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Internet and Wi-Fi

Getting online in Paris is rarely a problem because free or pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi is widely available. Note that you may pick up a signal for "Free Wi-Fi," but this is the name of a French Internet provider and its network is open only to paying clients. Paris has made a big push in going wireless in recent years, so Wi-Fi (pronouncedwee-fee) is now offered in more than 400 public parks, squares, and civic centers (like the Centre Pompidou) as well as many libraries. Access is free and unlimited for anyone (you just need to select the "Orange" network, and then launch your browser); however, network speed may not be as fast as you are used to back home. Cafés will usually have a Wi-Fi sticker on their window if there is wireless available, but verify before ordering a drink. McDonald's also has free Wi-Fi spaces (sometimes disabled during peak dining hours), as do the 50-odd Starbucks outlets. Many hotels have business services with Internet access or high-speed wireless access; and these days most accommodations offer in-room Wi-Fi as well, sometimes at an extra cost. A helpful website for finding hotspots is www.journaldunet.com/wifi. If you're traveling with a laptop, carry a spare battery and an adapter to use with European-style plugs. Never plug your computer into any socket before asking about surge protection.

Phones

The good news is that you can now make a direct-dial telephone call from virtually any point on earth. The bad news? You can't always do so cheaply. Calling from a hotel is almost always the most expensive option because hotels usually add huge surcharges to all calls, particularly international ones. Calling cards can keep costs low, but only if you buy them locally. And then there are mobile phones (), which are sometimes more prevalent than landlines; as expensive as mobile phone calls can be, they are still usually a much cheaper option than calling from your hotel.

The country code for France is 33. The first two digits of French numbers are a prefix determined by zone: Paris and Ile-de-France, 01; the northwest, 02; the northeast, 03; the southeast, 04; and the southwest, 05. Note that it's often cheaper to call between 9 pm and 9 am. Pay close attention to numbers beginning with 08: some—but not all—are toll-free (when you dial one with a fee attached, a recorded message will tell you how much it will cost to proceed with the call, usually €0.15 or €0.34 per minute). Numbers beginning with 09, connected to DSL and Internet lines, are generally free when calling in France. Numbers that begin with 06 and 07 are reserved for cell phones.

When dialing France from abroad, you should drop the initial 0 from the telephone number (all numbers listed in this book include the initial 0, which is used for calling from within France). To call a number in Paris from the United States, dial 00–33 plus the phone number, but minus the initial 0 listed for the specific number in Paris. In other words, the local number for the Louvre is 01–40–20–51–51. To call this number from New York City, dial 00–33–1–40–20–51–51. To call this number from within Paris, dial 01–40–20–51–51.

Calling Cards

Phone booths are disappearing one by one, almost daily, but the city is still required to maintain two for arrondissements with more than 1,000 people. So there are some in service if you’re in a pinch, though most serve as makeshift homeless shelters and are rarely used by locals or tourists.

As of February 2016, French pay phones no longer accept télécartes (phone cards); however, Orange will maintain some 40,000 telephone booths in France, and 72% of them will accept a ticket téléphone, a prepaid calling card, which can be purchased through Orange boutiques. These work on any phone (including your hotel phone); to use one, you dial a free number, and then punch in a code indicated on the back of the card.

Calling Outside France

If you use a prepaid cell phone bought in France, calls to the United States and Canada cost around €1 per minute, and nearly double that to the rest of the world, depending on the provider; incoming calls are usually at no cost. Foreign cell phones used in France to call the United States or Canada will generally be more costly; it’s best to check with your carrier to know your options. Note that most telecom operators in France offer an all-in-one service, with Internet, free local and international calls, and French TV, for an amazing monthly rate of about €35; hence, many landlines feature free international calling to most countries. But if you’re staying in a rental apartment with a phone, ask first before you start calling abroad.

To make a direct international call out of France, dial 00 and wait for the tone; then dial the country code (1 for the United States and Canada, 44 for the United Kingdom) and the area code (minus any initial 0) and number.

To call with the help of an operator, dial the toll-free number 08–00–99–00 plus the last two digits of the country code. Dial 08–00–99–00–11 for the United States and Canada, 08–00–99–00–44 for England.

Calling Within France

For telephone information in France, you need to call one of the dozen or so six-digit renseignement numbers that begin with 118. (For Les Pages Jaunes—the French Yellow Pages—you dial 118–008.) The average price for one of these calls is €0.34 per minute.

Since all local numbers in Paris and the Ile-de-France begin with a 01, you must dial the full 10-digit number, including the initial 0.

Mobile Phones

If you have a multiband phone (some countries use different frequencies than the United States) and your service provider uses the world-standard GSM network (as do T-Mobile and AT&T), you can probably use your phone abroad. International travel plans are increasingly attractive; however, roaming fees can be steep—99¢ a minute is considered reasonable. And overseas you normally pay the toll charges for incoming calls. It's almost always cheaper to send a text message than to make a call, since text messages have a very low set fee (often less than 5¢).

If you just want to make local calls, consider buying a new SIM card (your provider may have to unlock your phone for you to use it) and a prepaid service plan when you reach your destination. You'll then have a local number and can make local calls at local rates. If your trip is extensive, you could also simply buy a new cell phone on arrival, as the initial cost will be offset over time.

If you travel internationally frequently, save one of your old mobile phones or buy a cheap one online; ask your cell-phone company to unlock it for you, and take it with you as a travel phone, buying a new SIM card with pay-as-you-go service in each destination.

Cell phones are called portables in France, and most Parisians have one. If you'd like to rent or buy a cell phone for your trip, reserve one at least four days prior to departure, as most companies will ship it to you before you travel. Cellular Abroad rents cell phones packaged with prepaid SIM cards that give you a French cell-phone number and calling rates (you can also use your own phone or tablet with their SIM card). Mobal sells GSM phones (priced from $29) that will operate in 190 countries. Planetfone rents GSM phones, which can be used in more than 210 countries, but the per-minute rates are expensive. You can also buy a disposable "BIC" prepaid phone (available from Orange outlets, tabacs, magazine kiosks, and some supermarkets). Calls to the United States made with Le French Mobile—a service catering to English-speaking visitors—cost as little as €0.15 per minute, but incoming calls are more expensive; it offers a range of plans without the obligation of long-term contracts.

Contacts

Cellular Abroad. 00800/36–23–33–33; 800/287–5072; www.cellularabroad.com.

Le French Mobile. 01–74–95–95–00; www.lefrenchmobile.com.

Mobal. 888/888–9162; www.mobal.com.

Orange. 09–69–36–39–00; www.orange.fr.

Planet Fone. 888/988–4777; www.planetfone.com.