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How to get a mobile phone number and SIM card in France

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

Recently relocated to France, eh? With the help of our guidance, obtaining a mobile phone and SIM card in France will make it easier for you to stay in touch with your new friends and coworkers in France.

If you are an expatriate moving to France, you will be happy to learn that it is simple to maintain your connection to the outside world in your new home. The 4G service in France is quite reliable, and the country has a rapidly expanding number of providers. A good number of them provide excellent SIM card and mobile phone choices for tourists as well as long-term residents.

The increasing level of competition in the mobile industry in France has led to the development of a wide variety of mobile services that are priced affordable. However, since there are so many options, selecting the appropriate SIM card in France might be difficult.


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The mobile network in France

France, like most of the rest of Western Europe, has a mobile network that is of a high enough quality to make it easy for travelers and expats to connect. In contrast to other countries, France utilizes the GSM network rather than the CDMA network. In the broadest sense possible, newly arrived individuals shouldn't have any trouble connecting to the local network. Even if you are traveling from a nation that operates on the CDMA network, there is a good chance that your smartphone will still function properly in France.

Learn how to set up the television, internet, and phone in your French house here.

Despite its size, the overwhelming majority of France is covered by either 4G or 4G+ coverage. However, the connection might differ substantially depending on your French mobile provider; so, before you sign up for a plan, you should be sure to verify coverage in your neighborhood first. This is especially true in more rural regions, although you will still be able to receive 3G service in these locations. You'll have the ability to connect to local 5G networks in some of the biggest cities, such as Paris and Marseille, among others.

Wi-Fi connectivity in France

Although it is not generally accessible, public Wi-Fi may be found in some of the largest cities in France. These cities often offer Wi-Fi hotspots where users can connect. It's fairly uncommon for public buildings and organizations, such as libraries and museums, as well as various forms of public transportation, to provide free Wi-Fi access to visitors. Read our tutorial on how to set up a home phone, internet connection, and TV in France if you are interested in configuring Wi-Fi at your residence.

Is it possible to use my mobile phone in France?

The vast majority of tourists and long-term residents who come to France will have no trouble connecting their mobile phones to the GSM network that is used there. Those coming from countries that operate on the CDMA network, such as Japan, some regions of the United States, and Canada, are the only exceptions to this rule. Having said that, a significant number of contemporary cell phones will still connect upon arrival. Nevertheless, to prevent being dissatisfied, you should always verify with your operator in advance to determine charges and connection.

If you are unable to get your phone to connect to the French network, you may want to think about purchasing a low-cost, pre-paid mobile phone after you have arrived in France. These will be offered for a price of around 30 euros and will not include much more than the ability to make calls and send text messages. However, they may be an excellent choice for maintaining connections with others. You also have the option of purchasing a global mobile phone service in your home country before departing for France.

Those arriving from the EU or EEA should be allowed to use their phones at the same affordable rates they are used to back in their home countries, including the cost of data usage. This is due to the European Union's decision in 2017 to do away with roaming fees altogether. However, before you go to France, you should verify this information with your service provider to ensure that you won't be surprised by any additional fees.

If you want to reside in France for an extended time, or if you are relocating there permanently, it is highly recommended that you get a French SIM card or even a brand-new phone. Although purchasing a SIM card in France will be more cost-effective, you may need to visit a nearby phone store to get your handset unlocked. We are fortunate to have a wide selection of mobile phone service providers in France to pick from, each of which provides a variety of plans based on the amount of data used and the amount of money spent. Some companies, like SFR and Orange, may give you a discount on your mobile phone bill if you bundle it with your home phone, internet, or television service.

French mobile operators

The mobile industry in France is very competitive since there are a growing number of French cell phone firms operating in the market. This means that there are many options available for newcomers, with operators providing packages that provide a good value for the money spent. Due to this reason, it is in your best interest to shop. It is also a good idea to consider your other connections, such as the internet and television in your house, to see whether or not you may save money by consolidating the contracts for these services.

