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phone for emergencies only

So we have this quad band dual sim card phone that we used last time we were in Canada, and my teen daughter is getting ready to go to Europe for the first time, and solo to boot, so I'm going to sound very mom-ish here. She'll be there less than a month. To be frank, I don't care if she calls me, we can probably get round that one with wifi and email. What I am most interested is that she can call the cops (112, right?) or a taxi if she's in trouble. She'll be in rural France. What sort of sim card does she need?

Posted by
31471 posts

The two basic options are....

  1. Buy a local SIM card when she arrives in France. She may need some help in getting it set-up, and it will have to be topped up when her time is depleted.
  2. Buy a travel SIM before leaving home. Many of these come with U.K. based numbers, but work all over Europe and have consistent rates. These typically have post-paid billing with calls charged to a credit card, so issues with topping up. Also, since they're not attached to a specific French network, they'll roam on any of the networks according to whichever one has the strongest signal. These are slightly more expensive than using a local SIM, but not much more expensive. I've been using one for years, and it was especially cheap when used with a basic phone (more expensive now that I'm using an iPhone). One advantage of this approach is that she would have a working phone as soon as stepping off the plane, so no need to visit a cell shop.

In addition to Wi-Fi or other methods, using text messages is a great way to keep in touch (especially as they can be used anywhere and there's no concern with the time difference). I find that's the best method for keeping in touch with family back home and also very inexpensive.

One important point to mention is that you MUST check the "Input Voltage" spec's on the Charger, to ensure it's designed for use from 100-240 VAC. If it's an older phone, the Charger may only be designed for use on 115 VAC electrical systems. Of course, a Plug Adaptor will be required in any case (I'd suggest taking at least two, as they're easy to misplace).

Yes, dialing "112" will access emergency services in France. You may find it helpful to have a look at THIS website which provides a good description of the details. I'm not sure whether they always have English-speaking Operators at hand?

Posted by
11288 posts

What is her current carrier? It may work in France, and if she's only using it for emergencies, it may not cost enough extra per minute/text to worry about (compared with the cost and hassle of alternatives).

If she doesn't have a carrier that works in France, she can buy a T-Mobile US SIM with prepaid service. This will roam in France at a cost of about $1.50 per minute to send or receive calls, $0.50 to send a text, and $0.10 to receive a text. If you buy the cheapest T-Mobile plan (no data, just talk and text), it's $10 for the SIM and $10 for the start-up service. An advantage is that she can use this when she gets back (she can add data plans for either Europe or here). However, the SIM has to be topped up at certain intervals or it "dies."

For a French SIM, Lebara has consistently good rates: http://www.lebara.fr/ A recent satisfied customer posted here: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tech-tips/sim-card-sources-in-paris