An American in Paris -- data plans in France

Discussion in 'iPad' started by JonboyDC, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. JonboyDC macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2004
    I'm just finishing a 12-day trip in France, and thought I'd share the results of my efforts to get a non-roaming data plan on my iPad.

    1) Go to an SFR store when you arrive and purchase the €9.99 Pret a Surfer iPad 3G+ kit. It gives you a microsim and three days of data service. You'll need an ID (my US drivers license worked fine) and a French address (my hotel address in Paris worked.)

    2) After you check out, but before you leave, insert the new sim. You will then need to activate through iTunes. They were able to do this for me at the store.

    3) In Settings, go to Cellular Data, select APN Settings, and enter "websfr" in the space for APN (without the quotation marks).

    4) Turn the iPad off and on. You should now have data. Don't leave the store until it works -- I had to come back three times to get all of this info and make it work. If it doesn't work for you, make the salespeople call tech support for you.

    After the first three days, it will cost €6 per day. But you enter a code at the beginning of each 24-hour period for which you want data coverage, so you can take on the cost only for the days you need it, and in particular on those days you don't have wifi. (A subscription would be cheaper, but it requires a French ID and French bank account.) Here's how to do it:

    1) Buy a Passe Journee for each 24-hour period you think you'll need it at an SFR store. (If you buy too many, no worries -- they're good for two years.) For each pass, you will get a receipt with a code on it. The only way I found to get a pass was in a store -- didn't see a way to do it online.

    2) When you need another 24 hours of data, go to Settings, select Cellular Data, select SIM applications, select Solde/Recharge, select Rechgt Coupon, and select Par Texto. Enter the code from the receipt, and hit the send button. It will send in the code. Then turn the iPad off and on. You now have 24 hours of data. (The receipt also gives a number you can call to activate the code, but I never got it to work.)

    The biggest hassle of using the iPad here is that the auto-correct gets screwed up -- in many apps, it thinks you are typing French, even though the language is set to English.
  2. K4LK macrumors 6502


    Jun 18, 2009
    Thanks. I'll be traveling to Avord (central France) on business and Paris on pleasure next month.
  3. Mactagonist macrumors 65816

    Feb 5, 2008
    NYC - Manhattan
    Does SFR offer a similar plan with a standard miniSIM? I will be in paris for a few days next month and I would like to use my Nexus One for data when out and as a hotspot for my wifi iPad in the hotel.
  4. JonboyDC thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2004
    I didn't check out SFR's other data options. I do know that for the iPad, SFR is the only French provider with prepaid, short-term plans. Orange only does subscriptions, requiring a French bank account and ID. But the sheer number of plans SFR was promoting in its stores was mind boggling, so I'm guessing they have something that would work.
  5. Mactagonist macrumors 65816

    Feb 5, 2008
    NYC - Manhattan
    Great. Now I just have to figure out how to ask for what I want. I speak absolutely no French. :)
  6. Aaon macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2004
    Thanks for the heads up, JonBoy. My wife and I are moving from the US to France soon, so you have given us another option to check out! Merci!
  7. JonboyDC thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2004
    I didn't go there myself, but I suspect that the SFR shop on the Champs Elysée is likely to have the most experience with non-French speaking shoppers. Also, for what it's worth, SFR sells the Nexus One. They also offer pre-paid plans (referred to as "SFR la Carte") for it, but I couldn't find any indication of what those plans include for data.
  8. Ka Ora! macrumors regular

    Jan 23, 2009
    Orange France does do a no subscription service, It's called Sans Engagement.

    You need ID for all sim cards in Europe, It's the Law. It's due to the Barcelona Bombings some of the bombs were detonated via the text network.

    What would you like?
  9. Mactagonist macrumors 65816

    Feb 5, 2008
    NYC - Manhattan
    I want 3 or 4 days unlimited data and some texting on my Nexus One (miniSIM). I will be back in Paris for a day or two about 2 weeks later and being able to text then would be nice too.
  10. JonboyDC thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2004
    The Orange Sans Engagement is no-contract in that you can terminate at any time without penalty, but it's still a subscription in that it automatically renews until you cancel it. As a subscription service, it requires a French bank account (just like the SFR subscriptions). Whereas the SFR pre-paid data plans are not automatically renewing and do not require a French bank account. And for SFR's pre-paid services, a U.S. ID seemed sufficient, whereas the salespeople told me that for a subscription I would need a French ID. (Of course, the salespeople at the SFR store were wrong on many things during the three visits I needed to get the data plan to work, so they might have been wrong about that as well.)

