Prepaid mobile internet in France
The market for prepaid mobile internet in France has improved considerably in recent times.
This is good news because if you’re cycling through France, at some point you’re likely going to find yourself needing to make a phone call or wanting to use the Internet. Don’t think for a second that if you have the latest Android or iPhone you have nothing to worry about. In France, you can't even rely on public WiFi router all that much.
The fact is, being able to use your phone in France can be expensive. Finding and obtaining the most cost-effective solution can also be time consuming. And don’t fall for the pick up a SIM card at the airport when you get there mindset. You could spend anywhere between 48 and 72 hours getting that card activated.
You’ll need your passport and possibly a French credit card or mailing address. Worse, in a lot of cases, the cheapest mobile data in France won’t even be available to you unless you have a French bank account or credit card.
If you want the cheapest mobile data in France and avoid a lot of hassle, you have to have a little foreknowledge about what you’re getting into.
Fortunately, there are now numerous options for travellers wanting prepaid mobile internet in France.
In addition to the network operators like Orange, there are now a range of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) who resell access to a core network through their own branding.
Quite a few of these MVNOs are targeting prepaid mobile internet for France, with a particular focus on travellers, so they have excellent English support via phone or email, English websites and English menus to make subscribing to data or call packs very easy.
The list of main companies offering prepaid mobile internet in France is:
- Vodafone SFR
- LeFrenchMobile (MVNO on Orange)
- Lebara (MVNO on Bouygues)
- E.LeClerk (MVNO on SFR)
- Free Mobile (MVNO on Orange, but building their own network).
- Let's Go Data Only SIM (sold by Orange)
On top of the MVNOs and network operators, there are a multitude of resellers as well as companies selling roaming SIMs offering cheap rates.
With the increase in operators, comes an increase in the number of offerings and plans including data-only plans, so it's difficult to say which company offers the best prepaid mobile internet in France.
It also depends on what you want:
- Calls and text
- Data only
- Calls text and data
- Roaming within the EU
- Really good coverage at the possible expense of price, or vice versa
- Whether you need a hotspot for multiple devices
Ideally, you'll want to get your SIM card before you travel, meaning you can arrive with the SIM loaded with some credit, and activated for use when you land.
The best way to do that is pre-purchasing via a reseller, like Mobipassport or Velonomad.
There are other resellers, but both myself (VeloNomad) and Mobipassport ship internationally.
Best Prepaid Mobile Data in France: A Conclusion
As I mentioned earlier, there isn't an outright best prepaid mobile product for France as it depends on what you need.
Your best bet is to have a look at what Mobipassport and VeloNomad can provide as we pretty much cover all the options from data-only SIMs to mixed data/call/sms packs to hot spots.
- Mobipassport: Lebara (Bouygues network)
- Velonomad: LeFrench Mobile (Orange network)
Photo Credit: blakespot via Compfight cc
More Reading on Overseas Prepaid Internet
You can see some of the other articles and other pages on this topic below.
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The easiest way to recharge an Orange SIM is purchase a 14 digit recharge code from a Tabac and send an SMS #124#14-digit-Code#send. Job done!
Hey Murray, thanks for the comment. You are dead right. I mention that in this Mobicarte Setup and Recharge Instructions article.
Hey all, New info about prepayed internet in france (Summer 2013). Mobipassport doesn’t exist anymore as descriped BUT Orange have something called ‘hollyday in a box’. Or something like that. It’s a package with a usb 3g accesspoint. It costs 56 € (And can be reused). You can recharge the device with 2GB data for 20 € in the store. This was enough for us. And it worked very well. We used it to se the TDF while we were driving around. So that Means that the datarate was ok. On the countryside/Mountains the covrage wasn’t that good.
Mobipassport certainly does still exist, but you are right the unlimited internet is no longer available as Orange has discontinued it on prepaid SIMs.
What has changed is Orange’s offering. I’ve highlighted that fact above
There are some newer offerings and work arounds, which I’ll be adding to this article when I get a chance!
Thanks for the info on the dongle too!
Tim, Excellent website! We live in Ireland but we have a boat on the French inland waterways. We will spend 6 weeks on the boat in May / June and another 6 weeks in September / October. I want a data only SIM for my iPad Pro.