Using Your Mobile Phone in Paris

Finally after learning the expensive way by trial and error, I am confident to share my findings. I have discovered the best product that suits my needs and hopefully, you too will find this information useful.
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One of the top ten questions I am asked about visiting Paris, is how to use your mobile phone without incurring exorbitant fees.

Wi-fi in your apartment or hotel is a cheap alternative and a great supplement,  a hotspot or cafe that offers free wi-fi is also a bonus but to have the flexibility to use your mobile phone as you would at home, when and wherever you want, is what we all expect.

There are a number of companies who offer pre-paid SIM cards for Paris and France, however there are varying degrees of pricing and ease of use.  Also having access to reasonably priced data has been the mysterious missing link.  Now I have found a company that offers both.  Also, if you are a frequent traveller to France or Europe, for a small fee, you can keep the same number and use the SIM upon return, for me that sealed the deal.

Finally after learning the expensive way by trial and error, I am confident to share my findings.   I have discovered  the best product that suits my needs and hopefully, you too will find this information useful.

 

In order to clear up a few questions you might have, firstly, I will take you through a few options available or you can scroll straight down to the heading EASY MOBILE PHONE USE IN PARIS, USING LEFRENCH MOBILE

 

USING YOUR CURRENT SIM CARD AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS PROVIDER

  • Without doubt, this is the most expensive way to go and I have heard stories of people racking up bills of thousands of dollars.

INTERNATIONAL SIM CARDS OFFERED BY POST OFFICES AND SUPERMARKET CHAINS

  • This option works OK for phone calls, data is expensive and personally, I found it a nuisance for two reasons:
  1. If you hand out your number in Paris, people are afraid to call because they think they have to pay for an international call and it is difficult to convince them otherwise
  2. When you make a call, you have to dial the number, hang up and the number calls you back.  Too tedious.

ORANGE TELECOMMUNICATIONS LOCAL FRENCH PROVIDER

  • If phone calls is all you require, this is not a bad option and up until now, is what I have used. Providing you go to an official Orange store and not a franchise store (this is not always apparent) and you can speak French reasonably well, although some staff can speak English.
  • You have the option of purchasing credit on-line (in French) or from local Tabac stores (tobacconists) but the voicemail prompts are in French
  • If you don’t speak French, this can make things difficult
  • Data is expensive and they will advise you to turn your data off, in two days, I had spent €50.
  • Orange link (in French)

Quite frankly, I am surprised that given a large corporation like Orange and given how many tourists trawl the internet searching for ways to use a mobile phone, that they provide English/Other Languages options to sell more SIM cards. Someone in marketing and sales has dropped the ball.

LEBARA SIM

  • I can’t offer a practical opinion on this option, as I have not personally tried it out.  However, I understand, from what I have read on various forums that American travellers seem to favour it, although there seems to be uncertainty on how well it works for them and how easy the website is to navigate.
  • Lebara link

EASY MOBILE PHONE USE IN PARIS, USING LEFRENCH MOBILE

Now that we have some alternative options out of the way, below I will provide you some comprehensive information on my experience with LeFrench Mobile and would like to take this opportunity to mention that I am not affiliated with them in anyway nor have been offered any kick backs, gifts or credits. (All links I provide open in a separate browser, so you can come back here to finish reading.)

Here is how it works

  • You must have a mobile phone that is unlocked by your local telecommunications provider in order for pre-paid SIM cards to work.
    • I understand that for Americans this can be an arduous exercise or sometimes impossible, if you are locked into a contract.  Generally speaking in Australia, this doesn’t seem to cause a problem, simply call your provider, tell them you are travelling overseas and need to unlock your phone,  they will instruct you on how to go about this.
  • Please ensure you have done one of the following before leaving your place of residence:
    • Check that you have successfully unlocked your phone, or bought a cheap mobile phone for use overseas or take an old phone that is unlocked. Alternatively you can buy cheap mobile phones for around €30 at Orange and other phone re-sellers in Paris.
  • To check if your phone is unlocked, place a SIM card from a different telecommunications provider from a friend or family member, or buy a cheap SIM card.  If you can dial out, your phone is unlocked. If not, it is still locked.
  • Ensure you allow enough time before you leave home for delivery. Credit will not be used until you activate.
    • The free SIM card will cost €35 and will include €35 credit
    • Allow 1-2 weeks for delivery.  Free delivery within Europe, €3.83 elsewhere.Delivery is world-wide.
  • Remember to take your instructions that came with your SIM card and the PIN number they will provide, via email, once the card is shipped.
  • When you arrive in France and have wi-fi access, follow the instructions they provided
  • Please note that you cannot activate the SIM until you are in France and you will need to use your mobile phone using wi-fi to do this. This can be done at Charles de Gaulle using the airport’s free wi-fi while you are waiting for your bags.
  • You will receive a text from LeFrench Mobile that will contain  your French Mobile Phone Number, make sure you jot it down or put it in your Notes or Reminders app on your phone for easy access
  • After you have activated the card in France, you can then convert your credit to data bundles by keying in the codes provided on the LeFrench Mobile Website
  • Your balance and data usage can be checked at anytime by sending an SMS to 22 213 with the letters BAL, you will immediately receive a return text informing you of your balance
  • To keep the SIM active for your next visit to France, ensure you have €0.90 for each month, until you return.
  • Your credit does not expire, which is another feature that many others don’t offer.
  • Don’t forget to mail or email the form they send you with your SIM card, within 15 days of activating the card.  French law, require that all SIM cards sold, must be registered, otherwise your phone will be disconnected.
  • Check their FAQ, for any other questions you might have.

SOME EXTRA TIPS

To keep your data usage down and to not receive unnecessary push through notifications while you are away

  • Go to settings
  • Cellular
  • Turn off applications that can cause data usage and only turn them on when you require access to the particular application. For example:
    • Mail
    • Facebook
    • Weather
    • Instagram
    • Location Services

FURTHER READING

I found this weblink Prepaid Data in France very useful. This gives you a very comprehensive run down on a number of pre-paid services available for France.

If you have any questions, tips or anything else to add, please feel free to comment to help others have a good mobile phone experience in Paris!

If you have found this information helpful, please thank me by leaving a comment or following me on facebook for daily updates, photos and anecdotes. Merci and happy travels.

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