Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cell Phones for France

I've had Call In Europe on my page for two years as a good source for getting cell phone service in France. Two years ago, I had an excellent experience with them, so easy to to deal with. I actually bought two little cell phones which came with chargers for American current and an adapter French electrical outlets, and   SIM cards

In case SIM card means nothing to you, per WiseGeek, SIM cards are: "A Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card is a portable memory chip used mostly in cell phones that operate on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network. These cards hold the personal information of the account holder, including his or her phone number, address book, text messages, and other data."

Once activated, Call in Europe billed us, at a very reasonable cell rate, for what we used. I let the account lag when I got back (per the instructions) and expected that when I was ready, I would simply reactivate the account again.

But the 1-800 number routes you to France. And although I speak decent French, there was NO WAY I could understand the automated voice on the other end except to "press 2" if you wanted blah de blah blah, etc. The email I sent in English was replied to in French (and said to call), and when I left my phone number (the cell that will accept international calls - since you must set that up with your carrier,) I never received a call back. 

So - disappointingly, off they go from my list. 

So what will I do? After a bit of panic, since I really want each adult to have a cell phone while in Paris, I have purchased some prepaid SIM cards from Amazon. Yes, don't they just have everything??

Now I can charge up the phones before I leave, AND have a French phone number to distribute to my family on this side of the Pond. All calls from them will be free for me, and we pay a reasonable rate for calls to each other and also to numbers outside of France. 

I chose Orange as the cell company. It is a the flagship mark for France Telecom and has been around a long time. When (if) we need more minutes, we will go to an Orange cellular store or a Tabac and buy more minutes. Just like in the States, you call the number carrier's number, enter the code you just bought, and the minutes will be added to the SIM card automatically! I have the option of having my US calls routed to my French phone - but I just say NO to that idea!! This plan also includes 3G internet, but we won't need that.

If you don't need a phone number ahead of time, your least expensive option is just to buy an inexpensive pay-as-you-go cell phone when you land. Unless you travel internationally a lot, your phone will most likely not work in Europe - contact your carrier if you don't know. If it does, you'll just buy a SIM card. Be warned - you will probably have to do the purchase in French, so I suggest you look up the vocabulary before hand. These options are generally much more affordable than bringing your phone from the US (provided you have a tri-band phone) and using your carrier's international plan. 

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