The Pink City: a Short English Guide for Foreign Students

Last updated 06/10/2001

General information:

You will find most general information for students is in French, hence this short guide to Toulouse in English.
There are several places where you can find general information on student life in Toulouse.

Before you do anything in Toulouse, visit the Tourist Office (Tél: 05 61 11 02 22) in Donjon du Capitole at Place du Capitole (if lost, take a metro, the stop is right in front of the Tourist Office). Here you can get a free map of the city centre, which will fit into any pocket and features all the street names (unlike the free CROUS map).

For foreign students there is the Pôle Universitaire Europeén de Toulouse, which was set up jointly by the universities in Toulouse to provide information for foreigners. As everywhere else, the information is in French but with a bit of luck you will find at least one employee who speaks English. Most importantly, here they also provide free language courses for foreigners and organise some activities for foreign students to get to know each other.
The address:
Pôle Universitaire Europeén de Toulouse
39 Alleés Jules-Gueste
31000 Toulouse
Tél.: 05 61 14 80 10        Fax.: 05 61 14 80 20
How to get there:
Take bus 24 from Place du Capitole and get off at the grand ronde, it's near the Jardin du Plantes in the Faculté des Sciences (see your tourist map!) and it should not take more than 20 minutes to walk from Place du Capitole.

The CROUS (Centre Régional des Oeuvres Universitaires et Scolaires) has some general information and a lot of information on accommodation (free of charge!), outside on the wall you will also find many small adverts of people trying to sell things second hand.
The address:
58 Rue du Taur
Tél 05 61 12 54 00
How to get there:
It's less than five minutes from Place du Capitole on foot, at the end of Rue du Taur on your right hand opposite of the Cinematheque de Toulouse.

The CRIJ (Centre Régional d'Information Jeunesse) is also not to be missed. Basically it's an information centre for young people and here you will find anything from accommodation offers, to information on 'stages' or work in the voluntary sector, and also free internet access!
The address:
17 Rue du Metz
TÚl 05 61 21 20 20
How to get there:
Take the metro to Place Esquirol or walk for five minutes from Place du Capitole, when at Esquirol it's in the direction of the river (Pont Neuf) on your right hand.

Some other useful addresses for foreign students:

DIV Université le Mirail, 5 allées Antonio Machado, Tel: 05 61 50 45 90, é

SRI Université Paul Sabatier, 118, route de Narbonne, Tel: 05 61 55 66 24,

Service Accueil Etrangers : Prefecture, Tel: 05 34 45 34 45, 1, rue St. Anne (for your documents)

EGIDE : Centre International Pour Etudiants et Stagiaires, Tel: 05 61 77 26 66, 18 place Roguet (for help with bursaries)

Goethe Institut, Tel: 05 61 23 08 34, 4bis rue Clémence Isaure

Institut Cervantes : Centre Culturel d'Espange, Tel: 05 61 62 80 72, 31 rue de Chalets

For a very extensive list of useful addresses (in French) see 'l'Indic: le Guide Plan Etudiant', which you can get at the CROUS.

For a more extensive guide on student life in Toulouse (in French) have a look at the 'Guide des Associations d'UT1' by l'AES CONTACT, la CORPO DRIOT, and l ÁMICALE Sc. ECO (the student associations of the faculties of UT1)


Toulouse-Blagnac International Airport: 05 61 42 44 00

SNCF (Train carrier): 08 36 35 35 35
For reductions of 50% on your train tickets get a Carte Midi-Pyrenees Etudiant for FF 200,- at the Espace Étudiant at Matabiau train station. Here you can also get the Carte Midi-Pyrenees Etudiant ATR for FF 35,-, which gives you a 50% reduction on regional busses.

05 61 30 02 54 (Taxi Aeroport) or 05 62 16 26 16 (Allo Association Taxis Toulousains)

Bus and Metro:
Toulouse has a fairly decent public transport system. Many buses do, however, stop running as early as 9:30pm, so make sure you plan for that! As long as you stay in the centre of the city, you don't really need to use public transport, you can do everything on foot. When you do need to use the system, you can buy tickets on the bus or at each metro stop for FF8,- for a single or FF15,- for a return. You can change lines three times within an hour as long as you don't use your single to go back. At authorised sales points (e.g. the metro stops) you can buy a 'carnet' of ten tickets at a reduced price. This is definitely interesting if you have a Carte Clé Semvat, which allows you to buy a carnet at an even further reduced price of FF48,- for ten tickets or buy relatively cheap week or month cards. The Carte Clé can be obtained at the Semvat office at 7 Place Esquirol (Tél: 05 61 41 70 70) or at the Espace Étudiant at the Gare Matabiau (train station). Make sure you bring your student card for the coming year and if it's your first Carte Clé also two passport size pictures and FF30,-.

