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Where to buy the best prepaid SIM card in France
Reduce your roaming bills by using a local SIM.
France is one of Europe’s top tourist destinations and has some wonderful places to visit. Although it can be an expensive country, there are some great SIM card deals that could reduce your phone bills while traveling abroad. You can buy 1GB of data from France’s leading telco provider for a reasonable price. So, whether you’re planning a short holiday, a long trip or a tour around Europe, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com
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Telco providers in France
There are four main operators in France: Orange, SFR, Bouygues Télécom and Free Mobile. All four operators have been tried and tested by both locals and travelers, and they can be trusted, so you won’t go wrong with our picks. All four have some great deals available and we have highlighted them below. Locals call their SIM Cards “SIMs” or “Cartes”, and they can be purchased by using identification, passports and sometimes SIM registration. Credit can be purchased from official stores, supermarkets and most airports. Top-ups can also be done online through official websites.
France’s network coverage
France’s operators offer great network coverage, providing good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE wireless services. Roaming rates are among the best in the world, and all four operators sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of lots of offers and deals. According to OpenSignal, France has great coverage all over the country. Below, we have broken down all the telco providers, to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your visit to France.
Orange is France’s market leader with the best coverage and the largest number of customers. Orange offers good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. The “Mobicarte” voice and data prepaid SIM card is the biggest seller in the country and offers some great prepaid deals. SIM cards can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or at supermarkets for EUR3.90, which comes with EUR5 worth of credit. Passports or ID cards must be shown to purchase the prepaid SIM card. Official Orange stores can become extremely crowded, so try and set the SIM card up yourself to avoid the stress and hassle of having to line up for an hour or so. The prompts are in French so make sure you have Google Translate downloaded onto your phone if you don’t know the language.
Credit recharge vouchers called “Les recharges classiques” can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers, tabac shops, newsagents, supermarkets, or grocery stores. Dial #123# to add credit. Select the “recharger” option and enter the 14-digit credit code.
The standard default data rate is very expensive at EUR0.50 per MB. Make sure you select a SIM package that has data include or buy a data add-on to keep the costs down. The following data packs are available:
|EUR5||20MB||Valid for 7 days (includes 2 hours of free calls + SMS 24 hours a day)|
|EUR10||500MB||Valid for 10 days (includes Unlimited calls, SMS and MMS 24 hours a day)|
|EUR20||2GB||Valid for 1 month (includes Unlimited calls, SMS and MMS 24 hours a day)|
|EUR30||10GB||Valid for 1 month (includes Unlimited calls, SMS and MMS 24 hours a day)|
The following “Les recharges internet mobile” top-ups are also available:
|EUR5||300MB||Valid for 7 days|
|EUR10||1GB||Valid for 14 days|
|EUR25||10GB||Valid for one calendar month|
The Orange Holiday SIM card is a good option for tourists. It can be purchased for EUR20 and includes:
- 1h calls + 500 SMS from anywhere in Europe to anywhere in the world
- 5GB data within Europe (all EU/EEA countries)
- Valid for 14 days
Orange also offers a data-only SIM card called “Pochette prêt à surfer” for use in tablets, USB dongles or any kind of modem. Orange prohibits its use in a phone. SIM cards can be purchased for EUR14.90, which includes 2GB data valid for one month.
The following data packs can also be added:
|EUR10||1GB data||Valid for 14 days|
|EUR25||3GB data||Valid for 31 days|
|EUR40||5GB data||Valid for 6 months|
Orange also sells its own 4G Wi-Fi hotspot called “Coffret prêt à surfer”. This deal can be purchased for EUR59.90, which includes the 4G device and 3GB data valid for a month. Recharge with “prêt à surfer” credit vouchers.
Orange’s APN: orange, and website: http://www.orange.fr/
SFR is the second largest provider in the country and Orange’s biggest competitor. SFR offers good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. The “la carte” prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or at supermarkets for EUR3.99, which comes with EUR5 worth of credit (another EUR5 bonus will be given for showing proof of ID). Passports or ID cards must be shown to purchase the prepaid SIM card. Look out for the “Carte Connect” package which comes with 2GB data and EUR5 credit for EUR14.99. Credit can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or most supermarkets and tobacconists. Send the 10-digit recharge code in an SMS message to 952 to activate the credit amount.
