How much does it cost to live in France? Add up the numbers to see if France’s cost of living is affordable for you and your family.
The cost of living in France is higher than in neighboring western European countries; however, 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.
You can get a basic overview of the cost of living in France in this guide. It includes food, housing, healthcare, education, transportation, and more.
This guide to the cost of living in France covers:
- General cost of living and standard of living in France
- Wages and salary in France
- Housing costs in France
- Cost of domestic bills in France
- Healthcare costs in France
- Costs of childcare in France
- Study costs in France
- Cost of food and drink in France
- Transport costs in France
- Clothing in France
- Leisure activities in France
- Taxation and social security in France
- Social security and pension costs in France
General cost of living and standard 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 highly in many OECD Better Life indicators.
There is also a generally strong sense of community; 90% of people believe they have people they can rely on in a time of need. French people tend to be more civically engaged, meaning they truly care about what happens in their country.
Numbeo estimates that a family of four needs around €3,000 per month excluding rent, while a single person’s average monthly costs are about €800 before rent.
21% of people in France are estimated to be in a situation of either monetary poverty or material and social deprivation. Single-parent families are especially at risk of poverty – 42% of these households report being in a situation of monetary poverty, material and social poverty, or both.
Cost of living in Paris
Paris attracts expats for a number of reasons: some want to live the romanticized ideal of Paris, while others head there for the better variety of jobs, where many international companies are located.
In Mercer’s 2021 cost of living report, Paris (33rd) ranked more expensive than Amsterdam, Munich, and Brussels, but cheaper than London, New York, and Zürich.
The estimated cost of living in Paris is:
- 30% cheaper than New York
- 50% more expensive than Madrid
- 25% more expensive than Brussels
- 10% cheaper than Los Angeles
- 14% cheaper than London
Cost of living in Lyon
Lyon is the third-largest city in France, and it’s a gourmet haven. It is an excellent city for living and working, as it’s a hub for banking as well as pharmaceuticals, software, and other industries.
Lyon is the only other French city to rank on Mercer’s cost of living report, ranked as the world’s 100th in 2021.
The cost of living in Lyon is:
- 44% cheaper than New York
- 20% more expensive than Madrid
- About the same as Brussels
- 28% cheaper than Los Angeles
- 31% cheaper than London
Cost of living in Marseille
Marseille is one of the most international cities in France – 21% of the population was born outside the country. Being a port city, it is perfect for international business as well as enjoying the relaxed lifestyle of a coastal resort city.
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:
- 48% cheaper than New York
- 12% more expensive Madrid
- 7% cheaper than Brussels
- 33% cheaper than Los Angeles
- 36% cheaper than London
Wages and salary in France
When working in France, you will usually receive your salary in 12 monthly payments, which are reviewed annually. The average wage for private sector workers is €2,370, while the public sector pays slightly less: an average of €2,300. In stark contrast, the average earnings of traditional self-employed workers was €3,820.
The minimum wage in France is €10.48 per hour, or €1,589.47 for a 35-hour working week. According to the French Labor Code, the minimum wage must go up at the beginning of each year and rise when inflation exceeds 2%.
Housing costs in France
Your cost of living will likely vary depending on whether you buy your home or rent somewhere to live in France. Prices for both can differ widely from city to city.
Rental costs in France
French housing is notoriously expensive if you go for the typical metropolitan apartment. 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 the Parisian suburbs.
For a one-bedroom apartment in central Paris, for example, get ready to pay up to €1,800 a month, or more than double that if you want two or three bedrooms. Lyon is much cheaper in terms of accommodation, with prices at around €600–€1,250 per month for a central one-bedroom apartment, or €1,250–€3,000 for a three-bedroom apartment. Marseille is cheaper still, with one-bedroom apartments starting at around €600 a month and three-bedroom properties for €1,125.
Property prices in France
There are several fees and taxes that apply to purchasing a home, which you can read about in our guide to buying property in France. Just as with renting, prices vary across the country. For example, property in the center of Paris costs on average €13,000 per square meter, while outside the center, you can expect to spend about €9,000. In Lyon, this is €5,100 compared to €3400 per square meter. Meanwhile in Marseille, a city-center apartment will set you back on average €3,200 per square meter and one in the suburbs around €1,000.
Cost of domestic bills in France
Utility bills in France
Paris has basic utility costs similar to the rest of Europe, totaling an average of around €180 a month for an apartment of 85 square meters. Basic utilities in this case refer to water, heating, electricity, and garbage collection.
In smaller cities in the south of France, utility bills can be much cheaper thanks to the clement weather all year round. Read more in our guide to utilities in France.
Telecommunications in France
The cost of internet in France is also relative, with basic packages starting from around €20–€30 per month. If you have a television, you will also need to account for the cost of an annual television license (€138). Read more in our guide to telephone, internet, and television in France.
Healthcare costs in France
One positive aspect of the cost of living in France is subsidized healthcare. Everyone living in France for longer than three months is eligible for state health insurance, including foreigners. This insurance, Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMa), is funded by the French social security system, meaning about 8% of most employees’ pay packets go towards it, with another 13% paid by 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% of medical costs are covered, but in some cases, such as cancer, diabetes, or having a baby in France, 100% of costs are covered by the French healthcare system. Those who want 100% coverage can sign up for private health insurance to cover the remainder.
