Cell Phones: The three letters that define much of the world’s wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), a big, seamless network that makes for easy cross-border mobile phone use throughout Europe and dozens of other countries worldwide. You can use your mobile phone in France provided it is GSM and tri-band or quad-band; just confirm this with your operator before you leave.
Using your phone abroad can be expensive, and you usually have to pay to receive calls, so it’s a good idea to get your phone “unlocked” before you leave. Then you can buy a SIM card from one of the three main French providers: Bouygues Télécom (www.bouyguestelecom.fr), Orange (www.orange.fr), or SFR (www.sfr.fr). A temporary SIM card (carte prepayée) costs anywhere from 4€ to 40€, depending on the number of minutes bundled with it. Alternatively, if your phone isn’t unlocked, you could buy a cheap mobile phone in Paris. To top-up your phone credit, buy a prepaid card from tabacs, supermarkets, and mobile phone outlets. Prices range from 5€ to 100€.
A final strategy? Use Skype, FaceTime, or WhatsApp for phone calls. Make sure you have the app before you get to Europe and then use it whenever you have a signal for free or ridiculously inexpensive (Skype) phone calls.
Telephones: As of 2016, France does not have public telephone booths. If you want to pay for a call from a phone that is not your own, you can still use a prepaid card with a code. Called a carte téléphonique à code, or a carte prépayé, they are sold at newsstands, smoke shops, or cafes where you see a TABAC sign. This is not always the cheapest or most practical way to make a call, so it may make more sense to investigate mobile phone options (see “Cell Phones” above).
The country code for France is 33. To make a local or long-distance call within France, dial the 10-digit number of the person or place you’re calling. Mobile numbers begin with 06. Numbers beginning with 0 800, 0 805, and 0 809 are free in France; other numbers beginning with 8 are not. Many public service numbers are now four digits, and some are toll-free.
To make international calls from Paris, first dial 00 and then the country code (U.S. and Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next dial the area code and number. For example, if you want to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., you would dial 001 202/588-6500.
Internet & Wi-Fi: Many Parisian hotels and cafes have Internet access, and Wi-Fi (pronounced wee-fee here) is increasingly common in cafes and public spaces. Cybercafes are few and far between nowadays, but the huge Milk location in Les Halles is reliably open 24/7 (http://milklub.com/wp/).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.