The Cost of Living in France in 2021
France is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists, students and retirees alike. The country received roughly 90 million foreign visitors in 2018. That's one million more than the number of visitors they received in 2017, and a new world record!
So with all this tourism and popularity, how much would it cost if you wanted to live in France yourself?
What’s the cost of living in France?
This all depends on where you want to live. The website Numbeo offers a rough average of the most popular expenses in France. By choosing the city that interests you in the drop-down box, you can get an idea of how many Euros you’ll need for rent, food, and leisure activities.
We’ve compiled a general idea of your average expenses below.
Housing in France
Your biggest expense will likely be housing. Rent in a big city like Paris will not surprisingly be more expensive (if not the most expensive in France) compared to a smaller city like Marseille. A single working person in Paris is likely to spend half of their income on rent alone.
You would need around €850 to €1000 a month to live comfortably in the city centre (as a single person and excluding rental costs). Living comfortably in Nantes or Marseille would only cost you roughly €600 to €700 a month.
Rent in Paris is roughly €1,500 a month, depending on the arrondissement and how much space you need in your apartment. A one-bedroom in Marseille, however, is roughly €550 a month.
If you rent, you will also need to pay for maintenance charges for the building (i.e. elevator repair, water, general upkeep). These will typically be included in the rental price as charges comprises. If not, they will just be listed as charges. The average cost of these in Paris is €25 per square metre per year.
If you’re looking to buy, property taxes in France are relatively lower than many countries such as the United Kingdom.
Utility and internet costs in France
Utility costs (gas and electricity) are relatively cheap compared to the rest of the European Union. The cost of electricity in France is roughly €0.15 per KWh, which is lower than the EU average of €0.20/KWh.
For North American expats, French mobile and internet costs are much cheaper than back home, i.e. mobile data plans that offer up to 60GB for under €15 a month. Television bundles are common, and are not much more expensive than a simple phone plan -- these can range from €20 to €30 a month.
Transportation in France
In a major city such as Paris, the metro system is well-developed and can take you anywhere you need to go within the city for only €1.90. Travelling into the suburbs costs a little bit more but is still easily accessible.
People living in more metropolitan areas tend to take public transit over owning a car because of the accessibility. However, in more rural areas, cars are used more frequently, with fuel costing around €1.60 a litre.
Taking the train to other destinations within France (such as Mont St. Michel, Giverny or the beaches of Normandy, for example) or other countries (such as Switzerland, Germany, or the United Kingdom) is very easy and cheap prices can be found online given a month or so before booking.
If you’re looking for a taxi, starting rates are €5 in places like Paris or Marseille and increasing about €1.30 each kilometre. Uber is also a popular and easy option to get around bigger cities.
Education in France
The French public school system is highly regarded. Children from age 6 to 16 are required to go to school. The government pays for everything except for some school trips and supplies.
However, schools in France are not usually bilingual, so you will need to look into international schools that offer classes in English and French. This will be an extra cost. Depending on your employer, these expenses may be covered by your company in a bigger relocation package.
If you are registering your child in a French private school, they will follow the French curriculum, as the school is partly subsidized by the state.
Schools that are not subsidized will follow their own curriculum. Annual school fees vary, but start roughly at €2,250 a year.
State universities in France, where you can receive the French equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree, can cost less than €200 a year. Private universities can cost between €3,000 to €10,000 a year.
Childcare in France
France offers childcare centres called crèches that are 80% funded by the state. They fill up quickly, though, due to high demand. Private childcare centres are also available but will cost you extra. However, once a child turns two, they are eligible for free nursery school until they turn six.
Parents are eligible for child benefits, though. If you have two kids, you’ll receive €120 a month. With three kids you’ll receive €275 a month, and €155 for each additional child.
Healthcare in France
French residents (anyone living in France for more than three months) can apply for the carte vitale, France’s health card. When you go to a doctor’s appointment, a swipe of your carte can reimburse you for the expense.
About 70% of your medical costs will be covered by the state. If you have a serious condition such as cancer or diabetes, or are having a baby, the state will cover 100% of your costs.
This is made possible by paying into PUMA (Protection Universelle Maladie), the French social security system. About 8% of employees’ paychecks go into this, as well as 13% of the employer’s paychecks.
Social security and pensions in France
Every working person in France must have social security. Usually your employer will take about 1% of your salary for it, and pay 13% themselves. However, if you are a freelance worker/self-employed, an agricultural worker, civil servant or unemployed, you will get different benefits and may have to pay into social security yourself a different way.
Anyone who pays into this system is entitled to an old-age pension. The typical age to receive it is 62, and how much you receive depends on how much you earned in your 25 highest-income years.
Salaries in France
The minimum wage, starting January 2019, is €10.03 an hour. This would be €1,521.22 per month in a 35-hour working week.
The average salary in France depends on the sector. The highest-paid salaries at the moment go to chief executives (CEOs), IT managers, accountants and sales directors, to name a few.
While speaking fluent French is many companies’ top priority for employees, more and more companies are seeking out native English speakers to enhance their operations and communicate with more English-based companies around the world. Speaking English can therefore be an important negotiation point when discussing a higher salary.
How much would I have to pay in taxes in France?
This all depends on how long you’ve been in the country. If you are a non-resident, you’ll have to pay 20% income tax on any income you earn in the country.
If you are a resident, the 2019 French income tax rates are as follows:
- Income up to €9,964: 0%
- From €9,964 to €27,519: 14%
- From €27,519 to €73,779: 30%
- From €73,779 to €156,244: 41%
- From €156,244 and above: 45%
Income tax is not taken out of people’s salaries, so every person must file a French tax return no matter what.
What’s the best way to budget in France?
Buying from your local farmer’s market can reduce food costs when it comes to fruits and vegetables, and will taste fresher as well!
Eating out at restaurants or buying pre-made meals will take a heavier toll on your wallet. The average price of a three course dinner for two people is €50. Half a litre of beer on average is €6.
Alcohol, especially wine, is cheap, ranging from €4 to €8. Baguettes are roughly €1 each, and pastries and sandwiches can range between €4 to €9, depending on the location.