Hindsight is 20/20: Choosing a cell phone plan in France

I have some good news for you guys! In France, cell phone plans are generally much cheaper than they are in the United States or Canada. Also, most companies offer an option of having a non-contractual plan.

The first thing you should do is to research different companies and their different plan options before you get to France.

The most popular cell phone companies in France are: Orange, SFR, Bouygues, Sosh (a part of Orange), and Free Mobile. In France, you can also get a cell plan through your bank or the post office. Yes, that is a thing here!

So, start looking at the different companies and start researching different plans. It’s fairly easy to do so as well. Each company has a list of their different plans available on their websites.

The second thing you to need to consider is if you want to get cable/internet with the same company as your cell provider. If that’s the case, the companies that offer packages are Free Mobile, Orange, Bouygues, and SFR, as far as I know.

Not sure if you should invest in internet/cable with a cell phone company? To answer this question, follow these steps:

  • Check to see if where you are living already has internet set up. For example, I lived in a foyer, which I talk about here, and the internet was already set up there. I just had to create an account and pay a monthly fee. Everything was done online: creating the account, managing the account, paying the monthly fee (which came directly out of my bank account), and closing the account. All with a few clicks of a few buttons. It was super easy. Many times, if you live on the school grounds of one of the schools with which you work, then many times they already have internet set up.
  • Make sure if you know if you really really need cable or if it is just going to be a luxury. I did not have cable. In fact, I did not have a tv in my apartment. However, I do have Netflix. So, maybe to save a few euros it’s better to invest in Netflix. (Also, the cool thing about Netflix is that each country has their own set of available films and series. So, if you travel and watch Netflix in various countries, you can have different options).
  • What are you looking for in a cell phone plan? If you are comfortable not having internet 24/7, then I suggest getting a cell phone plan that has a large amount of data included. However, if you are like me and you use Skype, Facebook, blogging, and emails to constantly be in touch with people as well as needing internet connection to do lesson plans, then I suggest investing in a dual cell phone/internet plan (if you where you live doesn’t already have internet set up). Though having internet is a personal choice, not having it can limit your lesson planning only to when you have time at the school in which you work. It also makes it harder to stay in contact with people as well as keeping up with a blog, if you have one.

The third thing you need to do is to choose a company/plan and figure out how to go about setting it up. For example, I chose to invest in a plan with Free mobile, because they have a cell plan that is

  • unlimited text and call in France with both cell phones and home phones
  • unlimited call to cell phones in the United States, Canada, China, and DOM
  • unlimited call to home phones in over 100 other destinations
  • unlimited MMS in France
  • unlimited text within the Euro Zone
  • 50 gigabytes of data if your phone is 4G capable or 3 gigabytes of data if your phone has 3G
  • Plan extended to countries in the European Union, the United States, Canada, Israel, and les DOM for 35 days out of the year – This means that you can use your cell phone plan in, for example, Spain or England without getting charged roaming fees for 35 days out of the year for each country. Your exact plan that is, everything that is included in it. Also, that means 35 days for Spain, 35 days for England, 35 days for Germany, etc. etc. It’s pretty fantastic.
  • Plus, you don’t have to sign a contract. You need to ask for un forfait sans engagement.
  • Also, this plan that I’m talking about is only 19.99€ a month! For all that is included, that is extremely cheap compared to the United States.
  • They also have a 2€ option: 2 hours of calls in France, with cell phones in the United States, Canada, China, les DOM, and home phones with over 100 other destinations; unlimited SMS and MMS in France; 50 megabytes of data

Now, there are some downsides of Free mobile to note. When Free mobile first started out, you could only sign up with a plan online and then have your sim card sent to you. Though they have stores now, they still require you to have a few things, such as:

  • a French address
  • a credit card with a chip in it – Now, they will say it has to be a French bank account card, but this is a lie. As long as your credit card has a chip in it, you should be able to use it. They don’t take cash, and the way they set up your plan is through a computerized machine in the store, not through a register or a standard computer. My American credit card doesn’t have a chip in it, so I couldn’t open an account with Free right away. Also, sometimes, even if your American credit card does have a chip, if you don’t have a PIN for it, then you most likely can’t use it, because normally you would have to sign for it. With the machines, you can’t sign for it, so that would create a problem.
  • an email address – This is how you will be billed. Everything is electronic. Your monthly bill will come directly to your email. Your payment will come directly out of your bank account.

So, what do you do if you want to get a plan with Free mobile but you don’t yet have a French address or a French bank account?

What I did was get a temporary sim card with pay as you go minute/text cards with Orange the very first day that I arrived in France. This way, I had a way of contacting people, such as my référent, once I arrived in France as well as had a way for other people to contact me. I paid for minute cards until I had an address and my French bank card. Unfortunately, that means that I had to pay the equivalent of basically one’s month of service with Orange and then another month of service with Free. Moving to another country is never easy.

Because I didn’t receive my French bank card for about two weeks after I opened my bank account, I had to give my Orange number to the place where I lived, the schools in which I worked, the OFII office, the bank, etc. etc. because I didn’t have any other number yet. At first, I was a little stressed that I would have to change the number with everything once I switched over to Free, however, thankfully I didn’t have to do that.

Free allows you to keep your number. All you simply have to do is to tell them  you’d like to keep your number when you go in to open an account. In order to do this you have to access your PAC code by calling a specific number. Usually they will do this for you at the Free mobile store. Then, you will have a different number for 5 days once you get your sim card before it switches back to your old number.

This is what I did, and even though it was strange to have a different number for only 5 days, I didn’t have any problems with it switching over.

Now, if you are unsure if you want to choose Free mobile for your cell phone plan, do your research. You have many options. However, I suggest that you invest in a plan..

  • that doesn’t require a contract so that you won’t be penalized when you close your account at the end of your contract
  • allows you access in other countries, because I cannot emphasize how much of a blessing it was to have my cell phone plan while I was traveling without having to pay extra. It saved me a few times from being lost because I could use my GPS without fear of paying high prices.
  • with unlimited text and call in France – just because it’s 2016 and it’s ridiculous not to have at least unlimited texts. It’s quite the luxury to be able to call the US for times when my American credit card was blocked and I had to call to unblock it. However, it can be dealt without, if you don’t want to pay the extra money. Many online services allow you to call another country either for free or rather cheap, such as Skype or Google.

Choosing your cell phone plan is up to your personal wants and needs, so do your research and choose according to you. Just make sure you do it before you get to France, so you know what to do the first day that you arrive.

Good luck!



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