The following companies operate as mobile operators in France:

● Bouygues Télécom

● Free Mobile

● La Poste Mobile

● Lebara Mobile

● Lycamobile

● Orange

● Prixtel

● Réglo Mobile


Orange is the most popular and biggest mobile provider in France, with a market share of over 30% in terms of the number of users it has. SFR is the second-largest operator in France, with over 30% of the market share, surpassing both Bouygues Télécom and Free Mobile, who each hold approximately 15% of the market. When it comes to coverage, these four networks often do the best. Additionally, each one of them provides residential internet and television services, which may be bundled along with a mobile phone plan.

What are some good applications that you should download? Discover the answer with our rundown of the top French mobile applications.

In addition to these four primary operators, there are many more mobile service providers in France that are categorized as MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators). These service providers do not operate their networks; rather, they connect their customers via one of the four primary networks. In general, the coverage that these smaller providers provide in more remote locations may not be as good as it is in more populated places. On the other hand, they are often less expensive and offer an adequate service area in the main cities of France.

Comparing French mobile operators

You aren't sure which service provider to go with, are you? You should not be concerned since many websites will gladly assist you in making comparisons of different prices. When it comes to picking out an operator, these might provide you with a clearer picture of the choices available to you. Additionally, they may provide special discounts for new members. The following are examples of comparison sites in French:

● Edcom

● Je Change

● Que Choisir

The availability of mobile phone service in France

In general, mobile coverage (couverture, réseaux) in France is higher in the bigger cities, and an increasing number of these cities are beginning to provide 5G connections. In more remote places, coverage might be spotty at best, yet the connection is often more reliable than one would anticipate. Visit NPerf or Arcep before signing a contract if you want to verify whether or not coverage is offered in your immediate vicinity.

In general, bigger operators have greater coverage, particularly in more rural portions of the nation. This is especially true in the case of cellular service. However, the level of coverage provided by different carriers does not often vary much inside bigger cities and towns. This allows you more leeway to look around for a contract that meets your needs and is suitable for you.

Prepaid vs mobile contracts

When moving to France permanently, expats have the option of purchasing a prepaid SIM card or entering into a mobile phone contract. SIM cards that have been paid for in advance are often the fastest and simplest way to become connected. You will be able to access mobile data, make phone calls, and send and receive text messages using them. If you just need a French SIM card to get by or if you don't want to commit to a long-term contract, this is an excellent choice for you to consider.

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On the other hand, you could favor the peace of mind and cost-cutting benefits that come with signing up for a cellphone contract. In most cases, purchasing a subscription will result in lower costs for voice calls, text messages, and internet use, which is particularly beneficial if you make frequent use of your mobile device. If you want to remain in France for an extended time or if you are interested in a contract that includes the newest smartphone, this may be a suitable choice for you.

You are free to choose the mobile service provider of your choice in France provided that your phone is both unlocked and compatible with the French mobile network. On the other hand, sticking with the same firm might be advantageous if your prior operator has a physical presence in France.

Contracts for mobile phones in France

For the most part, mobile phone subscriptions in France (known as forfaits or abonnements) come with more affordable prices than prepaid SIM cards. A fixed allotment of voice minutes, text messages, and mobile data is often included in the terms of a contract. The tariff that you choose will determine the price that you pay. If you want to incorporate these mobile contracts in a bundle with your home phone, internet, and TV connections, you may be able to get them at an even more affordable price. These are offered by larger service providers, such as SFR and Orange, and are available for purchase.

In France, mobile service contracts may either be purchased as SIM-only plans or plans that include a device. Contracts are typically for a period of 12 or 24 months, and before you sign one, you should carefully examine any fine language that may be included. At the beginning of your service agreement, you will probably also be required to pay a one-time, low-cost activation fee. Direct debit, also known as prélevement automatique, is used to collect monthly payments; to sign up for the service, you will be required to give payment information.

