14 Pros & Cons of Living in France as a Digital Nomad in 2024

Patrick Hughes (on the right) shown with a group of friends with the Eiffel Tower in the background

France is high on almost every digital nomad’s wishlist as a place to work remotely. The food, the fashion, the fabulous Parisian lights!

But when you put the fantasy to one side, is France as good for digital nomads as it might first appear?

Paris is simply expensive and it’s hard to get around so many tourists in the summer (of which you are one!). The Olympics in 2024 will multiply the numbers.

Plus, can you get a digital nomad visa for France? Can you rent short term? Are you even allowed to work remotely in France?

I’ve worked remotely for over 15 years, and I keep returning to France, so it works for me. I’ve got experience of short-term digital nomad stops in Paris, Bordeaux, Nantes and Angers.

Before you book your one-way ticket to Charles de Gaulle, I’m sharing my pros and cons of living in France as a digital nomad, plus a short guide to France digital nomad visa situation.

Remember, I don’t do ‘sugar-coated’, so you may or may not live your Emily in Paris croissant fantasy via this article. But you will enter into French life with your eyes wide open. Allons-y!

Patrick Hughes (on the right) shown with a group of friends with the Eiffel Tower in the background
Patrick (right) in Paris being visited by friends

Digital Nomad France: Is there a Digital Nomad Visa for France?

Heads up! There’s no specific digital nomad visa for France. Here’s how most people stay:

No Visa Needed: Citizens of the EU & EEA

Due to the EU’s freedom of movement rules, EU citizens can come to France to live and work. Citizens of the EEA also have freedom of movement (EEA = EU countries plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland).

Visa Exempt Nationals

If you’re a national of a visa-exempt country, like the USA, then you can stay up to 90 days in any 180 day period in France. France is part of the Schengen Zone. To work out if you’re visa exempt, there’s a useful quiz on this official French website.

Visa-Required Nationals

If you require a visa for a short-term visit to France, you should take the French visa quiz to work out how to proceed. Unfortunately, it may not always be easy to get permission to visit and work.

Long-term: There are other kinds of visa which you can use to stay long term in France – as this site is for short-stay digital nomads, work with a visa expert or join one of the excellent Facebook groups for advice.

Pros & Cons of Living in France as a Digital Nomad

Pro: Paris is set up well for remote working

If you work remotely and rent in Paris, your (inevitably) small flat will get old pretty quickly. Luckily, Paris is remote-work friendly.

You’ll find some typical chain or independent co-working spaces like WeWork and Spacesworks, endless cafes with free wi-fi and public spaces like libraries (I love a local library).

If you choose cafes, free is not always free. Prepare to pay for your third (small) cafe au lait as rent for your table.

Outside of Paris, cafes in most larger towns or cities will not flinch at workers pulling out a laptop and writing some emails. Where it might get uncomfortable is if you do a whole set-up (stand, microphone, keyboard) and you’ve just ordered a sparkling water. Save the studio for co-working or your room.

Con: High cost of living in France

I always thought the cost of living in France was lower when I lived in Ireland or the UK. That’s half-true due to the urban/rural divide. Paris is often ranked in the top 5 most expensive places to live in the world (#2 in 2021), but you can get better value almost anywhere else in France.

As a digital nomad, you’ll spend on accommodation, internet, transport, food and social life. If you’re serious about moving to Paris, you’ll need a strong basic budget.

Before you book a ticket, work out your costs. Accommodation will stretch your €£$s. For short term stays, use VRBO (sublets are hard to find) and know the per month rate will be high for anywhere central.

Then account for internet (for backup I use an eSIM), a metro ticket, grocery budget, restaurant budget (you’ll need one), social life budget and nomad insurance.

If you plan and budget, it’s still possible to have a decent lifestyle in Paris, particularly if you’re in a higher-paying category of remote work or doing well with content creation. Otherwise, look outside of Paris (see my advice later in this article on alternative cities).

Pro: Excellent Internet Speed, even outside cities

France has been rolling out fiber optic internet across the entire country with a goal of almost-saturation by 2025. That means that internet speed *can be* fantastic, even in some very rural locations.

Of course, if you’re renting a flat or gite (holiday rental) short-term, the owner might not have internet installed or, if they do, they might be paying for a basic service. Check first.

Where short-term guests expect and get high-speed internet is usually a city rental. Before I book, I ask for evidence of a speed test. If the owner won’t do it, they don’t get my business.

Con: Finding Accommodation

Finding short-term accommodation is hard in Paris. And it’s expensive.

There are tough restrictions on renting furnished tourist accommodation which means prices are higher, and at peak times, finding a great deal on a short term rental for one or two months will be tough.

You’ll find better value with longer leases (typically 12 months), but that would mean you’re not a digital nomad and that’s a different article.

