Renting a cell phone in France

Mr. Athena and I are going to France for 3 weeks in the fall.

We’re not the types who are glued to our cell phones - in fact, we hate them - but they are handy on trips. We’d like to keep in touch with people back home as well as be able to call ahead for reservations and information while travelling around the countryside.

Does anyone have any experience renting or leasing a phone for a short time? Can you point us towards any particular places that provide this service?

When I lived in the UK for 9 months, I bought a phone without any kind of contract. Minutes were accumulated using top-up cards I could get anywhere, and the only calls I paid for were the ones I made, not the ones I received. Things may be different now, of course. Phones were fairly cheap, too, and I was able to sell mine before I left. If you decide to keep the phone, you should be able to hold onto it if you have need for it in Europe (or beyond?) in the future.

Not exactly a rental situation, but things are much more flexible out there than in the US, so I thought I’d share.

If you have an unlocked GSM cellphone in the US, you could buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card in France instead of a whole phone, and just swap your current SIM out. We did this about 7 times on a round-the-world trip and it saved us a fortune.

Oh, sorry, the “eh” on your location indicates you might be from Canadia. Apols if this is the case.

I am in the US, not Canada.

From what I gather, very few American cell phones are GSM phones. I wouldn’t even know how to tell if ours are or not.

Jjimm has the right idea there. I was a seafarer for many years and whenever I hit port I went to the first cell phone shop and got a “pay as you go” simm card.
As I remember the GSM phone was a bit pricey when I got it 4 or 5 years ago though.

I am in the US, not Canada.

From what I gather, very few American cell phones are GSM phones. I wouldn’t even know how to tell if ours are or not.

Have a look in the menu options and see if you can select different frequencies. Also does it have a removable sim card.
If the answer is “no” to either then you may well be looking at getting a tri-band GSM phone here before you go, or getting a “disposable phone” when you get there.

I bought an unlocked GSM phone on Ebay for my trip to Spain in the fall, and I have purchased a sim from United Mobile to use while I’m there. I got a pretty nice (new) phone for $100 and the sim for $50.

You can get a GSM phone for less, but you need to make sure it can pick up the right bands in Europe. Most of the phones there use 900 or 1800 Mhz bands, while in the US the phones use 800 or 1900. Mine is quad-band, but you can also get tri-band.

Also important is making sure the phone is unlocked. Most carriers in the US lock the phones they provide so you can only use their service. To find out if a phone is unlocked, just switch out the sim with another one. It will give you an error if it’s locked.

This website has some good information about international cell phones, but I’ve heard that their service is pretty expensive and not very good.

When I was in Amsterdam a couple of months ago, you could get a PAYG SIM for EUR5 (<US$8).

This is the advice Let’s Go Paris 2005 gives re: renting cell phones for short-term stays. They say that it’s an economical and easy option.

I haven’t used this (nor any other) cell phone rental service, but it looks like a potentially good option. All this GSM - SIM card stuff kind of makes my head hurt. Honestly, why can’t the rest of the world just adapt to the American standard and be done with all this nonsense? :wink:

Hope this helps, and bon voyage! Have a wonderful time in France.

Oh, I should also add that cell phones in France are not a good option for just chatting, unless you’re independently wealthy. No matter what, minutes are expensive. If you’re planning on calling your mom in Duluth and telling her all about the amazing brioche you had for breakfast, it might be a good idea to get an international calling card before leaving the States. That way, you save yourself the potential fiasco of trying to get the right card at some corner Tabac, and can ensure that the instructions are in English. Pay phones abound, so it will be easy to make use of a calling card.

My family travels to Europe many times a year and often to France. The cell phone rental plan is barely workable in theory and isn’t cost effective except in some type of emergency. You can buy dual-band phones that you can use in Europe and not all of them are expensive. You could just buy one. From there, you get a special SIM card for use in France and pop it in under the battery.