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There are telecartes (phonecards) available at tabacs (tobacco shops) all over. You can buy them in varying amounts for calls within France and for international calls. You specify which type you want and for the length of time needed when purchasing the cards. Since most of the public phones do not accept coins, these telecartes are necessary to make calls. Instructions for use are posted in the telephone booths. The minutes used are deducted from the original amount and the remainder is available for future use.
As far as cell phones go, you can visit a cell phone store in any large town in France and purchase a cheap mobile which usually includes a pre-pay SIM card. While there are several carriers, the best for calling internationally is called Lebara. They cater to foreigners living in and traveling to France and needing inexpensive calling back home. Cellular Abroad sells and rents Lebara online at www.cellularabroad.com.
If you are traveling with others then 2 cell phones are handy for meeting up purposes. They can be used in other EU countries with the appropriate SIM cards. Incoming calls are free, so for international calls home during a lengthy trip, it is easy for people back home to get an international calling program for a month or more and use this to call the cell phone. Use the cell just to signal for a call back. This allows you to chat freely. Alternatively, some U.S. and Canadian cellphones can be used abroad. Check with your phone's manufacturer to check it will work and check with your provider for information on call charges.
Owners of cell phones from any other EU country are able to use their cell phone in France without issue. A recently enacted European law has capped the cost of roaming from home networks to fairly reasonable rates, as of July 1 2011.
Data roaming charges can be avoided by renting a mobile wifi hotspot, to connect at local rates with up to 5 devices at the same time. Check for more information on www.frenchconnection.fr and use it with your existing mobile, smartphone, tablet and laptop. You can even do Skype and VOIP calls.
A very good deal is also available in Post Offices around the country. Here, you can purchase telephone cards for 7.50-20€, which work on 2 different systems: 1) you can call a number directly and be charged quite a bit, or 2) call a special number that actually calls you back in the phone booth, and then you dial your number. This way, you have 10x more minutes to use (7.50€ = approx. 400 minutes to North America).
00 is the International Direct Dial code you use to call overseas from within France.
For example, to call Seattle airport - (206) 787 3000 - from France, dial 00 1 206 787 3000.
33 is the International Country Code for France, which is followed by the telephone number omitting the initial '0'
For example, to call the Paris tourist information office - 01 49 52 42 63 - from the US or Canada, dial 011 33 1 49 52 42 63
French telephone numbers consist of ten digits and are usually quoted in pairs of digits. The first two digits indicate where/what service you're calling: