SIM Card France: the best prepaid and pay-as-you-go deals

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telecom in france

Find the French SIM card that's right for you

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telecom in france

Find the French SIM card that's right for you

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If you are staying in France as a tourist or for work purposes for at least a week, it is well worth getting a prepaid French SIM card to use in the country. Unlike postpaid mobile phone plans, these SIM cards are reserved for short stays. The major operators have recently launched a number of new prepaid cards specially designed for tourists. Find out everything you need to know about getting a prepaid SIM card in France in this guide.

Why Get a French SIM Card While Visiting France?

Getting a French phone number

A SIM card gives you a French telephone number. Having a French telephone number will allow you to make phone calls in France for relatively cheap, and several prepaid plans offer special rates for calling abroad. If you are from a non-European country, a SIM card allows you to enjoy your stay while staying connected to the internet.

What's more, if you are spending a bit of time in France, having a phone is useful for checking restaurant menus or downloading train tickets, booking a taxi or UBER, along with confirming reservations and appointments for instance.

Additionally, if you are moving to France, you may have noticed that a French telephone number is required in many bureaucratic processes. Buying a cheap, pay-as-you-go phone for your first month in France can be a helpful short cut to make any of these procedures easier to complete.

Is roaming free in Europe?

The European Union abolished roaming charges for European phone plans in 2017. If you have a French SIM card, you can use your mobile data at no extra cost in an EU country.  Keep in mind the amount of mobile data may be lower abroad. So check the terms of your contract.

For the United Kingdom, it is necessary to check your contract because the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union. However, the same rules often apply as in EU countries.

Here is the list of services charged at the national rate according to the conditions issued by the national operator:

  • Calls made to France but also calls made to any EEA country (including the country visited)
  • Calls received from France but also from any EEA country (in other words, these calls are free)
  • Texts sent to France and texts sent to any EEA country (including the country visited)
  • Use of mobile internet

However, this European legislation only applies to short stays. If you move abroad for a long period, you will need to take out a phone plan in your new country of residence.

Staying in France for over 3 months?If so, it's worth signing up for a postpaid mobile phone plan. In the long run, these are cheaper than pay-as-you-go and offer better allowances. 

 

How to Use a French Prepaid SIM Card?

Purchasing Prepaid Phone Credit in France

All you need to get started using a prepaid SIM card in France is your phone (which should be unlocked or otherwise able to be used in France), and a form of ID (your passport, for example). We recommend buying your prepaid SIM card from a larger electronics store or from a provider's boutique - you'll be more likely to find someone who speaks a bit of English than in a supermarket or a tobacconist's.

SIM card in France

All of the main mobile providers (except for Free Mobile) sell pay-as-you-go plans:

  • The easiest place to find recharge credit is in a tabac (tobacconist). Credit comes in specific amounts: 5€, 10€, 20€, etc. Make sure to ask for credit from the provider associated with your SIM card. Your credit may come in the form of a card or a receipt. Recharge credit cards usually have a scratch-off strip that has the code number for your credit. Receipts will have a lot of text on them, but look for the phone number to call (usually a three or four-digit number) and the long code number to enter for your credit (usually 10 digits).
  • To top up your credit, simply call the phone number (calling your provider to top up credit is free), and follow the instructions before entering your credit code. The instructions will be in French.
  • You can also purchase phone credit online on the website of your provider. This can be helpful if you are looking for a specific type of recharge credit (e.g. data, international calls)
  • To check your credit, simply call the free number provided to you by your mobile phone operator. Some providers will send you a text message to alert you when your credit runs low. The validity period for credit will vary depending on the provider and the amount of credit purchased, so make sure to check. Most providers will close the account after six months of inactivity, which is something to keep in mind if you are planning to reuse your SIM card at a later point and wish to keep the same phone number.

Have you heard of E-SIM cards? Most recent phones use e-SIM. This is a digital SIM card. Simply scan a QR code to install an e-SIM after purchasing a prepaid data plan.

