To call a French number from abroad, dial: international prefix + 33 + local number without the leading 0. For example: +33 2 47 66 41 18
All French numbers have 10 digits. The first two digits are:
- 01 for the Paris region
- 02 for the north west
- 03 for the north east
- 04 for south east
- 05 for south west
- 06 for cellphones
- 07 also for cellphones since 2010.
- 08 have special prices that can be deduced from the two following figures: from free - 08 00 - to very costly (as far as 20.40 € per hour) - 08 99. Skype numbers also start with 08.
- 09 if they are attached to voice-over IP telephones connected to DSL modems from French DSL providers that integrate such functions.
You cannot drop the first two digits even if your call remains within the same area. The initial '0' may be replaced by some other digit or longer code indicating a choice of long-distance operator. Don't use this unless explicitly told to.
When speaking phone numbers, people will usually group the digits by sets of two. For example, 02 47 66 41 18 will be said as "zéro deux, quarante-sept, soixante-six, quarante et un, dix-huit". The two-digit pair 00 is said as "zéro zéro", not "double zéro". If you find it too hard to follow, you may ask the person to say the number digit-by-digit ("chiffre par chiffre"). It would then be "zéro, deux, quatre, sept, six, six, quatre, un, un, huit".
There are few companies that provide toll-free numbers (often starting with 08 00) and there are also numbers which start with 081, for which you pay the cost of a local call regardless of where you are in the country.
Numbers starting with 089 carry a premium toll. They provide service to some legitimate businesses but the ones you see advertised all over the country are usually for adult services.
Emergency numbers are 15 (medical aid), 17 (police station) and 18 (fire/rescue). You can also use the European emergency number 112 (perhaps a better choice if you don't speak French). These calls are free and accessible from virtually any phone, including locked cellphones. In case of a serious emergency, if you find a code-protected cellphone, enter a random code three times: the phone will lock, but you will be able to dial emergency numbers.
Cheap international calls
To enjoy cheap international calls from France travellers can get a local France Sim Card [www] online before they leave or use low-cost dial-around services such as appellemonde [www] or allo2556 [www].
Dial-around services are directly available from any landline in France. No contract or registration is required. Most dial-around services allows you to call the USA, Canada, Western Europe and many other countries at the local rate (tarif local) so you can easily save on your phone bill. They also work from payphones, though the first minute is surcharged by France Télécom.
To know how to order a landline (ligne fixe) in France you can click on landline providers in France [www]. Another method, if you're staying for a while, is to use VoIP over DSL, such as the Livebox or Freebox service (free long distance calls within France and to a number of countries).
Phone booths are available in train or metro stations, bus stops and near tourist attractions, etc. There is at least one phone booth in every village (look on the main square). Due to the widespread use of mobile phones, there are now fewer booths than a few years ago. Most use a card (no coins). France Télécom public phones accept CB/Visa/MasterCard cards but almost always only with a microchip. Otherwise, post offices, café-tabacs (recognizable by a red sign hanging outside), and stores that sell magazines sell phone cards. Ask for a "carte téléphonique"; these come with differing units of credit, so you may want to specify "petite" if you just want to make a short local call or two. If you get the kind with a computer chip in it, you just have to slide it into the phone, listen for the dial tone, and dial. The US-style cards require you to dial a number and then enter a code (but with spoken instructions in French).
France uses the GSM standard of cellular phones (900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands) used in most of the world outside of the U.S. There are several companies (Orange, SFR, Free, Bouygues Télécom and some others MVNOs like Virgin Mobile) offering wireless service. The country is almost totally covered but you may have difficulties using your mobile phone in rural or mountainous areas. However, for emergency numbers, the three companies are required by law to accept your call if they technically can, even if you are not one of their customers, thus maximizing your chance of being helped even in areas with spotty service.
If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Then incoming calls and SMSes are free. You can get it from most mobile service provider (Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom), but they have a very short validity for the card if you don't recharge it.
