By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
France is famed for its fine cheeses and wines, chic fashion and fabulous art. The romance of Paris and the rolling hills of the Pyrenees attract scores of visitors every year. Many decide to make the move more permanent and get fully immersed in the joie de vivre of this fascinating country. And just a short hop across the English Channel is the UK.
But while you’re enjoying the good life in France or living it up in London, you’ll need to handle some practical matters. One of the most important things to consider is your cell phone. While you’re in the UK and France you’ll want to keep in touch, with new European friends and the folks back home. How easy is it to get a cell phone in this part of Europe? Which providers offer the best service in France and the UK?
How To Get A Cell Phone In France and the UK
Using a French or UK cell phone is much more economical than taking your US cell with you and using it in Europe, especially if you are staying in the country for more than a week-long vacation. French monthly plans (called forfaits) can be cheap and you can also pick up good value monthly plans in the UK. If you want a short contract or freedom from monthly bills, choose a prepaid or pay-as-you go phone (called sans abonnement in France).
Shop around and look at the different plans on offer from the top providers. This may take a little time – the range is huge – so while you’re setting up your plan, you can rent a cell phone for a week or so from the airport or large train stations (London Victoria and London Kings Cross have rental booths).
The UK has a whole host of shops in every larger town or city that showcase all of the cell phone models and plans under one roof. Your best bet is to visit one of these stores (Carphone Warehouse, or Phones 4 U) and ask a salesperson for their advice. These folks are on commission but they are impartial – they won’t steer you towards the most expensive cell but will generally listen to your requirements and suggest a few alternatives. Before you ask, have clear in your mind how often you call, how often you text, whether you will be taking your cell abroad and what you want from your cell (Wi-Fi, camera, touch screen etc). You can also go into each provider’s store but they will obviously recommend their own service. You don’t need to buy from the stores – with the info you get from the salesperson, go online for a cheaper deal. Visit the providers’ sites and make a few selections for comparison, then pay your money and wait in anticipation for your cell to be delivered.
Providers In The UK and France
The most popular providers in France include Orange, Bouygues and SFR. In the UK, Orange is also one of the biggest cell phone providers. O2, Vodaphone and others are also popular providers (called networks in the UK.)
Cell reception in France is generally very clear and you can use your cell as your main phone pretty much anywhere, apart from isolated rural areas. In the UK, cities and towns are very well covered. If you take a trip to the countryside on the weekend and you hike or drive off-the-beaten-track you may experience a lack of coverage. Certain networks are better than others in different areas. If you are living in a rural area you should check what coverage you get with the provider, or Google “mobile phone reception” for a variety of websites that have a comparison feature of the coverage different providers give.