How to survive Paris on a student budget

With students from all over the world descending on Paris this week for the start of a new term, we take a look at the best ways to save money while living in the French capital on a shoestring.

How to survive Paris on a student budget
Are you a student in Paris? Here's how to save some money. Photo: AFP
Paris is a pricey city – even for the Parisians. 
The cost of accommodation, food, and the occasional drink (or deux) can be enough to leave you in tears.
But don't fret, student life is indeed financially possible – and here's how to manage. 
Drink smart
If you time your night right, you can drink at happy hour prices all evening. Student hotspots include Place Monge in the 5th arrondissement, Parmentier in the 11th, and Rue de Lappe near Bastille. Pick up a copy of Lylo magazine (or check online) to find free gigs too. And event organization Erasmus Paris also hosts parties every Thursday night at Mix Club, offering free entry before midnight. 

(Photo: AFP)
And remember, France's beer culture isn't like that of the UK or Germany, and don't be surprised to find pints for up to €10. So why not culturally adjust your drinking habits? If you want to get more booze for your buck make like the French and order a verre de vin, at around €3 per glass it’s usually the cheapest drink on the menu. Or do as the French do, and BYO to the canal. 
Travel smart
If you're serious about saving money in Paris, get a Velib' card. For just €29 you can get a whole year's worth of access to the public bicycles across the city (more info here, in English). 

(Photo: AFP)
If you're not a fan of bikes or want to avoid the wet weather, grab one of the offers for student metro cards at a price of €333.90 for the year (just under €28 a month). This gets you access to all the zones. The bike is sounding like a very good option…
Flash your credentials
Never be afraid to tell people you're a student, it may get you discounts where you least expect it. Have a try at museums, cinemas, and tourist sites — some of which will even let you in for free. And eateries in Paris sometimes offer cheaper lunch menus. There's no harm in asking, non?

(Photo: AFP)
Get a grant
Being frugal and spending your euros wisely is important for making a Paris student budget work. However, you don’t have to tighten the purse strings too much because there is financial aid available. The European Commission allocates thousands of student grants per year through their Erasmus Student Mobility scheme. It provides students studying abroad or those on a work placement with around €250 a month. Speak to your home university for information on how to apply.
Think before you dial
If you hunt around France can be relatively cheap for mobile phone and internet contracts. It’s worth knowing that all home internet boxes come with a phone line included. The monthly charge covers internet, TV and phone calls abroad to landlines. To get the most for your money, use your landline for calling home and then just buy a cheap pay-as-you-go sim, from as little as €2 from FREE, and use that for contacting friends in France.

(Photo: JF Sebastian/Flickr)
Get a job on the side
Students in France can legally work up to 19.5 hours a week during school term, so why not make the most of it? Getting a job as a nanny, an English teacher, or even in an Anglo-pub are all good ways to use your English and practice your French – while earning some cash. Keep an eye out on the noticeboards around the city and at your university too

(Photo: Vratislav Darmek/Flickr)
Find a CAF
France has a number of state benefits to help those not earning, or on low incomes. The housing benefit, provided by Caisse d’Allocations Familiale or CAF, is particularly generous. CAF is available to anyone European or with a valid visa and can be worth up to a few of hundred euros a month. “It's just like free money,” student Mark Thomson from the UK told The Local. Beware though of landlords who don’t declare their rent, as they will not be willing to sign the CAF forms.
A look at France's legion of foreign students
(Photo: AFP)
Eat smart
Eating out in Paris doesn’t have to cost the earth thanks to student cafeterias known as CROUS restaurants, situated on university sites, where you can get a meal for as little as €3. Another budget-friendly bistro is the Flunch chain, whose cafeteria-style restaurants offer a €7 menu including main courses and a drink. 

(Photo: AFP)
Or why not head into the Marais and try a falafel. These usually come in huge portions for around €5. And never underestimate the trusty baguette and cheese, as many a former student will tell you. 
Pick your home carefully
This is usually the biggest expense for students in Paris, but there are cheaper options. Paris has a couple of international student residences like, although places fill up fast. Also try a “foyer” (private residence) which are often run by religious groups – they do tend to be a bit strict on guests of the opposite sex staying over. Flat shares are also worth a try, they’re a good way to slash your rent bill and improve your French by sharing with natives.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules

Around three-quarters of French teachers plan to go on strike onThursday to protest the government's shifting rules on Covid testing for students, forcing the closure of half the country's primary schools, a union said Tuesday.

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

The strike led by the Snuipp-FSU union, the largest among primary school teachers, comes after the latest of several changes on testing and isolation requirements for potential Covid cases announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex late Monday.

After seeing long lines of parents outside pharmacies and labs in recent days to test children in classes where a case was detected, Castex said home tests could now be used to determine if a student could return to school.

But teachers say class disruptions have become unmanageable with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Students cannot learn properly because attendance varies wildly, and a hybrid of in-house and distance learning is impossible to put in place,” the Snuipp-FSU said, adding that absent teachers are not being replaced.

It is also demanding the government provide facemasks for staff, including the more protective FFP2 masks, and CO2 monitors to check if classrooms are sufficiently ventilated.

“Not only does the current protocol not protect students, staff or their families, it has completely disorganised schools,” the union said, claiming that classes have effectively been turned into “daycare centres.”

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said the government is doing everything possible to avoid outright school closures that could cause havoc for parents and jeopardise learning for thousands, especially those in low-income families.

“I know there is a lot of fatigue, of anxiety… but you don’t go on strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM television on Tuesday.

As of Monday some 10,000 classes had been shut nationwide because of Covid cases, representing around two percent of all primary school classes, Blanquer said.