An Orange pre-paid SIM card is called a Mobicarte, costs €9.90 and comes with a credit of €5 included. SMSes within Orange France cost €0.12; to international mobile GSM users €0.28. Other operators (SFR, Bouygues) have similar prices. Since 2012, the mobile operator Free offers 2€/month subscription without any minimum subscription time including 120 minutes per month and unlimited national SMSes. This is only available through the web and you need a postal address.
Internet cafés: Internet access is available in cyber cafés all over large and medium-sized cities. Service is usually around €4 per hour.
Residential broadband: In all major cities, there are multiple companies offering residential broadband service. Typical prices are €30 a month for unmetered ADSL (with speeds of up to 24 megabits per second), digital HDTV over DSL and free unlimited voice-over-IP phone calls to land lines within France and about twenty other countries (EU, US...) with external SIP access too (the price includes a modem/router/switch with integrated WiFi MiMo access point).
Wifi: You'll also find wifi access (in cities and towns) in a lot of cafés usually those labelled a bit "trendy". There will be a sign on the door or on the wall. Also look for the @ symbol prominently displayed, which indicates internet availability. However, with most homes now wired for the internet, cyber cafés are increasingly hard to find, especially outside the major cities. In Paris, one popular free wifi spot is the Pompidou Centre. There is talk that the city intends to become the first major European capital providing free wifi coverage for the whole city. Public parks and libraries in Paris are also covered. Please note that wifi is prounonced "wee-fee" in France even by English speakers. Asking for "wi-fi" will generally not be understood.
Short-term SIM cards
(for smartphones and tablets)
Orange has nearly-unlimited Internet 1-month package for €9 called InternetMax. The official limit of 500MB is not enforced. Tethering is not allowed, but this is also not enforced. Email (POP3/SMTP/IMAP) is not covered, and sold as a separate package for €9 per month. P2P, VoIP and USENET are specifically banned, and risk getting your plan cancelled as well as the loss of any call credit remaining on your account.
To set this service up:
- buy a 'mobicarte' (generic prepaid SIM card) at an Orange outlet for €9.90 which comes included with credit of €5
- recharge it with €4 (with a credit card at an Orange outlet or with a €5-euro recharge sold at tobacco kiosks and news stands everywhere).
- turn off mobile data connection and disable all email applications using POP3/IMAP/SMTP at smartphone before inserting SIM card, otherwise it will suck up the credit well before you activate the unlimited data plan
- wait for 24 hours for the SIM card to be activated before you can add packages
- activate the InternetMax data plan with #123#. The menu is in French, refer to the link below for summary in English.
- allow several hours (officially up to 48hrs) for InternetMax to be activated. There's no notification, so check it regularly: surf a bit and check your credit with #123#
As the plan is not marketed by Orange, staff at outlets and hotline operators are often completely unaware of it, and Orange website tells very little on it even in French. If your French is poor, detailed third-party instructions can be very helpful.
Post offices ("La Poste") are found in all cities and villages but their opening hours vary. In the main cities the central office may be open during lunchtime; typically the day's opening hours are 09:00 to 18:00. Most offices are only open on Saturday morning and there is only one office in Paris which is open 24 hours and 365 days (on the Rue du Louvre).
Letter boxes are coloured in yellow.
There are three levels of service for French domestic mail (Andorra and Monaco included):
- Priority Letter (lettre prioritaire), usually arrives next day. Cost (up to 20g): €0.80
- Green Letter (lettre verte), usually arrives in two days. Cost (up to 20g): €0.70
- Economy Letter (écopli), usually arrives in four days. Cost (up to 20g): €0.68
For international mail, there is only one service:
- Priority Letter (lettre prioritaire), cost (up to 20g): €1.00 (to European Union and Switzerland), €1.25 (all other countries)
Rates correct as of November 2016.
International delivery services like FedEx and UPS are available in cities, however you generally have to call them for them to come to you as they have very few physical locations.
Another option is to simply use La Poste with a wide network around the country and the same services as its competitors.