So you’ve packed up your bags, bought your plane ticket and have your passport and/or visa in hand. Paris is expensive and can feel overwhelming at first, but armed with the essential guide below, you’ll be able to make the most of your stay here in Paris without breaking the bank!
As a foreign student under the age of 26, I’ve learned from personal experience where to find information and much-needed help to make the lives of young adults coming to Paris easier.
Paris pas cher does exist!
1. Student housing
The City of Light can certainly be pricey for an average salarié, but if you know where to look, it need not be for poor students such as us! A good solution for the newly arrived is the availability of foyers for 18 to 26 year-olds. I actually heard about my residence, La Vigie, via word of mouth; it’s one of many that are run by the CLJT organization. These are great for meeting people from all over the world and have a flexible lease. They’re situated in different arrondissements (districts) of Paris. Some residences consist of a few grouped-together buildings of single and double rooms with a communal dining room and meals during the week, while others are made up of studios.
A word about foyers: if you plan on dating a French boy or girl (it is 2017!), they are strict about not allowing guests to stay overnight and only allowing them in the common areas. If communal living doesn’t appeal to you, check out websites geared at anglophones such as FUSAC. Apart from sites like these, renting in Paris is a tricky business. If you come here as a student, you must have a French or French-residing garant – a salarié that earns 3 times the cost of rent – to back you. And that’s just the start!
2. Financial help exists
So you’ve moved into a foyer, but realize the rent is higher than back home. When you move into your new abode, ask your landlord/lady about these three magical letters: CAF (Caisse d’Allocations Familiales). CAF is an organization in France that provides financial help for students towards your monthly rent. By reaching out to CAF, you’ve taken the first step of your beautiful journey in the world of French administration! Things to note about this: send all the documents asked of you all at once unless you want to wait twice as long to receive your money; take pictures/photocopies of every document in case they are lost; ensure that your name is correctly spelled on all your documents; send photocopies not the original documents; verify if you must provide a translation of any or all of the documents; and smile, you are not alone in your dread of French administration!
Just remember that at the end, you will be awarded a comfortable amount of return money on your rent in your bank account every month! The amount of money you receive will depend on your civil status, your financial circumstances, and if necessary, that of your parents.
3. Student assistance
As a student in France, you may be eligible for grants or for university housing depending on you and/or your family’s yearly income. These applications for international and French students are done directly through the Crous website. To avoid the maximum delays, like for CAF, ensure you send all the documents (by snail mail) required of you in one go and within 10 days of completing the online form.
It’s never too late to apply if you have months of rent ahead of you.
4. Health Insurance
Each country has its own unique health insurance system. In France, every citizen living here is required to have at least public health insurance. This physically manifests itself in the Carte Vitale ID which you present to medical professionals every time you come in for a rendez-vous. To get my Carte Vitale, I went directly to an Ameli Assurance Maladie Centre (several centers can be found in each arrondissement), where I was given a list of documents to send back to them. I then received the ID card and a social security number. This card allows you to receive up to 70% of your money back from medical visits (depending on your doctor’s rates and the maximum established by the sécurité sociale).
The second ID, the Carte Mutuelle, can be provided through your place of work and acts as supplemental private health insurance, reimbursing part or all the remaining amount of your medical bill. Payment is taken out monthly and you can see this reflected in your fiches de paie (pay slips). As a student, the cost of your social security (Carte Vitale) is paid upfront and forms a part of the university registration fees. If you wish to have the additional Carte Mutuelle and are not a salarié, you must enroll yourself and there’s a vast range of insurance companies to choose from.
5. Affordable transportation
You now have a place you call home here in Paris, time to explore it! A few years ago, my mum and I made the foolish decision to walk all about Paris. This sounds like a tremendous idea until you come to the third day of your trip and have worn out your runners! You will notice the first day you arrive in Paris that Parisian women dress immaculately from head to ankle, but their feet are supported by baskets, the popular brand being Adidas Stan Smiths. Whether you’re here for a week, a semester study abroad program, or several years, the pass Navigo is your friend!
Under the age of 26, students at a French university are entitled to an Imagine R metro card which costs less than half the price of the standard yearly metro pass. January is last month to send off the application form, which can be picked up at any metro station. This Imagine R card covers the cost of all trains and buses (the latter being an excellent method for viewing the city) within zones 1-5 of Paris. Alternatively, if you would like to get a bit of exercise and see the sights of Paris at your own pace, go to a Velib station and rent a bike. A year’s subscription to the city’s bike share program only costs 19-39€ depending on your status.
6. Sightseeing and culture
The Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre, Pompidou Center—Paris is full to the brim with culture! These museums and many others are free to young European adults under 26 and those with a long-term visa. The city has a long list of great museums and historical monuments that invite young visitors for free all year long.
If plays are more your thing, make sure to check out the website of Théâtres Parisiens Associés, which offers tickets at 10€ to students/adults under 26 for a broad range of shows in theaters across the city.
If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of all that Paris has to offer so sharing helpful tips is the best way for young adults to optimize their time in the City of Light.
Have other ideas? share your insights and suggestions with readers and me!