Expats FAQ in France

What city are you living in ?

Bank

Q: What time do banks open and close in Paris?

A: On weekdays, most banks in Paris are open from 830am to 5:30pm, with a one-hour lunch break. There are a few banks with not-so-traditional banking hours. Some of them are open on Saturday mornings, and others are close on Mondays.

Q: Aside from traditional banks, what are common options for expats in Paris who want to open a savings account?

A: A very popular option among expats in Paris is opening a savings account with the Post Office. The major advantage is that they have more access to their accounts (so many post office stations all over the city), and the major disadvantage is that there are longer waiting lines. In Paris, the main post office is conveniently located close to the Louvre metro station, and it's the only one in Europe that's open 24/7.

Q: What are the biggest banks in Paris?

A: There are four big banks in Paris - BNP Paribas, CIC, Crédit Agricole and Société Générale. Because they all have English-speaking staff, these banks are more preferred by expats over smaller banks.

Business

Q: Where can overseas companies get assistance when planning to expand in Paris?

A: A lot of business consultancies exist in Paris, but among the most successful and trusted ones is the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry itself. Most of the better established foreign businessmen who have expanded in Paris have hooked up with the PCC through its "Doing Business in Paris" service.

Q: What are some of Paris' best business schools?

A: Paris is home to a number of well-reputed business schools, and two of the best are the American Business School of Paris at 12 Rue Alexandre Parodi and the Paris School of Business.

Q: What are some of the most in-demand businesses for sale in Paris today?

A: Cafe and restaurant businesses are particularly popular in Paris these days. Costs depend on the size of the property, location, how established the business is, and many other factors. Asking prices start at around 60,000 EUR.

Children

Q: How much is a ticket to Disneyland Paris?

A: The cost of an annual pass to Disneyland Paris, composed of Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios, is anywhere from 119 to 199 EUR.

Q: Are there biking clubs for kids in Paris?

A: Yes. Fat Bike Tours is very popular with expat kids and parents alike, with tours during daytime and nighttime around Versailles and Monet's garden. The bikes can also be rented separately and used anywhere in the city.

Q: Are their cooking classes for children in Paris?

A: Yes, and many of them are taught in English. Some of the best cooking class providers in the city are L’Atelier des Sens Little Chef at Atelier Haussmann, 32 rue Vignon, 9e, Les Petits Chefs at 10 Cité Dupetit-Thouars, 3e, and Atelier Cake at 11-13 rue George Bernard Shaw, 15e.

Cost of living

Q: If Paris is really that costly to live in, why are there more expats in the city today than ever before?

A: The cost of living in Paris is statistically proven to be very high, not to mention that expats here receive way less attractive salaries than their counterparts in Asia or the Middle East. Yet the rate of foreign migration to the city continues to grow, and this is said to be because money is not essential to living a high quality of life. This belief is very common among expat retirees who are all too smitten by the Paris’ charming provincial villages.

Q: Are clothes expensive in Paris?

A: Yes, clothing is expensive in Paris, except for a few mass-produced items. Even a plain and simple T-shirt can cost as high as 40 EUR. Expats usually buy clothes either at specialty shops, boutiques and elite department stores, or at thrift stores that sell cheap but low-quality products.

Q: Is it expensive to buy real estate properties in Paris?

A: Real estate is one thing people can purchase in Paris without a sting. Expats are always happy to learn that property taxes here are lower than in the UK, indicating that selling a property in the UK could generate enough cash to buy a house in Paris and even cover renovation expenses.

Health

Q: How much does it cost to see a doctor in Paris?

A: Seeing a GP in Paris costs around 23 euros. More is paid for home visits or visiting a specialist or hospital. Note that on top of medical fees, hospitals in the city charge a non-refundable daily board and lodging fee.

Q: Which hospitals in Paris are most popular among expats?

A: There are many hospitals in Paris, but expats are known to prefer the Hospital de la Pitie Salpetriere and American Hospital of Paris, which is considered one of the city's historic gems. Expats are drawn to this hospital not just because of its excellent reputation, but also its English-speaking staff.

Q: Where can expat students with an EHIC health card file for student insurance reimbursements?

A: Reimbursements should be forwarded to the caisse primaire (primary fund) or CPAM of Paris' international relations office at Rue de Bercy.

Housing

Q: Do people hire agents when buying real estate in Paris?

A: Since Paris has no central database for real estate properties, people often need to do the work themselves when looking for a property to buy or rent. However, there are still agents who offer their services to would-be buyers or sellers. To avoid scams, expats should check with the Paris préfecture de police to see if the agent they're dealing with is certified.

Q: What's a good way to decide where in particular to live in Paris?

A: The city is separated into 20 arrondissements or districts, and the closer the district is to the city center, the higher its cost of living index is. Expats usually decide on their budget and choose a suitable area first before they start looking for an apartment. There are lots of places to look for apartments in Paris, such as local newspapers' classifieds section and even the bulletin board of the American Church in Paris, which includes listings of available apartments in the city. Of course, the Internet is still probably the easiest way to search.

Q: What is the typical duration of an apartment lease agreement in Paris?

