A normal French phone number has ten digits, ie: 01 40 25 08 08.
Sometimes the numbers in travel guides are written for those calling from abroad. In that case, the initial “0” is dropped, and France’s international prefix of “33” is added, ie: +331 40 25 08 08.
The “+” means you have to first dial “out” from your country. For example, to call out of the US you dial “0011”. So to call this French number, you would dial: 0011 331 40 25 08 08.
In general, the first two numbers of a French phone number indicate the location (“01” being Paris and the surrounding region). Mobile phone numbers begin with “06”. Special numbers begin with “08” (note: only “08” numbers followed by “00” are free calls).
Something for those of you calling abroad for the first time: the ring actually sounds different! Who knew?
International Calls from France
To call home, dial out from France with “00” and then dial the international prefix followed by the phone number.
Some international prefixes (sometimes called the” country code”):
Republic of Ireland 353
New Zealand 64
To use your calling card or make a collect call from France, contact the AT&T international operator (toll-free, English-language operator). Tel 0800 99 00 11.
For local directory assistance you no longer dial 12. There are now dozens of 6-digit “information” numbers, all beginning with “118”. The Pages Jaunes number is 118 008 (calls are minimum €1.01 plus the local calling charge); some others are 118 012, 118 000, 118 118, etc. Not confusing at all, eh? For bilingual French/English phone directory assistance (they also provide general tourism information like opening hours), diall 118 247.
For international inquiries dial 08 36 59 32 12 (not a free call, either) for a bilingual operator.
Using Phones in France
Do I even need to tell you to avoid using the hotel phone? They all charge hefty fees, even for local calls (which are never free in France, but aren’t as expensive as hotels charge).
First off, French public telephones no longer accept coins, so to make a call you’ll need to get a pre-paid phone card (carte téléphonique), approximately €10 for 50 units or €17 for 120 units, available at major Métro stations, post offices, Tabacs, news stands, tourism offices and France Télécom agencies. Just stick the card in the slot (a handy little screen walks you through this on many phones) and dial. Most phone booths display the number which lets you receive calls. The cabines are getting harder to find, since so many French people use mobile phones now, but most Métro stations have one near the ticket window.
Note: Don’t use the regular carte téléphonique for international calls, you’ll watch your units ticking away faster than you can count! Instead purchase an international calling card (a télécarte international, from the same locations). Instead of actually sticking the card into the phone, you dial the free number listed on the card and type in the code (under the scratch-off silver panel), then follow the instructions in English to make your call. These can also be used for local calls.
Unlike the US, local calls are not free in France, but it’s free to receive calls on a French mobile phone (called a portable). As a result, most Parisians have a mobilephone instead of a land line.
To use your own US-purchased mobile phone in France, it will need to be a tri-band/GSM compatible phone. Contact your provider to find out the costs involved for international “roaming” service.
It may be worthwhile switching to a French provider during your stay, such as SFR (see the “International Travellers” section) or Bouygues Telecom (click on “International Visitors”), so that you can receive calls for free and make inexpensive calls within France.
INSIDR launched their smartphone rental loaded with a Paris Guide and maps in late 2015. For as little as €6/day they will deliver a completely charged and connected smartphone to you anywhere in Paris at any time, along with a carrying case, a mini guide to Paris, and someone to show you how the phone works. It’s already loaded with their easy-to-use maps, dining, shopping and sightseeing recommendations, and taxi apps. You can also use the smartphone as a WIFI hotspot for your own phone to avoid roaming fees. Run by a borther-sister team of native Parisians, they also have you hooked up to a free chat with other Parisians willing to answer any questions you may have on your trip.
Context Paris rents cell phones for a modest rate of €7/day, delivered to your hotel. You can also rent mobile phones in Paris from agencies such as CellularAbroad (US tel: 1-800-287-3020), with prepaid SIM cards that give you a French cell-phone number and calling rates. I’ve been asked about simply purchasing a SIM card to put in your own phone, and so far I haven’t been able to find anywhere that does this because most country restrictions prevent tourists and non-residents from purchasing SIM cards inside their borders (anyone else have any luck?)
Obviously if you have your laptop and a good headset, internet-based calling like Skype may be the least expensive option.
Using Your Cell Phone in France