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 one ventures into the rural countryside, a result of both lower prices and a less extravagant lifestyle.

Paris, Lyon and Toulouse all appear in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2023, respectively ranking as the 35th, 92nd and 121st most expensive out of the 227 expat cities surveyed. The cost of living in Paris is comparable to that of Seattle, and the cost of living in Lyon or Toulouse are 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 in some of the 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 their monthly salary if they're residing in an established urban centre. Conversely, expat retirees seeking sun-soaked shores and property ownership in France may not even have a monthly mortgage to worry about.

With more spacious homes available for less than in 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 are comparable to those in the rest of Europe. Prices of electricity and gas 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 come with air conditioning facilities installed.


Cost of transport in France

France boasts an impressive public transport system, and expats living in big cities will find that life without a car is easy. Many employers in Paris even subsidise some transport costs – so expats should not be afraid to ask.

Rural infrastructure, on the other hand, is not as comprehensive as in the cities. Expats living in the countryside may need to buy a car, slightly raising village life expenses.


Cost of groceries and clothing in France

Thanks to France's stringent food regulations, food in France is top quality. Many French residents get food from local fresh goods markets, bakeries, butcheries, groceries and cheesemongers. This high quality does unfortunately also come 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 expats 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. Expats can visit all sorts of public parks and historical sites for free, and museums and galleries are generally affordable. Expats on a budget will have no problem immersing themselves 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 to integrating non-Francophones into the mainstream curriculum.

Expat parents can enrol their children in a private school for a higher premium. These have smaller classes, better facilities and may have special classes for non-Francophone learners. Parents should note the difference between the 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. Expats residing in the country will find that access to quality medical services, both public and private, is relatively seamless. The public healthcare system, known as Sécurité Sociale, covers most medical expenses, including doctor consultations, hospitalisations and prescription medications.

Expats working in France for at least three months and who make social security contributions 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.

For those who 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. It's prudent to invest in comprehensive health insurance 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 2023. Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 2,800

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

EUR 1,920

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 1,310

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

EUR 940

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

EUR 5.80

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 1.59

Rice (1kg)

EUR 2.16

Loaf of white bread

EUR 2.08

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 14

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

EUR 9

Eating out

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

EUR 65

Big Mac Meal

EUR 12

Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 2.97

Cappuccino

EUR 3.77

Bottle of beer (local)

EUR 2.65

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

EUR 0.23

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

EUR 20

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

EUR 184

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

EUR 1.86

City-centre public transport fare

EUR 2.10

Gasoline (per litre)

EUR 2.06

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