Communications

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Communications

Internet

Most hotels have in-room broadband connections or wireless access, although some only offer wireless access in the lobby or ground floor rooms; if being connected from your room is important, be sure to confirm in advance. Also, if you need to spend a lot of time online, make sure to ask when you book a room if there's a charge for the service. Remember to bring an adapter for European-style plugs.

Wi-Fi hotspots can be found at many of the cafés and public libraries in Paris and other metropolitan areas. In smaller towns ask at the local tourism office where you can get connected. Note that if you capture a wireless network called "Free," don't be misled: it's the name of the carrier used in France and is not free of charge.

Phones

The country code for France is 33. The first two digits of French numbers are a prefix determined by zone: Paris and Ile-de-France, 01; the northwest, 02; the northeast, 03; the southeast, 04; and the southwest, 05. Numbers that begin with 06 are for mobile phones (and are notoriously expensive). Pay close attention to the numbers beginning with 08; 08 followed by 00 is a toll-free number but 08–36 numbers can be costly, usually €0.34 per minute but sometimes €1 and up.

Note that when dialing France from abroad, drop the initial 0 from the number. For instance, to call a telephone number in Paris from the United States, dial 011-33 plus the phone number minus the initial 0 (phone numbers are listed with the full 10 digits, which you use to make local calls).

Calling Within France

The French are very fond of their mobile phones (portables) meaning that telephone booths are more scarce than ever. Look for public phones in airports, post offices, train stations, on the street, and subway stations. You can use your own credit card, but keep in mind that you will be charged a €20 minimum, and you'll have 30 days after the first call to use up the credit. Or pick up a discounted calling card (carte téléphonique) at newsstands, cafés with a tabac sign, or post offices. There are two types of cards: one can be used on any phone, the other has a microchip (puce) that works only on public phones (les cabines). Insert your card and follow directions on the screen (it should give you the option to read in English). Or dial the toll-free number on the back of the card, enter the identification number from the back of the card, and follow the instructions in English.

Calling Outside France

To make a direct international call out of France, dial 00, then the country code (1 for the United States), the area code, and number.

Telephone rates have decreased recently in France now that the French Telecom monopoly finally has some competition. As in most countries, the priciest calls are between 8 am and 7 pm; you can expect to pay €0.28 per minute for a call to the United States, Canada, or some of the closer European countries such as Great Britain, Belgium, Italy, and Germany. Rates are slashed in half when you make that same call between 7 pm and 8 am, at just €0.13 per minute. To call home with the help of international directory assistance costs a hefty €3 per call; if this doesn't dissuade you, dial 118–700 and a bilingual operator will come on the line and ask which country you are calling.

Major carriers offer good rates on international calls with their calling cards. You can also save money by using an international phone card (télécarte international), which you can find at the same places as a local calling card. The cards cost about €13.50 for 50 units or €22 for 120 units. Under no circumstances should you place an international call directly from your hotel room—the charges can be astronomical.

Access Codes

AT&T Direct (08–00–99–00–11 in France; 800/222–0300 for information in U.S. (toll-free).)

MCI WorldPhone (08–00–99–00–19 in France; 800/444–4444 for information in U.S. (toll-free).)

Sprint International Access (08–00–99–00–87 in France; 888/226-7212 for information in U.S. (toll-free).)

Mobile Phones

If you have a multiband phone (some countries use different frequencies from what's used in the United States) and your service provider uses the world-standard GSM network (as do T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon), you can probably use your phone abroad. But be warned: This is often the most expensive calling option, with hefty toll charges on incoming and outgoing calls, sometimes as high as $4 per call. Roaming fees can be steep, too: 99¢ a minute is considered reasonable. Sending an international text message is usually a cheaper option, but be aware that fees abroad vary greatly (from 15¢ to 50¢ and up), and there's usually a charge for incoming messages.

If you just want to make local calls, consider buying a local SIM card for about €30 (note that your provider may have to unlock your phone for you to use a different SIM card) or a cheap pay-as-you-go phone (sans abonnement) found at any post office or phone shop. You can then have a local number and can make local calls at local rates. If your trip is extensive, you could also simply buy a new cell phone in your destination, as the initial cost will be offset over time.

If you travel internationally frequently, save one of your old mobile phones or buy a cheap one on the Internet; ask your cell phone company to unlock it for you, and take it with you as a travel phone, buying a new SIM card with pay-as-you-go service in each destination.

Skype

Another option is to use Skype, which allows you to place calls over the Internet. After downloading software, you can place calls anywhere in the world with an Internet connection at very low cost from your computer.

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