A: It depends on whether the apartment is furnished or unfurnished. Furnished apartments are usually leased for a year, and tenants who want to leave sooner are expected to give notice to the landlord at least a month in advance. For unfurnished apartments, the lease period is usually three years, and tenants who intend to leave earlier should give notice at least three months ahead.

Leisure

Q: What are considered hotspots for nightlife in Paris?

A: High-end clubs are concentrated around the Champs-Elysées where Paris' wealthiest and most notable personalities are known to party. Marais and Bastille, with its more laid-back atmosphere, is where expats are often seen hanging out, while those who like to listen to a live band troop to the Grands Boulevards.

Q: What's a truly Parisian experience that all expats in Paris shouldn't miss?

A: Watching a cabaret show is something that gives expats and tourists a really unique taste of the Parisian life. Of course, these shows happen at the world-famous Moulin rouge at the Pigalle city district. Another uniquely Parisian experience for non-locals is watching a l’Opera National de Paris production at the Palais Garnier.

Q: Is inline skating popular in Paris?

A: Yes. On Friday nights, as long as the weather allows, skaters head out into the streets to participate in Pari Roller, which is considered the biggest group skating event around the globe. The event is absolutely free but the routes are quite difficult and demand a high level of skating expertise.

Looking for a job

Q: What industry provides the most number of jobs to expats in Paris?

A: With Paris being one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, its tourism industry is naturally one of its biggest expat job providers. Those with experience in the hospitality and service industries will find plenty of opportunities here. As the corporate capital of France, Paris also has a lot of multinational corporations. Expats who want to move to Paris can inquire from these big companies if they welcome foreign nationals to their organization.

Q: What time does a working day typically begin and end in Paris?

A: Work in Paris usually begins at 9am and ends at 6pm, but this can depend on the specific industry. For example, hospitality workers are known to have non-traditional or unpredictable work schedules.

Q: What are the odds of expats finding jobs in Paris?

A: Expats planning to work in Paris should remember that the city's unemployment rate today is higher than ever. If they are interested to work in the city, they must be ready to face very tough competition from other job applicants. Also note that Parisian employers are very particular about hiring workers who know French, even for entry level positions.

Money

Q: Where do expats change currencies in Paris?

A: Note that in Paris, banks do not change currencies. However, there are various money exchange bureaus all over the city such as expat favorites MultiChange, Puccini SARL, and Yes Change.

Q: Is it good to change currencies at Paris’ airports?

A: In terms of convenience, it's good to change currencies right within the airport through the various forex counters available. However, the rates will not be very attractive, reason why most travelers still prefer to wait until they get to the city before changing their money.

Q: Where in particular can ATM machines be found at the Charles de Gaulle airport?

A: There are plenty of ATMs at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, particularly in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2D.

Moving

Q: Where do EU or EEA citizens report their citizenship upon arriving in Paris?

A: It is important that within first three months of arrival in Paris, EU or EEA citizens report to the Paris Town Hall to declare and register their citizenship. Failure to do so can result in fines.

Q: What is the one all-important tip that people planning to move to Paris must heed?

A: It's often read and heard everywhere, but one moving-to-Paris tip that can't be overemphasized is that knowledge of the French language is critical. Right at the Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports, authorities will be speaking in French, and a slight misunderstanding can result in a passenger being rendered inadmissible and forced to take a return flight. It is important that expats take the time to write notes on key French words and phrases, or to buy a French-English dictionary before flying to Paris.

Q: What are some highly recommended expat organizations in Paris?

A: There are many expat groups in Paris, and among the most popular are the Council for English Speaking Community, the BCWA - British and Commonwealth Women's Association and WICE (an Anglophone association that provides classes on various subjects, from literature to practical tips about life in Paris.)

Pets

Q: Where are pets allowed or not allowed in Paris?

A: Dogs are welcome everywhere in the city with a number of exceptions: food stores (they're okay at supermarkets as long as they're tied up in an out-of-the-way section at the entrance), open-air markets, museums, and public transport vehicles (unless they're in a carrying bag, muzzled or on a leash). Around 50% of hotels in Paris welcome dogs and other pets, and taxis may or may not allow them (so it's important to ask ahead). There are two taxi companies that actually specialize in transporting dogs - Taxi Dog and Taxi Animalier.

Q: Are there dog parks in Paris?

A: No, there are no dog parks in the city. Most parks even ban dogs completely, even when they are leashed.

Q: Do pet dogs in Paris need to be licensed?

A: There is no such thing as dog licensing in Paris, but owners are legally required to put a leash on their pets in public places.

Schools

Q: What is one unique feature of the Parisian academic culture that expat families may have to get used to?

A: One thing about schools in Paris is that parents are given little opportunity to provide input in terms of the academic education of their children. Expats, especially from the West, sometimes have issues adjusting to this system. It is advised that parents talk to their kids about this before enrolling them in any school in Paris.

Q: What educational system is used by international and bilingual schools in Paris?

