Question on Cell phones in France

May 22nd, 2007, 11:22 AM
  #1  
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Question on Cell phones in France

I know this topic has been done to death already but I wanted to run one more on this topic by the expert fodorites. My wife and I will be in Paris and would like two cell phones to call each other while we're in Paris (but in different places in the city). We won't be calling the US, we won't be calling other countries, nor will we be receiving calls from anywhere else but Paris.

Also, here in the US we use Verizon cell service which is no good for France.

So, our question is: should be try and buy two used tri-band phones here from ebay and add SIM cards when we get to Paris or buy two phones from mobal and just pay as we go? Are there any obvious alternatives we're overlooking?

Thanks so much! We really appreciate it. SDA
SDA1 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:10 PM
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<Are there any obvious alternatives we're overlooking?>
Walky talky?
cocofromdijon is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:17 PM
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>buy two used tri-band phones here from ebay
Tribands are ONLY needed it you want to use the phones in the US. A plain standard dual band 900/1800 phone will do. It's very difficult to get single band phones today and they'll be havy and outdated. So what you need is a standard GSM phone used oll over the planet except nothern and central America (and Japan). Those are sold (unlocked) on ebay. At the post office across the street here in my hometown such a phone (unlocked) and new costs 19.95€ made by Motorola.
logos999 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:27 PM
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Does Verizon not have an international plan? We have Cingular and were able to take our own phones but subscribe to their international plan ($5.99 per month per phone and .99 per minute). Worked great for us.
caroltis is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:31 PM
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The problem here is one has to watch very closely that the dual band they buy is a world dual band (900/1800) as opposed to a North American (850/1900) dual band...the ones the OP need are not easily found on ebay in the USA and other ebays don't always ship cheaply to the USA.

However, I have found a shop I believe at L8shop.net that sells the Nokia 1100, unlocked, dual band and will ship to the USA (assuming that's where the OP is) for about £22 each so two would be about £44 and shipping to the USA about £10 (unfortunately the US$ has tanked against GBP) but that's about as cheap as I have found. Then they'll need French sim cards according to the scenario and French sim cards are among the most expensive in the world as well as French calling rates. It's doable of course but for a once in a lifetime trip not so sure how doable..

Then there's mobal with the cheapest phone, the $49 phone...will come with a sim card but calling rates are very high and the phone is locked.

Or maybe the time has come to switch their US provider to either t mobile US or cingular, port their numbers, keep their same numbers and use the roaming capabilities of these gsm US carriers (I don't know what everybody sees in Verizon anyway, their choice of phones stinks and you can't just get a new phone with the features you want by changing sim cards, they don't use sim cards)...if they do that, the gsm carrier will give them a new phone and all they have to make sure is they get a tri band or preferably a quad band.

(BTW I have found some quad bands on ebay for as little as $85 but that may not be what they want to spend)..

Most solutions are going to be expensive...worth it perhaps if they are a frequent travellers to Europe but not so sure about a once in a lifetime trip.
xyz123 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:33 PM
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Verizon does not use GSM phones. The phones they use won't work in Europe.

However in the US, I personally would never use GSM because I want to be able to stand on a sand dune somewhere in Utah and make a phone call to Germany. Neither T-Mobile nor Cingular can provide this pleasure. So forget it!
logos999 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:38 PM
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Thanks for the input. Just a few quick follow-up questions.

First, some context. We are in the US and we are frequent travelers to France -- usually once per year for about one month. So, we don't mind making an investment in the phone (a one-time purchase) if we can save on per-minute expenses.

Is it possible to simply buy the correct phone (dual band 900/1800) in Paris without getting a 12 month contract and then add SIM cards as needed. We'd need to buy two phones actually.

As for why Verizon, I'd say in hindsight this was a mistake to sign up with them. Unfortunately, we have over one year to go on our contracts.

