I'm going to need to have access to a cell phone this summer when I go to Paris and I'm not sure what the best plan of attack is (I've always had apartments there so I just used the land lines). I have an iPhone but I don't want to get an international plan because I'll only be there for a week and that just seems like a pain. I actually don't mind those scratch-off phone cards (yes, I know they're old fashioned), but I don't know if that's the best way to go--I don't even know if you can use them with a cell phone. I've also heard you can buy a cell phone there for about $60 but I've never tried it. Basically, I'm confused. The main thing is that I need to be able to call the States from a cell phone at any time (text and/or email is secondary--calling is my main concern) without running up an insane phone bill. Merci!
There is an app called Viber, which is great if you have wifi. If the person you call is also on wifi, you can use the app to talk on the phone without cell service. I've used this before and it's great! Most hotels these days have wifi.
If you're phone's not locked to your carrier then just buy a pre-paid sim card. That's what I've done a few times. Costs about 10 euro for the card with about 5 euros credit. I got one from an Orange store and spent about 15 mins with the guy, and I also bought one from a random corner shop and was out within a minute. Just try around for what suits you best.
Failing that, go to a cafe or McDo and leech off of their wifi to use Skype :P
I have an Iphone and use Sprint as my carrier. The last time I was in Paris for a week I did call Sprint. My phone was set up for being able to call abroad. There are different rates for each place. Basically, they set the plan up to last for a defined period of time...I believe two weeks. As far as texting, once I was in an area with wifi, I was able to use the internet on my phone. Also, if you're only going to be there for a week, do you really need a cell. The first time I went two years ago I didn't have a cell and just used my hotel phone and a calling card to call the states.
While I was in Paris in 2012, I used Skype to call my family in the USA. I paid less than $10 and made many calls.
Skype calls it the "Unlimited US and Canada plan" and you can find more details here.
To make things easy on myself, I tested the process before leaving. I downloaded Skype to my iPhone, enabled airplane mode (this will disable wifi), re-enabled and connect to the wifi, then open up the Skype app and use it to call a friends USA cell phone number. It deducted a very small amount from my account but it was worth it to make sure it was working.
When I used this approach, Skype had a way to connect a mobile number to this account. It wasn't my mobile number but it was a consistent number so my family knew it was me each time I called. It was not a requirement, just a nice extra.
To add to Aaron's answer.. Bear in mind that, like with eschewing the far more sensible metric system, the US doesn't align with everywhere else (again) re cell phone technology either.. Your unlocked AT&T or T-Mobile (read: GSM) phone will work...Verizon and Sprint will not.
That said, you can pick up a phone + pre-paid card fairly cheaply. I second Orange--it's probably the best/most widely used network.
I travel to France on business on a regular occasion. Fortunately, I have an international business phone, but several colleagues who I travel with do not. When they arrive they buy several of the Phone Cards at the airport or train station. The advantage is they are typically cheaper than buying a local cell phone, plus you're now not faced with lunking around two phones during your trip. The cards also allow you to spend only what you need. The only downside is you need to kind of know how much time your going to spend using the phone and buying the right amount of time.
Get a low cost local SIM when you arrive in Paris from a carrier like Orange. And also get a scratch off phone card for your calls back to the USA. You call the number on the scratch off card, enter your PIN and then dial the number back home. Much cheaper that way. For more info see Rick Steves - Using Cell Phones in Europe.
Skype still reigns supreme. Lived in Paris for a few years and skype was best option.
You can use "Lebara Mobile"
You can get a sim card (for free or 5€ max) in most of the "Tabac-Presse" or supermarket in France.
You will find more informations in english here : Lebara Mobile
Hi, you can buy a prepaid card, the price is usually between 10 to 30€, you will also have to buy a French sim card which is 2€.
You will pay a lot the communication to US but I can imagine 10€ are enough for more than 5 minutes.
Go to Orange, Bouygues or SFR shop, they have many different plans, ask them just in case if you can call US but I can't imagine you not be able to do it with those kind of plans.
If you don't want to renew it, you just don't pay a new prepaid card, your phone number will be availble for a month so if someone want to reach you it will be possible for a while. Easy ;)
Have a good stay.
Get your Iphone unlocked, then buy an Orange prepaid SIM card that allows international calls. You can also buy a smallish data plan that works great for mapping in the city, email etc.
You can use GVCall app for calling abroad. It is free to install and available on Android and iOS store. You can chane the SIM card to the local country and use the app to make cheaper international calls from whichever country one is traveling to. This means you does not need to buy the expensive options like matrix cards. The calls are up to 70% cheaper then the mobility tariffs and its works on regular 2G network instead of expensive WiFi or 3G network.
Why don't you buy a prepaid Sim card and plug it to your iphone?
Plans usually start from 15-20 €. People would be able to call you (no charges for you because no roaming) and then you recharge it easily when you used all your credit.
I agree with a lot of the answers above. Especially with using the key apps like Skype or Viber. Here's my article on How to Use an American iPhone Abroad (without going broke)
I've been looking into the same issue for an upcoming Paris trip and I settled on switching to Tmobile Simple Choice Plan because they have unlimited data and texting in France. I won't have to change any setting upon arrival and it doesn't cost anything extra. Calls to and from France are charged at a reasonable 20¢ a minute. Other options I found were Lebara and Le French Mobile. Both have english language instructions for setting up your sim card before your trip.
Skype (or similar) is a very good option. Wifi is free and almost everywhere in Paris.