European and Australian phones work, but only American cells with 900 and 1800 MHz networks are compatible; check with your provider before leaving home. Use a French SIM card to call with a cheaper French number.
- French mobile phone numbers begin with 06 or 07.
- France uses GSM 900/1800, which is compatible with the rest of Europe and Australia but not with the North American GSM 1900 or the totally different system in Japan (though some North Americans have tri-band phones that work here).
- Check with your service provider about roaming charges – dialling a mobile phone from a fixed-line phone or another mobile can be incredibly expensive.
- It is usually cheaper to buy a local SIM card from a French provider such as Orange, SFR, Bouygues or Free Mobile, which gives you a local phone number. To do this, ensure your phone is unlocked.
- If you already have a compatible phone, you can slip in a SIM card (from €3.90) and rev it up with prepaid credit, though this is likely to run out fast as domestic prepaid calls cost about €0.50 per minute.
- Recharge cards are sold at most tabacs (tobacconist-newsagents), supermarkets and online through websites such as Topengo (www.topengo.fr) or Sim-OK (https://recharge.sim-ok.com).
Carrying your own charger and cable is the only sure way of ensuring you don't run out of juice. Don't be shy to ask in cafes and restaurants if you can plug in and charge – if you ask nicely, most will oblige. In Paris the odd cafe lends cables to customers, savvy taxi drivers stock a selection of smartphone-compatible cables and chargers for passengers to use, and new RATP bus stops are equipped with USB ports (bring your own cable).
On TGV trains, all 1st-class carriages (and occasionally 2nd-class depending on how new the train is) have plugs. On every TGV irrespective of age, there is at least one 'office' space between carriages with mini-desk and double plug. Otherwise, upon arrival, an increasingly number of SNCF train stations have charging stations: in Paris, Gare de Nord, Gare de Montparnasse and Gare de St-Lazare all have pedal-powered charging stations operated by Belgium-based We-Bike, as do several other stations countrywide including Lille, Lyon, Strasbourg and Avignon TGV.
Calling France from abroad Dial your country's international access code, then 33 (France's country code), then the 10-digit local number without the initial zero.
Calling internationally from France Dial 00 (the international access code), the indicatif (country code), the area code (without the initial zero if there is one) and the local number. Some country codes are posted in public telephones.
Directory inquiries For national service des renseignements (directory inquiries) dial 11 87 12 or use the service for free online at www.118712.fr.
International directory inquiries For numbers outside France, dial 11 87 00.
- Public phones still exist, although they are increasingly hard to find when you need one. In France they are all phonecard-operated, but in an emergency you can use your credit card to call.
- Emergency numbers can be dialled from public phones without a phonecard.
- Public phones can receive both domestic and international calls. If you want someone to call you back, just give them France’s country code (33) and the 10-digit number, usually written after the words ‘Ici le…’ or ‘No d’appel’ on the tariff sheet or on a little sign inside the phone box. Remind them to drop the initial ‘0’ of the number. When there’s an incoming call, the words décrochez – appel arrive (pick up receiver – incoming call) will appear in the LCD window.
- Public phones require a credit card or télécarte (phonecard; €7.50/15 for 50/120 calling units), sold at post offices, tabacs, supermarkets, SNCF ticket windows, Paris metro stations and anywhere you see a blue sticker reading ‘télécarte en vente ici’ (phonecard for sale here).
- Prepaid phonecards with codes (tickets téléphones) can be up to 60% cheaper for calling abroad than a standard télécarte. When purchasing, tabacs can tell you which type is best for the country you want to call. Or simply buy online at www.topengo.fr (click on cartes appels internationaux and select the ticket téléphone for the geographic zone you'll call). Using phonecards from a home phone is much cheaper than using them from public phones or mobile phones.
- Hotels, gîtes, hostels and chambres d'hôte are free to meter their calls as they like. The surcharge is usually around €0.30 per minute but can be higher.