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Buy Cell Phone in France


New Member
I am a pigrim wondering how I'm going to be able to make all those reservations for hostels going from Le Puy to SJPP. From what I hear it is a good idea to buy a cell phone. Is there a cheap cell phone that you can buy minutes on a card in France that I could also use in Spain? Here in the U.S. we have something called a "Tracfone" where you purchase this very inexpensive cell phone at a store (Walmart, Target, etc.) and then you buy cards and load the minutes. Thanks!
Bon Chemin,
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Hello Kelly, good question - go into any supermarket in France (the larger ones such as Auchan, Carrefour, etc) and there will be a mobile phone area, with staff. You can buy a cheap pay as you go phone or take a cheap unlocked phone with you and pick up one of their sim card only payg deals. The French in the mid and south and south west and south east are very friendly and helpful.

Or, you could try where you can buy a French sim and/or a Spanish sim before you go ... a little more expensive than doing it there but all is done in English, you can sort any problems or need for info online, and you will know your number before you leave as you take your own number with you :wink: ...

hope this helps.

p.s. as for hostel reservations ... just turn up ... in France a lot are municipal so you need to enter the town before the tourist info closes as they usually have a key ...


New Member
Thanks for the info.! you think that I could get by in France without purchasing a cell phone? Do you think that I could just call and make reservations from the tourist offices? What do most pilgrims do? Last summer I did the camino frances in Spain and didn't have to deal at all with reservations. I'm a little nervous about not getting a bed if I don't. What do you suggest?
Buen Camino,
:?: Kelly


Weeelll ... I'm a bit of an anti on phones generally. I take mine when travelling and do switch it on for a minute in the evening to see if there are any texts (I ask folk only to text and only if a crisis) - and then switch it off again.
I think that chatting incessantly with people not even in the same country somehow devalues the pilgrimage experience - one becomes more of a tourist, skimming the experience lightly like a voyeur rather than being enmeshed within it - for me it is like the difference between someone living through something and a reporter reporting on the same experience. One is living it, the other is telling people about it - not the same thing at all, and if one is always on the phone telling people what just happened and what didn't and not to forget to walk the dog, and asking who won the football and how the feet hurt, one is a reporter - it is a trick to stay out of deep experiences that can change one ... and makes it simply a holiday.

but - before I get attacked for the above - this is only my personal view ...

does mean, however, that I'm not really the best person to ask about phones abroad .... though, as well as buying in France or taking an 0044 sim with you, you could just buy the cheapest phone in your own country - set it for roaming and put some money on the account .. then take that with you. Don't make any calls except in an emergency .. and if you lose it - who cares ... just a thought. :wink:


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Kelly, you can get by without one. I walked the Le Puy route without one, but there are reasons why I would probably take one next time. People do tend to reserve ahead on the Le Puy route, and often, though not always, just the day before is enough. You will always find a bed, but depending on when you walk, you may miss out on the cheaper ones if you haven't booked, and end up spending more on a chambre d'hote (like a b&b) or hotel.

There are two main reasons I would probably take a cell phone next time. The first is simply that French chip phone cards don't seem to work in all French pay phones, and more than once I arrived in villages where I couldn't use the pay phone. Sometimes the owner of the place I was staying in would ring up and reserve ahead for me, but sometimes I had to wait until I reached a village with a compatible phone booth.

The second reason is that quite often you just got an answerphone when you tried to reserve, and they asked for a number so they could ring you back. Without a mobile, you could only leave a message about the day you wanted, without getting any confirmation.

A third, but less important reason, is that sometimes people wanted a cell phone number so they could ring you and check if you were still coming, in case they had people waiting hoping for a bed, and you hadn't arrived. However, as an English speaker, it seemed they weren't too worried I couldn't give them a cell number.
A fourth occasional reason is that sometimes you walk past advertising boards with a phone number for a gite/chambre d'hote that might be a bit off the GR. If you ring the number provided, the people will come and collect you then drop you back on the GR in the morning.

