A guide to getting set up in Paris


Moving to a new country is always daunting and stressful. It's almost impossible to solely focus on the excitement that comes with starting a new life somewhere when you can't seem to get your mind off the fact that you have yet to find accommodation, you have no phone and you don't know the city or maybe even the language that well either!

This is where I come in to perhaps offer some tips on how to get your feet on the ground in the quickest and easiest way possible. Having had a relatively easy setting up experience in London, handling the Paris move proved to be... well, challenging to say the least. I was lucky enough to have a family friend who had been living in Paris for over 8 years to help me make sense of all the administrative hoops one has to jump through in order to get this done. Had I not been guided, however, I can safely say that things would have probably taken at least 3 times longer than they did.

That being said, it doesn't always have to be so difficult. Once you set out the essential steps you need to take in order to sort out your living arrangements, your phone number and your bank account, it only really takes you getting used to the way you need to deal with the administrative staff to arm you with just enough experience to get yourself settled in! Here are some pieces of advice that I think I may have benefited from during my move:


1: Housing

Housing is always a tricky one, especially in a city like Paris where apartments are rented out in the blink of an eye. The key to this is research and preparation. As a foreigner seeking to rent an apartment in France, be it a flatshare or just a studio for yourself, you will most likely be asked for a list of things.


You will probably need:

  • photocopies of your ID/passport

  • a signed letter from a guarantor as well as their ID

  • your guarantor's (or your own if you are not a student) payslips from the last 3 months

  • a job contract stating your salary

If you have just arrived, however, the guarantor issue poses a problem as the landlords will mostly be looking for a French guarantor who can cover your rent should you be unable to. Being new to a country most likely means you do not have the adequate contacts to be able to find a local guarantor, but there is the option to ask the company you are going to work for to sign as your guarantors. This request isn't unheard of because everyone knows how complicated the process can be! If all else fails, see if you can negotiate your way to getting the landlord to approve an overseas guarantor. Some are more cooperative than others and it's usually much easier to get by the guarantor issue if you're trying to rent out a flatshare!


In terms of where to look, there are plenty of great websites where you can enter requirements and receive updates on available apartments accordingly. Some useful websites include:

The main thing to remember in all of this, however, is that speed is key. As I mentioned above, France (and Paris especially) are notorious for how quickly the apartments get rented out. So, when you find one online or in a paper that you think would be suitable for you, make sure you set up a viewing as quickly as possible so that you can make an informed decision and get a feel as to what type of landlord you're going to be dealing with, then give them an answer as soon as possible. With your 'dossier' of all the documents ready to be sent off and with quick yet well thought decisions, you can easily sort your housing out without any problems!


2: Bank Account

If you are planning to stay in France for a lengthy period of time, it is definitely worth getting a bank account, not only because it will be much easier and cheaper to both pay your rent every month and receive transfers from your company, but because you will find that you sort of need it for a lot of things in France (like getting a phone contract).

To set up your bank account as quickly and as easily as possible, you need to remember a few things. Firstly, what took me by suprise personally was that unlike in the UK or other European countries I'd been to, you are often required to set up a 'rendez-vous' to actually be able to see a clerk that can set the account up for you. This can actually be quite inconvenient if you haven't prepared for it, so make sure you plan things accordingly!


Everything else however is pretty standard. Your bank 'dossier' will need to include:

  • proof of identity (passport or ID, sometimes a birth certificate may be necessary)

  • proof of residence in France

  • proof of residence or 'carte de séjour' if you are a non-EU citizen

  • proof that you are working or studying in France (letter from your employer or certificate of attendance at a French university)


Remember to ask for a 'carte bleu' (a debit card), a code for internet banking that will be sent to your address within a week, and a checkbook if you think you will need it. Everything should be sorted within 10 days. If it is not, however, do not be afraid to either visit the branch or call their customer service line, although in my experience phoning them is stressful and can lead to some misunderstandings. Remember to be very firm and insistant when you present your case. If you are as dipmomatic and as patient as you are back home, things may not get done fast enough! So be persistant and make sure you stay on top of things – if you just leave them they will not be pursued.


You will receive a RIB which is the equivalent of a sort code in the UK. The bank will give you a paper with multiple copies of the RIB which you can cut up and give out to whoever needs to transfer you money (like your employer) or whoever you need to set up a direct debit with. Make sure to have multiple copies of this so that you never run out!


3: Phone Contract


Understandably, you can only get your phone contract sorted out when you've got a bank account, as it involves setting up a direct debit and the phone company would therefore require your RIB. However, unlike in other countries, there isn't really a pay-as-you-go option to buy a sim and top up your credit when necessary, so it's probably a good idea to get your bank account sorted as soon as possible so you avoid those extremely high roaming bills!

However, once you've got that sorted, phone contracts in France are generally very good value for money. The good news is as well, that you don't have to go all the way to their shop in order to set it up. In fact, it's more common to order it online. The disadvantage, of course, is that it will take a few days for your sim to arrive, but when it does it works immediately as you have already set up the account for yourself online! Because it is all done on the internet, you receive electronic bills via email and you can also change the package you are on directly from the site, and quite easily, might I add!


Here are a few suggestions for some good companies to sign up with:

  • Virgin Mobile

  • Free

  • Orange

  • SFR

Remember to do your research first to see which package suits you best!

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