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Living in France - A Guide for PhD Students

As a famous tourist destination, France has plenty to offer travellers from all over the world. Luckily for you, as a PhD student you will have more time to appreciate the wonderful French Riviera coastlines, the Alps, Parisian cafes and all the country’s other famous landmarks and attractions.

This page provides useful information for students opting to move to France for their PhD studies. We’ve covered your accommodation options, living costs, banking, travel and much more.

On this page

Student life

As the birth place of Joan of Arc, Monet and Zinedine Zidane, France is full of both cultural and sporting history – both ancient and modern, making it an attractive option for all international students. And that’s before we’ve mentioned the chance to visit Disneyland.

So what else does France have to offer you during your PhD studies?

Culture and tourism

The French capital Paris is one of the most famous cities in the world. Home to historical landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Palace of Versailles, as well as Museums like the Louvre (housing the Mona Lisa). It isn’t surprising France has repeatedly been the number 1 destination in the world for international tourist arrivals.

Other French university cities include Bordeaux - a UNESCO world heritage site with outstanding architecture (and some of the world’s most famous wine-making traditions) - Grenoble, nestled at the base of the French Alps with easy access to Paris, Italy and Switzerland.

Sport and leisure

French university cities have several sports groups and student associations much like the university societies in the UK, which are a great way to make friends and settle into university life.

Access to the French Alps means that winter sports such as skiing, and snowboarding are highly popular amongst locals and tourists, but so are less ‘extreme’ activities such as swimming and cycling. Other widely-played sports include football, rugby and athletics.

Many cultural, artistic venues and restaurants offer student discounts, making your social life very affordable. In addition to this student parties (soirées étudiantes) are very popular in France and range from a gathering in someone’s flat to a night out at bustling clubs, discotheques and music venues.

Food and drink

It is commonly known that France takes food and drink very seriously, but French haute cuisine also makes it easy to eat well on a postgraduate student’s budget.

Famous dishes you may try within France include Coq au vin (chicken braised in red wine), Escargots de Bourgogne (snails baked in their shells with parsley butter) and delicious deserts such as Crêpes which you can find at many street food vendors.

And that’s without mentioning the vin et fromage (wine and cheese).

Accommodation

As an international student in France there are three main types of accommodation available to you: public student residence (Cités-U), other (independent) university residences and privately rented accommodation.

Public student residences (Cités-U)

Generally managed by the ‘Centre Régional des Oeuvres Universitaires et Scolaires (CROUS) the halls of residence are typically located on university campuses or in nearby towns.

This is the most affordable accommodation option with rooms costing €200-400 per month. You should apply directly through the French study portal or with your institution, applications are open from January 15th – April 30th.

Accommodation

Ensure you apply for your accommodation as soon as you receive your acceptance. Although some institutions reserve rooms for international students housing is limited and is preferentially given to students in receipt of support from the government.

Other university accommodation

Some French institutions manage their own accommodation, separately from the CROUS system.

The Grandes Écoles and private universities have rooms reserved specifically for international students, and these are generally affordable, with costs of around €200-350 per month.

Private rentals

As with the UK many French university towns and cities will have a range of private accommodation available for students.

The flexibility of the facilities and accommodation with private rentals comes at a higher cost than you would be paying with university accommodation. You can expect to pay €400-800 per month – with major cities like Paris being particularly expensive.

Accommodation services

Finding accommodation is difficult enough, without trying to find it in another country, luckily many institutions have a list of approved local landlords or you can use the database student accommodation service LoKaVIZ.

Living costs

Living costs in France are lower than you might expect - so long as you don’t go spending all your money on delicious cheeses and wines in the first few weeks.

The French government estimates that international students should have €615 per month for accommodation and living costs. This is the amount students applying for a visa need for their proof of funds and is based upon the support bursaries offered by the French government.

Prices in France

The following table gives an indication of some common expenses during a PhD in France:


Student Cost of Living in France - 2018
Restaurant Meal €12.00
Cinema Ticket €10.00
Monthly Travel Pass €56.00
Monthly Utilities €133.94
Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.

Living costs

you do find yourself running low on money, universities tend to maintain their own student canteens ‘Resturants Universitaires’ with regulated meal prices costing around €3.25.

Working during your PhD

Every international student in France is permitted to work alongside their studies as soon as they are enrolled in a French institute and registered for Student Social Security.

If you are not an EU student, you must have a residency permit in order to work.

There are restrictions on working whilst studying:

  • For off-campus jobs - you may work 964 hours per year, 60% of full-time work
  • For on-campus jobs - universities offer work contracts for up to 12-months adapted to timetables. You may work 670 hours from September 1st-June 30th and 300 hours from July 1st-August 31st.
  • Doctoral programme internships - the internship must be contractual and if it lasts more than two months you must be paid €577.50 per month.

By law you are guaranteed a gross minimum wage (Salarie Minimum Interprofessional de Croissance) of €9.76 per hour (which is subject to social charges – 20%).

Residence permits

For information on residence permits and Student Social Security consult our PhD Study in France guide.

Banking

The currency in France is the Euro (€) making it easier for students travelling from countries within continental Europe.

As an international PhD student, you may apply for a non-resident bank account. However, before doing this you should check if your bank at home is part of a network of corporations with branches in France.

Within France Visa and Mastercard (debit) are accepted, with credit cards not being widely used. Typically, card payments are used for transactions over €15.

Transport

France is easily accessible from countries all over the world by air, rail, road and sea. This is also makes it a good base from which to travel elsewhere in Europe during your PhD – for research, or for leisure.

Rail and metro travel

The train network is France is very well-developed with the modern super-fast trains (Trains á Grand Vitessé – TGV)

Students aged 12-27 can apply for a Jeune Railcard which provides you with a 30% discount on all TGV and Intercités trains for €50 per year.

Major cities in France are also connected by métro links, which make it easy to travel.

Air travel

With the second largest international airport in Europe (Paris Charles-de-Gaulle), France is very well-connected.

In addition, domestic flights are also a very good option for journeys within France. This can be a surprisingly low-cost option if you plan to cover long distances such as Nice-Paris (€68) or Toulouse-Paris (€69).

Non-public travel options

Considering taking your car to France? This could be an excellent option thanks to the country’s high-quality road and motorway systems. However, you will have to pay tolls on motorways; to avoid these use secondary and rural roads.

Major cities in France have a bike scheme with public bikes (Vel’Lib in Paris). These are popular amongst students living within the city areas.

Find a PhD in France

Ready to start browsing some current PhD opportunities in France? Alternatively, you can look at our other guides to PhD study abroad.

Last updated - 23/05/2018

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