Cost of Living
I am someone who plans everything and I spend much of my time daydreaming.
I like to dream up vacations that may never happen or plan a move to a city I will likely not end up in.
Whenever researching a new city, I always want to know how much it costs to live there! Even if I’m just going on vacation for a few days, it’s nice to have an idea of how much things are so I can budget accordingly. And even if I have no intention of visiting, I still get curious about the cost of living in other parts of the world!
Of course, given the current state of things, there’s not a whole lot of traveling happening. But, if you’re a student or language assistant– or something is bringing you to Bordeaux in the near future, hopefully, this post will help!
I have been living in Bordeaux for almost four years now, so I’d like to think I have a pretty good idea of how much it costs to live here. I’m from Santa Cruz, California and I definitely think it’s a lot more affordable to live in Bordeaux. While French salaries are quite lower than American salaries, the cost of living in France makes the quality of life so much higher and a lower salary worth it in my opinion.
Curious? Keep on reading if you want to know how much it costs to live in Bordeaux, France!
The general rule in France is you should not spend more than a third of your monthly salary on rent. Though, rent prices have been going up in Bordeaux for a few years now, which can sometimes make following this rule difficult.
Personally, my apartment which is a T2 (meaning 1 bedroom) and 42m2 is €690/month. The apartment is well located, within walking distance to the city center and right next to public transportation. The rent includes water charges but does not include electricity or gas. Some rentals will include utilities, but many do not.
I would say one-bedroom apartments in Bordeaux average between €600 and €800 a month. Of course, the location and state of the building will affect the price, and rent prices do seem to keep increasing. Once you do sign your lease, your apartment is basically rent-controlled. If there are any rent price increases they can only be minimal–like an €8 increase a year. (Though I’ve never had a landlord impose rent increases on me.) Once you leave your apartment though, the landlord can increase the rent for the next tenants.
You can find a “colocation” (roommate) situation for cheaper. Some rooms can be as cheap as €250/month (this is rare, but possible) while most rooms will average for around €400/month.
Groceries are very personal so the price will really depend on your own choices. I do think that produce is a lot cheaper in France. My husband and I have found that fruits and vegetables at our local outdoor market are a bit cheaper than the grocery store, so we tend to wait until the market comes by on Fridays and get all our produce then. We can get a huge basket of fruits and vegetables that last us well throughout the week or longer for less than €20. Not only is it a better deal, but we don’t use any packaging this way and it’s a nice outing to do together! Plus, the vegetables and fruits are of better quality.
For other groceries, like meat, eggs, oat milk, toiletries, etc. we stop by at a Carrefour Market or the Asian epicerie for more specialty products. On average I would say we probably spend anywhere between €80-120 a week between Carrefour, the Asian epicerie and the local market. It really depends on what we need that week.
This includes everything–from food to shampoo, cleaning products, etc. We’re two people though so your expenses would definitely be less if you’re just shopping for yourself! And groceries are really personal, so everyone’s spending habits will vary. If you are on a budget, you can definitely adjust your grocery spending choices accordingly.
Here’s a list of some average items we normally get and their approximate costs:
Grocery List and Costs
(I didn’t include fresh fruits and vegetables on here since we normally get those at the market)
Eggs: €3 for 10 free-range eggs
Chicken: €4 for two chicken breasts
Salmon: €8 for two servings
Cod: €5 for two servings
Oat Milk: €2.11
Tofu: €1.98 for 400g or €4.95/kg
Coffee: €9.99 for a pack of 36 Café Royale aluminum capsules or €3 for 250g of generic ground coffee
Bottle of wine: €7-10 (this is really a matter of opinion. Personally, I think you need to spend in this range at the grocery store to get a good bottle of wine. I have friends though that would argue you only need to spend €2.50. These friends are no longer invited over for dinner.)
