The phone, mobile phone and broadband market in particular in France is constantly coming up with deals so it pays to check carefully what your options are – the choice is not as limited as it was just a few years ago, in fact there are so many suppliers and deals it can be hard to know which way to turn. Work out what you need the phone for – frequent calls and texts or just now and again, will you need it for calls to just France, Europe or international, are you travelling in France with someone and may need to be able to contact each other easily via a mobile phone? As with providers in countries around the world there is a huge choice, so make sure that what you buy is tailored to your personal use.
The main providers are France Telecome (Orange) – the main French telecoms company (like BT in the UK), SFR and Bouygues – they have shops in most large towns and shopping centres and sometimes offer exclusive deals if you shop via the internet.
You can purchase contract mobile phones or pay as you go type phones with existing SIM card or a SIM card for use with an existing phone (if it is a contract phone you may need to have it unlocked by your provider) – often it is not much more expensive to buy a new phone with an existing SIM card. It also means that you won’t have to unlock any handsets and can run a French phone alongside another phone if you think it might be useful to have both – for instance if you have a holiday home rather than a permanent home in France or travel frequently to France.
Buying a mobile phone in France
There are some differences that you may not have encountered before when buying a mobile phone in France:
First – you need identification to make your purchase. A passport or driving licence is perfect and some shops may also require a utility bill to confirm your address in France.
We have found that some shops will automatically update your information to a central log of information that requires the phone number, SIM card number and address. Other shops will leave you to this automatically. Check with the sales person when you are making the purchase as if this is not done you won’t be able to use your phone. It is a legal requirement in France to log French mobile phone user details on a Government database.
You may need a pin code to unlock your new phone – the sales person will help with this.
If you are buying a contract phone you will need a French address and a good credit history.
Write your French mobile number down somewhere – it is not displayed on the phone “for security reasons”.
If you don’t understand the tarrifs or the service you are being sold – don’t buy until you do. Persevere with the sales person, look online (and use Google translation if you need to) to understand the different deals because compared to some other countries the French mobile phone market can seem much more complicated and much more expensive.
Using a French mobile phone
If you have a pay as you go phone and need to top up you will find top up vouchers for sale in supermarkets, tabacs, ATMs and from the phone providor. Check for the expiry dates – you can buy a card for €5 that only lasts for one day but generally the more you spend on the card, the longer the credit lasts.
In shops the voucher cards are exchanged at the cash checkout for a receipt with a top-up code to enter. Make sure you enter the code carefully, you only have three attempts and then the voucher code becomes null and void.
Incoming calls are free – you only pay to make calls.
Mobile phone numbers in France start with 06…
Set your mobile phone for use in English – there is a language option menu and you may find it easier to use this than messages and instructions in French.
As soon as you make a connection from a French mobile phone – you will be charged, even if you don’t speak to anyone!