Mobile Cellular Telephones

Find out how to set up a mobile cell phone in France...

You have a few options when getting a mobile phone in France, a mobile phone with or without a contract, or a pay as you go mobile service. If you get a mobile subscriptions included in an Internet package, you may benefit from lower monthly costs. You will need a French phone number for many of the bureaucratic processes that you will go through when you move to France, so getting a cell phone will be a priority when you arrive.

In order to set up a mobile phone subscription you will need to provide

  • Contact information and your address (proof may be required)
  • Bank account details for direct debit - you will need a French bank account before you can sign up for Internet and mobile contracts

Mobile phones in France operate on a GSM network. Cell phones that are not GSM compatible may not work in France. If you are bringing your foreign phone to France, you may need to have it unlocked so that you can use it with a French SIM card. You can either do this in your home country before arriving in France or get it unblocked on arrival, for a fee. 

You can buy a mobile phone in France from large retail chains, or from your mobile provider. If you sign up for a plan, you can get discounted smartphones, or some of the cost of the phone is included in your monthly plan.

Mobile plans on a contract

Fixed contracts - or Forfaits avec engagement are mobile plans taken out for a minimum duration, usually 12 or 24 months, depending on the offer. The subscription can be blocked to only include a certain number of hours each month, it can be unblocked, or it can be unlimited. Many offers include free calls abroad and to mobile phones in certain countries. These offers generally include a new mobile phone at a reduced price. Bills are paid monthly by direct debit. The main mobile telephone providers have stores in most towns and cities, these are:
There are many other providers offering subscriptions and pre-paid packages. These include La Poste Mobile, Nrj Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Nordnet and Prixtel.

A useful resource for comparing mobile phone subscriptions is Edcom.

Mobile service without a contract

Forfait sans engagement is a mobile plan without a minimum duration. The mobile subscription is managed entirely online, and a new mobile phone at a reduced price is generally not included upon sign up. The main providers all have a ‘low-cost’ mobile plan including basic plans as well as complete offers that include unlimited phone calls, unlimited text messages, international calls and Internet:
  • SFR: Red
  • Orange: Sosh
  • Bouygues Telecom: B & You
A useful resource for comparing mobile phone plans is Edcom.

Prepaid offers

Prepaid offers, or pay as you go, (pré-payés) do not require a subscription. After buying the SIM card and prepaid credit, calls can be made immediately. The mobile may need to be unlocked in a specialist telephone shop as some phones are specific to one network. Credit is purchased either by buying a prepaid card, calling the number found on the back of the card and entering the card number, or buyers can purchase credit directly from cashiers at tobacconists and newsagents. The cashier provides a receipt that includes a phone number to call and a validation code. Prepaid cards are sold in many shops, supermarkets, tabacs and newsstands (presse).

Cancelling a Mobile phone plan

To cancel your French mobile phone plan, you can cancel by phone or by registered letter depending on the provider. If you don’t have a contract, it should be relatively easy with no penalties, if you have a forfait, cancellation fees may apply. If you are into the 13th month of your contract, these fees are reduced to a quarter of the original amount (under the Loi Chatel). If you are cancelling because you want to change providers, some French mobile phone companies will pay these fees for you as an incentive for you to sign with them, but this is probably on the condition that you sign up for a 24 month plan.

If you want to cancel the mobile phone contract and keep the same number you need to get the RIO number before you cancel it. This is the Relevé d’Identité Opérateur. Dial 3179 from your cell phone before cancelling and you will receive an RIO code, which you will need to give your new provider when signing up.