Lots of people achieve the dream of visiting Paris. After all, it’s the most popular travel destination in the world. But could you live there?
Some people think you need to be transplanted by a multi-national corporation in order to afford Paris. It’s true that a job transfer may be the easiest way to do it. But what is the outlook for the average person looking to experience Paris for more than a long weekend?
Let’s take a look at what it takes to actually live in Paris for a while:
Housing: At any given time, there are thousands of apartments available for rent in Paris. Of course, the size of the average apartment will be much smaller than Americans, for example, are accustomed to. To get in the right frame of mind, it’s easier to think of a Paris apartment as a college dorm room with more amenities. AirBnB is a great place to check out available Paris apartments. In short, AirBnB is a website where people can list their furnished apartments or homes for rent directly to end users, without going through a realtor or another third party. Therefore, you can find some great deals. AirBnB also does a great job of showcasing not only the home available to rent, but also the surrounding area, and even the person offering the place up for rent. AirBnB rentals can be for a few days, or up to a year.
As for the pricing situation: As a point of reference, the average American spends $1,400 U.S. per month on housing. In Paris, that same monthly spend through AirBnB will get you about 24 square meters, or about 260 square feet. Not huge. Again, we’re talking the size of a college dorm room here. But keep in mind that you’ll be in Paris. With so much so see and do, you won’t be home much anyway. Again, kind of like your college dorm room.
If you bump your monthly spend up to about $2000 U.S. per month, you can find some great places as large as 45 square meters, or about 500 square feet. More breathing room, but still relatively small. Of course, for larger budgets, there’s bigger places too – like castles outside of town – but we won’t get into that here.
Some things to keep in mind when reviewing Paris apartments for rent: If the apartment is on an upper floor, be sure to check if the place has an elevator. Some places have elevators, but many don’t. Also check if the place allows smoking. Smoking in Paris is not as prevalent as smoking in Las Vegas, but it is fairly common. An apartment that allows smoking will definitely smell like smoke. Nearby supermarkets are important thing to check as well, since you likely will need to carry groceries home. Finally, if you want privacy, be sure your rental is an “entire place” rather than a “private room” (i.e. part of a larger apartment) or a “shared room”.
In short, you can get housing in Paris for the same prices you pay in the U.S., but it will be much smaller. So, there’s a tradeoff of space for life experiences. It’s worth mentioning that if you list your own place for rent on AirBnB while away in Paris, it’s possible that you could come out even, or even ahead.
Transportation: Housing will cost you more in Paris, but transportation costs will really help balance that out. Another cost comparison: the average U.S. person spends $750 U.S. per month for the privilege of driving a car. That includes the car payment, gas, insurance, and maintenance. Considering that most households have two cars, most U.S. homes are paying $1500 per month on transportation.
The Paris Metro subway system, and supporting RER train and tram lines, will get you anywhere you need to go,for far less money. A monthly pass for the Paris Metro will cost only 65€ ($81 U.S.) per person. With this savings, you can start looking at bigger apartments.
The switch from driver to passenger frees up time, too. You don’t need to stop for gas, or to get an oil change, or take a Saturday afternoon to clean your car. Nor do you need to pay to park at the airport when you ride the Metro. Conclusion: transportation will cost way less in Paris, and will save you some headaches.
Food: Food, like housing, is expensive in Paris. The average grocery bill will be about 30% higher in Paris than in the average major U.S. city. In general, dairy (milk and cheese) and poultry will be noticeably higher, while produce and most beverages will be comparable to U.S. prices.
Eating out is more expensive as well. Expect to pay about 50% more at a restaurant in Paris. Of course, the food Paris is resoundingly good, and the price will reflect that somewhat. Buying drinks out on the town is costly, too. Expect to pay up to double what you might in the U.S. for beer or a mixed drink. Of course, the law of supply and demand applies in Paris just like anywhere else. Therefore, bread is cheaper in Paris. It’s everywhere. Same goes for wine.
Utilities: Electricity and internet service are reasonably priced. Internet service may even be less than comparable U.S. service, and may be included in your AirBnB rental price, for example. Internet prices continue to come down as competition increases in France. Electric bills are comparable to U.S. electric bills when adjusted for size. Apartments with boiler systems for heating will have cheaper utility payments than those with electric systems. Things get expensive when you turn on the air conditioning in Paris, so stay away from summertime for short stays. Getting cable TV with English speaking channels in Paris is expensive. But don’t worry, you will get used to “Le Simpsons” pretty quickly.
All things considered, Paris can be an expensive place to call home. But if you are willing to trade square footage for experiences, you can live there.