Guide to Making Calls to and From France 2024


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Whether you find yourself in France for work, leisure, or perhaps a more long-term venture, understanding how to navigate the country’s telephone system is essential.

This guide aims to provide clarity on making calls in France, ensuring that you remain connected with your loved ones and colleagues, regardless of the miles in between.


  • Dialing internationally to France requires attention to country codes and prefixes.
  • When calling out of France, the universal prefix is “00” followed by the desired country’s code.
  • Local SIM cards and VoIP services can significantly reduce calling costs in France.
  • Local French phone numbers are structured in ten digits, usually grouped in pairs.
  • Emergency numbers in France include 112, 15, 17, and 18 for different crisis situations.
  • Language barriers can be mitigated using translation apps and prepared key phrases.

Understanding France’s Telephone System

Historically, France has always been at the forefront of communication technology. From the early days of telegraphy to today’s advanced mobile networks, the French telephone system has evolved immensely, reflecting the country’s penchant for innovation.

France’s Numbering System

At the heart of any telephone system lies its numbering structure. In France, phone numbers are typically ten digits long, grouped in pairs: xx xx xx xx xx. The first two numbers often give insight into the geographical area or the nature of the service. For example:

  • Numbers starting with 01 pertain to the Paris area.
  • Numbers starting with 06 and 07 are generally mobile numbers.

Area Codes in France

While the two-digit prefix can provide a rough indication of the region, it’s crucial to be familiar with some key area codes, especially if you are making a local call:

  • 01 – Paris and its suburbs
  • 02 – Northwest France
  • 03 – Northeast France
  • 04 – Southeast France
  • 05 – Southwest France
  • 09 – VoIP numbers

The specifics of these regions can come in handy, especially when discerning between a call to a neighboring town or one that’s halfway across the country.

Dialing Internationally to France

Reaching out to France from another corner of the globe? Whether you’re connecting with a friend in Paris, setting up a business call in Marseille, or contacting a B&B in the Loire Valley, it’s essential to know the steps to dial in.

France’s Country Code

Every country has a unique identifier when it comes to international dialing – a country code. For France, this code is +33. This code is pivotal in ensuring that your call finds its way to the correct country.

Steps to Dial France from Abroad

  1. Access the International Direct Dial (IDD) Prefix: Before dialing any international number, you need to start with the IDD prefix. This varies from country to country. In the US, for instance, this prefix is 011. In the UK, it’s 00.
  2. Enter France’s Country Code: After the IDD prefix, input France’s country code, which is 33.
  3. Dial the French Number: Once you have dialed the country code, you can proceed to dial the French phone number you wish to reach. However, here’s a crucial tip: drop the initial zero that you’d usually find in French numbers. So, if the number is 01 23 45 67 89 in its local form, you’d dial it as +33 1 23 45 67 89.

To give a more tangible example, if you’re calling from the US to Paris, the structure would be: 011 (US IDD) + 33 (France’s country code) + 1 23 45 67 89 (the local number minus the initial zero).

Dialing Internationally from France

For foreigners in France, reaching out to loved ones, business associates, or services abroad can be a frequent requirement. To ensure clarity and avoid the inconvenience of misdialed numbers, let’s break down the steps of dialing internationally from within France.

The Universal Prefix for International Calls

When you’re in France and looking to make a call to another country, you begin with the international prefix 00. This prefix signals to the network that you’re intending to make an international call.

Dialing Specific Countries from France

After the universal prefix, you’ll need to enter the country code of your desired destination. Every nation has its own unique code. For instance:

  • United States: +1
  • United Kingdom: +44
  • Canada: +1
  • Australia: +61
  • Germany: +49

How to Make the Call:

  1. Start with the International Prefix: Dial the international prefix, which is 00.
  2. Enter the Country Code: Input the appropriate country code for the destination you’re trying to reach.
  3. Dial the Local Number: Following the country code, you’ll dial the local number of the person or establishment you’re trying to reach.

Here’s a practical example: if you’re calling a New York number (212-555-1234) from France, your dialing structure would be: 00 (France’s international prefix) + 1 (US’s country code) + 212-555-1234 (the local number).

Cost-Saving Techniques for International Calls

Making international calls can sometimes be costly, especially if done frequently. Here are some techniques to keep those costs in check:

  • Use VoIP Services: Platforms like Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom allow you to make calls over the internet, often at a reduced rate or even for free.
  • Prepaid International Calling Cards: These can be purchased at various locations throughout France, including post offices and newsstands. They often offer competitive rates for international dialing.
  • Explore Local Service Providers’ Offers: French telecom operators, like Orange, SFR, and Bouygues Telecom, sometimes offer international packages or special rates for specific countries. It’s worth exploring their offers, especially if you call a particular destination regularly.

Cost-saving Tips When Making Calls in France

making calls in france

Whether you’re phoning home, connecting with friends in other countries, or coordinating with international colleagues, staying in touch shouldn’t leave a substantial dent in your wallet. With the right strategies and knowledge, you can keep communication costs low while ensuring high-quality connections.

Local SIM Cards: The Key to Affordable Local Calls

One of the most immediate steps to take upon arriving in France is acquiring a local SIM card. This isn’t just for the convenience of having a local number but also for the significant savings it offers:

Cost-Effectiveness: Local rates for calls, texts, and data in France are generally much lower than roaming rates.

Tailored Plans: Many French telecom providers offer a range of plans catering to varied needs. Whether you’re a heavy data user or make frequent calls, there’s likely a plan that suits your requirements.

Embrace the World of VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services have revolutionized international communication. By using the internet to make calls, these platforms can bypass traditional telecommunication networks, often resulting in significant savings.


Known for both audio and video calls, Skype offers competitive rates for international calls to landlines and mobiles.