Olive Oil: €5.50 for 75cl
Frozen berries: €3 for 650g
Toilet Paper: depends on the brand!! lol ranges between €2-4.50 for a pack of eight rolls
Paper Towels: €2 for a pack of two
Shampoo: €3.25 for a bottle of Head & Shoulders (love me some anti-dandruff shampoo, I AM NOT ASHAMED)
Conditioner: €2.39 for a bottle of L’oreal conditioner
Soap: €2 for four bars of Dove
Body lotion: €3 for a bottle of Le Petit Marseillais
Razors: €3 for a pack of three Bic razors or €10 for a Venus razor (the kind where you can switch out the razor cartridges)
Shaving Cream: €2.50
Bordeaux is a very walkable city, but the tram and buses are very useful, especially when commuting to the university campuses over in Pessac. (Did I mention my tuition for my Master’s program was only €250 each year?)
A single ticket will cost you €1.70, but if you find yourself using public transport often, you should opt for a subscription or “abonnement.”
If you’re 27 years old or younger, you can get a “passe jeune” which will give you more favorable prices. You can either sign up for a subscription for the entire year and pay for this all at once or monthly. The monthly price is €20.40. If you don’t want to commit for the year, you can get a month pass for €34.40. A subscription gives you unlimited access to all the trams, buses, and even boats in the TBM network. This covers not only Bordeaux but the surrounding suburbs as well (like Talence and Pessac, among others).
If you’re 28 and over, a monthly subscription will cost you €42.20. If you want a month pass without subscribing for the year, it will cost you €50.
If you’re working, however, your employer will reimburse 50% of your monthly transportation costs if you have an abonnement.
There are a few different gym options in Bordeaux. I’ve belonged to a total of three, and the memberships have ranged from as low as €20/month and as high as €39/month. The pricier subscriptions were at some gyms which included personalized evaluations with coaches.
Sometimes gyms will have an “inscription” fee when you first sign up, but there are usually periods where this is waived–like during the summer or the beginning of the new year.
I’m now at Basic-Fit and have their “premium” subscription which is €30/month. This includes the option to share your pass with someone you live with and bring a friend along, so my husband and I can share the same membership. They also have an option where you can just pay €20/month though this means you cannot share your pass or bring someone with you to the gym. The gym has all the machines and weights I need, though the membership does not include any coaching services.
Health Insurance and Doctor’s Visits
If you’re a resident in France or here on some sort of long-stay visa, you’ll receive a “securité sociale” number which will eventually allow you to get a “carte vitale.” Once you’re in the system, getting reimbursements becomes very easy. Basically, how it works is you’ll get 70% of all your doctor’s visits costs are reimbursed by the state if you have a securité sociale number. A lot of people get “mutuelles” (health insurance) to cover the other 30%. My mutuelle is around €30/month and this covers everything. So if I were to need an ambulance tomorrow and be rushed over to the hospital and get surgeries, etc. the state would cover 70% of those costs while my mutuelle would cover the other 30%.
Sometimes prescriptions are reimbursed 100% by the state, while others are reimbursed at 70%. Once you have a carte vitale, it’s very easy to connect your mutuelle so you don’t have to file any extra paperwork to get reimbursed.
A general doctor’s visit will cost €25 which will later be reimbursed. Specialty doctors can be more expensive but will eventually get reimbursed too.
Phone and Internet
This will really depend on your plan, the brand, etc., so I’ll just share my experience. I’m with SFR and pay €20/month for internet and €20/month for my phone bill. The internet fee also includes a number of channels for our tv (including English speaking news channels!). My phone subscription covers unlimited calls and texts within the EU and 50G of data. Like I said though, it really depends on what you need and want! I have friends who are with other brands and pay a lot less.
One of my favorite things about living in France is the café culture. You can sit on a terrasse and enjoy your coffee, journal, people watch–whatever you want! There’s no rush and no one hurrying you away to give up the table.
A regular “café” (aka an espresso) is around €1.50. I usually get a café allongée which translates to a “long coffee.” I don’t know what that means. I guess it’s like a long black? Basically a stronger version of an Americano.
