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REVEALED: Which French cities are most expensive for students?

The French students' union Unef has published its annual report on the cost of living. While life is more expensive for most students, local policies have reduced housing and transport costs in certain cities.

REVEALED: Which French cities are most expensive for students?
Place de la Sorbonne in Paris. Photo: ERIC PIERMONT / AFP.

The cost of living will be 2.5 percent higher for students in France in 2021-2022 than in the previous year, according to Unef. That represents an additional €20.61 of expenses every month.

The figures were published in two new reports released by Unef this week. The first looks at the evolution of the cost of living for French students, and the second breaks this down according to each university city.

No prizes for guessing which city will cost you the most.

Paris on top

Unsurprisingly, Paris is the most expensive city in France for students - those studying in the capital will have to shell out on average €1,277 each month, although costs have fallen 1.54 percent over the past year.

The Paris suburbs of Nanterre (€1,171) and Créteil (€1,134) come in second and third place, and the trend continues - nine of the ten most expensive towns are in the Paris region.

The one exception is Nice, in ninth place. That is partly due to the city's high rent prices, with the average student handing over €623 per month.

The cost of living increased most in the Paris suburb of Evry (5 percent), followed by Toulon (4.58 percent) and Angers (4.03 percent).

Huge disparities

Life is much more affordable in smaller towns. Of the 47 university towns evaluated, Limoges in west-central France was the cheapest, costing €793 per month. It was closely followed by Poitiers, St Etienne and Le Mans.

READ ALSO Five crucial tips for Americans who want to study in France

Rent prices also vary wildly - in Le Mans, students pay on average €353 each month for housing, compared to €850 in the capital. The average student in France spends €551 on rent.

Public transport costs meanwhile range from €90 per year to €350 depending on where you live. You will have to fork over more than €300 In Île-de-France, Lille, Lyon and Dijon.

Impact of social measures

The reports did however highlight the positive impact of local policies aimed at helping students. These include rent control laws, which have resulted in the average rent students pay remaining more or less the same compared to last year, while in Paris rents fell by 3.95 percent.

Many cities have also introduced free or low-cost public transport for some or all students. According to Unef, transport prices fell by 6.3 percent for students eligible for a means-tested bourse (grant), and by 0.4 percent for the rest.

The difference is stark in certain towns such as Saint-Etienne, where transport costs fell almost by half from €213 to €110 per year, and Perpignan where they went from €149 to €90.

READ ALSO The French words international students in France need to know

Unef has called for rent controls to be extended to all university cities, "since this measure has already fully shown its effectiveness in the reduction of rent prices in Paris".

The students' union has also demanded an end to higher university fees for non-EU students.

Overall, Unef said the cost of living for students had increased by 10.72 percent since Emmanuel Macron became President in 2017, while students receive €39 less per year in government assistance.

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TRAVEL NEWS

How you to save money travelling by train in France

Travelling by train is one of the best ways to see France, as well as being better for the planet than flying or driving. However, train tickets don't always come cheap - here is a current list of the railcards and offers that can cut the cost.

How you to save money travelling by train in France

Railcards are the most common way to cut the cost of a ticket. In some cases, the card can even pay for itself in one journey. France’s rail operator SNCF has a range of cards available for everyone from impoverished students to regular business travellers with an expenses account to burn.

But if you’re not a regular traveller there are also a range of offers plus cheaper services to opt for.

READ ALSO Millions of train tickets go on sale in France for Christmas holidays

Liberté card

This one’s really for business travellers, who use the TGV or Ouigo and Intercite trains regularly. And it comes with a price to match – €399 for a year (€379 for anyone lucky enough to work for a company that is part of SNCF’s Contrat Pro plan). 

Holders can enjoy fixed, destination-based fares for business travel in France and beyond, with a card that guarantees cardholders 60 percent off SNCF’s Business Première fares when travelling standard class, and 45 percent off Business Première fares when travelling 1st class. 

Plus, there’s 30 percent off for you and an accompanying adult plus 60 percent off for accompanying children with SNCF’S Avantage fare.

Max Senior

Regular rail travellers aged 60 and over, who use TGV, InOui or Intercite trains at least twice a month can take advantage of this €79-per-month railcard that covers the cost of all standard-class travel outside peak hours from Monday to Friday.

The card is valid for all routes in France and to Luxembourg and Freiburg im Breisgau. You can use the card to book tickets from 30 days before departure right up to the last minute.

READ ALSO Yes, train travel from France across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

Avantage Senior

Those aged 60 and over who travel by rail less regularly can buy a €49 Avantage Senior card that offers 30 percent discounts on first and standard-class travel on TGV INOUI, Intercités or TER trains for a year.

It also offers a 60 percent discount on tickets for up to three accompanying children aged between 4 and 11.

Standard class fares are capped for all destinations in France, no matter when they are booked – at €39 for a journey of less than 90 minutes, €59 for a journey of between 90 minutes and three hours, and €79 for journeys over three hours.

Max Jeune

A similar offer to the Max Senior deal is available for regular rail users aged between 16 and 27 who use TGV, InOui or Intercite trains at least twice a month. This key difference is that this €79-per-month railcard covers the cost of all standard-class travel outside peak hours seven days a week.

The card is valid for all routes in France and to Luxembourg and Freiburg im Breisgau. You can use the card to book tickets from 30 days before departure right up to the last minute.

READ ALSO UPDATED: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel

Avantage Jeune

Those aged 12 to 27 who travel by rail less regularly can buy a €49 Avantage Jeune card that offers 30 percent discounts on first and standard-class travel on TGV INOUI, Intercités or TER trains for a year.

Standard class fares are capped for all destinations in France, no matter when they are booked – at €39 for a journey of less than 90 minutes, €59 for a journey of between 90 minutes and three hours, and €79 for journeys over three hours.

Max Actif and Max Actif+

The Mon Forfait Annuel Télétravail pass is basically a season ticket, but for people who don’t travel every day. It’s ideal for part-time or remote workers, but can be used by anyone who has semi-regular train trips. 

Anyone who travels between two and three times a week on the same route can buy a Max Actif pass and travel 250 or times on the same line all year, weekdays only. The Max Actif + is basically the same, but for people who travel four to five times a week, and gives 450 journeys with no weekday limit.

Prices vary depending on the route you travel – full details are here

Weekly or monthly rail cards

Speaking of season tickets, you can also buy first or standard class rail cards that last a month or a week that allow unlimited daily travel, and tickets for €1.50 or less (via SNCF Connect or Trainline) for single or national routes.

Avantage Adult

For anyone aged between 27 and 59, a €49 Avantage Adulte card offers 30 percent discounts on first and standard-class travel on TGV INOUI, Intercités or TER trains for a year.

It also offers a 60 percent discount on tickets for up to three accompanying children aged between 4 and 11.

Standard class fares are capped for all destinations in France, no matter when they are booked – at €39 for a journey of less than 90 minutes, €59 for a journey of between 90 minutes and three hours, and €79 for journeys over three hours.

For more information on railcards available in France, click here

READ ALSO Tourists and locals: Paris Metro tickets, passes and apps explained

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