My wife is Mexican, and like me she arrived in France a few years ago with a bag full of dreams (well, in her case there were 4 bags full of dreams!). So, we sat together today and made a list of all the useless stuff we brought, and all the essential things you need to pack when moving to France for a long period, based on our own experiences:
- Bed sheets and a towel: This may sound weird, but in some student residences you will have to pay for them, and if you rent a furnished studio or apartment there may not be any clean bed sheets and towels, so bringing them with you could be helpful during your first days.
- Cash: If you don’t want to pay bank fees each time you withdraw from your overseas accounts, you should bring the necessary amount of cash for your basic expenses at least during the first two weeks, while you open your french account.
- Crédit Card: In case of emergencies.
- International Drivers License: It is not compulsory and there are divided opinions about this. Personally, I came with my colombian drivers license and never had an issue renting cars around Europe during my studies. However, I have met people who have not been able to rent cars with the Drivers licenses from their home countries. The law is not very clear and not always enforced, but if you want to rent cars hassle free better to bring an international Drivers license.
- A Coat: Depending on where you are from, you may be better prepared for the winter. If you come from a warm country and have not much winter clothes, you will need at least a warm coat for the winter. You will arrive in August / September when it is still warm, but… winter is coming ?
- Thermic clothes: Temperatures during winter vary depending on the region in France you are arriving to. If you are coming to the northern part of France and you are not used to such temperatures, I’d strongly suggest bringing some thermic clothes.
- University diplomas: If you plan on staying and working in France after your studies, you will need your original diplomas from back home for all the paper work.
- Vaccination certificates: if you have them.
- Adress and directions of your accomodation: I recommend you google in advance how to get from the airport to the place you will be staying at, specially if you don’t speak French yet. In Google maps you can also download an offline map of the city which can also be useful to get around during your first days, while you get a French sim card with internet. If you already know someone in France or have any contact or emergency numbers from your university or school, would be useful to have them at hand as well.
- Laptop: This one does not need explanation.
- Basic personal hygiene products: Products such as toothbrush, shower gel, shampoo, etc.
- Basic medicines: For a cold, headache, allergies, … They will be very useful if, like me, you don’t speak French and don’t know absolutely anyone!
- Comfortable walking shoes: The only way to visit European cities is by walking, so you will need them.
- Suit or formal dress: If you need to look for an internship or a job, it will be useful for the interviews. You may also need it for some presentations in your school depending on your field.
- A copy of the documents you provided for your student visa: It is possible that immigration officials ask you for a copy of these documents upon your arrival. Also, in the unfortunate event that you lose your passport, these documents will help you to identify yourself.
- Smartphone: Unlocked for any carrier.
- Universal Plug Adapter and power converter: Standard voltage in France is 230 V, and power plugs are of type E, so you may need it.
- Portable power bank: Very important if your cellphone runs out of battery during your trip. It will also be useful for your travels across Europe.
- Backpack: For travelling, you should get a size that fits the necessary stuff and is accepted by low cost airlines.
- International insurance card: If you have it.
As a last recommendation, I would advise to carry the most important things in your hand luggage, such as documents and things you may urgently need on arrival, in case your luggage is lost by the airline. For women, I do not think it is worth bringing hair driers, straighteners, etc. You may not be able to use them due to the voltage difference.
I would also suggest not to bring much clothes and travel as light as possible. After Christmas holidays, it is the sales season and you will be able to renew your wardrobe at very interesting prices.
Now you are ready for moving to France, we wait for you on this side!
If you are already in France and think that there are some things we left out of this list, do not hesitate to comment in the box below!