Fancier coffee drinks like a cappuccino or a café creme (espresso topped off with foamed milk) are €3-4. Tea is usually around €4–unless you go to the Saint Michel neighborhood. Over there, you can get some delicious mint Moroccan tea for €2.
Prices will vary depending on where you go. Always opt for happy hour to get a better deal. Here’s a range of drink prices in Bordeaux:
Pint of beer on happy hour: €4-6
Pint of beer normally: €6-8
Glass of wine: €3-7
Cocktail on happy hour: €5
Cocktail normally: €7-10
One of the biggest reverse culture shocks I have when visiting the US is the difference in restaurant prices. I swear, it’s so much cheaper to dine out in Bordeaux. Not only do I find it cheaper to dine out in France in general, but tax is already included (this is the same policy with cafes and stores) so the price you see on the menu is what you will end up paying. There’s also not the same tipping culture in France. Of course, you’re more than welcome to tip if you’re very happy with your service but people don’t really tip based on percentage. So, no need to calculate in your head to add tax and tip before you receive the bill! What you see on the menu is the price you will pay, which I really appreciate.
Restaurant prices will definitely vary depending on where you go and what you’re looking for, though you’re bound to find somewhere that will fit your budget. Here’s an example of prices from some of my favorite spots in Bordeaux:
Massa is my go-to when I’m in the mood for something healthy and inexpensive. You can get a delicious pita falafel sandwich for €6.50.
Peppone is one of my favorite mid-range spots. They have two locations in Bordeaux, one in Gambetta and one along the quai. I prefer the one on the quai so I can sit on the terrasse with a nice view. Peppone has a big selection of pizzas and pasta ranging from around €10-15. My favorite part of the Peppone experience is choosing your bottle of wine. The restaurant has a cave that’s only lit by candles, so you go downstairs and pick out your own bottle. Bottle prices range starting at €20 or you can get wine by the glass for €4. I’m also a huge fan of their desserts which are around €7.
Mélodie is another good option if you’re looking for some classic French food. You can get a three-course menu for €20 and the prices of wine by the bottle range beginning at €20. Wine by the glass is €5-8.
My favorite restaurant when I’m feeling fancy is Restaurant Influences. The restaurant is owned by a charming French-American couple who used to live in San Francisco. Their concept is a surprise menu, so you don’t know what you’re going to get! There’s a three-course option which is €45 and €28 for wine pairings with each course. Or a five-course option which is €69 and €44 for wine pairings. There’s also an extensive wine list if you’d rather just order a glass or by the bottle.
One of the things I miss the most about living in the US is movie theater butter popcorn. There’s no buttered popcorn in France! Instead, they either have sweet popcorn or caramel popcorn. Bah! The sweet popcorn is fine, but it’s just not the same as that buttery goodness they serve in the US of A.
Movie tickets seem to be a lot cheaper in France, however. I tend to go to UGC the most which plays films in their original language with French subtitles (many American films are dubbed in French in other theaters). If you’re a student or under 18, you’ll benefit from a discount and can get a movie ticket for just €6.90. Otherwise, you’ll pay €10.40. If you’re a movie buff, UGC also has a subscription option where you can pay €21.40/month (you have to sign up for the full year) and you’ll have unlimited access to films.
Another cool movie theater in Bordeaux is Utopia. Utopia is super unique as it used to be a church and has since been converted into a beautiful movie theater and café! Though beware, they don’t sell popcorn 🙁 Tickets are €7 or you can get a pack of 10 tickets for €50.
Museum tickets will really depend on which museum you’re visiting. However, on the first Sunday of the month, almost all the museums are free! So make sure to take advantage. If you’re a student or under 25, you can get a reduced rate at most museums in Bordeaux. In my experience, ticket prices have ranged anywhere from €3 to €20. (Though €20 is not the norm–this was a ticket for La Cité du Vin and included a glass of wine).
So, I hope that gives you an idea of how much it costs to live in Bordeaux, France! Personally I think prices are pretty fair, definitely cheaper than California anyway. How does Bordeaux compare to where you live? Are there any costs I didn’t cover that you want to know about?
Let me know!