How to Find Affordable Places to Retire in France
"It's MUCH more costly to live in Paris or Provence. Languedoc in South West France has much of the charm of Provence at half the price. Brittany and Normandy are more affordable. These areas are also more likely to have English expats. If you have not traveled extensively in France, I would recommend a 3-4 week road trip (or a couple of 2 week trips) to explore the options," advised one expat in France.
An expat in the South of France offered a great overview of how to find affordable villages. He said, "further east = more expensive; further north (i.e. away from the coast) = cheaper; close to city commuters = more expensive. These days many small villages have no shops. A medium cost area would be between Montpellier & Nimes in a medium sized village. Within 2 hrs you would have access to airports in Lyon, Marseille, Nimes, Montpellier, Carcassonne, Perpignan, Girona (Spain) and access by TGV to Paris in 3 hrs."
"I would recommend Brittany. I find the people there warm and friendly. It is rainier than Dordogne, however, and again, there are a whole lot more English speakers in the latter, you may even be able to make it by without any French in some villages. Brittany has a culture of its own, the ocean is beautiful," said one expat. Another said, "much of the area is rural with the countryside dotted with small villages and hamlets. Transport seems to be quite good with access to the TGV from major points. What I've read is that it is 2 hours to Paris. The nice thing about Brittany is that there is a huge British expat community, so English speakers are plentiful for those who are a bit tentative in the language department. Brittany is known for its seafood and is the place crepes hail from. Housing is fairly inexpensive for the most part; I have seen ads for 2 bed houses for rent for 500 euros. Brittany has lakes to fish, trails to hike and bike, beaches to sit on and history to learn about. Most villages have a doctor, and hospitals are easily accessible, however Rennes is the largest city with good medical care. Bonus is that ferries regularly cross the Channel to England and there are ones that go to Ireland as well as Jersey."
"Dordogne is very French in it's own way, the food is excellent, and the landscape beautiful. Basically, both areas are very nice and different from each other. Rural public transport is definitely a weak point here," explained one expat. "This is south center France about equidistant from Atlantic to Mediterranean, Spain to Germany which means it's not close to anything. But there are plenty of water sports and winter sports close by. Property prices are good and taxes and services not bad. There are many tourists here in Summer. There is not much diversity. Retired expats are mostly British. Anyone looking for an active nightlife would not be satisfied with what is available here and the closest larger cities where it might be offered, Tulle and Brive-la-Galliard are each about a 45 minute drive. If one is seeking a quite, rural friendly place, this is a good choice," described one expat in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne.
"I love living amid Roman, Greek, and French history. I spent a year in an apartment while looking for a suitable house. Now I live in a small, 400 yr old village in a house down the street from a 12th century templar castle. Winters are mild, lasting 6 to 8 weeks around xmas. There are ski slopes 90 min away and the beaches are 25 min away from my house. We have a large expat, multi-national community since this is a popular retirement area. My income as a retiree is less than $35k and my lifestyle is simple. I travel as a retiree getting discounts where they are available. Often times travel agents will ask my age and then give me the discount without questions." said one retiree in Pezenas.
One expat said, "I'd like to suggest Uzes, a lovely medieval city near Avignon, Nimes, Montpellier and not far from sandy beaches. It's in the Languedoc-Rousillon, which is cheaper than anything east of the Rhone River and only about 3 hours by TGV fast train to Paris. I'm thoroughly enjoying living there with lots of cultural and artistic events and many expats. Anybody can buy or rent and you have to have a residency permit from a French consulate in order to stay all year." You don't even need a car to live in Uzes explained one expat, "bus transportation is available and the TGV is an hour away by bus in Avignon or 45 mins away by bus in Nimes. Bikes are available to rent. Uzes has the largest Saturday market in the area and lots of boutiques, cafes, etc. etc. Take a look at their Office de Tourism web site. My car sits in the garage begging to go somewhere!"
An expat in Languedoc said, "as an American who has owned a second home in France and will be retiring there in about a year, let me put in my vote for the Languedoc. The climate approximates North Carolina's Golden Triangle - moderate winters with no more than a dusting of snow once or twice that never lasts, the summers can be a bit hot, but the Mediterranean with its beautiful beaches is within reach. In the winter, the Pyrenees have wonderful ski runs. And the Haut Languedoc National Forest is a treasure for trail hikers. Yes, lakes and rivers and such can all be found in abundance. Housing is a bit more expensive than Brittany but that's because of the climate. As is the case in most of France, there are plenty of English speakers, mostly Brits, and the doctors and such often have spent some time training in the States or England. There are international airports in several small cities and Barcelona is not too far away for all international connections. I love the region and blog about it often."
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