The cost of living in France is undeniably steep, especially in bustling urban hubs such as Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. Expenses decrease considerably the further you venture into the rural countryside, a result of both lower prices and a less extravagant lifestyle.

Paris, Lyon, and Toulouse all appear in Mercer's 2024 Cost of Living Survey, ranking as the 29th, 75th and 95th most expensive out of the 226 expat cities surveyed. The cost of living in Paris is comparable to that of Seattle, and the cost of living in Lyon or Toulouse is akin to Toronto or Birmingham.

Expat salaries in France are considerably less lucrative than the financial packages given to those who move to the Middle East or Asia for tax-free wealth or high-powered positions. That said, enjoying an excellent quality of life on a budget in France is achievable, especially in the picturesque south and some charming provincial villages.

Cost of accommodation in France

Accommodation in France tends to be the most intimidating expense for expats. It can easily swallow a third to half of your monthly salary if you're residing in an established urban centre. Conversely, if you're a property owner in France seeking a retirement on sun-soaked shores, you may not even have a monthly mortgage to worry about.

With more spacious homes available for less than in many other European countries, many expats sell their property back home and invest in French real estate, covering renovation costs and leaving only utility bills to contend with.

Utility bills in Europe are comparable to those in the rest of Europe. Electricity and gas prices are relatively average. While air conditioning can be expensive, it isn't as commonly used in Europe as in the US. Many apartments don't have air conditioning facilities installed.

Cost of transport in France

France boasts an impressive public transport system, and if you're living in a big French city, you will find that life without a car is easy. Many employers in Paris even subsidise some transport costs – so don't be afraid to ask.

Rural infrastructure, on the other hand, is not as comprehensive as in the cities. If you're living in the countryside, you may need to buy a car, which slightly increases village life expenses.

Cost of groceries and clothing in France

French food is of top quality thanks to France's stringent food regulations. Many French residents get food from local fresh goods markets, bakeries, butcheries, groceries, and cheesemongers. Unfortunately, this high quality also comes at a relatively high cost.

A 20 percent sales tax in France makes goods pricier than in many other European countries, and clothes are notoriously expensive. This means that you will either have to opt for pricey boutiques, speciality stores and upscale department stores or decide to go for budget-friendly, lower-quality goods.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in France

The cost of restaurants in France is also on the higher end. After all, France is the birthplace of the modern restaurant. In terms of food costs, Paris outpaces other French cities.

There are many free and budget entertainment options, though. You can visit all sorts of public parks and historical sites for free, and museums and galleries are generally affordable. If you're on a budget, you will have no problem immersing yourself in France's rich culture without breaking the bank.

Cost of education in France

French public education is free for citizens and residents, and certain public schools, called Sections Internationale, are even geared toward integrating non-Francophones into the mainstream curriculum.

You can enrol your children in a private school for a higher premium. These have smaller classes, better facilities and may have special classes for non-Francophone learners. You should note the difference between state-sponsored and privately funded private schools – the former are more tightly regulated and have a better reputation.

Most international schools are in Paris. They tend to have high tuition fees, but are popular with expat parents because they allow children to continue learning a familiar curriculum in their home language.

Cost of healthcare in France

France boasts an exceptional healthcare system, often regarded as one of the finest in the world. Residents of the country have relatively seamless access to quality medical services, both public and private. The public healthcare system, known as Sécurité Sociale, covers most medical expenses, including doctor consultations, hospitalisations, and prescription medications.

If you've worked in France for at least three months and made social security contributions, you are eligible to partake in this well-established scheme. However, it's worth noting that state-provided coverage does not extend to all medical costs, and thus, many residents opt for supplementary insurance, known as a mutuelle.

If you prefer and can afford an additional layer of comfort and convenience, France also boasts a robust private healthcare sector, replete with state-of-the-art facilities and world-class medical practitioners. While private healthcare is undoubtedly pricier, many expats choose this route for shorter waiting times, increased choice of doctors and clinics, and a more personalised experience. Investing in comprehensive health insurance is prudent to offset the potentially hefty medical bills associated with world-class private healthcare.

Cost of living in France chart

These are the average costs for Paris in April 2024. Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider.

Accommodation (monthly rent)
Three-bedroom apartment in the city centreEUR 3,100
Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centreEUR 2,300
One-bedroom apartment in the city centreEUR 1,500
One-bedroom apartment outside the city centreEUR 980
Food and drink
Dozen eggsEUR 5.90
Milk (1 litre)EUR 1.60
Rice (1kg)EUR 2.40
Loaf of white breadEUR 1.80
Chicken breasts (1kg)EUR 8
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)EUR 11.30
Eating out
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurantEUR 80
Big Mac MealEUR 12.50
Coca-Cola (330ml)EUR 3.60
CappuccinoEUR 4.40
Bottle of beer (local)EUR 2.70
Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)EUR 0.40
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)EUR 30
Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)EUR 195
Taxi rate/kmEUR 2
City-centre public transport fareEUR 2.20
Gasoline/Petrol (per litre)EUR 2

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