SDA

SDA1 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:46 PM
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>in Paris without getting a 12 month contract and then add SIM cards as needed
You'll get a phone whthout any monthly payment or further obligations and a SIM card. If you run out of money, you'll have to buy recharge coupons. Rates won't be that low however, but incoming is free.
Verizon isn't a bad choice at all if you travel whitin the US. I've simply bought an Alltel/Verizon prepay phone at Walmart.(15ct/min). www.simplefredom.net . Why would you pay more?
logos999 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:48 PM
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Thats of course www.simplefreedom.net
logos999 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:54 PM
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Hi Logos:

Thanks for the information. Do you know how much the SIM cards cost and the rate per minute for calls within France? Perhaps it is no cheaper to go this route than the mobal route ($49 per phone, $1.25 per minute)? I just don't know.

I have no complaints about verizon in the US. You're right, they do seem to have the best coverage. My only complaint is that they are of no use with international travel.
SDA1 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:56 PM
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Mobal works fine for us. I have a T-Mobile phone/account so the Mobal was for hubby, who sometimes goes off on a train to golf. We like the convenience of being able to contact each other while separated and only make very short calls. The Mobal was the $49 model and we've not made more than $30 in calls (both phones) on any one trip. Note that this arrangement results in a per-minute charge on each phone for both incoming/outgoing calls. In other words, everytime he called me or I called him, we both paid. Still, $30 or less for the purpose intended. We also called the house-sitter a couple times, again briefly.

I know nothing about 'texting' and don't know if this would be a bit cheaper using above arrangement or not.
Travelnut is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 01:03 PM
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You need to do "callthru", that is using a "local" relatively low cost french dialin number that connects you to the US or callback, that is some phone company you call, let it ring, hang up and than get a call from that company to connect you wherever you want. www.enlinea.com costs 28ct per minute, but there are cheaper alternatives! You'll never run out of minutes of your french phone doing it that way since incoming calls are free!
logos999 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 01:10 PM
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In Germany at least, locked (to a certain provider) phones start from 9.95€ incl. 5€ calling credit, unlocked start from 19.95€. Sims cost between 5€ and 15€, incl. 5€ to 10€ calling credit. Penny.de has an offer starting next Monday. 2 SIMS (working on T-Mobile!) cost 10€ incl. 10€ calling credit. Calls are 14ct to any German phone. SIMS in France are a little! more expensive.
logos999 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 01:44 PM
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Since you mentioned that you are frequent visitors to France, IMO your best option is to purchase 2 unlocked tri- or quad-band phones on ebay for the lowest price you can find. When you get to Paris, purchase 2 SFR sim cards. The rate per min. for outgoing domestic (within France) calls is €0.55 and the rate for calls to the US and the rest of Europe is €0.75. Incoming calls are free while in France.

When you activate the SIM cards, choose the "50% vers un N" Option. This allows you to choose one SFR number to which your calls will be discounted 50% after the first minute. This means that calls to each other's mobile while in France will be €0.55 for the 1st min. & €0.275 per min. thereafter. There are also ways to save on outgoing calls by taking advantage of the free incoming calls using a call back service as was mentioned above.

The reason I suggested tri- or quad- band phones is because some SIM cards expire after a certain amount of time if there is no activity. For €0.30 you can keep the card active by sending a text message every 6 months or so from your home in the US. This way next time you go to France your phones will ready to go without having to purchase a new SIM card and you will have the same phone numbers. If you only have European dual-band phones, they will not work in the US at all. Also, if you choose to switch to T-Mobile or Cingular when your Verizon contract you can use these phones instead of buying new ones as long as they are at least tri-band.
ripit is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 01:46 PM
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Hi guys...

For some idea of the French operator rates, you can go to www.prepaidgsm.net and look at the operators page, go to Europe, then France and they will list the various operators in France with a quick overview of their rates and prices and then a link to their web page...unfortunately as is to be expected with the French, the web pages are in French only (not to be critical of the French mind you, but for most other mobile operators in Europe, you will find a British flag which will direct you to an English version of the web page..also in other countries than France you can set the voice prompts on your phone to English, you can't do that with the French sims I'm most familiar with)...

