Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Cell phone use in France (

loggybus Jul 24th, 2010 10:31 AM

Cell phone use in France
Please suggest the best route to go -we will be in France for 10 days and would like a phone for emergencies and for getting restaurant reservations, etc. We have a blackberry with Verizon service here in US...should we get that adapted, or buy a separate phone ? We will be three weeks in New Zealand in Feb-so same thoughts apply to that trip . Thanks for any and all suggestions

xyz123 Jul 24th, 2010 10:57 AM

1. Before leaving the USA buy a quad band gsm phone. They range from about $20 to $150 or more depending just on what bells and whistles you want. As you probably, for example, have access to a camera and mp3 player and the like on your verizon phone, a basic phone on the cheap end of the scale will do nicely.

2. Upon arrival in France, go to either a general mobile phone store or a company owned store of the big phone companies (Orange FR, SFR) and purchase a prepaid sim pack. It will run you about $25 (French sim cards are among the most expensive in the world) will come with some time. I use Orange myself but SFR is as good; rates are very comparable.

3. While in France, you will receive calls for free. Calls within France vary as to the plan you choose (again the clerk should help you). You will have a French telephone number something in the form 06 xx xx xx xx....for people to call you, it will be necessary for them to dial the international call prefix (011 from the USA), the country code for Franced (33) and your number omitting the lead 0. Calls to the USA are not terribly cheap (the French mobile companies are almost crooks that way) but you can get a calling card and dial a local French number (hint sometimes the mobile companies in France block access to that number) and call home or make a call home and ask the person to call you right back on your French number. You can also make arrangements to purchase a local USA number through a firm called and program it to ring to your French number. You can just any area code you want and pay 11¢ per minute per call. If you start running out of credit, it is easy to top up. Just go to most any tabac and ask for a recharge pour Orange (or SFR)....

4. You can also use a company called Call in Europe ( will sell you a French sim card to go into the above phone (or sell you a phone but for New Zealand that might be a problem if the phone is sim locked to the French company they use) is post paid instead of prepaid...some people like that idea; I don't as if you should lose the sim card, somebody can run up thousands of dollars of charges you will be responsible for but that's a matter of personal taste; with a prepaid the most you lose is whatever time is left on the card. It's not a bad deal, really and you will know your French number in advance. Just as above you receive for free, calls within France are a tad more expensive than the local sim but calls home are cheaper. Again you can pair it with a local number and for example set up call forwarding on your verizon phone to ring to the French mobile number.

5. The nice thing about the gsm solution is that when you go to New Zealand you simply march into a Kiwi phone store and buy a New Zealand sim...switch the sim card and voila you now have a New Zealand phone with a New Zealand number. Don't know the country code for New Zealand or rates but you will receive for free while in New Zealand.

There are other solutions can buy somethng called e-kit on ebay which will give you both a UK and USA number, you will receive for free in both France and New Zealand (along with most of the rest of the civilized world) and pay a moderate amount (pretty much the same as CIE) to call back to the USA from both France and New Zealand.

Lots of possiblities depending on just what you want to do.

xyz123 Jul 24th, 2010 11:02 AM

..sorry if you use the ekit solution above, if people call you on the UK number (44 country code) you receive for free, they pay for whatever their ld carrier charges for an international call to a British mobile; if they call you on the USA number while you are in either France or New Zealand, you pay 19¢/minute.....

nukesafe Jul 24th, 2010 11:05 AM


greg Jul 24th, 2010 11:25 AM

I don't know which Blackberry you have. I thought Blackberry 9650 and 9550 by Verizon are dual mode - CDMA and GSM 900/1800mhz. Call Verizon to see if they would unlock the phone for you to be able to use SIM cards other than the one that come from Verizon.

SuzChicago Jul 24th, 2010 03:28 PM

I used a SIM Card from Call in Europe this past June for my Blackberry (2 weeks in France) and it never worked for phone calls or e-mails. Only could use it for IM to my husband with his Blackberry. Worthless!

ElPelar Jul 25th, 2010 05:31 PM

I used the Call in Europe sim card in my Blackberry Pearl and it worked great in France. I have an ATT plan, and had to first unlock the phone by contacting ATT and getting the code.

twk Jul 26th, 2010 05:57 AM

Where is the best place online to buy a quad band gsm phone?

Sarastro Jul 26th, 2010 06:05 AM

Either Phonehouse or Virgin Mobile sell a French GMS phone with SIM and prepaid minutes for under 30€. Incoming calls are free, you will have a local French contact number for hotels or restaurant reservations, and an emergency contact number.

Should you need more talk or SMS time, it´s easy to top off. Additional minute may be purchased at any tabac, magazine store, or even grocery stores.

