Prepaid SIM in France

I had a pretty frustrating experience trying to get prepaid SIM for mobile internet in Paris, so I thought it might be good to share my experience and some tips over here. During my holiday in Paris, I've tried using Orange mobicarte (prepaid SIM) at first and got so frustrated with the activation process. Eventually, I ended up with Virgin Mobile. So, I shall focus my blog post on these 2 prepaid SIM providers in France.



In short, choosing Orange's mobicarte offering turned out to be a nightmare. I bought my mobicarte in a convenience store and the starter pack costs €15.90. I also bought a recharge voucher for €10 and it comes with €2 bonus value. The guy was pretty busy and told me to call 224 for assistance. When I had the chance to call the hotline, I realised the automated system is only available in French and my very limited knowledge of the language got me nowhere. I've also tried deciphering what the instruction manuals say. I even attempted to guess my way through the SIM Toolkit application and didn't have any luck trying to adding value to my prepaid SIM or subscribing to a internet data plan.

Later in the day, I managed to get help from my tour guide and found out that I had to go to an Orange shop to activate my mobicarte. On the next day, I went to an Orange shop and had to register/activate my mobicarte by showing my passport to the counter lady. I was told that it would take about 1 day in order for my mobicarte to be activated and was led to believe I would be able to add value to my mobicarte using my recharge voucher.

To my horrors, I found out that I am still unable to add value to my mobicarte on the next day. On day 4, I decided to visit yet another Orange shop to enquire. This time round, I'm told that I need to mail in a form together with a photocopy of my passport so that my mobicarte can be activated and be able to add value to it using recharge vouchers. The next annoying issue is that this registration process cannot be done in-store and I had to fill in the form myself and mail it via the local post.

In my mind, I was thinking this would probably take another few days and I'm getting extremely annoyed already. So, I went to Forum des Halles to look for an alternative prepaid SIM provider. After looking around, I found out my other options are Virgin Mobile and SFR. I found Virgin Mobile to be less confusing and decided to go for it. The salesgirl spoke limited English but I figured I need to pay €10 for the starter pack which comes with €5 value. There is also free data which comes with recharge packages starting from €10. It seems that it doesn't come cheap compared to what I read online about Orange. But after 3.5 days of frustration, I just needed something that is hassle-free and works.


Here's a summary of what is available in Virgin Mobile's offering:
  •  €10 starter pack with €5 value.
  • Activate on the spot. Ask for help to configure, recharge and select data plan.
  • The instructions booklet has some pages in English, though not a comprehensive manual.
  • Default SIM lock PIN is 0000.
  • APN is "virgin-mobile.fr".
  • Dial *144# or 221 to check credit balance.
  • Dial 225 to receive an SMS if you wish to find out what your phone number is.
  • When purchasing recharge voucher, get help to do the recharge and make sure it's for "Very Much" plan.
  • €10 recharge has the option of 1h talktime or 1000 SMS or 100MB data free for 15 days.
  • €20 recharge has the option of 2h talktime or 2000 SMS or 300MB data free for 30 days.
  • €30 recharge has the option of 3h talktime or 3000 SMS or 500MB data free for 45 days.
  • €50 recharge has the option of 5h talktime or 5000 SMS or 1GB data free for 60 days.
  • For all the recharge options, you need to dial a number to access the mobicarte menu and choose which free package (either talktime or SMS or internet) you want. I can't remember if it's *144#, but it's better to ask for help.
  • More info available here, but only in French.

Related Guide: http://prepaidwithdata.wikia.com/wiki/France

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