Mobile Phones in La Tania
Introduction - Why?
You're in the mountains and want to get away from all that city life stuff so a mobile phone seems a bad idea? It can be in-valuable in a ski resort however, especially if you're out here working for the season - being able to contact friends for a ski when you finish work (or wake them up to catch first lift), family & friends from the UK can contact you, you can arrange to meet friends for lunch (and book tables), find people when you all get lost at the bottom of a run, contact everyone when transfers & flights are massively delayed and also in emergency situations - though never think of it as a substitute for being properly prepared for off-piste skiing or riding. There is also some strong evidence that mobile phones interfere with avalanche transceivers - a transmitting unit may not function correctly due to a mobile phone being switched on next to it.
The use of txt ing is a great improvement as messages can be left and read at your convenience - try answering a mobile whilst on a snowboard on an awkward drag lift whilst smoking a fag and it's windy, snowing and freezing... Alternatively you don't have to stop, fumble with your gloves, rip open your jacket and just miss that call when you've been hurtling down an empty powder field! Roaming Txts work seem to work on all networks across most countries now but some strange delays still happen - we've noticed some problems on the Three network sending texts for example.
As you pay all the call charges to receive calls on a UK phone whilst in France it's worth thinking about getting a French mobile. Even if you're only out here for a week but are expecting calls from the UK it may be worth it - definitely worth it if you're here for the season. The best bet if you've got a mobile phone in the UK is to simply buy a new French sim card. You can get a UK pay as you go phone un-locked for £10 at a car boot and for around £30 you'll have a french number using pay as you go vouchers and calls from family & friends (or work) in the UK won't cost you a penny! Top up vouchers are available from The Tabac in La Tania and plenty of places around The Three Valleys. The best option is to buy a French SIM card in advance at 0044.co.uk - and even get your Nokia phone unlocked free!
I used to recommend Mobicarte (now Orange France who were France Telecom and Wanadoo who in turn bought Freeserve) because you could select English voice menus when crediting your phone. These are now in French although still fairly easy to understand. The Tabac in La Tania never seemed to run out of Mobicarte vouchers either.
SFR is also a popular choice and has slightly better reception in The Ski Lodge and there are others . Boygues Telecom is the other main operator which many people use without problems.
Currently the strongest signal seems to be SFR - this works right to the back of the Ski Lodge - you generally need to be near a window with Orange! When you're outside, reception almost anywhere in The Three Valleys is not a problem and it seems to be improving all the time.
Tariffs / Roaming
Like the UK, tariffs are constantly changing but seem to be about the same between suppliers. The French pay as you go phones now roam abroad so you can use that last bit of credit when you get home! The small phone shop in the foyer area at Hyper Champion in Moûtiers seems as good a place as any to buy a French phone - they cut keys too! But if it's just a SIM card you need you may as well order one postage free from 0044.co.uk
More info on mobile phone charges from our partner 0044.co.uk
Control the cost of using your mobile in France
A convenient feature of the modern mobile phone is the ability to remain in contact whilst abroad. Mobile operators refer to this service as international roaming. However, this convenience comes at a cost and if you don't pay attention to how much you use your mobile you could be paying your phone bill off long after your tan has faded.
This article has been written to help you avoid extortionate mobile roaming charges however the potential to reduce costs greatly depends on your usage pattern.
Important differences to note whilst in France ;
- You will have a choice of different networks to use. However, the call charges will vary dependent on the network you select.
- You will pay for receiving calls
- Your call charges will be different to those when using your mobile at home. Expect an increase of 50-1000%, especially if you use data.
- The peak and off peak times of the foreign operator may differ from your UK operator.
- You may be billed in different increments i.e. per minute instead of per second.
- There will be a surcharge for calling free phone numbers and customer care lines.
Considerations before travelling:
Let potential callers know that you will be in France
In order to avoid receiving unnecessary and costly call, advise potential callers that you will be France . If you have a standard UK contract you may be paying as much as 75ppmin to receive a call.
If you travel frequently to different destinations ask about special roaming tariffs
Your mobile operator may offer an International Traveler Service (ITS). In general this is offered if you roam on a partner network whilst abroad and typically in return you will receive flat rate calls. The savings can be as much as 80% however there may be an additional subscription fee, so make sure your usage justifies the extra charge.
Considerations when travelling:
Send TXT messages instead of calling
A typical text message used to cost 30-40p while abroad and a voice call in excess of 60p. And remember whilst roaming you are charged per minute so if your call only lasts twenty seconds you will still get charged the price of a full minute. Recently roaming costs have come down (and Vodaphone dropped theirs if you registered for Summer 2009) but data charges if you surf the net via roaming are still extortionate - O2 charge £3 for 1MB or £6 outside the EU (eg Geneva Airport) with only small discounts for buying an abroad data bolt on.
Well worth getting a French SIM if only just for data charges, an iPhone can use a MB of data in seconds.... Always block data roaming on iPhones when you go abroad.
Bar incoming calls or set up a UK divert
If you are confident that no one will want to speak to you then you can bar incoming calls. Alternatively, divert all calls to a UK number and ask people to contact you via SMS or call if it is urgent.
Use your voicemail service
You can divert all incoming calls directly to your voicemail so that you do not need to pay to receive that call. You can then make one call to your voice mail and decide what calls require your attention. However, please note that conditional diverts such as diverting calls to voicemail when you are on the phone can be extremely costly. This is because you often pay to receive the call and then send it back to your voicemail in the UK
Manually select the cheapest network to roam on
When arriving in France your mobile phone should automatically select the cheapest network (partner network) to roam on. However, to avoid any costly mistakes, it is worth discovering the correct network before roaming and then manually selecting that network once you arrive.
All phone numbers in your mobile's address book need to be preceded with the correct international dialling code. For UK numbers it is +44 followed by the national code minus the first 0.
Foreign SIM cards
For longer or repeat visits to France consider purchasing a foreign Pay-as-you-go sim card. The SIM is an electronic chip that ties you to a particular network. By changing the SIM, you are no longer roaming, you are considered to be a local number on a particular network. This brings considerable advantages; you are no longer charged to receive calls and you can make calls at a fraction of the roaming cost (Local call rates).
You can buy French prepaid sim cards online at www.0044.co.uk before you travel and then simply pay as you go when abroad. This has the added benefit of providing you with your new number before you travel and a set of English instructions. However, please be aware that your handset may need to be unlocked before it will accept a sim card from another network - often this will cost around £10. Thankfully 0044 provide a free Nokia unlock with the purchase of a sim card.