Cost of living

Prior to your arrival, it is important that you are aware of the estimated expenses that you will incur. These few tips will help you calculate an estimated budget for your stay in France.

Travelling with euros

When you arrive in France

On your arrival, you will need some euros. We recommend you to have at least 50 euros with you for your first expenses, such as buying a metro ticket to get from the airport to the place where you will be staying. You can also get euros fairly easily right away when you arrive in France, as there are always ATMs at the airport.

The Euro is the official currency in France and in 18 other EU member states.

Currency exchange

  • Before leaving: the cheapest way to exchange currency is to order some change in advance, directly at your bank.
  • While travelling: you will find currency exchange offices (bureaux de change) in every international airport and train station.
  • Upon your arrival in France: please refer to the “Opening a bank account” section.

The cost of living in France: what to expect

In France, the legal minimum wage, le SMIC, is the minimum level of salary an employer must pay their workers. As of January 1st 2019, the net minimum wage (after social contributions) for 35 working hours per week is €1,204 a month. 


The average rent for a 20m² studio in Paris and the suburbs is around €800 per month. Once you have settled in your apartment, you will be able to apply for an Aide personnalisée au logement – APL (individualized housing assistante). For more information on the APL, refer to the “Accomodation”.

Public transportation

The Origine-Destination ticket allows you to ride the RER or a SNCF commuter train outside zone 1. You can buy this ticket to travel from the nearest station to the university. It costs around €3.55 and is determined by the number of zones (1-5) traveled from your origin station to the destination station. The book of 10 tickets costs 28,40€. A single metro ticket (Ticket T+) to move around Paris costs €1.90. If you buy your ticket on the bus, it will cost you €2.

There are also a number of packages that can either be paid monthly or annually. To know more about said offers, visit the RATP website. Until you finalize your subscription to a monthly or annual package, we advise you to purchase a book of 10 tickets ("carnet") for €14.50, which will save you about 27% in comparison to a purchase of 10 single tickets.

Driving in and around Paris

In France, you can buy unleaded (sans plomb) in either 95 or 98 octane, super unleaded (super) or diesel (gazole) by the liter. The price of gasoline per liter varies by gas station. If you are using SP95, gasoline will cost around €1.47/L in the Ile-de-France region and €1.65/L in Paris. If you are using SP98, gasoline will cost around €1.57/L in the Ile-de-France region and €1.74/L in Paris.


Figuring out your monthly food budget will depend on your eating habits. It is cheaper to shop in a supermarket that in a convenience store or in an open-air market.

What to expect in terms of food-related expenses (approximate prices):

  • a baguette: €0.90,
  • a sandwich: €4,
  • a meal at a restaurant including main course and desert: €20,
  • monthly food budget for one person: €200 minimum


The first estimated expenses you will incur

Upon your arrival, you will incur some settling-in expenses, such as:

  • the first month of rent (around €800 for a 20 m² apartment in Paris),
  • the security deposit (this amount is equal to one month's rent for an unfurnished apartment and two month's rent for a furnished apartment),
  • real estate agency fees (around €800),
  • your monthly public transportation pass (€35 on average with a student subscription, €70 on average for a regular subscription),
  • utilities (electricity, phone and gas bills),
  • house insurance.

Keep in mind that expenses on your arrival in a 20m² studio may reach €2,500, therefore, you need to plan your budget ahead.

If you are staying for more than three months you will have to pay €77 for the validation of your VLS-TS étudiant or €260 for your VLS-TS scientifique-chercheur.


A few reference prices in France

  • In France, indicated prices include VAT and the service charge. You should not feel obligated to leave a tip.
  • A coffee costs around €4 in Paris and around €2.50 in the suburbs. You will pay more if you have a drink at a table outside (en terrasse).
  • A monthly gym subscription costs around €30 in the suburbs and €50 in Paris.
  • If you want to go to a hairdresser, you may have to pay around 20 to €40 for a woman, around 15 to €25 for a man and around €10 for a child. For a hair color you will have to pay between 40 and €90 on average.
  • A movie ticket costs €9. Our tip: Movie theaters usually offer discounts for people under 26 and on some week days. Cinemas like UGC and Pathé Gaumont sell a card that gives unlimited access to their movie theaters for around €20 a month.