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LIVING IN FRANCE

MAP: The 20 cheapest French towns and cities to live in

The cost of living is a hot topic in France and across Europe right now - so where are the cheapest places to live?

MAP: The 20 cheapest French towns and cities to live in
(Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

At a time when purchasing power has never been so central to French people’s concerns, French daily Le Parisien has compiled a list of towns and cities where your money will go the furthest.

In order to produce this ranking, Le Parisien compiled the average salary in each location and then looked at the price of the average supermarket shop, the cost of transport (fuel as well as public transport), property prices (to buy or rent), property tax rates and the cost of a cinema ticket. 

READ ALSO Food, fuel and transport: Which prices will rise in France in 2023?

And it turns out smaller is better.

Of the 96 towns and cities tested, Niort, in the département of Deux-Sèvres in south west France (population around 60,000) came top,

Laval, in Mayenne (population around 50,000) was third; Saint-Brieuc, in the Brittany département of Côtes-d’Armor (population around 45,000), was 8th, and Rodez, down in the southern département of Aveyron (pop: c 25,000) was 10th.

The 20 most wallet-friendly towns in France are:

  1. Niort
  2. Châteauroux
  3. Laval
  4. Nevers
  5. Belfort
  6. Chaumont
  7. Épinal
  8. Saint-Brieuc
  9. Saint-Étienne
  10. Rodez
  11. Châlons-en-Champagne
  12. Quimper
  13. Arras
  14. Foix
  15. Poitiers
  16. Le Mans
  17. Colmar
  18. Montauban
  19. Bourg-en-Bresse
  20. Nantes

READ ALSO The 20 small towns most popular with house-hunters in France

Niort gains, the study found, in part because it has offered free local public transport since 2017 - a policy that other towns that rank well also implement, including second-placed Châteauroux (Indre), Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain, 24th) and Gap (Hautes-Alpes, 63rd).

For various reasons, including infrastructure, offering free public transport that meets higher levels of demand in larger cities is unviable, the report said. 

In fact, France’s larger cities are noticeably low in Le Parisien’s rankings. Lyon stumbled on to the list in 58th, Paris in 77th, Marseille 84th, and Montpellier 90th. Nantes, coming in 20th, is the only ‘large city’ representative in the top 20.

READ ALSO Wild boar, fast internet and kindly neighbours – why small-town France has the best of all worlds

The report stated that, despite salaries being little higher than average in larger conurbations, people also pay more for shopping, public transport, movie tickets, and housing.

The survey found that, on the whole, your euro goes further in the west of the country - where supermarkets are cheaper, and towns aren’t too congested, while the cost of a tank of fuel is lower, as are - researchers discovered - the more abstract costs, such as insurance, for the same level of service as elsewhere.

READ ALSO OPINION: An inflation ‘tsunami’ is about to hit France

Eastern France, the study found, benefited from relatively cheap property prices - offering more bang for a house-buying buck than the expensive ‘coastal bounce’-affected south or the Ile-de-France region, which orbits the cost-of-living singularity that is Paris.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Driving in France: Motorway tolls rise from February 1st

The cost of using France’s motorway network rose by a below-inflation average of 4.75 percent on Wednesday, February 1st.

Driving in France: Motorway tolls rise from February 1st

Going through the toll booths on France’s motorway network now costs more – though the average 4.75 percent increase remains below inflation, and is lower than the price rise of between 7 percent and 8 percent predicted last September after Transport Minister Clément Beaune called for “reasonable increases”.

“We are well below the reference inflation rate of 6.33 percent,” Vinci Autoroutes, which manages nearly half of the French network, said in a statement.

Even so, motorists may not appreciate the motorway companies’ efforts to ease the effects of the cost of living crisis, as prices rise unevenly across the board.

A journey from Toulon, in the Var, to Mandelieu, in Alpes-Maritimes (113km) now costs €13 in tolls, up from €12.10 in 2022 – an increase of 7.4 percent.

Drivers heading between Lyon and Montpellier now have to pay an extra €1.90 to make their journey, up 6.7 percent on last year’s prices; and motorists will have to pay an additional €2.10 to make the five-hour journey along the A4 between Paris and Strasbourg.

In recent years, the annual rate of the annual increases has been lower. Tolls went up 2 percent on average last year, and just 0.44 percent in 2021. The annual increases are based on a formula that takes into account the rate of inflation and the amount of maintenance work undertaken, which is written into the motorway operators’ contracts with the government.

For home-work trips, Vinci Autoroutes has frozen the prices of 70 percent of trips of less than 30 km, as well as “half of trips of less than 50km and the bypass routes of 35 towns”.

The stretches between Aubagne and Cassis (Bouches-du-Rhône) on the A50, between Villefranche-de-Lauragais and Toulouse sud (Haute-Garonne) on the A61, and between Orléans nord and Olivet (Loiret) on the A10, for example, will see no price increase.

Subscribers to the Ulys 30 electronic toll system, meanwhile, now receive 40 percent concessions, compared to 30 percent previously on their regular commuter route.

According to Vinci, for every €10 in tolls, €4 is then paid to the government in taxes; €3.50 covers maintenance, modernisation and operating costs; and the remainder repays investors and services debts.

However, motorway operators are regularly singled out for the scale of their profits, recorded at €3.9 billion in 2021, 11 percent more than in 2019. 

If you’re driving in French towns and cities, remember that you may need a Crit’Air sticker – full details HERE.

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