Your dream trip to France is finally here. You’ve gotten your airline tickets booked, your hotel sorted out, and made a list of all the fun places you want to visit in Paris. But don’t forget to take care of the little details — like your cell phone plan! Figuring out how to navigate SIM Cards in France can save you money and hassle.
Before you start dialing in France, remember that your phone plan from home can add up quickly when you make calls from overseas. In order to avoid a huge phone bill once you return to the States, we suggest buying a French SIM Card and using your phone like a local. Just make sure that you bring along an unlocked phone!
(A little confused? No worries, read this first: Buying a SIM Card in Europe: The cheapest way to use a smartphone)
Remember, when you buy a SIM Card from a French carrier, you’re actually buying a small chip that contains a French phone number. You’ll then insert that chip into your unlocked phone, and then buy credits to “top it off”, which will give you some combination of minutes for telephone calls, text messages, and data for internet on your phone.
Confusingly, the French telephone carriers all offer different deals when buying a SIM Card. Most will throw in some credits to sweeten the deal. Others, meanwhile, don’t offer SIM Cards for “pay as you go” use — they’ll only sell you a SIM Card when you sign on to a monthly plan (or “forfait”). Still others, like Orange and SFR (see below), offer affordable packages made just for tourists.
We’ve combed through the options and came up with four budget-friendly SIM Cards to help you save during your trip to France.
This article was updated in November 2021 with new information and prices.
The best SIM Cards for your trip to France
Cost: €40 (or <!––>$49.90 when bought in the U.S. before your trip)
Pros: Good deal. Reliable. Great coverage. The card can be purchased in advance.
Cons: The initial credit is only good for 14 days. (Top it off to use it for longer.)
Orange is the French equivalent of Verizon or AT&T. It’s the largest and oldest French telecommunication company in the country, and it has coverage extending to other European nations as well. Orange’s cellular coverage and internet 4G speed is unmatched because its coverage is so widespread in France.
For tourists, Orange offers a prepaid holiday SIM Card plan that costs €40/$49.90. This SIM Card gives you a French phone number and includes a credit for 120 minutes of international calls and 1,000 SMS texts (to anywhere in the world). Calls and texts within Europe are unlimited. Also, you get 20 GB of data that can be used anywhere in Europe.
Because Orange is an established company, you will find Orange stores all over Paris. If you ever run into problems with your SIM Card, you can always pop in to speak to someone — they speak English!
The only drawback? By default, the credits are only good for 14 days after your first use. To keep using your number, head to a newsstand or Orange store (“La Boutique”) and reload it to “top-up” the credits.
Pros: Two pass options are good for up to 30 days. These SIM Cards are easy to purchase from tobacco shops and newsstands.
Cons: Limited, if any, calls and texts outside of Europe depending on the package you purchase.
SFR, known as the Société française du radiotéléphone, is the second largest telecommunication provider in France. Much like Orange, SFR is a very well known and well-respected company.
SFR offers a few options for those who need SIM Cards in France. A basic mobile internet pass offers 5 GB of data, valid for 8 days, for just 10 euros. More practical options include a 5G-compatible SIM Card with unlimited calls in France and 95 GB of internet for 40 euros, or there is a “World Pass” with 200 minutes of calls to anywhere in the world (outside of France) and 4 GB of internet for 20 euros. Each of the latter two plans is valid for 30 days.
The SFR SIM Cards can be purchased in tobacco stores and “Relay” newsstands.
Pros: You can purchase this SIM Card in advance of your trip.
Cons: Only 10 minutes of calls and 2 GB of data are included.
LeFrenchMobile is an online-only prepaid SIM company. You can order your SIM Card through its website before you arrive in France, and the company will ship it for free to the U.S. in about 8 to 14 days.
The most popular service is data plans within France or within the European Union. For €17, you can get 2 GB of data and 10 minutes of calls to use within France. Or, you can get the EU version that costs €20 for 2 GB of data and 10 minutes of calls that you can use within the European Union. Both prepaid SIMs are valid for 90 days.
There are also two low-cost options, called Starter Kits, that include texts, not calls. The first includes 100 MB of data and 100 texts in France, and the other offers the same amount of data in texts within the European Union. The Starter Kits are valid for 90 days.
Cost: €20 for unlimited calls, texts and Internet.
Pros: Super cheap! Unlimited use. Great for long-term visitors.
Cons: There’s only one store in Paris, and you’ll need to cancel service when finished.
Free is a new player in French telecommunications, and it has shaken up the market with an impressive price: €20 a month for unlimited calls, text, and internet. The downside is that Free only has one office in Paris. As you can imagine, the wait to get a question answered can be at least one hour.
However, if you’re just getting the SIM Card, it takes about 10 minutes because Free has SIM card vending machines that you can order like a Twix bar at its sleek store (8 Rue de la Ville-l’Évêque, 75008 Paris). Free will send you a user identification number and password to your email, and you can pay for the SIM Card and service by just swiping your credit card in the “SIM-vending” machine.
Keep in mind that when you sign up for Free, you are technically signing up for a monthly subscription that you can cancel anytime with no fees or questions asked. Unless you’re staying in France or Europe for longer than a month, your bill should be €25 to €30 total; this includes €20 for the service and €10 for an activation fee. (Free usually has a €5 euro discount for new customers.)
This is the best deal while traveling in France and Europe. You get unlimited calling within France, the U.S. and Canada, plus unlimited data within France. You also get to enjoy 25 GB of data within Europe; this means you will still be connected if you’re traveling to other European countries during your vacation.
Keep in mind that you will ultimately have to return to the Free Paris store and request to cancel your service before you return back to the States. The agents will fill out a cancellation form for you. Then, you will have to take the form to a French post office and mail it to Free’s headquarters. The process is actually a lot easier than it sounds!
Another thing to keep in mind is that the levels of English vary within the Free office. Still, I’ve been there a couple of times, and I was able to cancel my mobile service with an agent who didn’t speak English just by showing him the English to French Google translation of “I’d like to cancel my mobile service” on my phone. Aside from having to wait one hour for my turn, the whole process took five minutes for him to fill out the cancellation form for me. (The post office is also self-explanatory. Just make sure you have an envelope with you because, for some reason, French post offices don’t have envelopes for sale.)
Now, you’re all set to cruise the Seine and bring along Auntie Jenny in California with FaceTime!
More on SIM cards in Europe
The subject of using your smartphone while traveling abroad can be a tricky one. You can read much more about it here:
• How to use a SIM card in Europe
• How to set up your American iPhone for a European vacation
• Tips to keep your iPhone safe in Paris
• The top SIM cards for your trip to Spain
• Germany: The best SIM cards for tourists
Have you used a SIM Card in Europe? Share your favorites and tips for saving while traveling with your smartphone.
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Source: Euro Cheapo