    (That Orange page you linked to does indicate that Orange offers some kind of pre-paid, time- or data-limited service if you have an Orange sim but are not using one of the sans engagement subscriptions. One is 10 Euros for 300 megs of data and the other is 6 Euros of 24 hours of unlimited data. But I don't know how you get that Orange microsim without the French bank account you need to get the original subscription.)
  11. paulyras macrumors 6502

    Dec 3, 2006
    There should really be a sticky consisting of instructions for various countries. This is VERY helpful for those that travel.

    Thanks OP!
  12. Cartaphilus macrumors 6502a

    Dec 24, 2007
    I'm spending a month in Bordeaux, and my experience confirms your advice, although the person waiting on me at the SFR store completed setup for me without any issues. I will add, though, that the store's personnel, while helpful and otherwise knowledgeable, knew little about the limitations of not having a French bank account. Buying multiple 24hr/70 Meg codes at the SFR store is the only choice for American visitors.

    I was told, but could not verify, that if someone with a French credit card were willing to charge my iPad, it would work. This provides a much cheaper way to get 3G service.
  13. HKTraveler macrumors newbie

    Jan 28, 2011
    Thanks to the OP, this managed to get me 90% there. There are a couple of things to note: 1) it is not necessary to connect to iTunes to activate, 2) despite setting the APN to “websfr”, it didn’t work. After the store person called their own hotline, turns out it need up to 2 hours for the activation to work so DO NOT expect the ipad to have access immediately. Mine did work after 90 minutes or so. 3) other than buying day pass, there are options to either buy fixed amount of data usage or unlimited data within a certain time period. The options are (all currencies in Euro) E3 for 50 Mb, 9 for 100 Mb, 15 for 200 Mb, 25 for 500 Mb and 35 for 1 Gb, 6 for 1 day and 9 for 2 day. For the fixed amount of data usage, there is a time limit on how soon you have to use that up and I think the 1Gb is within 3 months, 4) not every SFR carries this prepaid microsim (at least the first one I went to didn't carry it), 5) I also managed to get this to work on my Huawei E583C personal wifi (with a microsim to regular sim converter), 6) speed was decent enough for general browsing and usage, 7) I was cruising on Canal du Midi and also drove around Languedoc, Aveyron and Dordogne. In many places, the signal strength is poor and most times, it is only 2G. On the canal, this is especially poor and I have to pay for several days of usage on my iphone which roams on Orange. Orange, in general, seems to have much better signal strength, 8) buying the recharge gets you a code on the receipt. When you need to use it, go to "Cellular Data", "SIM Applications", "Solde/Recharge", "Rchgt Coupon", "Par Texto" and then enter the code. Hope this is helpful.
  14. vega07 macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006
    Wirelessly posted (iPhone: Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_3_3 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8J2 Safari/6533.18.5)

    OT but I like your title. One of my favorite Gene Kelley films.
  15. nutting macrumors newbie

    Aug 23, 2011
    I have just returned from France and found the above information very useful. The SFR micro SIM for the iPad is now Euros 14.99 but includes 3 days of unlimited access. Mine picked up the SFR APN setting immediately (and automatically) and there was no delay before the 3G service was active.

    Annoyingly, the SFR website does not accept non-French credit/debit cards for online topups (just like French petrol pumps used not to accept non-French cards, but at least petrol pumps have joined the 21st century and now take ALL cards. Come on SFR, stop wasting our time. Accept our cards!!). The SFR shop in Aurillac then told me that volume-based topups were not available, only time-based. I suggested that Orange would be happy to do business with me and - lo and behold - a miracle occurred and the full range of SFR topups was suddenly available! 500Mb, valid for 60 days, cost Euros 25.

    Major piece of advice: before you leave home print off the pages from the SFR website showing the products (iPad SIM, topups, etc.) that you will need to purchase on your trip. That way the shop assistant knows what you need and it makes it difficult for any unhelpful assistants to suggest that what you are after doesn't exist.

    Overall it was a very positive experience (SFR 3G was widely available, but not everywhere) and I have documented my trip at http:\\


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