This summer, millions of people will visit France and Europe. To share photos and videos on social media, access apps, and communicate with friends and family, some will need to buy a local mobile plan. In this article, written by a French journalist, we present a selection of the best prepaid SIMs and eSIMs for the Olympic Games.

Who are we?

Numerama is a French media outlet specializing in society and technology. During the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, we are publishing several articles in English to help visitors better navigate Paris.

If you are coming to France for vacation or the Olympics Games, you will likely need to buy a local SIM card (or eSIM).

When you arrive in a new country, it can be challenging to identify the best and worst offers. Some companies take advantage of tourists’ naivety to oversell their SIM cards, which is why we decided to write this article. Numerama is a French media outlet specializing in technology, and we believe it’s our mission to help people access the internet at the right price.

Here is a selection of the best prepaid plans for tourists (without any subscription, of course):

Why you should avoid roaming

If your existing plan lets you connect to France for free, you don’t need to buy anything upon arrival. But if it involves roaming fees, you should definitely opt for a French plan. Your carrier will likely charge you by the megabyte, risking an exorbitant bill back home (a mail can cost more than $100 dollars…).

If you plan to visit other European countries after your stay in France, it’s good to know that a French plan will also work in other EU countries (and the UK). You won’t need to buy another SIM in Italy or Spain, and you can use both your original SIM and French SIM if your phone supports Dual SIM (don’t forget to disable « Data Roaming » in the settings).

Who are the mobile carriers in France?

In France, we have four big carriers, with their own competitive networks:

  • Orange is the historic telecom company in France, boasting the best network and the most customers. It’s also an official Olympics partner, with its 5G network powering every stadium and site of the Paris 2024 Games. It’s also the priciest option.
  • SFR is the second operator in France. After a few years of decline in network quality, it has significantly improved since the advent of 5G.
  • Bouygues Telecom offers a wide variety of plans. It belongs to the group that also owns TF1, the number one television network in France.
  • Free Mobile is the “cool kid” in France. Launched in 2012, it disrupted the market with low-cost, no-commitment packages. Its catalog is limited to three affordable offers.
opérateurs orange free mobile sfr bouygues telecom
The 4 big carriers of France. // Source : Frandroid

Can I buy an eSIM before coming to Paris?

Yes, you absolutely can. Orange, SFR and Bouygues allow tourists to purchase an eSIM online before coming to Paris (we’ll introduce you to their offers below), so you can connect to the Internet as soon as you turn off Airplane mode. Free is the only one that requires a visit to its store.

Some startups also offer French eSIMs, like Saily, Airalo, Ubigi or GoMoWorld.

Internet in 5G100 GB 60 GB60 GB140 GB300 GB
Phone and SMS in EuropeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Phone and SMS abroad120 minutes / 1000 SMS25 euros in credit120 minutes Unlimited in 100 countries
Expiration 28 days30 days30 days30 days1 month
Where to buy?– Orange stores
– Airports
– Train stations
– Olympics sites
– Press shops
– Internet
Bouygues stores
Press shops
– Relay stores
– Internet
SFR stores
Press shops
– Relay stores
– Internet
SFR stores
Press shops
– Relay stores
– Internet
Kiosks in Free Store (and some partners)
eSIM availability
eSIM online
Price49,99 euros41,90 euros34,99 euros24,99 euros29,99 euros

Orange: the best network in Paris and France (and the most expensive)

Orange plans for tourists aren’t cheap, but they might be affordable depending on where you’re coming from. In France, faced with competition from Free, Orange has been forced to lower its prices. Unfortunately, it continues to sell its packages for foreigners at a high price (by French standards), but with impeccable network quality. Additionally, Orange has the advantage of being the partner network for the Olympic Games.

Orange has 4 plans for tourists, but we can only recommend the premium one (the only one that works for 28 days). For 49,99 euros, it offers 100 GB of data in 4G/5G, unlimited calls and SMS in Europe, 120 minutes of calls and 1000 SMS anywhere in the world. In France, personal hotspot functionality is included with every plan, so you don’t have to worry about that.

Here is the best Orange plan for tourists. The data limit has been increased to 100GB for the Olympics.
Here is the best Orange plan for tourists. The data limit has been increased to 100GB for the Olympics. // Source : Numerama

Where to buy an Orange Holiday plan? Orange, as the Olympics official partner, will have visibility in airports, train stations and Olympics sites. It will also sell its SIM in its own Orange shops and in some press shops. You can also subscribe online if you want to download an eSIM.

Free Mobile: the cheapest and most generous plan

Free Mobile has taken an interesting decision: it does not market any specific offers for tourists. The youngest French carrier believes that anyone should be able to purchase its regular offer, which is very popular in France.

For 19,99 euros, it offers 300 GB of data and unlimited calls, SMS and Internet in more than 100 countries. It’s the most competitive plan in France, even though the network quality isn’t always the best. In Paris and other big cities, it should work fine.

Une borne Free Mobile. // Source : Free
A Free Mobile kiosk. // Source : Free

Where to buy a Free Mobile plan? Unfortunately, this offer has one major drawback: it isn’t available online. For security reasons, Free Mobile only sells subscriptions on its website, but you can’t subscribe if you are only staying for a few weeks. The solution is to visit a Free Store and use one of the touch-based kiosks. For €29.99 (€19.99 + a €10 fee for the SIM), you can generate a SIM or an eSIM. You pay with a credit card and can use your plan for a month, without any subscription.

SFR and Bouygues: the two alternatives for tourists

Our advice is as follows: choose the Orange offer (€49.99) if you want peace of mind and the best network, or go for the Free Mobile offer (€29.99) if you want a lot of internet and don’t mind visiting a store. These are the two most attractive plans in France for tourists.

Alternatively, we can also suggest some options from Bouygues and SFR:

  • For €41,90 (8 euros less than Orange), Bouygues Télécom offers 60 GB of Internet for 30 days plus €25 credit for international calls and texts.
  • For €34.99, SFR provides 60 GB of data and 120 minutes of international calls.
  • For €24.99, SFR also offers an interesting plan for those who use WhatsApp or FaceTime for calls and messaging. It includes 140 GB of internet and unlimited calls/texts in France.
Bouygues plan is called « My European e-SIM ».
Bouygues plan is called « My European e-SIM ». // Source : Numerama

Where to buy a Bouygues plan? Bouygues sells its tourist plans in its own stores and in some press shops (like the Relay network). You can also subscribe online if you want to download an eSIM.

Where to buy a SFR plan? SFR also sells its tourist plans in its own stores and in some press shops (like the Relay network). Like Orange and Bouygues, it also sells eSIMs directly on its website.

Source : Numerama

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