If you want to try out Parisian or French life for a couple of weeks up to a couple of months, use VRBO or Airbnb.

Most people who share a 2 bedroom flat can expect to pay €1200 or more for a room in a Paris city apartment. If you want that apartment for yourself, expect to pay €1800-2500.

A view of the inner harbour at La Rochelle with a lighthouse in the foreground (by Patrick Hughes)
Inner Harbour at La Rochelle, France

Pro: English-speaking Expat (Migrant) Forums

A lot of English-speaking people have chosen to make France their home, or part of their nomadic “circuit”. That means there’s usually a Facebook group that organises occasional meet-ups.

I’ve seen options in Toulouse, Nantes, Bordeaux and Paris. Also in Paris, you’ll get some more specific networking events through the coworking spaces, that work for digital nomads and people in technology.

Meeting good people in the same situation as you, makes life as a digital nomad a bit easier.

Con: French Reputation for Rudeness

The internet is awash with articles about whether French people really are rude or not. The # of articles seems to be higher in 2024 than ever (probably because of the Olympics hype).

According to Corrine Ménégaux, head of Paris tourism, French people used to be ‘less welcoming’, but that perception is now a cliché (from this Washington Post article).

I think it’s fair to say many French people express their emotions (including negative ones) through their gestures and tone. So it’s clearer when someone is annoyed.

After over 30 visits, I think there’s some truth in the idea that a greater proportion of French people (that I’ve encountered) are ruder than in some other countries. I’m writing this while in France and can name two examples from yesterday.

However, like anywhere, I’ve met some genuinely lovely French people who couldn’t do enough to help me out.


Things I *never* forget to pack as a digital nomad:

Pro: French food and food culture

My friend Phil asked me why French bread is so consistently good in France. It’s because it’s the law: a baguette has to be made in the place it’s sold, and can contain only 4 ingredients: flour, salt, water and yeast. No additives or weird things, it can’t be frozen, can’t be shipped.

French people really *care* about the quality of their food. At the supermarket yesterday, the lady ahead of me had bought a very special kind of endive that she was preparing with blue cheese.

A selection of patisserie in a French cafe at La Rochelle, including a strawberry tart
Patisserie in La Rochelle, France

Con: French Bureaucracy

If you’re lucky, you won’t have much to do with bureaucracy. However, if you decide to stay for longer and need to sort out a residence permit or a work visa, prepare to encounter the slow moving cogs of the French state.

It’s the one subject that seems to fire up *everybody* in expat/migrant forums online. And it’s like that for a reason.

Pro: You won’t run out of activities

Big cities like Paris are always busy and have something to do no matter what your taste.

Nightlife is less my thing than when I was 25, but I love art and Paris has an embarrassment of riches to pluck from.

Plus I love nothing better than a coffee in a glamorous location where I can people watch the day’s fashions swinging by (the Galerie Lafayette at l’Opera is fabulous for this reason).

Even smaller towns are busy in the summer with festivals, theatre and great farmers markets. Winter in rural France, however, is a no (there is practically nothing to do).

Con: Losing your work/life balance

Digital nomads can easily lose a sense of work-life balance leading to “nomad burnout“.

Unless you take an active part in digital nomad meet-ups, living in Paris or another French city can be a lonely affair.

When you do start to network and have a social life, particularly via a coworking place, it can be easy to blur the lines between work and play.

To keep a sense of your work/life balance, have fun by all means, but maintain a boundary around alcohol and late nights that might help you to avoid burnout.

Pro: Public Transport

The metro, TGV, Ouigo, bus network… France has really great public transport.

In general, when you book ahead, tickets are inexpensive and you can get to most places you need more easily without a car or an Uber.

It’s worth getting a weekly or monthly Navigo Pass if you’re visiting Paris (similar tickets exist in other cities).

Bordeaux metro train at the airport

Con: Strikes

You might see strikes as a positive: the action of a democratic process resisting injustices that a particular group perceives.

In practice, they’re designed to be inconvenient and, when they happen, they can be both disruptive and frightening if you’re unused to social action.

A family member texted me from Paris a couple of weeks ago, where protesters had thrown chairs at the restaurant where she was having lunch, smashing the glass.

Whatever their purpose, the frequency of strikes can get in the way of your nomadic life.

Pro: France is scenic and diverse

From the cooler climes of Orne and Brittany to the delicious lilac-scented fields of Provence, France has a varied climate and diverse scenery.

Some of the finest ski resorts in the world are in the Alps and surprisingly reachable from big city life.

If you choose to stay in Paris for your entire trip, you’ll miss out. Jump on a TGV and get out of the city for at least a long weekend or two.

Con: The Language Barrier

I speak reasonably decent French and have never quite made it beyond the French language barrier. That included managing a partially French team when I worked in finance.