Apart from free app-to-app calls, some countries also allow cheap calls to landlines and mobiles through WhatsApp.


Especially useful for business meetings and webinars, Zoom offers clear audio and video quality.

Consider Calling Cards

For those without consistent internet access or who prefer traditional calling methods, prepaid international calling cards remain a viable option:

Wide Availability: You can easily find these cards at newsstands, tobacco shops, and post offices across France.

Diverse Options: Different cards offer varied rates for different countries, so it’s wise to choose one that offers the best rates for your most-called destinations.

Bundled Packages: All-in-One Solutions

Many telecom providers in France offer bundled packages combining internet, local calls, and international calls. If you’re staying in France for an extended period:

Check for Deals: Providers often have promotions or special deals for new customers.

Customize Your Plan: Some providers allow you to choose specific countries or regions for your international plan, ensuring you get the best rates for your needs.

Related: Cost of Living in France: Complete Guide (2024)

Local Calls Within France

Dialing within France, whether it’s to order takeout, confirm a reservation, or touch base with a local friend, comes with its own set of nuances. Being well-acquainted with the local dialing norms can save time and avoid any unnecessary confusion.

The Structure of French Phone Numbers

All standard French phone numbers, irrespective of being a landline or mobile, consist of ten digits. These numbers are customarily grouped in pairs, making them easier to recall and convey: xx xx xx xx xx.

Dialing Landlines vs. Mobiles

While the process of dialing remains consistent, it’s helpful to recognize the kind of number you’re reaching out to:

Landlines: Often start with a geographic prefix ranging from 01 to 05, depending on the region. For instance, a landline in Paris would generally start with 01.

Mobiles: Typically begin with 06 or 07. With the growing use of mobile phones, these numbers have become increasingly common.

Local Calling Tips

  • No Need for Country Code: When dialing locally within France, there’s no need to use the country code (+33). Simply dial the ten-digit number.
  • Pay Attention to Business Hours: While it’s the age of 24/7 connectivity, it’s still courteous to call businesses during their operating hours and individuals at reasonable times unless it’s urgent.
  • Voicemail Etiquette: If you’re redirected to voicemail, leaving a concise and clear message along with your call-back number is always a good practice. Remember, while you might be comfortable in English, not everyone may understand it well. If possible, keep a few basic French phrases handy to ensure your message gets across.

Emergency Numbers in France

In the midst of discovering the beauty and charm of France, it’s crucial to be aware of the essential emergency numbers. Whether you find yourself in a minor predicament or a more serious situation, knowing whom to call can make all the difference.

Emergency ServiceNumberDescription
Universal Emergency112For all general emergencies in Europe
Medical Emergencies15Direct line to SAMU for medical assistance
Police Emergencies17For situations requiring police intervention
Fire Brigade18To report or respond to fire emergencies

Key Emergency Numbers

Here are the primary emergency numbers you should familiarize yourself with:

  • 112: The universal European emergency number. Whether you’re facing a medical, fire, or security emergency, dialing 112 connects you to the necessary services. Operators on this line typically speak both French and English.
  • 15: Medical emergencies. This connects you directly to SAMU (Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente), the medical emergency service.
  • 17: Police emergencies. If you encounter a situation where police intervention is needed, this is the number to call.
  • 18: Fire brigade. For fire emergencies or to report a fire, dial this number.

Important Notes

Language Preparedness: While many operators at the 112 helpline may speak English, it’s not always guaranteed for the specialized numbers (15, 17, 18). Having a translation app or a few essential French phrases can be invaluable in such situations.

Location Clarity: Always try to provide a clear and precise location when calling for assistance. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, landmarks or nearby street names can be helpful.

Stay Calm: Emergencies can be overwhelming, but it’s essential to remain as calm as possible. Clear communication can expedite assistance.

Overcoming Language Barriers on Calls

Navigating a country where the primary language is not your own can be a daunting experience, more so during phone conversations where body language cannot bridge communication gaps. However, with some forethought and handy tools, it’s possible to manage and even sidestep these language barriers.

Using Translation Apps

The digital age has blessed us with a slew of sophisticated translation apps that can be real lifesavers during phone calls:

Google Translate: Not only does it provide text translations, but it also has a conversation mode that can facilitate real-time translations during calls.

Duolingo: While primarily an educational tool, the phrases learned here can be incredibly helpful for basic conversations.

Bilingual Call Services

Some services, especially those catering to tourists or international residents, may offer bilingual call assistance. Always inquire if this option is available. It can simplify processes, particularly for intricate tasks like troubleshooting, reservations, or inquiries.

Preparing Key Phrases

Having a list of vital phrases on hand can be invaluable:

  • “Parlez-vous anglais?” (Do you speak English?)
  • “Je ne comprends pas.” (I don’t understand.)
  • “Pouvez-vous parler lentement, s’il vous plaît?” (Can you speak slowly, please?)

It’s also useful to practice pronunciation. Even if the accent isn’t perfect, the effort is often appreciated and can lead to more patient interactions.

Enlist the Help of a Local

If you have a French friend, neighbor, or colleague, they can often help with crucial calls, ensuring no miscommunication occurs. Their familiarity with local dialects and nuances can be an added advantage.

Stay Patient and Polite

Misunderstandings can happen. Instead of getting flustered, it’s essential to remain calm. Remember, patience and politeness can often bridge gaps better than any word can. A simple “merci” (thank you) can go a long way.

Related: New to France: An Insightful Guide for Newcomers 2024

ABOUT Amelie

Amélie, our devoted Relocation Expert at Born and raised in Lyon, Amélie possesses a profound grasp of French culture, traditions, and way of life, which she leverages to offer you unparalleled relocation guidance

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