Phoning from France

How dial from France, how to call local and international numbers from your US cellphone, use phone cards, sim-card deals, and the cheapest ways to call.

rotary dial phoneDialing: To make an international call from within Europe (even on your cellphone), dial 00 then country code (1 for the US, 44 for the UK) then the area code, etc.

To dial a local French number from your cellphone, you still have to dial as if it were international: 00 then the country code (France is 33), then drop the first 0 of the local number.  So a 10-digit local phone number starting with 04 or 06 would be a 9-digit number starting with a 4 or a 6.

For Americans, if you are having a problem reaching an 800 number from France (which is not free, by the way!), a little trick is to dial 001 then change the 800 to 880.  And 888 numbers almost never work.

To give your hotel number to the folks back home, drop the first 0 and replace it with the French country code of 33.  So a 10-digit local phone number that looks like this 04 xx xx xx xx would be dialed from the US as 011 33 4 xx xx xx xx.

And don’t forget, New York is 6 hours earlier, SF is 9 (so evening here is morning there).

International Calling Cards:  If you don’t have a cellphone and have to use your hotel phone to call home, don’t dial direct: better to pick up an international phone card at any tabac (cigarette stand).  Get the scratch-off pin code type, which use English as well as French.  You dial the free number, enter your pin, then dial your number, and can even use them from payphones.  If you are having problems, remember you start with 00 first, not 011 like in the US.  This is much less expensive than dialing direct from your hotel phone.

skypeFacetime or Skype: If you have a smartphone, the very cheapest way to call is to find a free wifi spot and use Facetime or Skype.  With Facetime you are limited to other iPhones, but with Skype you can buy a tiny credit, and then call any phone in the world (even landlines and businesses) for just 2 cents a minute.  Choose the Pay As You Go plan and pay for a $10 credit which gives you 500 minutes.  Just tap ‘make a skype call’, choose the country you want to call, and dial!

Sim cardGoing the French SIM Card Route   If you are going to be here for a longer time, you might want to get a local French SIM card.  You’ll need is an unblocked phone (Verizon and Sprint users are out of luck here), and then you can buy a French SIM once you get here.

The best SIM deal is with Free Mobile, which gives you unlimited worldwide calls (incredible but true!) plus 50 GB of web time for just 19.99€/month with no time commitment (sans engagement)… but the catch is that you can only order it on-line, the site is only in French, and you need an address in France (your hotel?), and it takes around 2 weeks for the SIM to arrive in the mail.   Other mobile operators are starting to match the deal, so by the time you read this you might be able to get almost the same deal from a phone store here in France, like the Orange or SFR boutiques.

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Photo credit: R Sull. Dhscommtech licensed under Creative Commons

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