Purchasing a Mobile Phone in France

Purchasing a mobile phone in France is easy. You have several options for purchasing a new phone to use in France:

  • Electronics shops: FNAC, Boulanger and Darty sell mobile phones
  • Mobile phone boutiques: Orange, SFR, Free and Bouygues Telecom have physical boutiques where you can buy a phone and credit
  • Post offices: La Poste Mobile sells phones and recharge credit in post offices throughout France

While prices can often be very reasonable, we don't recommend buying a phone from an online marketplace like LeBonCoin, as you often don't know the origin of the phone and have no guarantee that it will work correctly.

What you need to know to choose a Pay-as-you-go deal in France

While pay-as-you-go phones are a useful way of getting a phone number quickly, rates are often somewhat confusing to read and difficult to compare. Finding the answers to the following questions will help you get a better idea of which prepaid phone offer is best for you:

  • Cost of the SIM card: How much does the SIM card cost? Are any minutes already included (crédit d'appels inclus)?
  • Connection fees: Does the provider charge a fixed amount just to connect the call, or is billing per second (décompte à la seconde dès la 1ère seconde)?
  • Recharge fees: How much does it cost to recharge credit on the phone?
  • Credit validity: For how long can credit be inactive before it expires?
  • Cost of data: How much does it cost to use data?

What is the best French SIM Card for Tourists?

SFR Prepaid Offers

SFR has a wide range of prepaid cards for use in France and abroad. There's something for everyone. All give access to the 4G network and some of them to the 5G network. You first need to buy an SFR La carte KIT, which is valid for 30 days, and then you can buy top-ups.

The European Travel SIM offer is particularly interesting for tourists because of the 60GB internet allowance and the large number of destinations included.

OfferPriceServices included
Kits SFR La carte€9.99, €14.99, €19.99, €24.991GB à 140GB internet + unlimited calls and texts or 2h calls + 300 texts
Recharges illimitées (Unlimited top-ups)€9.99, €14.99, €19.9910GB to 140GB + unlimited calls and texts
Recharges Essentiel (Essential Top-ups)€4.991GB + 2h calls + 300 texts
Recharges Monde (World Top-ups)€4.99 et €14.99Call credit from France to the rest of the world + 0 or 10 GB of Internet
European Travel SIM€34.9960GB Internet + Unlimited calls in Europe/DOM, 120 min calls from Europe/DOM to 118 countries

Orange Prepaid Offers

Orange, France's No. 1 operator, sells prepaid SIM cards for occasional use in France or when travelling abroad. The Holiday range of prepaid cards has been specially designed for tourists.

OfferPriceServices included
La mobicarte Mini (Mini mobicarte)€2.99 (web exclusivity)Unlimited calls and texts from 9pm to midnight
La mobicarte Vacances Monde (World Holidays mobicarte)From €4.99 to €49.99Up to 10GB worldwide
Orange Holiday 1GB€4.991GB in France and in Europe 
Orange Holiday Zen€19.9912GB in France and in Europe +30min. call + 200 texts in France, Europe and worldwide
Orange Holiday Europe€39.9930GB in France and in Europe + unlimited calls and texts in Europe + 120 min. of calls and 1000 texts to the rest of the world
Orange Holiday 100GB€49,99100GB 5G + Unlimitd calls and texts in Europe for 28 days + 2 hours + 1000 texts to the rest of the world

Bouygues Prepaid Offers

Bouygues offers a wide range of prepaid cards.  Its advantage is that you can keep your mobile phone number for one year after the last top-up.
My European SIM prepaid card, available in 4 options, gives you a French mobile number so you can make calls, send texts and use the Internet while you're in France and Europe.

OfferPriceServices included
La Carte classique (Classic cards)From €5 to €40

 

From 13 min to 1:45 min + From 55 SMS to unlimited texts in mainland France + €0.30/MB
La carte International (International card)From €5 to €40From 15 min to 2:05 to mobiles in Cameroon and Senegal OR from 13min to 1:45min in mainland France OR from 1:23 to 11:06min to landlines in Algeria and Morocco +Unlimited SMS in mainland France + €0.30/MB
Cartes XL (XL cards)From €5 to €40From 500MB to 5GB valid for up to 2 months
My European SIMFrom €19,90 to €41.90From 15GB to 60GB, unlimited calls and texts (except for the 15GB offer).

