So, you’re walking down the street in Paris, talking on your cel phone to your friend and there you see ahead of you the Arc de Triomphe. You’re about to tell your friend to meet with you there when suddenly…your cell phone battery died. Great, now what? It seems the only choice you’ve got is to call your friend back from a cabine téléphonique.
Where do we find a cabine téléphonique? Because mobile phones are becoming more popular, the cabine téléphonique is slowly disappering. The good news is they are still easy to find. First place to look would be near tourist attractions. Otherwise you may find them in train or subway stations, bus stops, etc. Even the smaller villages will have one – usually in the main plaza. It’s very rare to find a booth that accepts coins, so be sure you have or purchase a carte téléphonique. France Télécom public phones accept CB/Visa/Mastercard but only if it has a microchip/smartchip.
Phone cards to the rescue!
Since public telephones in France do not accept coins, you‘ll need to get a carte téléphonique available at major métro stations, post offices, tabacs, news stands, tourism offices and France Telecom (Orange) stores. these come with differing units of credit (for example, €10 for 50 units or €17 for 120 units). Once you‘ve obtained the card, just stick it in the slot and instructions will come up on the screen to walk you through the dialing process, and then dial. If you get a card with a chip in it, it’s all automatique – just slide it in the phone and wait for the dial tone, and dial. There are some cards that look like the kind you find in the United States, but you dial the number and then enter a code (the intsructions will be in French). Most cabines téléphoniques display the number of the phone so you can receive calls, too.
If you’re going to make international calls, I would advise against using a regular carte téléphonique – you will see your units disappear fast. For these calls, you’ll need to buy a télécarte international (you can find them at the same locations listed above). Instead of sticking the card into the phone, you dial the number listed on the card and type in the code (usually found under a scratch-off silver panel), then follow the instructions to make your call.
You can get a local France Sim Card online before leaving for France or use low-cost dial-around services such as allo2556. No contract or registration is required. You can call the USA, Canada, Western Europe and many other countries at tarif local (local rates) so you’ll be saving on your phone bill. They also work from payphones (the first minute is surcharged by France Telecom).
Here are some useful words to know when making or receiving phone calls in French:
annuaire – phone book
appel en P.C.V. – collect call
appeler – to call
composer un numéro – to dial a number
coup de fil – phone call
décrocher – to pick up (the phone)
cabine téléphonique – phone booth
être coupé – to be cut off
la tonalité – dial tone
laisser un message – to leave a message
mobile – cell phone
numéro de téléphone – phone number
raccrocher – to hang up
rappeler – to call back
répondeur téléphonique – answering machine
sonner – to ring
téléphone – phone
téléphoner à – to call
Some useful phrases:
Allô ? – Hello?
C’est ___ à l’appareil. – ___ is calling.
C’est de la part de ___. – ___ is calling.
C’est de la part de qui ? – Who’s calling?
Je voudrais parler à ___. – I’d like to speak to___.
La ligne est occupée. – The line is busy.
Ne quittez pas. – Please hold.
Pourrais-je parler à ___ ? – May I speak to ___?
Qui est à l’appareil ? – Who is calling?