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What Type of Plan Should I Choose for My Mobile Phone in France?

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You've moved (or are planning to move) to France, and need a French phone number. But with all the choices available, it can be difficult to determine which type of mobile phone plan is right for you. This guide explains the various options available for mobile phone plans in France, so that you can decide on a plan that meets your needs.

different people with mobile phones

There is a wide variety of choice available for mobile phone plans in France

Mobile Phone Plans: your options

There are several different options to choose amongst when deciding on a phone plan in France, namely:

  • A prepaid plan (prépayé)
  • A postpaid phone plan (forfait): postpaid plans generally offer better rates and a wider range of additional services and options. If you've decided to go with a postpaid plan, you have two options
  • Blocked plans (forfait bloqué)

Prepaid Plans

Best for: people staying in France for three months or less, those with minimal communication needs

prepaid phone cards

Prepaid phone plans (cartes prépayées) are incredibly useful if you need to be able to communicate immediately after arriving in France: once you've bought a SIM card and some credit, you will have a working French phone number in a matter of minutes. Many French mobile providers, both big and small, offer prepaid mobile phone options, including Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, La Poste Mobile, and NRJ Mobile. You can find recharge credit (recharge) in most supermarkets, tabacconists (tabacs), or online. 

All prepaid recharge credit in France include some amounts of calling time and text messages, and some include a small amount of data. Some providers even offer unlimited calling time 24/7 (in France: appels illimités or appels illimités 24/24), and/or free calls to certain countries abroad. Make sure to check whether free calls are limited to your provider, or to all operators in France (tous opérateurs). The recharge validity period can also vary, from as little as three days to as long as six months. Some providers will send you a text message alert when you are low on credit. Since you "pay as you go" on a prepaid phone plan, you will not receive a bill (facture) from your mobile phone provider.

While a prepaid SIM card can be useful to get you started in France, if you are staying in for an extended period of time (three months or more) we recommend going with a postpaid plan, especially if you rely heavily on your phone for communication and use data regularly. Also, a phone is not included - you will have to already have a working phone (or buy one) before you can purchase a prepaid SIM card.

Contract-Free Plans

Best for: exchange students, people in France staying in France for a relatively short period of time, people with an unlocked phone that they can use in France

Plans without a contract (forfait sans engagement) are increasingly popular in France; almost all mobile phone providers, big and small, offer at least one sans engagement option. With these plans, the provider will send a SIM card that can be used with an already existing phone - meaning that you will need to have a phone already in order to sign up for a forfait sans engagement. A physical mobile phone does not come included in these plans, though Free Mobile does offer the possibility of renting a phone (usally with a 24 month commitment).

The main advantage of choosing a contract free plan is the freedom it offers: you can decide to end your plan and switch supplier at any time. What's more, with contract-free plans offered by low-cost providers, prices tend to be quite low, especially when combined with an internet plan.

Plans With a Contract

Best for: those who want to buy a new phone, and/or those who want additional services

The three biggest providers in France (Orange, SFR, and Bouygues Telecom) all offer plans with a contract (forfait avec engagement), which commit you to the same provider for a certain time period (12 or 24 months). Some providers and/or plans may charge an early cancellation fee if you end your contract before its finish date.

While plans with a contract require a certain amount of commitment, they do offer several advantages depending on your situation. They can be worthwhile if you are in need of a new phone, as prices through a plan with a contract are often lower than the price a new phone would cost alone in a shop. Plans with a contract can also come with additional advantages, such as more generous calling time and/or data allowances, and extras such as online subscriptions to newspapers, music channels, video games, television, and more. As contract-free plans tend to rely on online-only customer service, you may also find better quality customer service options through a contract plan with a larger provider that has physical boutiques.

Providers regularly offer seasonal discounts and special promotions on their phone plans, so don't hesitate to check our updated list of the current special promotions for phone deals in France every so often to get the deal that will best suit your needs and your budget.

Cancelling Your Mobile Phone Contract

phone contract

The "Chatel Law" (la loi Chatel)

The Chatel law makes it easier for consumers to cancel (résilier) mobile phone plans that last more than a year, requiring that contract cancellation fees (frais de résiliation) be reduced to 25% of their original amount if a plan is cancelled after one year (i.e. anytime after the 13th month of the plan).

Cancelling a Plan Without Penalty

Depending on your reason for ending your mobile phone plan, you may be able to leave your mobile phone contract without paying an early cancellation fee. Note that - this is France, after all - you will have to provide accompanying documentation (pièces justificatives) to prove your situation.

Reason for Cancelling Documentation Required (pièces justificatives)
Fired from an indefinite contract (CDI)  Your "attestation de licenciement" (letter confirming your being fired/layed off)
Debt/Bankruptcy A letter from the Bank of France accepting your declaration of bankruptcy and outlining a repayment schedule.
Moving out of the provider's service territory A copy of your new lease agreement or property ownership
Incarceration Incarceration certificate
Illness or handicap making mobile phone service impossible Medical certificate
Death Death certificate
Force majeure Copy of the tribunal's decision recognizing the force majeure

Learn how to cancel your mobile phone plan for free in our guide!

"Blocked" Plans

Best for: those with minimal communication requirements, parents wanting to purchase a phone for their children

Blocked plans (forfait bloqué) contain a limited amount of calling time, after which all communication is blocked, making it impossible to go over your limit. They can either come with or without a contract (avec ou sans engagement). These plans often include a data allowance, which is also blocked after reaching a certain threshold. Blocked plans can often be quite cheap, but don't often have huge allowances for calling time/data, making them ideal for people who don't use their phones very often (but still want to be reachable by phone), or for parents who want to limit their children's mobile phone usage.

French mobile phone providers that offer blocked plans include: Sosh (€4.99/month, contract-free), Orange (Mini 50Mb, 4.99€/month for 12 months then 9.99€/month), B&You (7.99€/month, contract-free), La Poste Mobile (6.99€/month, contract-free), Prixtel (2€/month, contract-free). Terms vary according to the provider, so make sure to check the latest offers on their websites.

Best Plans for Data

4G is presently available in the largest cities in France, and is rapidly developing across the country. The four major mobile phone providers (Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, and Free Mobile) - along with their low-cost offshoots (Sosh, Red by SFR, and B&You) - all offer 4G coverage as part of their mobile phone plans, though Free Mobile is slightly behind in terms of the availability of 4G coverage.

Check out our related article, How Much Data do You Need for Your French Mobile Phone Plan?

Best Plans in France for Calling Abroad

A number of French mobile operators offer free calls abroad within their plans. Some operators even offer "country passes" allowing you a certain amount of calling time and data for a fixed time period in many countries. Both the major mobile phone providers (Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, and Free) and many of the low cost operators offer free calls to many countries (some plans offer free calls to as many as 120 countries). Depending on the plan and provider, free calls may be limited to fixed lines only, but sometimes cell phone numbers are also included.

You can save money on your mobile phone plan by subscribing to a package offer (phone plan + Internet). Call our English-speaking customer service line at 09 77 55 72 27 (Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 7:30 pm) or ask for a free callback, to help you find a plan that meets your needs.

Glossary of Mobile Phone-Related Terms
French Phrase English Definition French Phrase English Definition
Forfait Mobile phone plan Prépayé Prepaid
Engagement Plan with a contract Sans engagement Plan with no contract
Forfait bloqué Blocked plan Recharge Recharge credit
Appels illimités Unlimited calling time 24/24 24/7
Tous opérateurs All operators Facture Bill
France métropolitaine Continental France Durée de validité Validity period
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