The following “Recharges Ilimitées” packs can also be purchased to maximize your credit amount:
|EUR5||1 hour domestic voice||20MB data||Valid for 7 days|
|EUR10.99||Unlimited domestic voice||500MB data||Valid for 10 days|
|EUR20.99||Unlimited domestic voice||1GB data||Valid for 30 days|
|EUR30||Unlimited domestic voice||4GB data||Valid for 30 days|
The following data-only packs are also available:
|EUR5||300MB||Valid for 5 days|
|EUR10||1GB||Valid for 10 days|
|EUR35||8GB||Valid for 30 days|
Data will be cut off when the limit is reached.
SFR also offers a tourist SIM card called “Welcome Carte”. It can’t be purchased from official stores, just from selected supermarkets, tobacconists and Relay stores for EUR34.99, and it comes with the following:
- 1 hour of voice in France, Europe, US and China
- 500SMS to France, Europe, US and China
- 2GB of domestic data
- Unlimited SFR Wi-Fi
- Valid for 14 days
EUR20 add-ons can also be purchased which include: 1 hour of calls, 500SMS and 2GB of data, valid for 14 days.
SFR’s APN: websfr, and website: http://www.sfr.fr
Bouygues Télécom is the third largest operator in France and offers some excellent deals, including good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Its “Card XL” prepaid SIM card can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or at supermarkets. Passports or ID cards must be shown to purchase prepaid SIM cards. Credit can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or most supermarkets and convenience stores.
The “Card XL” prepaid SIM card can be purchased for EUR10, which includes EUR4 credit for calls. The standard default rate for the Internet is charged at EUR0.30 per MB. The following data packs can be added to cut costs:
- EUR5 Unlimited domestic text and voice, 500MB data and EUR3 for international calls – valid for 3 days
- EUR10 Unlimited domestic text and voice, 1GB data and EUR5 for International calls – valid for 10 days
- EUR20 Unlimited domestic text and voice, 2GB data and EUR10 for international calls – valid for 30 days
- EUR40 Unlimited domestic text and voice, 5GB data and EUR25 for international calls – valid for 2 months
- Credit can be purchased online, by calling 630 or by purchasing vouchers.
Bouygues Télécom’s APN: mmsbouygtel.com, and website:http://www.bouyguestelecom.fr
Free Mobile is the smallest provider in France but the most popular with the younger audience. It offers very low prices and good deals targeted at the young social media crowd. It also provides good call and data deals, and often have promotions on offer, so shop around. Free Mobile has good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Its prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or at supermarkets. Passports or ID cards must be shown to purchase prepaid SIM cards. Credit can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or most supermarkets and convenience stores.
Free Mobile offers two SIM card options, which can be used either on a contract or in prepaid format. The following prepaid SIM card options are available for tourists:
- 2 hours of calls in France, and deals on European and international calls. Check current list of partnering countries when you are in a store
- Unlimited SMS and MMS in France
- 50MB of data
- Automatic connection to “Freewifi Secure” Wi-Fi hotspots
- Unlimited calls to France, and deals on European and international calls. Check current list of partnering countries when you are in a store
- Unlimited SMS and MMS in France
- Up to 100GB of data
- Automatic connection to “Freewifi Secure” Wi-Fi hotspots
Free Mobile’s APN: free, and website in French:http://mobile.free.fr/
Some top tips from finder.com staff:
- If you don’t know the French language, you may want to download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. Many French people also speak English, especially in the cities.
- Locals call a SIM card a “Carte” or “SIM”.
- Ask the sellers to set up the SIM for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to seek advice.
- Remember, arrive at the store before it gets too busy. That way you are more likely to receive better service and avoid the crowds!
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through the SIM cards that have been tried and tested in France.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
“The easiest solution, but not necessarily the cheapest, is to go to an Orange shop and purchase a SIM card. You will need an UNLOCKED GSM phone. Bring your passport as it is needed for registration. You will get your own French number, and it will be free to receive calls and texts.”
“Cheapest and best do not normally go together. Orange has the best network, but it’s not necessarily cheap, although they have some interesting deals for tourists. I prefer to pay more and have reliable service.”
“I prefer to pay a few extra euro to go with the most reputable operator. When I turn on my phone, Orange is always there.”
Pros and cons of France’s top telco providers
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible international phone. To double check you have this phone, contact your provider before you leave.
- Good value for money
- France has good coverage
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in-store
- EU roaming options on all networks
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- ID is required to use the SIM cards
Another question about finding the best SIM?
What about other SIM card providers in France?
There are several smaller carries providing SIM cards in France, including La Poste Mobile, LeFrenchMobile, Lycamobile, Réglo Mobile, Syma Mobile and Lebara Mobile. These are all run through the base providers we have highlighted above. Although you may find slightly different deals and plans, we feel it’s always best to stick with the main providers. However, if you do find a better deal on one of these operators, they can be trusted.
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