Your alternative to the public transport system is a bike (bicyclette or vélo). Bikes are not too easy to obtain, probably because there aren't too many people willing to risk their lives on a daily basis. If you manage to bike for a day without at least one near accident it's either because you've been walking next to it or because you had a real accident. In addition, most streets in the city centre are one way traffic, which forces you to choose between lengthy detours (which can be extremely lengthy if you do not know the city very well!) or taking French traffic head-on. In doing so, realise that on French roads it's not the direction you are coming from but the size of your vehicle that determines whether you will get the right of way… Whenever you see a parallel road next to a large road, that's where you should be and, if sane, would want to be. Occasionally, there are signs for bikes identifying a non-logical route for the destination you had in mind- pay heed to them, they generally point you to the safer route and despite the detour may actually be faster. That said, a bike is a great way to explore the city as it increases your reach and flexibility lots. Whether it's cheaper than public transport will depend on the type of lock you pick, bike theft is rife. This also means there is a lively market for 'second-hand' bikes. Apparently there is a market for these once a week, ask around. Alternatives are the adverts (petites annonces) at the CROUS and CRIJ or of course to buy a new bike. If you need bike-parts to revive your second-hand purchase or if you want to buy a new one, try Decathlon on Boulevard de Strasbourg.


Short term:
As finding an apartment is guaranteed to take more than one day, you will need to stay somewhere in the mean time. Strikingly, Toulouse has no Youth hostel. If you want something fancy, go to the Tourist Office where they have a booklet with Restaurants and Hotels in Toulouse. Cheap alternatives are available. In the summer the CROUS has some of its dormitory rooms available, where you can stay if you are a student. Otherwise, there is a hostel for young workers which will accommodate travellers for up to three days for less than FF85,- per day for a single room including breakfast. It's not ideal for meeting people (like a youth hostel) but a lot better than some random hotel (it has a games room, TV-room, and dinner hall). This hostel can be found on Rue des Gallois. Get there by bus 92 from Place Esquirol direction CHR Rangueil (towards the river when you are standing on place Esquirol) and get off at Longaud (on Rue Maréchal Juin), walk a little back up the road and find the hostel on the corner of a small street on your right hand.

Private accommodation:
Finding an apartment in Toulouse need not be difficult. The trick is to be early, you will find scores of offers in August. By mid-September, you will have trouble finding something nice, thereafter you will need a lot of luck. To find private accommodation you can look for yourself or go to an agency. The latter will be easier but will cost at least a month of rent in fees and they may have special requirements for foreigners. The alternative is to go it alone, which means looking at lots of adverts and making appointments via the phone. You will find the adverts in the local papers for small adverts (e.g. 'Hebdo Toulouse', 'Le 31', and 'Publi Toulouse', you can get the latter two for free at rue Rivals, which runs off the Rue d'Alsace Lorraine just above Place du Capitole on your map) but these adverts are short an difficult because of the acronyms. Alternatively the CROUS, CRIJ and La Maison de l'Etudiant (14 rue Riquet, Tél 05 61 99 31 82, go to the Marengo metro station, from here it's easy to find, the rue Riquet runs off the Allées Jean Jaurès) have a lot of offers on display (depending on the month!). The CROUS private accommodation office is right opposite of the entrance across the plaza (open the big doors, it's on your left hand). With some luck you may be able to get someone (e.g. one of the students working there) to make the phone calls for you if you are not confident with your French (do bring a phone or phone-card because they are not allowed to use the office phone for that purpose…).
There are different types of apartments: a 'chambre' is a room (not necessary and not advisable), one level up is the 'studio' which is one room with inbuilt kitchen and will generally have a small bathroom. The T1 has one room and a separate kitchen and a bathroom, whereas the T1Bis has one room plus a room with an inbuilt kitchen and a bathroom, the T2 has two rooms and a kitchen and bathroom, T2Bis two rooms and a room with an inbuilt kitchen and bathroom, and so on. Apartments are let 'Vide' or 'Meuble', the latter meaning there is some basic furniture present; Cuisine Equipée means the kitchen will have hotplates and a fridge. You can try for a 'co-allocation', that is living with other people, but if you do not already have somebody to live with, it is not easy to find something. The CROUS has a little book with co-allocation offers and requests, but typically these amount to about 2% of the total number of apartments on offer at the CROUS.
Prices vary a lot and there need not be any correlation with quality, so make sure you have a thorough look. Then again, don't be afraid to make a quick decision if you find a nice one, competition is fierce!
Once you've found your dream apartment you will have to find a salaried local person, who will guarantee your contract. Perhaps someone in your university will be willing to do this for you. If you cannot find anyone, you have a problem. This may mean your landlord will require a bank guarantee for the entire contract period or that your range of possibilities is severely limited to people or institutions, who do not require a local guarantor. In addition, you will need a bank account (see below) to pay your rent with a cheque. Of course, for a bank account you will need an address and your university registration, for which you will need to pay by cheque (i.e. have a bank account). Official looking letters from you university will help a lot in getting around this ridiculous Catch-22.