There’s a few reasons for that. One, spoken French is usually quite a bit different from the formal French we learn in school.

Second, some French people will shift into English as soon as you open your mouth, so practicing can be hard. Third, some people will look at you as if you have 3 heads even if you try really hard to use any French.

If we fall at these initial hurdles, it makes it genuinely tough to create friendships or work relationships when you’re in France for probably quite a short time.

Where are the best cities for digital nomads in France?

  • Paris – most Digital Nomads pick Paris as their hub, as it’s easiest to navigate. You’ll find a good spread of tech businesses, co-working and co-living spaces and an amazing social life. It’s super expensive, so crank up your budget if you’re serious.
  • Nantes – smaller cities rock but I’m not sure Nantes is perfectly set up for digital nomads. I spent a month in town and there were no meet-ups and few chances to meet other nomads. Good internet, cheaper than Paris, but wouldn’t be top of my list.
  • Bordeaux – now Bordeaux is an excellent place to spend at least a couple of weeks. There’s great internet, a thriving expat/nomad scene, a compact city centre made for eating out and plenty of activities to keep your mind and body active. Highly recommend.
  • Angers – this is the kind of city usually overlooked by digital nomads intent on brighter lights, but Angers is a busy and slightly friendlier French city within shouting distance of Paris (90 minutes by train). Expect cheaper accommodation, a quieter pace but excellent food.
  • Lyon – while Lyon is quite a big city, it’s considered safe for digital nomads and solo travellers. Lyon is famous for its food and there’s lots of art and theatre to enjoy. On the flip side, accommodation is pretty expensive and it gets cold and a bit miserable in the winter. It’s not high on my “revisit” list.

RELATED VIDEO – My Nantes Airbnb was a bit of a disaster

My Airbnb was an entire home rental in Nantes at a reasonable price. At handover, I could see the owner had left most of his stuff everywhere. I had one clear shelf to use. I should have said ‘non’. But, well, watch for more!  

Things to Do in France

  • Get out and enjoy traditional French food at a classic bistro (I love Cafe Paul Bert in Paris).
  • Explore the great outdoors by taking a day trip or weekend trip out of your host city.
  • Get out and about – visit the Bayeux Tapestry (read my account on my other blog, Planet Patrick).
  • Go visit some of the main Parisian landmarks while you’re in the country:

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you meet locals?

The short answer is: it’ll be hard if all you do is work, work, work! But seriously, there’s less of a casual culture of getting chatting to people in France which you might get in Ireland or the US. You need to have some French, or fall in with other people who speak English.

But you won’t meet anyone unless you try and go out to a gig or gallery. This sounds like I’m advising myself because I am.

What’s the best time to live in France as a Digital Nomad?

In 2024, the weather has been exceptionally cold right through until May. It’s not Canadian cold, but French rentals aren’t as well set up for central heating or fires as other countries.

Shoulder season (May and September) are the best times to visit when tourism is a little bit lower and it would be best to avoid the Olympics in Paris unless your budget is very stretchy!

Can I find digital nomad jobs in France?

If you are already able to apply for jobs in France through citizenship or your work visa, then you can, but you’re likely to require fluent French for most jobs.

Is Paris safe for digital nomads?

Paris is considered quite safe for digital nomads. There is petty crime (robberies, scams) that take place around the main train stations and the main tourist sites. There’s quite a lot of pickpocketing. I try hard to pack some travel safety necessities and keep me, my rental or hotel room secure.

However, with some simple safety precautions, most people will feel pretty safe, including on public transport.

What is France like for solo travel?

It’s pretty easy to navigate France a solo traveller. The public transport is well-priced and extensive, meaning you can get around very easily.

One thing which is easy to do in France as a solo traveler is to eat out. Nobody minds if you have a table to yourself and the French expect to eat well. That helps a lot (none of the “just you?” intensive questioning you get in other places).  Read: how to get used to dining solo on my other blog, Planet Patrick.

Conclusion

At the start, I promised you honesty about being a digital nomad in France, given I’ve spent so much time here working remotely.

If I can sum it up, the pros include great public transport, food and things to do from art to opera. On the con side is the cost of living in Paris, the language barrier and whether you feel that directness is rudeness.

What I want as a digital nomad is some decent weather, the chance to meet up with people, great internet speed and affordability. France offers some of that, if you visit in the summer, but at a higher price than most of us want to spend.

My advice to you is to visit on a 1-2 week discovery, in late May or mid-September. You’ll get a sense of whether it’s worth investing a substantial sum in a longer stay and if you should do that in Paris, or a smaller location like Angers. But if budget is your #1 concern, head for South East Asia immediately!

Full-time digital nomad proving that living overseas at 50+ is not only possible but amazing. If I can do it, so can you! Join me to discover how to embrace a new life abroad.

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