If you’re visiting France from a non-EU country, including the UK post-Brexit, there’s a good chance that your mobile phone will be subject to data roaming charges, and with excellent 3G / 4G / 5G mobile network coverage throughout the country, it’s easy to run up a sizeable bill even during a short trip. Here are three ways to keep costs down.
1. Take out a pre-paid roaming deal
Several phone companies offer EU roaming packages for travellers, so take the time to research your options and sign up for a pre-paid deal before your trip. In the UK, Three has a Go Roam plan that offers both pay-as-you-go and monthly payment plans for regular travellers, while Vodaphone has monthly plans and European Roaming Passes available for £1 a day.
In the US, T-Mobile offers an International Pass for $5 a day, AT&T has roaming plans from $10 a day, and Verizon offers a TravelPass at $10 a day or monthly international travel plans.
Some UK companies (including O2, BT Mobile, and Virgin Mobile) also still allow inclusive roaming in the EU without additional roaming charges, but be sure to check the conditions of your phone contract prior to travel.
2. Buy a pre-paid SIM card
If you’re spending a long vacation in France or travel regularly, buying a pre-paid SIM card might be a more cost-effective option. A number of French phone companies offer these for travellers, and they can be bought in-store on arrival or sometimes ordered online prior to travel.
Popular options include the Orange Holiday SIM, which costs €39.99 and provides unlimited calls and texts within the EU, limited international calls and texts, and 30Gb of data; the Bouygues Telecom My European SIM at €39.90, which offers unlimited calls and texts, plus 20Gb of data; and the SFR La Carte SIM, which starts from €9.99 for 30 days and offers a variety of data packages.
Bring your passport along with you when you go to purchase a SIM – you will need ID to sign up.
3. Turn roaming off
The final option to avoid pricey roaming fees when travelling in France is simply to turn data roaming off on your phone before you arrive in France. If you’re travelling by Eurotunnel or ferry from the UK, be sure to do this before you set off – offshore mobile telephone networks cover the English Channel, and roaming charges may start mounting up as soon as you leave the mainland.
The good news is that turning roaming off doesn’t mean you won’t have internet access while in France – there are still plenty of ways to benefit from free wi-fi. Many shopping malls, restaurants, tourist offices, and public services provide free wi-fi, and you’ll find free wi-fi at airports, train stations, and on long-distance trains throughout the country. Most French cities also have free wi-fi hotspots – check out this map to locate your nearest one.
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