Cost of childcare in France
You can also find private daycare centers, although they will push up your cost of living in France. Once a child is two years old, they are eligible for free nursery schooling up to the age of six. You can read more about child benefits further down the guide.
Study costs 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 an international 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 subsidized are free to follow their own curricula.
The cost of annual school fees vary considerably but start around €5,000 per year. Read more in our guide to education in France and the difference between state, private, bilingual and international schools in France.
Tuition fees 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. French, European Union, European Economic Area, Andorran, and Swiss students pay the following at state universities:
- €170 per year for a bachelor’s (licence) degree
- €243 per year for a master’s degree
- €601 per year in a school of engineering
- €380 per year for a doctorate
In addition, there are several cases in which you may pay these fees even if you are not a European students. For example, if you are a resident of Quebec or a long-term French resident, you might be entitled to lower tuition fees. Those from outside the EU/EEA must pay €2,770 for licence and €3,770 for a master’s degree. Private universities charge €3,000 to €10,000 per year.
Cost of food and drink in France
Groceries in France
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.
French households spend on average, around €385 on food a month including groceries and eating out. Here are some examples of how much food items might cost you in Paris:
- 1 liter of milk: €1.10
- 500g loaf of fresh white bread: €2
- 1kg rice: €2
- 12 eggs: €3.80
- 1kg cheese: €17.30
- 1kg apples: €2.80
Don’t forget, you could also snag some bargains and discover delicious local food at outdoor markets in Paris.
Cost of dining out 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 (not to mention the array of delicious food in France).
A meal for two at a good restaurant generally costs around €60, which includes three courses. As an international comparison, a McDonald’s meal costs about €9.
Beer, wine, and spirits in France
Of course, when it comes to alcoholic drinks, France is best known for its wine. A bottle of mid-range wine in the supermarket will cost you €5–15. Meanwhile, half a liter of domestic beer will set you back about €7, with a 33cl bottle costing about €6.
Spirits, just like wine, can vary hugely in price depending on the brand. Here are some examples of prices for spirits from Carrefour supermarket:
- 70cl vodka – €9–37
- 70cl gin – €10–36
- 70cl whisky – €10–€50
Coffee in France
A cappuccino in France will usually cost you around €2.80. Unsurprisingly, the price goes up in Paris – you can expect to spend about €3.60.
Transport costs in France
Though the cost of living in Paris is higher than that of rural France, one of the benefits of living in a well-developed, metropolitan city is the extensive public transport system in France. Expats living in Paris, and most other major cities in France, will find they won’t need a car at all.
Metro systems and other public transportation in French cities are quite good and not particularly expensive; for example, a one-way ticket in Paris is about €1.90, and a monthly pass is around €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 €1.60 a liter.
The cost of taxis varies around France. If you take a taxi in Paris or Marseille, for example, the fee will start at €5 and increase by about €1.60 per kilometer. Elsewhere the starting tariff is cheaper at around €2.50, and then increases €1.80 per kilometer. To work out taxi fares for your journey in France, you can use an online taxi fare calculator.
Clothing in France
Costs for clothing in France is in line with neighboring European countries. When it comes to high street brands, you’ll likely spend around €35 for a summer dress from a chain store, about €80 for a pair of good quality jeans, and €82 on average for a pair of mid-range running shoes.
France is home to an array of famous fashion designers. If you opt to buy designer clothing, this will cost significantly more.
Leisure activities in France
If you’re a fitness lover, a gym membership will set you back around €35 per month. Cinema tickets are also slightly cheaper than in many European countries, at €10 on average.
Taxation and social security in France
France has several kinds of taxes (such as inheritance tax and corporate tax), 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.
If you are a non-resident, you will have to pay 20% income tax on any income earned in France. For residents, tax rates in France are currently:
- Up to €10,084: 0%
- €10,085–€25,710: 11%
- €25,711–€73,516: 30%
- €73,517–€158,222: 41%
- €158,222+: 45%
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% of your salary to put towards social security, while paying out around 13% themselves. Read more in our guide to French social security and our guide to the French pension system.
France has some rules regarding dual taxation to reduce tax costs for foreigners. In addition, you will have to pay VAT (TVA) 20% on many goods and services. Read more in our guide to taxes in France.
Assistance with living costs in France
There are special types of social security benefits available in France. These include:
- Family allowances (Allocations familiales)
- Maternity and paternity allowances
- Sickness benefits
- Care benefits
- Disability pension
- Old-age pension
- Surviving spouse pension
- Income support
When you have a child, you are entitled to a child benefit (La Prestation d’accueil du jeune enfant – Paje) for the first three years after birth, or for up to three years until the child is 20 in case of adoption. You are eligible for family allowance when you have two children. This starts at €132.61 per month for two children, €302.51 for three children, and €472.42 for four.
The conditions for most benefits require that you have worked and paid social security contributions in France, and that France is your place of residence. Check with each benefit to make sure, and read our guide to social security in France for more details.