Please sign in to post.

Mobile options for my 8 months in France

I will need to make domestic talk and text and talk and text to USA.

So far I think I should do this:
Unlock my iphone (done)
Buy a local SIM card when I arrive in Toulouse at a shop. Which one? Which plan?

Posted by
4931 posts

Before you leave the US, sign up for Google Voice. It's free for US mobile customers - and you don't need to keep US mobile service once you sign up. Google Voice gives you a free US phone number. You can either get a completely new number from Google, or you can port your old number to Google Voice ($20 one-time fee). You can then forward calls to your Google number to any US phone number.

The forwarding won't work to non-US numbers, though, so you can't forward calls to a French phone number. However, Google Hangouts, a free Google app, lets you make free calls to US numbers, even to landlines, and if you have a Google Voice number, you can receive calls on that number in Hangouts. You don't need calls forwarded; you can make/receive them as long as you are on WiFi or have mobile data (with a European SIM).

You can install Hangouts and Google Voice (there's also a Google Voice app for free texting) now for free and play with them. It doesn't change your existing service or number, unless you port your cell number to Google Voice.

But personally, I'd port your existing US cell number to Google. That will cancel your existing phone service immediately, though. Get some prepaid US SIM to carry you through until you leave for France, then cancel it. You won't have to pay for US phone service while in France, but you can keep your old cell number while in France and use it with Google Hangouts.

So that will solve your US calls issue. You can talk for hours for free to someone in the US while in France, if you are on WiFi; it will use some mobile data if you have a SIM without WiFi. And the other person doesn't need Hangouts installed.

Get a French SIM for local calls and mobile data.

Here are some prepaid options.

Posted by
1549 posts

We ported both our cell numbers to google voice after moving here. However, porting a number will disconnect your current cell phone plan. One thing tp keep in mind is that if in Europe for an extended period, the odds of needing to call an 800# or a verification code via text is pretty high. Google voice and hangouts handles both perfectly.
Anyone who texts you from the US sees no difference from your US plan. You would text from google voice or hangouts.

Once I’m on computer instead of iPad, I’ll email link with instructions.

Posted by
24 posts

Present situation:
I only have a mobile phone and want to preserve my present number for my return. I have no land line in the states and nothing in France where I will be for 8 months.
Please tell me if this will work:
1. Preserve and suspend my USA cell number by going on a reduced rate with ATT ,$10/month for 6 months after which it reverts to my regular monthly rate.
2. In Toulouse, France remove and save present SIM card.
3. Install local SIM card with contract from local carrier.


Posted by
4931 posts

Lisa, if you want to pay AT&T instead of going with Google, that should work. I'd prefer to save money (not pay AT&T for eight months) and port to Google Voice AND be able to use my number for eight months while in Europe, instead of paying just to freeze it. That will cost only $20 total.

Posted by
24 posts

Hi Andrew,
Thanks. I did not want to lose my present number when I return to the states. Won’t I lose it with Google Voice?

Posted by
4931 posts

No, you won't lose your number if you port it to Google Voice as I described above, so you can get incoming calls (and Google Voicemail) with the Google Hangouts app.

There are TWO steps here:

Step 1: sign up for Google Voice which gives you a NEW number (temporarily) but doesn't change ANYTHING yet. This is free. But it will forward to your existing number for now.

Plus, install Google Hangouts on your smart phone (assuming you have a smart phone? if not, none of this will make sense). This will let you make free calls to US number AND receive them on your Google number.

You can do all of this in step 1 for free without changing ANYTHING. So I'd try this all first - and if you decide for whatever reason it doesn't make sense to you or work, then you can give up and go with the AT&T route.

Step 2: once you've decided you understand how the Google approach works, port your existing number to Google Voice. It will do two things immediately: one, it will REPLACE the new number you just signed up for with your old number, the one you are trying to keep. And two, it will CANCEL your existing mobile service immediately. (But you can keep using Hangouts while you are on WiFi.) You could get a prepaid SIM in the US until you leave to keep using the phone at home til you leave for Europe.