Alternately, several vendors supply customers with rolling contracts (forfait sans engagement). These are mobile contracts that may be terminated at any moment, albeit they do automatically renew every month. When compared to fixed-term contracts, they tend to be more costly; nonetheless, they might be an excellent choice for those who want a greater degree of flexibility.

How to get a mobile phone contract in France

The process of signing a contract for a mobile phone in France is not particularly complicated. You have the option of doing it online, or you may sign up for it at a telecom store. The majority of the major telecommunications service providers in France have retail locations inside city centers. However, it is possible that the store employees do not know English; thus, you should be prepared to practice your French.

You will probably be required to submit the following information to register:

● Proof of identity

● Address in France

● French bank account for payment

Before you are allowed to sign your mobile phone contract in France, you will need to open a bank account there if you do not already have one there. Read through our guide on mobile banking in France if you want more information about how to get a mobile bank account in France in just a few minutes.

French SIM cards

In France, prepaid SIM cards are known as sim carte prépayée. These cards provide more flexibility than mobile phone contracts, although they are often more costly. This indicates that they are a suitable choice if you don't anticipate making extensive use of your phone or if you're just going to be there for a short time. It is important to shop and choose the mobile network that best suits both your needs and your use, which is why all of the main mobile carriers in France provide prepaid SIM cards.

SIM cards may be purchased from a wide variety of retailers, including establishments solely devoted to the sale of telecommunications products, grocery and department stores, and even vending machines in certain cases. In addition, it is possible to purchase French SIM cards online and have them sent to the location of your choice. If you make your purchase in person at the shop, you are required by law to provide a valid form of identification to complete the transaction.

In most cases, prepaid SIM cards will already have credit loaded onto them (referred to as "crédit d'appels inclus"). After that, further credit may be added by purchasing top-up cards from traditional or internet merchants. These may be purchased for a range of various rates, which commonly include €5, €10, €20, and so on. Certain prepaid SIM cards come with free data incorporated; thus, it is recommended that you search around for the SIM card that is most suitable for your needs.

You may also purchase foreign SIM cards in France, which allow you to make calls at prices that are more reasonable in a variety of other countries. If you want to keep in regular communication with friends and relatives in a specific nation or area while you are in France, this may be an excellent choice for you to consider.

French mobile phone numbers

In France, there are three distinct classifications for different kinds of telephone numbers: geographical numbers, mobile numbers, or other services. Each number consists of 10 digits, and they all begin with the digit 0. The first two digits of a phone number are used to determine which category the number belongs in. These categories are as follows:

● 01/02/03/04/05 – These are geographical numbers that are based on the place inside France that each area is in. For instance, Parisian phone numbers begin with 01 and then continue with eight more digits after that.

● 06/07 – These are phone numbers for mobile devices. As an example, the first digit of a mobile phone number can be the prefix "06," followed by eight further digits.

● 08/09 – These are non-geographic and special phone numbers, and they encompass both free phone numbers and other services.

You will need to provide France's international dialing code if you call a French phone number from a location that is not in France. You may reach us at 0033 or +33. After that, you take the cellphone number and remove the beginning 0. As an example, a mobile phone number may look like this: 0033 6 12 34 56 78.

You may be able to preserve your French phone number even if you switch your mobile phone service provider in France. Have a conversation with your new provider's operator to find out whether or not you may simply change your phone number.

French mobile phone laws

If you plan on using your mobile phone while you are in France, you must be familiar with the laws and rules that govern the country. The following is a list of some of the French laws that pertain to mobile phones:

If a driver is caught using a handheld phone while operating a motor vehicle, they will be subject to a fine as well as points on their license. The exception to this rule is if the driver has stopped the vehicle and pulled over into a designated parking place.

On campus, the use of cell phones by students aged 3 to 15 years old is strictly prohibited.



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