Paris is known for being an expensive city, and it's true that prices in the City of Lights can be among the highest in the world. Despite the high cost of living in Paris, it is actually an affordable place for students. Rent may be high, but many government policies are designed to allow students and young people to live comfortably in the city, even with low or no income. There are numerous benefits to being a student under 26, and youth discounts are ubiquitous. Here are eight ways you can save (or earn) money if you're studying in Paris on a tight budget:

Key Takeaways

  • Students traveling throughout the greater Paris region can buy an unlimited transport pass for €350 annually.
  • For train travel throughout France, the SNCF sells a student discount card for €49 for one year.
  • Students pay just €3.30 for subsidized meals at CROUS restaurants.
  • If your work, your employer may provide meal vouchers and subsidize at least 50% of the cost.
  • Your student ID will get your free admission to most museums and monuments.
  • Student visa holders can work 964 hours per year.

1. Get a carte Imagine'R 

The carte Imagine'R is a transportation pass for students under 26. It allows for unlimited travel through Île-de-France (Paris region) on all modes of transport with the exception of certain direct services to airports and tourist buses. The cost is €350 per school year, which is a significant discount to a similar monthly pass for adults. 

2. Eat meals at a CROUS restaurant

CROUS restaurants and cafeterias are subsidized cafeterias run at universities throughout France. Meals include an appetizer, a main course with fish or meat, a vegetable and a grain, plus a dessert or cheese selection for €3.30. You have to set up an account on your student ID or use the mobile app Izly to pay (not all CROUS accept cash). 

3. Get Cultured for Free

Many museums and monuments in France are operated by the government and offer free admission to students under 26. You do have to be an EU resident to benefit, but showing your student ID from a French university is proof enough that you live in France. The ID just needs to show your birthday as proof of age.

4. Travel for up to 30% Off

The SNCF is the national train system, and tickets can be pricey. If you plan on travelling by train frequently, you can purchase a Carte Advantage Jeune, which provides discounts for those aged 12 to 27 years. The cost is €49 for one year. Discounts up to 30% are available, including the high-speed TGV. 

26

If you're a student under this age, all kinds of discounts and benefits await you while living in Paris.

5. Apply for Housing Assistance

Rent in Paris can be expensive, but if you have a real year-long lease (not a sublet) and low income (as a student), you may be eligible for housing assistance, called Aide Personnalisée au Logement from the Caisse des Allocations Familiales. Once you've had your residential visa validated in France, you can apply for assistance by declaring your current financial situation, your past financial situation from two years before and the amount you pay in rent.

Tip: To receive your assistance faster, send your CAF application in as soon as you arrive in France, and they will process it while you're waiting for your appointment at the Office Français d’Immigration et d’Intégration (OFII) to validate your visa. CAF can't pay you until they receive a copy of your titre de séjour (residency permit) but this way, you’ll receive your money a few weeks after your OFII appointment. 

Even in an expensive city like Paris, students can live on a tight budget by taking advantage of French government programs and the many other student deals for meals, transportation and cultural pursuits. 

6. Work up to 964 Hours per Year

To obtain a student visa, you'll need proof you have sufficient resources to last your stay, which the French government considers to be €615 per month at minimum. However, after arriving you can work part-time up to 964 hours per year (about 20 hours per week). Many students get jobs teaching English or working in cafés and restaurants. Some net enough to cover rent with a little left over for baguettes and cheese. Note: wages from a part-time job is considered secondary income and does not count toward proof of sufficient financial resources.

7. Make Use of Ticket Restaurant

If you work, many companies offer subsidized food vouchers that can be spent at restaurants, cafés and grocery stores. These vouchers are provided by four major vendors and are called Ticket Restaurant, Chèque Déjeuner, Chèque de Table and Pass Restaurant. Companies with more than 25 employees are required to provide dining facilities for staff. In lieu of this, many employers provide meal vouchers, subsidizing 50%~60% of the voucher with the remainder coming from the employee's paycheck. The daily spending limit is capped at €19, though this has been raised to €38 through the end of 2020. 

8. Take Cheap, Noncredit Classes

The Mairie de Paris (Mayor's Office) and nonprofit organizations offer inexpensive classes at night to help you improve your French. Courses are noncredit, which means you can't use your enrollment to obtain a student visa. Enrollments fill up fast, so you’ll want to check with the Mairie of your local arrondissement for the signup dates and enroll as early as possible.