Getting Mobile

Long gone are the days when you only needed a travel book and a map: now that we’re digital natives, travellers use their phones for everything — and therefore good connection is needed at all time, if only to find your way around, to learn what sightseeing you shouldn’t miss around you, or to find that perfect shopping area.

Mobile Operators

There are four main mobile network operators in France: Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, and Free Mobile. When arriving in France, your phone will probably be switched to one of those, depending on their mutual contracts.

If you choose to keep it, read the instructions sent by SMS to double check what you’ll pay for different services. If in doubt, wait to find a good WiFi spot.

Phone Calls

Phone numbers in France have a 10-digit format, including the area code. They are usually grouped by set of two digits. For instance, to call Paris Office du Tourisme from France, simply dial 01 49 52 42 63. You cannot drop the area code even if you are already in the area.

The first two digits are for the area code (SVG file):

  • 01 is the Paris Area (“Région Ile-de-France”).
  • 02 is the northwest of France.
  • 03 is the northeast of France.
  • 04 is the southeast of France.
  • 05 is the southwest of France.
  • 06 and 07 are for mobile phone providers
  • 08 is for toll-free telephone numbers. Watch out: some are free (mostly the 08 00 ones), many have additional charges!
  • 09 is for VOIP numbers.

To dial an international number from France, the country exit code is 00, followed by the country code, then the phone number (including the area code).

Emergency numbers are free of charge:

  • 15 for medical aid.
  • 17 for police station.
  • 18 for fire station.
  • 112 is the standard European emergency number, and thus offer better chance to speak English.

Data Roaming

As of June 15th, Europeans mobile operators must comply to a new law and drop roaming charges. Thus, making calls, sending texts and using the Internet should cost the same in any country in the EU. Check that your provider is indeed following the law!
Note that this does not apply to SIM cards from non-EU countries.

As a general rule, and in order to avoid expected data roaming charges, we advise you to configure your phone accordingly.

On iPhone:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Cellular, or Cellular Data, or Mobile Data.
  3. Tap Cellular Data Options.
  4. Turn off Cellular Data and Data Roaming.

On Android:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Connections.
  3. Tap Data Usage.
  4. Turn off Mobile Data.

Also, turn off any app that uses data in the background or syncs automatically.

Not sure about your phone’s data usage despite it all? Just put it in Flight Mode anytime you are outside of a free WiFi zone.

Before flying to France, you should download mapping apps that do not require a data plan, or download the essential data for those who need one.

We highly recommend the app. Download both the Paris and Seine-Saint-Denis maps, since the WCEU location is located slightly north of Paris.

You can also use the Google Maps app’s offline to download a map of a chosen area. Learn more here.

Both options allow you to get a map of your surroundings, navigate to another point, and see both businesses and points of interests.

Free Wifi

If you need to ask, French people pronounce it “wee-fee” 🙂

The city of Paris is putting a city-wide free WiFi service (English alternative page) for all to use, from 7 AM to 11 PM (24/7 in some specific locations). A list and map of the current 316 access points is available on Look for this sign!

There are many places here you can use free wifi services: airports, most train stations, most hotels, several museums, Starbucks, McDonald’s, many cafés and restaurants, etc. If you have bandwidth need and no cheap mobile plan, try your best to find a hotspot there.

Recommended SIM Cards, And Where To Find Them

Unless your mobile operator allows you to use data roaming at length when in France/Europe (ask them!), there’s a good chance using your SIM card as-is might be the most expensive way check your Twitter timeline.

First things first: before you even consider buying a foreign SIM card, make sure that your phone can accept it! Most of the time, you will have to unlock it.

The best test is to switch your SIM card with that of a friend: if you can make calls, your phone is unlocked already; if you cannot, well, time to unlock! Contact your operator about it.

In most airport and train stations you can go to a newsstands, such as “Relay” shops, to buy a SIM card. Once in Paris, you can go to the shop of a network operator (SFR, Bouygues and Orange have many).

We recommend that you use a prepaid card for any of the major providers. Here are the most current descriptions, with a Google Translate link (warning: broken CSS ahead!):

Tweet this page once you are online! 🙂