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The Ultimate Checklist for Moving to France: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Ever dream of waking up to the smell of fresh croissants and sipping wine in the shadow of ancient castles? Well, pack your bags because Moving to France could turn that dream into reality! From the charming villages of Provence to the bustling streets of Paris, France offers a lifestyle that’s second to none. If you’re considering a move, especially in your golden years, here’s your ultimate checklist to ensure the transition is as smooth as a perfectly aged Bordeaux.

1. Research and Plan Your Destination: France is a diverse country, each region boasting its own unique charm. Whether you prefer the sunny beaches of the Côte d’Azur, the rolling vineyards of Bordeaux, or the picturesque villages of Normandy, there’s a perfect spot for everyone.

Key Considerations:

  • Climate: Do you love hot summers or prefer mild winters?
  • Lifestyle: Are you a city dweller or a countryside enthusiast?
  • Amenities: Proximity to healthcare, shops, and cultural attractions.

Tip: If possible, visit a few regions before making your decision. Take your time in each place to truly experience the local vibe.

2. Get Your Paperwork in Order: Moving to France isn’t as simple as hopping on a plane. You’ll need to navigate through some paperwork.

Visas and Residency:

  • Long-Stay Visa: For stays longer than 90 days, you’ll need a long-stay visa. This visa allows you to enter France and stay for an extended period. It’s crucial to apply for this visa before leaving your home country, as it cannot be obtained after arriving in France.
  • Residency Permit: Once in France, apply for a residency permit (Carte de Séjour). This permit allows you to live in France legally and must be obtained within the first three months of your arrival.

Medical Insurance:

  • Make sure you have medical insurance that covers you in France. Initially, you might need to purchase private medical insurance to cover any gaps before you can join the French healthcare system. Fab French Insurance, a specialised expat broker, can assist with finding the right coverage. To join the French healthcare system, you’ll need to register with the local health authorities and obtain a social security number. This process can take some time, so having interim coverage is essential. Alternatively, broader generic IPMI brokers like BrokerFish can also provide coverage options.


  • Open a French bank account for ease of transactions and bill payments. This will simplify managing your finances and help establish a local financial presence, which is often required for various services in France. At the minute (2024) the most expat friendly is BNP Parisbas and that it’s best to go to a local branch. Alternatively Revolut and N26 offer a decent online banking for a start.

3. Learn the Language: While many French people speak English, learning the local language will enrich your experience and help you integrate more smoothly.

Language Resources:

  • Classes: Enroll in French classes before you move. The Alliance Française, the largest private network for French language education, offers excellent resources for learning French. You can also take the official language test here, and visit the official website to learn French in France.
  • Apps: Use language-learning apps like Duolingo or Babbel.
  • Immersion: Once in France, practice speaking with locals as much as possible.

Fun Fact: Even a simple “Bonjour” can go a long way in France. It’s a must for polite interactions!

4. Secure Your Housing: Finding the perfect home is crucial. Whether you plan to rent or buy, start your search early. For purchasing or renting housing, online portals like SeLoger and Leboncoin are great resources.

Rental Tips:

  • Short-Term Rentals: Consider starting with a short-term rental to give yourself flexibility.
  • Real Estate Agents: Use reputable real estate agents to help you navigate the market.

Buying Property:

  • Legal Advice: Hire a bilingual notary to handle the legalities.
  • Local Market: Get familiar with the local property market and regulations.

5. Understand the Cost of Living: The cost of living in France can vary widely depending on the region.

Key Expenses:

  • Housing: Rent or mortgage, utilities, maintenance.
  • Groceries: Local markets offer fresh produce at reasonable prices.
  • Dining Out: Enjoy affordable dining, especially in smaller towns. Many restaurants offer a “menu du jour” (menu of the day), which is a set meal at a very reasonable price, allowing you to enjoy local cuisine without breaking the bank.
  • Transport: Public transport is reliable and cost-effective.

Tip: Create a budget to manage your finances and ensure a comfortable lifestyle.

6. Embrace French Culture: Moving to France is more than just a change of address; it’s a cultural adventure!

Cultural Etiquette:

  • Politeness: Always greet with “Bonjour” and say “Merci” often.
  • Dining: Take your time to enjoy meals, French dining is a leisurely affair.

Local Traditions:

  • Festivals: Participate in local festivals and events to immerse yourself in the culture.
  • Markets: Regularly visit local markets to experience the true essence of French living.

7. Health and Wellbeing: France’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world. Make sure you’re well-prepared to benefit from it.

Healthcare Registration:

  • Carte Vitale: Apply for your Carte Vitale to access the French healthcare system. This card is essential for reimbursement of medical expenses and prescriptions. To apply, you’ll need to provide proof of identity, residency, and your social security number.
  • Supplemental Insurance: Consider getting supplemental health insurance for additional coverage. Known as “mutuelle,” this insurance helps cover costs not reimbursed by the standard healthcare system. It can include dental, vision, and private hospital room options, providing more comprehensive healthcare protection. For assistance, Fab French Insurance, a dedicated broker with English speaking agents, or LesFurets offer dedicated agents to help you find the best options.

Staying Active:

  • Activities: Join local clubs and groups to stay active and meet new people.
  • Outdoor Pursuits: Enjoy France’s beautiful outdoors, from hiking in the Alps to strolling along the Riviera.

8. Financial Planning: Proper financial planning is essential for a smooth transition.

Pensions and Taxes:

  • Pension Transfers: Arrange for your pension to be transferred to your French bank account. This ensures you have access to your funds without international transfer fees. Check with your pension provider about the necessary paperwork and potential processing times.
  • Tax Advice: Consult a tax advisor to understand your obligations in France and your home country. Tax laws can be complex, and a professional can help you navigate dual taxation agreements and optimise your tax situation.

Cost Management:

  • Budgeting: Keep track of your expenses and adjust your budget as needed.
  • Savings: Maintain a savings buffer for unexpected costs.

9. Building a Community: One of the joys of moving to France is building new friendships and becoming part of the community.

  • Join Groups: Participate in expat groups and local clubs to meet like-minded individuals. Join Survive France, the largest anglophone forum for immigrants in France, to connect with others and share experiences.
  • Social Media: Use social media platforms to connect with other expats and locals.
  • Volunteering: Volunteering is a great way to give back and integrate into the community.
  • Local Events: Participate in local events to stay connected and make new friends. Regular attendance can help you integrate into the community and build lasting relationships.


Moving to France is an exciting adventure filled with new experiences, beautiful landscapes, and rich cultural traditions. By following this ultimate checklist, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on this new chapter of your life. So, why not take the plunge and make your dream of living in France a reality? Your French adventure awaits – bon voyage!

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