Posted by
4931 posts

When you get back to the US after your time in France, you can either port your number from Google back to AT&T or just leave it on Google. While in the US, Google Voice acts like a forwarding service. So you can get service with AT&T again (new AT&T number) or Verizon or anyone...and just tell Google to forward all calls to the new number. Your mobile number becomes irrelevant - you don't give it out. Instead, you only give them your Google number. If you cancel AT&T again, doesn't matter - you'll keep your important number on Google. You don't have to use Hangouts in the US for calls if you have some other mobile service with AT&T etc. In the US, you can use your phone "normally" but calls forward from Google to your US number. Overseas, you need to use Hangouts.

I have been using Google Voice for years this way. I signed up for Sprint about a year ago. I got a new idea what it is. I gave it to Google and told them to forward my calls to it. I'm going to cancel Sprint soon and will lose my Sprint number - don't care. I'll get new service somewhere else with some other carrier and a new number, and I'll just add that into Google as my new forwarding number.

Posted by
1549 posts

Here's the link on the instructions for setting up google voice.

Setting up google voice

A couple things to note. Set up google voice account before leaving the US. If you port your #, be sure to set up physical address in the US in your google voice account. Porting your number allows you to preserve your same cell when you go back to US. If your mailing address is a PO Box, there are a couple other steps. PM me if you need assistance.

Posted by
1549 posts

Lisa, just seeing your post about preserving your number (s). Google voice works perfect for this for either a land line or cell number. Costs $20.00 one time per number. And then you are not tied to any particular company or plan (AT&T) when you return to the US.

Another reason to keep the number active and usable is if that's the primary number for any bank accounts, credit cards, insurance, etc. You want to keep that primary number a US number. Or if you need to call a financial institution, and if they have caller ID, your call (from google hangouts) will appear to come from your primary number, not an international number. We have also used hangouts to call 800#'s, which I believe you cannot do with an international number.

Happy to answers any questions regarding this.

Posted by
1549 posts

One other question. Will the apartment you live in have internet access? Or will you rely on your SIM card for Internet? We have antenna TV in our apartment with some basic channels, 5-6 which are available in English.

We purchased a D-link (router for wifi-fi for computer, iPad, and iPhones) with a SIM card for internet (20GM/mo @ 15Euros) and a 2nd SIM card for my husbands iPhone (18GB for 10Euro/mo). Make sure in settings to set at 3G, not 4G or you will burn through data quickly. If you want to watch a lot of net flicks, you'll need more data.

Not sure if France has Iliad, but in Italy they are offering plans for 50GB per month for 7.99 Euros a month.

Posted by
396 posts

Re buying a SIM in Toulouse: I found this (5-year-old) reply on TripAdvisor for you. I used Orane and found it good value, although there was one village in Hérault that was not within its range.

Posted by
8401 posts

When we’re in France ( and we are quite a bit, both short stays and many months), we buy simple phones with pre-paid credit from Bouygues. I’ve bought cheap phones at the FNAC, Bouygues, avoid Orange, and replenish text and phone credit when I run out.

Since my Google Fi phone costs the same whether in the States or France, that’s my smart phone and can be used for the same price nearly anywhere in the world. So the inexpensive French phone is to have a local French number for non-tech savvy French family, friends, and administrations to be able to call me. The Google phone is for US contacts, apps, make calls in France if I want, etc.
A lot of my French friends want to use Messenger and WhatsApp for calls, even when we’re all based in Paris.

I carry both phones with me in France.

Google has just opened their service to other phones, so yours may qualify. It’s $25 a month. The universal sim card takes about 30 seconds to find the French network upon landing, while I’m still in the plane. People can now port their cell numbers to Fi. I’ve been able to get a signal everywhere I’ve traveled, whether by plane or ship. With this system, you have your own smart phone to use in France, keep your US number and make and receive US calls, and don’t have to buy a smart phone in France, just a cheap one so French contacts can reach you.

Edit: I’d avoid signing a French phone contact. One of my kids had a heck of a time getting the automatic deductions stopped when he was leaving France after his teaching-assistant contract was finished. He had no language problems trying to make his point, as French is this offspring’s first language. That’s another reason I use pre-pay in France, even when I’m there for six months.