When you first move to France, there are about a hundred different things you need to do to get set up. Often, what you would imagine to be the simplest items on your to-do list, end up being the most difficult to get done or to get a hold of.
Finding an apartment, opening up a bank account, and buying a metro pass are a few of the things that foreigners have learned are agonizingly difficult to do, despite coming across as simple enough procedures.
Truth be told, in France – and in Paris – nothing every comes easy (a lesson I’ve learned the hard way). However, there is one thing that I actually managed to do when I first arrived that didn’t take me weeks or cause me a major headache: getting a French phone number.
Do I need a Paris phone number?
If you are just planning a short visit to Paris, a French phone number is unnecessary. However, if you are going to be here for a few months, or even planning to move here permanently, you absolutely require one.
While many parts of the world are become phone-phobic, it is still very common for people to make and take calls in France. If you want to arrange a job interview, call about a flat you see listed online, or are interested in an item being hawked on Leboncoin, you will need a French phone number. In these cases, email – and sometimes even texting – won’t cut it.
If you are European, the need for a Parisian mobile number is less urgent. This is because you can use your phone plan from back home anywhere in Europe free of roaming charges. In fact, you would be paying the same price for using your phone in Paris, as you would using it back home.
That said, if you are planning on settling into the French capital, I’d still recommend getting a French SIM card within the first few months of your arrival.
Dialing French Phone Numbers
In France, all mobile numbers are 10 digits long and start with a 0. They typically start with a 06 or 07, though other starting codes include 08 for special numbers (such as those that are toll-free), 01 for Paris, and 02 or 04 for landlines.
The service provider that you choose also influences which digits you’ll have in your French phone number.
If you are calling a French number from outside of France, omit the 0 from the beginning of the number and add a +33 (France’s country code) at the beginning.
Mobile Contract Vs. Pay-as-you-go
French Phone Plan
If you want to take out a mobile contract in France, things get a little complicated. In order to sign up for a plan, you will be required to furnish the following pieces of information:
- A valid passport or ID card,
- The RIB of your French bank account (international bank accounts are usually not accepted),
- Proof of address.
As such, it isn’t likely that you wouldn’t be able to open up a contract right upon your arrival. However, after you’re more settled you will be able to get on a plan with little trouble. When you get about doing this, keep in mind that payment will be by direct debit and that you have the option to sign up for a rolling contract instead of a yearly contract, which goes month-by-month and can be cancelled at any time.
I must point out that some service providers will require a deposit (typically a couple hundred euros) if doing a mobile contract for someone who is non-EU. This is true even if they are currently residing in France and have a visa or carte de sejour to prove it.
Prepaid French SIM Card
If you don’t have the required documents to sign up for a mobile contract yet, or are a non-EU citizen looking to avoid the pricey deposit, a prepaid French SIM card is a good option. You can get one from any of the service providers and only require a piece of ID to buy it.
Prepaid SIM cards are also a good option if your mobile needs change frequently, or if you want to pay less certain months. There are a wide variety of top up options that vary greatly in price and offer just about every combination out there, whether you’re after unlimited texts or plenty of data.
A pay-as-you-go plan is also a good option for someone who lives in Paris part-time or who travels to France frequently, as you can simply top up your phone when necessary.
Phone Providers in Paris
There are many different service providers that cater to French residents, with the big four being:
- Free Mobile,
- Bouygues Télécom.
Orange is by far the most popular of the four, and boasts the largest network coverage in France. SFR comes in second, while Bouygues comes in third. Free Mobile is the newest of the bunch and steadily rising in popularity thanks to its unbeatably low prices.
Which service provider you choose depends entirely on your mobile needs and budget.