short term communications in Paris?
June 16, 2012 1:49 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are going to Paris for a few weeks. Yay! Unfortunately I'll be in and out of conferences for the first 5 days while she is out sightseeing. My schedule will probably be pretty unpredictable, so we'd like to have an easy way to keep in touch, but cell phone rentals seem pretty expensive, especially since we'll only need it for a few days. We don't even really need voice - texting would work. Any ideas for cheap, short-term communications in Paris?
posted by captainawesome to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Cheapo GSM phone, pay-as-you-go SIM. The lowest price for PAYG phones from French carriers appears to be 19/29 euro (example), and there's the BIC-branded phone from Orange at 29 euro that comes with 60 minutes of credit, but if you can get hold of unlocked phones before you leave that handle 900/1800 GSM, you can just buy SIM cards and pay for credit.
posted by holgate at 2:08 PM on June 16, 2012

Also -- check with your own carrier for international text packages which allow a certain number of texts per month. Ask lots of questions about exactly how it works -- whether you're charged for send only or send and receive, how your billing cycle falls in relation to trip dates, whether charges are pro-rated, if you can sign up then cancel any time of the month, etc. It might turn out to be an affordable option.
posted by MelissaSimon at 3:15 PM on June 16, 2012

What phones and carrier do you have already? Some perfectly normal phones are so-called "world phones" or "quad band phones" that have support for the European frequencies of 900/1800 GSM. Take this $70 slider from Samsung, which has a decent keyboard for heavy texting. You can get it unlocked after two months of service, but AT&T has a similar setup. It's a little tricker if you have a more recent iPhone from AT&T because the SIM is not the same size and has to be cut down.

If you've got Sprint or Verizon phones, for the most part you're out of luck, and you'll have to buy a cheapo to use overseas. It's significantly cheaper than renting, even for a few days.
posted by wnissen at 4:07 PM on June 16, 2012

I have AT&T, and arranged for us to have "international" texting turned on. It's a flat monthly fee for X msgs per phone number month, after that it's Y cents per text. They'll check phone compatibility, but even my old phone was fine.

They'll pro-rate the fee if you only have the service turned on for part of the month, but BE WARNED that the number of texts is also pro-rated to the number of days the service is active. So if the service is only on for a week, your allowance is a quarter of the total. I had them set up the service with a fixed end-date to save me the trouble of canceling when I got home, but it would have been smarter to wait (because I was given flat-out incorrect information about the number of texts being pro-rated and wound up going over.)
posted by desuetude at 6:26 PM on June 16, 2012

When I lived in France a couple of years ago I was very very surprised by the level of bureaucracy involved in the purchase of a PAYG phone - here in the UK you can pretty much pick one up in the supermarket - in France, I needed to fill in forms and show my passport. Also, credit expires really quickly (so if you top up 5 euros you have to use those 5 euros within, like, a week). This was 2 years ago, so it might have changed, but...

If there's any way you can use your existing phones, I'd do that.
posted by handee at 6:59 AM on June 17, 2012

When I was in Paris, I just paid for the international plan for a month on my iPhone (AT&T). No hassle and it worked great.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 8:56 AM on June 17, 2012

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