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Phoning home from France

It doesn't matter whether you are phoning home to check that the kids haven't burned the house down, or just to let everyone know what they're missing; making calls from a foreign country can often be a frustrating experience.

With mobile phones often costing over a pound a minute, I make a point of never using them unless it's an emergency. If you absolutely have to use your mobile it makes financial sense to text rather than talk. Alternatively you can buy a French SIM card (a mobicarte) and put it in your own mobile. You may, however, find that your phone is locked, in which case you will have to go to a mobile phone shop in France.

Public phone boxes in France are now all operated by cards (tÚlÚcartes) which you can buy in the Post Office or newspaper shops/stands. They are occasionally available in other outlets where you see the sign saying "tÚlÚcartes en vente ici". They are currently available for 8 or 16 Euros but if you are phoning a mobile number you will find that the credit is used up at an alarming rate! If you want to reverse the charges, dial 00 33 44 for the UK operator. If you have a carte Ó puce, i.e. one with a magnetic chip make sure that you insert it chip-first and at a rather odd upwards angle. In the past I have spent considerable time trying to work out how to fit it into the slot!

Many rental properties with phones understandably only accept incoming calls, so if you want to use them to make a call you will need a carte Ó code rather than the carte Ó puce. The cartes Ó code can be used in public phone boxes as well as from private lines. In both instances you need to dial the free phone number and the code which is revealed when you scratch off the strip, rather like a scratch card.

If you are phoning a number in France you will find that there is no such thing as an area code. Instead everyone has a ten digit number. If phoning the UK, dial 00 44 and then the rest of the number omitting the first zero. For Directory Enquiries within France, dial 12 and just hope that your French is good enough to understand the rapidly-fired number. For International Directory Enquiries, dial 32 12 but beware - a charge is made of 2.50 Euros.

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