How To Get/Use A Cellphone in France (For An American)

Handsome, young, son has such a great mom that she is allowing him to go to France with a High School tour group in a few months.

I, the aforementioned great mom, was wondering what is the best option for cell phone use while he is there?

The trip is 11 days and it seems that US phones don’t really work there. His phone has an integrated SIM, so he can’t just pick up a new card while there. I was kinda thinking he could get a phone there that he could also use as a camera to record the trip, but I’m not sure if that is a good idea.

Any ideas about how best to meet three goals: camera, email, and perhaps a phone call or two?

If he has a smartphone that can support the Skype app, the answer might just be for him to install the app, for you to install the app, and to call each other via Skype. This requires him to find a free or low-cost WiFi connection while he’s there but that should be doable.

Note that a lot of US phones that don’t usually take a SIM card (e.g. Verizon) can take a SIM when travelling overseas, this is what I usually do.

You suggested in the OP that he acquire a new phone when he gets there. Instead, you might get an unlocked global phone (meaning one that supports all the GSM bands used worldwide) here in the US (e.g., via eBay or Amazon) and then he just needs to get a prepaid SIM over there.

I’m not sure if he’d be able to access his email from a phone he buys there, but he could pick up a prepaid cell with a camera. In case he still needs it for a bit once he gets back here (for transferring pictures, for instance), make sure it’s charged before he leaves Europe or he’ll have to get a charging adapter to use here in the US.

Having done that, you’ll all have access to a phone that can be used for future trips to places; just make sure that the phone he gets can take a SIM card so you just have to buy the card (and maybe some more time) when you get to a new country.

11 days? Just have him use Google Voice or Skype or What’s App when he’s on WiFi at the hotel or a coffee shop or, well, almost any place.

You can check out Mobal. It is an international pay as you go. The basic phone is $29 and you get a pay as you go international number. As a bonus, if you think you will be doing some international travel later in life, the number is yours for life. I just picked one up for my upcoming Hawaiian vacation. It is going to come in handy for me as I take a trip to the US every two or three years.

My carrier, AT&T, worked while my wife and I travelled to Europe. I just added an international plan before I left and could use cell and data with no problem on my iPhone. I did not have to change the SIM card. It wasn’t expensive. You might want to contact your carrier to see if his phone will work.

Who is your carrier and what kind of phone does your son have? I am not familiar with the idea of an integrated SIM. You may be surprised at which US phones will indeed work in Europe.

My high-school age son went to Copenhagen last fall on a student exchange program. I agree with the recommendations above for connecting to WiFi and using Skype/Facebook Messenger/What’s App or other options. I have limited experience with Google Voice but that is probably also a great option. There is no cost at all for any of these. They can be used for instant messaging, voice, or video calls. WiFi is so ubiquitous now that this is the most sensible option. Depending on his phone he probably doesn’t need to do anything at all but drop his phone in his pocket.

I have used three other methods for phone use abroad. One is getting a local SIM card when I arrive and plugging that into my phone. I have Verizon and have used an LG LG3, Samsung Galaxy 3, HTC Thunderbolt, and NV Touch, and IIRC all have supported GSM 900.

Another is to set up a temporary international calling plan with your carrier. I have done this with Verizon, where you can get on an international plan for one billing period (or you can get it prorated if your trip crosses the billing period but it’s an administrative pain). This includes some combination of voice and data. But if you have WiFi the first option above is better.

I have a Mobal account. I signed up several years ago when they were a good option but quit a long time ago because their rates are expensive compared to the other options listed above. You do get a dedicated phone number but it’s a UK phone number. Fine if you’re from the UK but if you’re a Yank friends in the U.S. who call you have to pay for an international call. I also tried another similar service whose name escapes me at the moment. I canceled because their web site says that the number includes voicemail but it turned it that was false. I needed it to stay in touch at work and the lack of voicemail was a non-starter.

So long as it’s web-accessible, he can.

On the other hand, some people have traveled outside the US (even to Canada), used their phone for voice calls or the cellular data connection without having set up an international plan and come home to big bills (like in the thousands of dollars). The reason is the standard rates for international use are ridiculous. When my mother went overseas last year and brought her phone, we called AT&T to disable all international use, just to avoid that happening.

Modern day phones lose charge in a day ir two. If he takes his USA phone his bigger worry will be to charge it up. The voltage differences have to be taken into account dont you think? Plus the adapter for charger.

Best bet. Buy a phone, buy a sim when in france.

The phone itself will be able to account for the voltage; an adapter is on the order of 10$. If he’s carrying a laptop, he can get a E-cable or an adaptor and charge the phone from the laptop’s USBs. Both cables and adaptors are a little bit cheaper than phones.

On adaptors - the best solution is to take a two gang extension lead that he can plug his gadgets into. You can buy them with a USB socket too. All you need then is to get an adaptor to plug a US plug into a French wall socket. All his gadgets will be fine with the different voltages.

Free wifi is available all over Europe. McDonald’s are an obvious place but many cafes, shopping centres, and hotel lobbies will have it too. Hotels usually charge for wifi in the room.

When we go to France we use a tablet and wifi as our main means of communication.

Two things to note about taking his current phone with him - which is what I recommend. Make sure that he understands that he needs to deactivate cellular data and knows the difference between wifi and cellular communication. I am in Europe 3x a year on business or vacation and have never done anything other than activate my cell phone for international use (I’ve never done an interenational plan or even international texting plan.) I call using Skype over wifi (5 credit lasts years), iMessage and Facetime (iPhone obviously), text/SMS when necessary (.50 per text sending or receiving SO no texting from his friends!), and brief calls when necessary. My bill per trip is way under $5 and not worth the effort of turning on and off a plan nor buying another phone.

If he wants to use a map feature, get the free app which pre-downloads maps and uses GPS but does not use cellular data so he can’t get lost! But let him know that texting and using the phone is emergencies ONLY. My daughter is younger and had never understood that wifi and cellular were different things (kids today!) but talking her through it and making sure that her friends knew that they would also get billed for international texting kept them all on their best behavior! (On an iPhone, if it is a green message, you pay. Blue is free on wifi.)

Whatsapp is probably better than most other apps as it is free to send photos on whatsapp.

Any T-Mobile GSM will work there, though at least in Paris his reception will be spotty. I think it’s $15/month to add fixed-price international calling (20 cents per minute, IIRC) and free roaming to any domestic calling plan.

:confused: How do the phones work without a SIM card?

You should really check to see if your phone will work in France. My Verizon phone HTC M8 worked fine in Paris this fall.

CDMA does not use a SIM card. Each phone has an unique identifier that does the function of the unique identifier in a SIM card.