A: Paris has a great reserve of international and bilingual schools, and some use the French educational system, while others mix French and international systems and other country-specific systems. Among the most notable of these schools are the International School of Paris, the American School of Paris, the British School of Paris and Ecole Active Bilingue.

Q: How much do tuition fees at Paris universities cost?

A: In a public university such as the École Polytechnique, fees are subsidized by the government. Costs are kept to a minimum, where yearly tuition fees do not go higher than 200 EUR, both for locals and non-locals. Note that this privilege is only given to expat students with permanent resident visas. In a private university such as the HEC Paris, annual fees amount to around 16,000 EUR.

Shopping

Q: Where are the best flea markets located in Paris?

A: Among Paris' biggest and most colorful flea markets is Marché aux Puces where people shop for rare fashion finds or souvenirs. Located at Avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt, the market is open everyday from 9am to 7pm except Sundays. There are other cheap shopping areas as well like the Marché de Montreuil at Avenue de la Porte de Montreuil. Open all day from Saturdays thru Mondays, this is where expats go to find chic or vintage fashion items.

Q: What areas in Paris are considered shopaholic havens for the elite?

A: There are many, but Rue de FaubourgSaint-Honoré is number one when it comes to haute couture, while for chic, elite fashion, it's Rue Etienne Marcel. For exquisite perfume, Champs-Elysées is the place to be.

Q: What is a "carte de fidelite?"

A: A "carte de fidelité" is a discount or privilege card that stores in Paris sometimes give to their regular customers. For example, Marionnaud Parfumeries gives its regular clients a "carte" which has a chip that is scanned every time the holder makes a purchase. Once the total purchases amount to a certain amount (in euros), the store mails the customer a "chèque-fidelité" which is equivalent to a certain amount that can be discounted off the customer's next purchase.

Telecommunications

Q: How much do mobile phone services cost in Paris?

A: It depends on the provider. With Verizon, it’s around $25 per 100mb of data, while with Le French mobile, the rate is around E10 for 100mb. Most expat shy away from Verizon for global roaming because their calls cost around $0.99 per minute. There are also other providers with varying rates. Note that only GSM-compatible phones work in Paris.

Q: How do expats sign up for telecom subscriptions in Paris?

A: Expats are generally required to present their passports both when buying a phone and signing up for a subscription. There are many cellphone shops in Paris, and young people who work there are usually eager to help because it gives them the opportunity to hone their English.

Q: Where do people buy cellphone cards in Paris?

A: Everywhere but usually in metro and railway stations and cellphone stores in malls, or even right along the streets. To activate a phone, a phone card will be needed. Cards can be bought at telecom agencies in the city, at the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, from newspaper stalls and tobacco sellers.

Transport

Q: Are there discounts for kids using public transport in Paris?

A: Kids younger than four can ride any public vehicle in Paris for free, while those between the ages of 4 and 11 get a fifty-percent discount on regular fares.

Q: Where do Paris commuters buy their public transport cards?

A: Public transport cards in Paris, also called Navigo cards, are purchased once and reloaded weekly or monthly, and may be recharged. All these can be done in most train, metro, and bus stations all over the city. To buy a Navigo card, a person needs to provide a passport photo (for the card) and proof of a Paris address.

Q: Which taxis are safe in Paris?

A: There are several taxis in Paris, but those that have signs on top that read, "Taxi Parisien," are the only licensed cabs, and are thus the safest.

Travel

Q: What are Paris' major airports?

A: There are two major airports in Paris. The busier one - one of the busiest in the world, in fact - is the Charles de Gaulle airport which is located northeast of the city center and the home of Air France-KLM. The other is Orly airport which is found some 18 kilometers south of the city center just around A86 Ring Road.

Q: What's the best way to travel to Paris from England?

A: People traveling to Paris from England will find the Eurostar very convenient. It drives into the Gare-du-Nord in the North of Paris, and from there, it's easy to go practically anywhere around the city. Eurostar tickets have to be booked at least three months in advance though, and booking closer to the departure date can mean paying thrice the price of a ticket booked earlier.

Q: Are there cheap hotels near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris?

A: Yes, and many travelers, specifically the "backpackers," are known to actually sleep right at the airport. But for those who don't mind checking into a nearby hotel for a reasonable price, there are lots of options around CDG. Very popular is Hotel Ibis which is found just outside Terminal 3.

Visa

Q: Where do expat students renew their residency permits in Paris?

A: Students with expiring initial residency permits can file for permit renewal at the prefecture of police located at Place Louis Lépine, 1 rue de Lutèce, 75004 Paris (métro Cité).

Q: What do Charles de Gaulle airport authorities first look for before admitting travelers to Paris?

A: All passengers disembarking at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport will be checked by airport authorities to ensure that all entry requirements are met. For EU nationals and citizens of UK and Australia, no visa is required; for other countries, this can be a Schengen, a visitor or work visa. Without the right requirements, travelers will not be allowed to enter Paris.

Q: Where do most people go to for immigration assistance in Paris?

A: People either go to immigration consultancies or law firms. In Paris, FRAGOMEN immigration lawyers are some of the most trusted in terms of providing legal representation for foreign nationals who want to be permanent residents of France.