least around EUR 220–290 a month per person for groceries in France.
Something that France does extremely well is public education. Every child from the ages of six to 16 must go to school, and the state pays for everything except some school supplies and field trips. The French education system is rigorous and strict, but that can work well for many children. However, public schools in France are not typically bilingual. Parents looking for international schools in France will thus have to calculate a higher cost of living in France, although some employers cover education costs in expat relocation packages.
If parents opt for a private, international or bilingual school in France, their children can be taught in a familiar language and follow a curriculum similar to their home country. French private schools are sometimes partially funded by the state, and thus may follow the French curriculum; schools that are not subsidised are free to follow their own curriculums. The cost of annual school fees vary considerably, but start around EUR 2,250 per year. Read more in our guide to education in France and the difference between state, private, bilingual and international schools in France.
Universities in France, if they are state universities, are very reasonably priced, especially compared to the tuition you would pay in the US or UK. Also international students do not necessarily have to pay extra. For a French equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, annual fees can be less than EUR 200. At a private university, you can expect to pay between EUR 3,000 and EUR 10,000 a year.
One positive aspect on the cost of living in France is subsidised healthcare. Thanks to some recent changes, everyone living in France for longer than three months is eligible for state health insurance, including foreigners. This insurance, PUMA, is funded by French social security system, meaning about 8 percent of most employees’ paychecks go towards it, with another 13 percent paid the employers.
Everyone must first register with a French health insurance company and a doctor in France, and go through that doctor for most medical treatments. Around 70 percent of medical costs are covered, but in some cases, such as cancer, diabetes or having a baby in France, 100 percent of costs are covered by the French healthcare system. Those who want 100 percent coverage can sign up for private health insurance to cover the remainder. Read more in our guide to health insurance in France.
Crèches are typically the first point for people looking for childcare in France. These are childcare centres that are usually about 80 percent funded by the state. The state-funded crèches fill up quickly, however, as they are in high demand. You can also find private daycare centres, although they are not funded and will push up your cost of living in France.
However, in France once a child is two years old, they are eligible for nursery school up to the age of six years – which are free.
To help with the cost of living in France, parents get child benefits. For two children, you receive EUR 120 a month. For three children, the benefit increases to EUR 275, and increases another EUR 155 for each additional child. Read more in our guide to childcare in France.
France is synonymous with amazing cuisine. Some of the best chefs in the world are French, or were trained in France, and the diversity of places you can go to eat is amazing, besides the array of delicious foods in France. Eating at the top restaurants is obviously more expensive, but you can easily find excellent food quality at much lower prices, even in local markets which are common in France. A fresh baguette costs less than EUR 2 and sandwiches in a cafe range from around EUR 6–8.
A meal for two at a good restaurant generally costs around EUR 50, which includes three courses. As an international comparison, a McDonalds McMeal (European combo meal) costs about EUR 8. A cappuccino in Paris will cost you about EUR 3.50, and a half litre of domestic or imported beer will be about EUR 6.
France has several kinds of taxes (such as French inheritance tax and corporate tax in France) but income tax is generally the most important one. In France, income tax is not taken out of employees’ salaries, so everyone has to fill out a French tax return and have the money available no matter what.
If you are a non-resident, you will have to pay 20 percent income tax on any income earned in France. For residents, tax rates in France for income earned in 2016 are as follows.
- For incomes up to EUR 9,710: 0 percent tax
- EUR 9,710–26,818: 14 percent
- EUR 26,819–71,898: 30 percent
- EUR 71,899–152,260: 41 percent
- EUR 152,261+: 45 percent
France has some rules regarding dual taxation to reduce tax costs for foreigners. Read more in our guide taxes in France.
In order for everyone to enjoy the benefits the French state provides, social security is mandatory for all workers in France. Employers generally take care of this for you, taking out about 1 percent of your salary to put towards social security, while paying out around 13 percent themselves.
There are special types of social security for certain categories; for example, self-employed, unemployed, civil servant and agricultural workers all get different benefits. Read more in our guide to French social security.
Anyone paying into the French social security system is entitled to an old-age pension when they retire. The minimum legal age for retirement is 62, but most don’t retire until age 65 or older. How much pension you get depends on how much you earned in your 25 highest-income years. Read more about your benefits in our guide to the French pension system.
For economic indicators of prices, such as inflation and tax news, see the INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies) website.
Cost of living in France compared to the UK
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