Buy a local SIM card to reduce your phone bills.
The French West Indies are popular with tourists who want to explore the Caribbean. Using your phone there can prove to be expensive, so to keep costs down switch to a local SIM card and take advantage of better deals, plans and tariffs. The French West Indies has several prepaid SIM deals for travelers, offers that could reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from the leading telco provider for a reasonable price. So, whether you’re planning a quick break, an island hop or pure relaxation, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.au.
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Telco providers in the French West Indies
These French-speaking islands are French territory, and there are three main phone operators: Orange, SFR and Digicel. All three operators have been tried and tested by both locals and international travelers, so they can be trusted. SIM cards can be purchased by showing your passport or ID to the retailer. Credit can be purchased from supermarkets, online or at the airport.
About the French West Indies telco providers
The French West Indies offer 2G, 3G and 4G services. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from the official store or selected outlets. There are several plans that include data and reasonably priced international calls, and they are cheaper than using your regular phone service. Below, we have listed the three providers available in the French West Indies and the best deals they offer.
Orange is the market leader on the islands, has the best network coverage and offers some great deals, including good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or at supermarkets. Passports or ID cards must be shown to purchase prepaid SIM cards. Credit can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or most supermarkets and corner stores. The "Card" prepaid SIM card can be purchased for EUR15 and there are two prepaid plans on offer: Card classique and Card seconde.
Credit can be purchased in several denominations between EUR5 valid for 6 days and EUR100 valid for 180 days. Dial #124#<14-digit PIN code> to add balance. Dial #123# to check balance.
The standard default data rate is among the highest in the world at EUR1 per MB. It’s therefore better to add one of the following data packs:
|EUR5||200MB||Valid for 7 days|
|EUR10||500MB||Valid for 10 days|
|EUR20||1GB||Valid for 30 days|
Orange also offer a data-only SIMcard called “Pass Internet Everywhere” for modems, tablets and routers. The SIM starter pack can be purchased for EUR19 with 1GB data valid for 30 days. The following data packs can be added:
Orange’s APN: orangeweb, and website in French: http://www.orangecaraibe.com/
SFR is the second largest provider in the Caribbean with a good network coverage and competitive prices. They offer good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or at supermarkets. Passports or ID cards must be shown to purchase prepaid SIM cards. Credit can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or most supermarkets. The "SFR La Carte" prepaid SIM card can be purchased for EUR15, and comes with EUR10 credit and an additional EUR10 bonus when adding your first top-up. There are two prepaid plans available called Carte Classique and Carte Smile. Credit can be added by purchasing vouchers in the following denominations: EUR5, EUR10, EUR20 or EUR40. You can also top up by using your credit card online.
SFR offer better data packages than Orange and the standard default data rate is charged at a more realistic EUR0.20 per MB. The following data packs can also be added:
|EUR3||150MB||Valid for 3 days|
|EUR5||250MB||Valid for 5 days|
|EUR10||500MB||Valid for 10 days|
Dial 224 and select appropriate plan to activate.
SFR also offers a data-only SIM card for tablets, routers, and modems called “Carré Internet en mobilité”, sold in two sizes:
|EUR14.99||1GB preloaded||Valid for 30 days|
|EUR24.99||10GB preloaded||Valid for 30 days|
|EUR5||250MB||Valid for 15 days|
|EUR10||500MB||Valid for 30 days|
|EUR20||1.1GB||Valid for 60 days|
|EUR40||2.2GB||Valid for 90 days|
SFR’s APN: onlyphone, website in French: http://www.sfrcaraibe.fr
Digicel is the smallest provider and the only one not active on the French mainland. However, Digicel is a major telco provider in the Caribbean and its services can be used right across the region. It offers good 2G and 3G services, with 4G/LTE expected in late 2017. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or at supermarkets. Passports or ID cards must be shown to purchase prepaid SIM cards. Credit can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or most supermarkets and corner stores. Free roaming is available on other French Caribbean islands, so there are also roaming deals in place with those islands. Check with the retailer at time of purchase for the latest deals and offers.
The Digicel “La Carte” prepaid SIM card can be purchased for EUR15, and comes with EUR5 credit, 20 domestic SMS and 100MB data, valid for 10 days. A EUR10 bonus is given as a welcome credit when you top up at least EUR10 within the first 30 days.
Credit vouchers can be purchased in the following denominations: EUR5, EUR10, EUR20, EUR40, allowing between 6 to 90 days of validity depending on the amount topped up. Dial *133*<PIN code># to add voucher credit. Dial *133# to check your balance.
Digicel’s standard default data rate is ridiculously high at EUR1.50 per MB. However, it does offer some great data packs that rival the other two providers:
|EUR2||100MB||Valid for 7 days|
|EUR10||500MB||Valid for 20 days|
|EUR20||1GB||Valid for 45 days|
|EUR40||3GB||Valid for 60 days|
Digicel’s APN: webdigicelfr.com, website in French: http://www.digicel.fr
Some top tips from finder.com.au staff:
- Locals call a SIM card a “Carte” or “SIM”.
- Ask the retailers to help set up the SIM card for you. They are official sellers and will be very happy to help.
- Try and get to the stores early to beat the crowds.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through which SIM cards have been tried and tested in the French West Indies.
“I highly recommend Digicel as it is a very reliable service in Martinique and you can get recharges, in case you run out of minutes, everywhere on the island.”
“Your other option, if you are coming from the USA, is to subscribe to Google's Project Fi, which also works very reliably on the island.”
“Some condos actually provide a local phone as part of the service. Or, if you have Wi-Fi, just use any one of a number of apps like Skype to call numbers at a fraction of the cost of buying a phone or card.”
Pros and cons of French West Indies telco providers
All three operators require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible international phone. To double check you have this option, or to find out whether it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your provider before you set off on your travels.
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- No phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Digicel doesn’t offer 4G/LTE
Another question about finding the best SIM?
Q: What do I do if I lose my phone?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when traveling around the Caribbean. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated! If you do lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you still have no luck then cancel any plans or payment methods associated with the phone, report it missing and make a note of the crime number to claim on insurance. Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let this one out of your sight!