Public accommodation:
The CROUS provides very cheap dormitories but only for students whose file is managed by the CROUS. This is the case if you receive some sort of grant from the French government or if your government has a special agreement with the French government to have the CROUS administer your grant. If you are not one of these lucky people, no worries, dormitories reputedly institutional shoeboxes, so you only want to live there if you really cannot afford something else.

Housing subsidy:
The French government will subsidise your rent if you do not earn a lot and if you rent is high enough (your parents cannot be the owners of the apartment either…). If your rent is below FF1500,- do not expect to get anything. The maximum subsidy (Allocation de Logement á caractère Social (ALS)) is about FF900,- for singles and FF1200,- for couples but it is a function of your rent, income and potentially the income of your parents. Also, you apartment needs to have a bathroom and heating and be over 9m2 for singles or 16m2 for couples. The subsidy will n ot be available for the first month and do not expect the money until at least three months after you submit your claim. For your claim go to:

Caisse D'Allocations Familiales
24 Rue Riquet
31046 Toulouse
Tél.: 05 61 99 77 00 (here you can calculate the subsidy you will receive)

Alternatively, go to the Espace Étudiant at Matabiau station.


Getting a bank account can be quite a challenge depending on the bank, the person behind the desk and the amount of documentation you bring with you. You will certainly need proof of identity, an address (they may accept a forwarding address but don't count on it), and proof of student status. If they ask for a carte de sejours tell them to get lost and find another bank (unless of course you already have one…). In any case, personalised letters from somebody willing to certify you live with them and formal letters from the university attesting your student status will be a great help. Expect to pay for bank services, although you may be able to find a free account for your student period.


When shopping for things to fill your new apartment with, three places are particularly useful. First, there is, of course, IKEA for new furniture at a reasonable price, with which most Europeans will be familiar. IKEA is to be found outside your reach unless you have a car (or manage to convince somebody to drive you…).
For smaller things, such as tools, cooking utensils, pots and pans, irons, ovens, bed-linen, posters, handicraft materials, etc. go to MIDICA, which is situated on Place Esquirol. Alternatively, one of the big supermarchés, such as Carrefour, will have many of these things as well (including TVs and plants, which are not sold at Midica). There is a Carrefour near the Purpan hospital, which is easily reached by public transport. Take bus 14 from Place Esquirol direction Purpan, get off at the hospital at the roundabout. Here, you continue in the same direction the bus had been going during the past 5 minutes and find the Carrefour at your right hand after a 5 minute walk. In between the Place du Capitole and Place Esquirol on Rue d'Alsace Lorraine, you can find a general department store called Monoprix, which also has a food section (and a toilet!).
Of course, an alternative is again to have a look at the adverts at the CRIJ and CROUS, where you will find almost anything that might be of use in filling you apartment on offer second-hand.
For sports related purchases (including bike-parts) try Decathlon on Boulevard de Strasbourg, is has a wide selection and is relatively cheap.
For subscriptions to magazines and newspapers find the OFUP (Office Universitaire de Presse, Tél: 02 40 99 25 25), which provides them for students at greatly reduced prices. The OFUP has a stand in the Arsenal building of UT1 during the registration time (September).

