What is the best prepaid SIM card for data in France?
I'm going to travel to Paris in two weeks for 5 days. I'd like to buy a prepaid SIM card for my phone, no calls or SMS needed - only data is sufficient. I've looked through French mobile operators and found nothing really acceptable. For example, in Finland I bought SIM card for €5 with 3GB of data.
So, the question is - what is the best SIM card for me, assuming that 1GB is enough (considering the prices) and that I am actually will be able to use it (I've read that some operators turn on mobile data only after 5 days which is unacceptable for me considering that I'll be there for 5 days only)?
Forfaits Bloqués Sans Engagement
I am afraid France is a country where mobile internet is still very expensive. You could buy a standard prepaid SIM card and top it up with credit. You could then burn through this credit using internet data. Beware that rates are often somewhat expensive. SFR for example will charge you 0,50€/internet session, limited to 2MB (see the Mentions Légales on the SFR website).
There are, however, what are called forfaits bloqués which are monthly rolling plans, some of which are sans engagement i.e. contractless, in the sense that there is no minimum subscription period you must pay for before cancelling the contract. If you look at the main carriers in France, which are also the only ones with physical shops where you can purchase SIM cards, you will find a common pattern: to get meaningful amounts of internet credit on one of these forfaits sans engagement you will have to pay between 15€ and 30€. Here are examples from SFR, Orange and Free.
FYI I have never heard of carriers activating data 5 days after purchasing credit/SIM. As soon as your top-up goes through you can use the credit.
SFR Internet Prepaid Top-up
However, if all you need is internet (and not love, as the song suggests) SFR offers a internet-only prepaid top-up. With this you can get 1GB for 9€. The internet credit will expire after 7 days, which seems to fit the length of your trip. For more information see the SFR website and open the "Internet" tab (see the screenshot below):
There are also low-cost phone operators in France, such as Lebara. With the latter you can subscribe various internet-only prepaid rolling contract-free plans, ranging from 5€ for 500MB to 15€ for 3GB. See the Lebara Forfait Internet page for more details. Lebara SIM cards can be bought in various partnered shops across France.
Thank you! It seems to be the most reasonable options. Hope I'll manage to get one of the last two and that my zero knowledge of French won't be much of a problem.
(+1) Actually, France is kind of cheap when it comes to Internet access (mobile and otherwise) and telephone… for heavy users and residents. The thing is that prepaid offers are absolutely horrific and the best deals are either tied with home broadband contracts or only available through online virtual operators (including Lebara but even SFR and Orange have similar offers, RED and Sosh), which is all very bad for visitors. But if you want ADSL + unlimited calls at home and on the go + TV + 4+ GB mobile Internet, you will pay half of what the same service costs, e.g., in the Netherlands.
€9 (around £5, $7) for 1GB is *cheap* (it costs me £5 to get 500MB of data, so by contrast it's cheaper).
France is super cheap for residents and heavy users - I pay €10 a month for 100GB of data per month. The offers are often less attractive for tourists - the SIM card usually costs around €10 (and you have to order it online if you want a good deal), you have to wait until "sale" season (Christmas, August) to get the good deals, and with Free, you have to cancel the contract by registered mail.. That said, I've found this comparison page to be the most useful. Some of them may be useful, especially if using it for a month or more.