I've had an Orange FR sim for a few years, before the international sims came on the scene and have managed to keep it active by periodically recharging it.....the French sims are notoriously bad in this....when you top up they give you only a specified period of validity and then if you haven't used all the credit, they take it away but the sim card remains active for another 6 months to receive calls in France and then to be topped up to maintain validity...the problem is to top up a French sim while you can do it from the USA as they do allow roaming in the USA, you have to purchase the re charge slip before leaving France...SFR is part of the vodafone system and can use a vodafone top up in the country the top up is purchased in but has pretty much the same kind of arrangements.

Perhaps the least expensive French sim I know of is Virgin mobile...you can buy a sim package and a cheap locked dual band phone at Virgin Mobile megastores. They are one of the operators listed on the web site I noted above.

Calling to the USA is expensive as noted on the French sims...one way around this is to use calling cards. I have a calling card from a firm called bizon....they used to charge 2/minute to call the USA, I think it has gone up recently but it's easy to get, very competitive and can be re-charged on the net. They give you local numbers in a variety of countries including France so what you will do is called the local French number, pay the French rate and then be connected to the bizon network. Or you can buy an ld card from a tabac in France but make sure it has a local French number...some of the cards have numbers akin to US 800 numbers but some of the mobile companies charge extra to access these numbers. Also be aware that at least Orange FR has tried to distract me from making calls to the bizon number by inserting a tone on my end although as of yet they haven't actually blocked the number (Orange UK did this but then again UK rates to the USA on some mobile networks can be as low as 4p/monute which makes the use of a calling card unnecessary with a UK sim in the UK)...

Finally logos it is one of those urban myths that verizon is coverage is all that much better than that of cingular and t mobile USA....in all cases there are areas where one is better than the other...you may have hit on one of those areas. I can show you areas in the USA where verizon stinks and cingular or T Mobile are better. And again there is a big big advantage of GSM over CDMA..namely with CDMA you are stuck with whatever phone verizon provides...with GSM if you see a catch new phone that you want, if it is unlocked, all you need to is switch your sim card. Without entering a debate as to which is better, CDM<A or GSM, let me say my service with T Mobile US has been perfectly adequate and I have never been left without service in all my travels in the USA.

And I must say to you logos at least your country has seen the light as several German telcoms lost a recent court case (Vodafone DE among them) and now cannot take away people's credit on their sim cards after a certain period. I wish the French would do the same.

Too wordy for you Robespierre, sorry. But I have so much great knowledge to impart.
xyz123 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 02:01 PM
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Hello,

Look at buying two tri/quad band unlocked without a plan at
http://www.tigerdirect.com

You can also wait until you arrive in France to buy two inexpensive phones with prepaid plans.

If you need info on other countries,
try
http://www.gsmworld.com

Its in English and gives a lot of good info.

Enjoy!!
Stormin280 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 02:02 PM
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Look at T-Mobiles coverage in Colorado, Utah, the Dakotas, Kansas, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada... It sucks! I went through all those states, as soon as you leave the city there's no coverage left. The freeways are covered, but the rest is just awful. Really, I don't want to be stuck in a dangerous situation there having to rely on GSM!! It's just lightyears apart. I Canada GSM works, why doesn't it work in the mid west USA!
logos999 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 02:05 PM
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Excellent information. Thanks so much for taking the time to write. This is exactly why I love fodors.

xyz123, thanks for the link to the phone rates. The activation fees seem high. I suppose those fees are per phone? Can any of these cards be bought all around Paris?

ripit, I tend to agree with you about buying a phone from ebay and taking it with. one question tho: a quad band can be used in france and the us while a triband only in europe? or both tri and quad work in both places. as a verizon customer i'm a bit clueless about these things. thanks too for the 50 percent off suggestion. sounds good!

SDA
SDA1 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 02:13 PM
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Look at the charts on http://www.gsmworld.com. There's an eye opener, if you havn't been to those places. GSM coverage is almost non existant in most of the US territory west of Denver, Nebraska and the Dakotas. But unfortunatly those are the places to go for a holiday.
logos999 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 02:19 PM
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>quad band... triband
To keep it simple. (There are several varieties of dual/three bands available).
4 Bands exist: 850, 900, 1800, 1900

Europe + World uses 900 + 1800
North America uses 850 + 1900.
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