La Poste Mobile Prepaid Offers

La Poste Mobile offers SIM cards in France and abroad, without subscription or contract, and uses the SFR network.

OfferPriceServices included
Carte SIM prépayée Classique (Classic prepaid SIM card)€9.90€10 call credit included
Recharges classiques (Classic top-ups)From €5 to €40

 

Unlimited calls and texts in mainland France + from 100MB to 4GB
Carte SIM Prépayée Internationale (International Prepaid SIM Card) €15 call credit included
Recharges International (International top-ups)From €5 to €30Unlimited calls and texts in mainland France + from 100MB to 4GBFrom 0 MB to 4GB

Lebara Mobile Prepaid Offers

Lebara Mobile is an MVNO operator relying on the Orange network. Its range of prepaid cards focuses on services abroad. While online-based (there are no physical Lebara stores in France), Lebara has an English-language website for France. You can also purchase Lebara SIM cards in many newsagents and supermarkets across France.  

OfferPriceServices included
Pass internet XS/S/M/L ou XLFrom €4.99 to €49.99€From 1 GB to 40GB from Europe and DOM
Pass International S/ML/L€9.99

 

30min of calls to 15 countries OR 40min of calls to 13 countries OR 120 min of calls to 16 countries 
Pass Voyage V1/V2/V3/V4/V5From €20/month to €25/month (no contract)From 17 to 58 countries,from 1GB to 5GB, from 20 min of calls to 13 destinations TO 30 min of calls to 17 destinations, from 20 texts to 13 destinations TO 30 texts to 58 destinations

Does Free have Prepaid Offers?

No, Free mobile does not sell prepaid cards. However, the €2 package, with no commitment and valid for one month, can be seen as the equivalent of a prepaid SIM card valid for 30 days, with 2 hours' calls and 50MB of data. There are no charges for cancelling the contract.

Travelling to Other Parts of Europe?Your French prepaid mobile phone will still work in most European countries, and you should be able to purchase credit with a partner provider to use on your French phone. Alternatively, if you are planning to travel for long periods of time across other countries, you may be better off investing in an international SIM card, as offered by companies such as Flexiroam.

Should I Choose a prepaid SIM card for a long stay?

Pay-as-you-go SIM vs French SIM only deals

wifi

If you are just visiting France, your best bet is to go with a prepaid phone plan. A pay-as-you-go SIM card is easy to set up, and you can find prepaid credit in tabacs and supermarkets throughout the country. Many providers offer prepaid credit with cheap calls abroad and/or data allowances, making a pay-as-you-go SIM card a practical and cost-effective means of communicating in Europe.

That being said, purchasing prepaid credit can be costly and time-consuming over the long run, and if you are staying in France for 3 months or more, you're probably better off getting a postpaid phone plan with a French SIM only mobile phone deal. Most operators offer at least one plan that is sans engagement (without a contract), meaning that you can end the plan at any time without penalty and with relatively little hassle. Rates are generally quite low, calling time and data allowances higher, and many providers offer free calls to international destinations. However, this option is only available to you if you have a French bank account, which is why it is only an option for people with medium to long stays in France.

Choosing a postpaid phone deal

If you are staying in France for over 3 months, it's worth signing up for a postpaid mobile phone plan. In the long run, these are cheaper than pay-as-you-go. Postpaid mobile phone plans offer much higher data allowances and sometimes free calls abroad. There is a wide variety of mobile plans to suit every need but you will need a French bank account to sign up for a postpaid phone deal.