Virgin uses the Orange network. The only difference is that usage charges are lower when using Virgin.

Bugler Aug 5th, 2010 11:19 AM


mingwei1 Mar 9th, 2011 11:26 AM

Hi sorry, after reading over the cellphone in France threads I'm still confused about what is the best idea, and am hoping someone can spell it out even more clearly for me. We're going to France in May for 14 days, would just like to use cellphone for emergencies and reservations and to arrange meeting points with family, etc. I like the idea of having a number to tell people for emergencies before leaving the States, but not necessarily if it is very expensive to do so. I bought an unlocked quad band off of ebay, so I just need a sim card, I think. Would it be more economical for me to buy an ekit passport France SIM card for $19.99 (free shipping) off of ebay, which gives me outgoing calls for $.49, or should I get an Orange or SFR card when I get to France. I am unclear on what those rates are and how much the sim card will cost me.

thanks! Ming

xyz123 Mar 9th, 2011 12:14 PM

It's really not a decision that should cause you grief either way......and it also depends on just what your primary purpose is. Up until now, French sim cards have among the least favorable rates of any. Domestic rates within France are not cheap nor are calls to I assume you're from the USA. Also, my big objhection to those blankety blanks in France is tht when you top up your sim card, say for 10 euro, if you don't use up the 10 euro in 30 days, they steal your remaining credit as a 10 euro top up is only valid for 30 days unless there is another top up and six months after they steal your credit, they de-activate the sim card and if you return, you have to buy another. You can't keep it alive, as you can say with an English sim card, by sending a cheap text.

Therefore, I might be inclined to go with the e-kit card...don't forget calls to the USA cost 49¢/minute raised to the next highest minute plus a 35¢ set up fee for each call (not 35¢/minute) but cheaper than it would cost to call the USA on a French sim card. However, if you call a European mobile, the charge is 84¢/minute (plus the 35¢ set up fee) so you don't want to make too many calls to European mobiles. (Note all calls to North America whether to a mobile or a landline are charged at landline rates). The nicer thing about e-kit, as you probably know, is you get both a +44 number (if people dial you on that number, you pay nothing and they pay whatever their ld carrier charges for a call to a UK mobile (even though the +44 number is on one of the channel islands) or if they dial your US number, they pay for a US call (always cheaper than a call to a European mobile) and you pay 19¢/minute. It isn't that bad a deal and you will know your numbers immediately and the card comes with $10 credit so it costs you very little! I'd go with e-kit and unlike those French thieves, as long as you top up once every 15 months, the card remains valid.

mingwei1 Mar 9th, 2011 06:10 PM

Thanks, xyz 123. that helps, I think.

kerouac Mar 10th, 2011 06:16 AM

And don't forget that if you just want to call the U.S. and not bother with having a phone to lug around at all times, the cost of calling North America with a calling card is 0.01€ per minute.

xyz123 Mar 10th, 2011 07:01 AM

Agreed Kerouac....but if France is anything like the USA in this regard, and I suspect it is, with the proliferation of mobile phones, with the fact that every 10 year old kid now walks around with a mobile phone, how many public phones are there to use the calling card and some hotels put a surcharge on the triggering call to use a calling card; not that your suggestions is totally out of line of course.

Mahya2 Mar 10th, 2011 07:30 AM


agreed.. I had trouble finding a public phone and when I did I couldnt figure out how to use the card and the phone.

On subsequent trips I used my UNLOCKED blackberry pearl and a sim card from "Call In Europe", a Connecticut company. They give you a phone number to use in Europe and bill you afterwards by email. No problem.

Of course then again, if you have your laptop with you and you have downloaded skype, and your laptop has a built in microphone or you have an earpiece, for about $3.00 a month you can call about anywhere in the world.

kerouac Mar 10th, 2011 10:09 AM

There are still public phones everywhere on the street, including the Champs Elysées.

Coquelicot Mar 10th, 2011 12:28 PM

If you're outside the major cities, in the countryside, public phones are rarer than they used to be in our experience. They may not be kept up. We've encountered cobwebs.

Mahya2 Mar 10th, 2011 02:54 PM

Listen here.

I found a public phone in PAris.

I had purchased a telephone card, of course written in la Francais, which I dont read.

So I went to ze French bookstore on the corner to ask them for help how to dial the numbers on the card and the phone number I needed to call.

Ze nice French people couldnt figure it out either.

Sarastro Mar 10th, 2011 03:03 PM

Some SIM you purchase from eBay will not really be very economical. Currently, Lebara sells SIMs with minutes for 10€. Calls to the US are .09€ per minute with a .09€ connect charge per call. Inbound minutes are always free of course.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:45 PM.