I met a South African woman walking who didn't speak any French. She found that with her Miam Miam Dodo guide she could pick out where she might want to stay next, and then she would always find a willing French-speaking pilgrim who would use her cell phone to make a reservation on her behalf.

Phew, I have been very long-winded here!!! Whether you decide to take one or not, I am sure you will enjoy your Chemin!
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Another reason:

French phone booths are located where there is no shade! Look for for the hottest, most exposed place in town, and voilá, there is the phone booth. Imagine it is 35C outside, 45C inside, the phone display is completely opaque from years of sun aging, and you are making a series of unproductive phone calls in a foreign language. That is the French phone booth.

The French and the Quebecois(e) were extremely friendly in helping make advance reservations. Always try the Office du Tourisme for help with accommodations. They are universally valuable.


agree with both of the above - and why is it that pre-pay cards don't work in all French phone boxes?
(sorry, rhetorical question - just that I had found the same).

As for the pre-booking thing. I do understand this, and can see how this can give the illusion of safety, or order, or something to look forward to? - but personally I dread being booked in somewhere. Then I have to ensure I get there, and at the right time, regardless of what that day may put in front of me ... so no, not my sort of thing. It is just that my delight is to just arrive when I arrive, then if the hostel is full or closed, look for somewhere to stay .. nothing there? well, just walk on ... and were one to arrive to find someone else just behind you and only one bed - well, could you sleep at all knowing someone else couldn't? so, for me, one uncomfortable night every now and then isn't really a problem. :wink:


New Member
All very good points and great information. I think that we all have our personal Caminos so nobody should get attacked for being of another opinion. Taking all of these different opinions into account is really helping me to sort out what I should do. Pilgims are awesome and there is nothing more fun than helping another pilgrim plan their journey! Mil gracias por la ayuda!
:lol: Kelly


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Time of past OR future Camino
Frances('05, '07), Aragonese ('05), del Norte / Primitivo ('09), Via Tolosana (Toulouse '05), Via Podiensis (Le Puy '07), Via Lemovicensis (Troyes '09), VF ('12), Winter Camino ('13/'14) Cammino d'Assisi ('14) Jakobseweg (Leipzig - Paris '15) San Salvador/Norte ('15) Ignaciano ('16) Invierno ('16)
I am one who does not own, and has no intention of ever owning, a mobile phone! I have not used one on either Camino I have done in 2005 and 2007 and will not take one in 2009. I managed both in france and in Spain without. It is just me being contrary again - sorry! Regards, Janet

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A cell phone is pretty handy in an emergency, but I am pretty sure it would have been mentioned in Leviticus if it had been known to the ignorant folks of biblical times. It might be possible to take one along but use it judiciously. "Wireless courtesy" I think it is called.
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Coo! - Jl, I thought it was just me who was always being contrary ... no phone .. so no future planning to the minute, nor always being 'in contact' - no being brought back to earth rather than just living the experience ... :wink:

A whistle is quite a good thing to carry for emergencies ..

Falcon, I think that you were looking in the wrong place for Biblical mentions of mobile phones .. Paul travelled quite a lot, mainly on foot, and he had to carry one apparently - try 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

"And lest I should be exhalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exhalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me."

See - every time, on his pilgrimage travels, that he started to really experience his phone would ring! :lol: :lol: :lol:


Staff member
Mobile phones has become really cheap lately... and in Spain Carrefour has had a few "packs" available with a pay-as-you-go sim cards and a phone for next to nothing.

I just checked the Carrefour France site and found this: french is not the greatest, but I think these are phones with no contract (Mobile Sans Engagement).

So for 19 euro you have a Motorola phone and a French phone number...



Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
In Spain, France, Portugal, Germany since 2003
Another contrary... Walking caminos for years - in Spain and France - and no mobil-phone. But you have to relax about that bed in the evening. If you can not: Bring a phone. Because otherwise you will be anxious about that bed, and this can spoil part of your walking. Bjørg

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