Mobile offers available on 15/07/2024
Offer Included services Price
free
Forfait Série Free 160Go
Valid on 05/07/2024
  •  160 Go data 4G in France
  • Unlimited calls /SMS/MMS
  • 20 Go in EU/DOM
  • No contract
€10.99/mois for 12 months
Then €19.99/month
Subscribe online
bouygues
Série spéciale B&You 150 Go 5G
Valid on 12/07/2024
  •  150 Go data 5G in France
  • Unlimited calls /SMS/MMS
  • 35 Go in EU/DOM
  • No contract
€11.99/month
Subscribe online
bouygues
Série spéciale B&You 300 Go 5G
Valid on 12/07/2024
  •  300 Go data 5G in France
  • Unlimited calls /SMS/MMS
  • 35 Go in EU/DOM
  • No contract
€14.99/month
Subscribe online
sfr
Forfait SFR 20 Go 5G
Valid on 05/07/2024
  •  20 Go data 5G in France
  • Unlimited calls /SMS/MMS
  • 20 Go in EU/DOM
  • No contract
€15.99/month
📞 09 77 55 72 27 Free Callback
orange
Forfait Orange 100Go 5G
Discount until 21/08/2024
  •  100 Go data 5G in France
  • Unlimited calls /SMS/MMS
  • 100 Go in EU/DOM
  • English-speaking customer support
  • No contract
€16.99/mois for 6 months
Then €31.99/month
Subscribe online
orange
Forfait Orange 2h 20Go
Discount until 21/08/2024
  •  20 Go data 4G in France
  • 2h calls /SMS/MMS
  • 20 Go in EU/DOM
  • English-speaking customer support
  • No contract
€16.99/mois for 6 months
Then €19.99/month
Subscribe online
free
Forfait Free 300 Go 5G
Valid on 05/07/2024
  •  300 Go data 5G in France
  • Unlimited calls /SMS/MMS
  • 35 Go in EU/DOM
  • No contract
€19.99/month
Subscribe online
bouygues
Série spéciale 130Go 5G
Valid on 12/07/2024
  •  130 Go data 5G in France
  • Unlimited calls /SMS/MMS
  • 50 Go in EU/DOM
  • No contract
€19.99/month
📞 09 77 55 72 27 Free Callback
sfr
Forfait SFR 200 Go 5G
Valid on 05/07/2024
  •  200 Go data 5G in France
  • Unlimited calls /SMS/MMS
  • 100 Go in EU/DOM
  • No contract
€19.99/month
📞 09 77 55 72 27 Free Callback
orange
Forfait Orange 170Go 5G
Discount until 21/08/2024
  •  170 Go data 5G in France
  • Unlimited calls /SMS/MMS
  • 100 Go in EU/DOM
  • English-speaking customer support
  • No contract
€22.99/mois for 6 months
Then €34.99/month
Subscribe online

Alternatives to a Phone

You have a few options if you're not sure if you want to get a burner phone or a phone plan in France. Note that most of them require Internet access (find out where to find free Wifi in France), and are most practical if your stay in France is short term:

  • Smartphones/iPhones: you may be able to get by using Wifi hotspots and making calls via apps like Whatsapp and Facetime. Keep in mind that you will not be able to make free calls to landlines in France with this option. Make sure to turn off the roaming setting on your phone to avoid expensive roaming charges when you get back home. 
  • WhatsApp: if you have a reliable and frequent Internet connection, Whatsapp is cheap and can work well as a replacement for a French telephone number. 
  • International calling cards: you may be able to purchase an international calling card/plan from your home provider that will allow you a certain amount of calling time and/or data while in France. Make sure to check how to do this before you arrive in France
  • Rent a phone in France: some travel concierge services may allow you to rent a phone for the duration of your stay in France (rates may vary). Search "rent phone France" to find some of the companies that provide this service
Glossary of Telephone Phone-Related Terms
French PhraseEnglish DefinitionFrench PhraseEnglish Definition
DébloquerUnlock (when referring to a phone)Sans engagementPhone plan without a contract, meaning you can end it at any time without penalty
Carte SIMSIM cardPrépayéPrepaid (pay-as-you-go)
ForfaitPhone planSans engagementContract-free