Toulouse-1: Université des Sciences Sociales:

Place Anatole France
31042 Toulouse
Tel : 05 61 63 35 00
Fax : 05 61 63 37 98


If you are doing post-graduate studies in economics make sure you see Aude Schloesing (Tél: 05 61 12 87 65) in her office MF14 (Manufacture des tabacs, wing F office 14). She speaks excellent English and knows anything you might wish to know about getting yourself installed in Toulouse.
If you are doing the Masters in Microeconomics of Institutions you will have to see Mrs. Tatarinov at AR357 (Arsenal building, room 357, which is on the third floor), she is the secretary of Prof. Le Pottier.


In order to register, you will have to get some hands on experience with the bureaucracy that characterises French educational institutions. The challenge is to fit all your not so standard foreign information into the standardised molds, which are the registration forms. These are, of course, in French, and to make things worse, for everything you write down, there is a corresponding code. These codes are essential and must be right, if not, you registration cannot be processed by the computer and you will have a long wait for your student card, if you get it at all… If you do the Masters in Microeconomics of Institutions, life is made considerably easier by visiting Mrs. Tatarinov, who is extremely helpful in getting you through the process. Otherwise, good luck, you will have to fill out your form and take it together with proof of identity to AR157 where you will find lots of student employees entering forms into computers.
Importantly, in order to get your registration processed, you will need proof of social security membership, or else you will need to pay for it. For the year 2001/2002 the amount stands at FF1120,- and membership means you get 60% of you health care costs refunded. If you are a member of the European Union and are insured at home, you can bring an E128 or E111 form or a certificate from you private insurance (in French) stating that you are indeed insured, in order to avoid this payment. If you are not yet insured, to get the other 40% of your health care costs refunded, you can purchase supplemental insurance from one of the student insurances (ME: Mutuelle des Etudiants), LMDE (Tel: 08 10 60 06 01, 97 rue Riquet) or SMESO (Tel: 08 03 80 32 33, 15 rue Riquet). Both have a stand downstairs at the Arsenal building and SMESO also has a stand at the Espace Étudiant). Unless you are taking the Masters in Microeonomics of Institutions (in which case you will pay your tuition to Mrs. Tatarinov), you will also have to pay your tuition at the time of your registration. For this you will need a cheque or a money order ('mandat-cash') to be purchased at the post office.


If you need internet access, downstairs in the Library, the BU at MH (Bibliotèque Universitaire at Manufacture des tabacs, wing H), there are four computers with internet access. Otherwise, there are network sockets but you need a password for these and apparently they do not work because of router problems (don't expect such things to be repaired without clearance from the huge bureaucracy that is the Arsenal building…). Note, the library staff generally speaks French.

Getting to know people:

The facilities and institutions for getting to know people in Toulouse are pretty poor. There is no institutionalised form of 'introductions', apparently because the universities are too large. This means you will have to show a lot of initiative. The French are reputedly difficult to acquaint, this is a stereotype and need not be the case at all. It is, however, essential that you speak a little French because when you are in a group of French people you can be sure there is at least one French person whose English is worse than your French (however bad it may be…), hence the conversation will be conducted in French. If there are French people, who do speak some English they will are likely to help you understand the conversation if you ask them to. If you want to meet the French, make great use of the fact you are a foreigner, it gives you an excuse to talk to them and by definition makes you more interesting (at least at first, after a while of course language barriers may kick in). They can be a little stiff at first (you will notice some differences between the Parisien and the Toulousain, ask them about it, this makes for fun conversation…), just keep talking for a bit and they'll warm up.
As for institutionalised meeting people, there are of course the 'Soirées', the French equivalent of a boozy student night in some random tavern, which might well end up in a pub-crawl. You will find most student associations organise a couple of these. Importantly, for international students (and French ones as well) there are Soirées frequented by the Erasmus students on Mondays at 'Chez Tonton' (Place St. Pierre) and Thursdays at 'Bar Adrian's (Place du Peyrou) from 9pm onwards with happy hour for the entire evening (on presentation of the association membership card).
Otherwise, the Pôle Universitaire Europeén de Toulouse organises an Introduction week for foreign students (08/10 to 13/10), featureing the aforementioned soirées, as well as city tours, a boat trip and a weekend trip to Cahors (reservations are necessary for the latter two, and be quick because they fill up fast). Throughout the year they also organise regular weekend trips of cultural and sporty nature (for details get the 'Le Petit Guide des Associations' at the Pôle).

Activities: What's on in Toulouse?


This short english guide to Toulouse was compiled by Jorim Schraven. This guide may be freely reproduced, provided that the source is accurately and appropriately referenced. For the newest version of this guide see

If you have any comments or suggestions please send m e @ j o r i m . n l an email