How to stay connected during your campervan trip
You’d think by now it would be really easy to make calls on your mobile phone and get connected anywhere in the world for a reasonable fee but actually it is not! Recent developments have opened up a bit more choice though and cross border options for connecting to the internet/making calls without a permanent contract in Europe have at least become possible.
Hirers with phones registered in the EU now benefit from an EU-wide ban on extortionate roaming costs. For non EU based hirers, here are some of the options on offer at present.
1. Pay as you go Sim Card
There are a huge number of companies and shops that sell sim cards in France but we think the best option for a French “Pay as you go” SIM card for your phone is Orange. Orange offers the best coverage and they have shops all over France. If you don’t want to order anything before you come to France, simply make sure your phone is unlocked before you come (so it will work with a new SIM card), then head for an Orange boutique once you are here. If you can’t or don’t want to unlock your regular phone, you can buy an inexpensive phone at The Orange Boutique.
If you speak French and are comfortable choosing a SIM card and/or phone in French without any help from a shop assistant, the supermarkets and post offices also sell good “Pay as you go” options. Just bear in mind that nobody will be available to help you read the instructions, activate or top up the SIM or phone and it will be in French!
We have created a vocabulary sheet for our clients to use in the Orange shop (it’s in French and English so you can just delete the relevant sentences and hand it to the Sales Assistant). You can download it here: At the Mobile Phone shop PDF
You can order an Orange “Holiday” SIM card online before your trip (it works in most European countries) here. However, you’ll need to understand some French because the website annoyingly switches from English to French half way through the ordering process!
Once you have your SIM card, if you have any difficulty activating it or topping it, just call into any Orange shop and they will know what to do. Alternatively, stop any French teenager and ask for help – every single one of them will know how it works and they are likely to speak some English!
Tip: If you are spending time in Paris or another big French city before you collect your motorhome, try and pick up what you need there as the bigger the city, the more likely the shop staff will speak English.
2. WiFi in fixed locations
Internet cafés are extinct here now but there are still places where you can find WiFi. Tourist offices in cities and big towns usually offer WiFi (and sometimes a PC you can use too); many campsites offer WiFi (although it often only works in a very limited area so check it out before you pay for it and get choose your pitch); and finally every McDonalds in France (known as McDos in France) offers free WiFi if you buy so much as a coffee – perhaps not the gourmet French eating experience you were hoping for but a useful place to get connected if all else fails.
3. Mobile WiFi Hotspots
These are relatively recent addition to the market. We have tested the Travel Wifi hotspot (they sent us one to try) and it worked really well. The instructions on how to use it were crystal clear, coverage was great even in areas that are usually patchy and the arrangements to return it were really simple. Long term hire clients tried Hippocket Wifi and had a very similar experience to ours so these do seem to be a really straightforward option.
Simply put, a WiFi hotspot is a personal, rechargeable mobile hotspot that you can connect multiple devices to (including your phone).
You can pick up the hotspot at Paris’ airports, in the city of Paris or have it sent anywhere in France (including to our depot) so it is there when you arrive. You will have to pay a deposit and return the hotspot at the end of the rental period. Here are two companies that will deliver the device to our depot (one offers just coverage in France and the other in France and Europe).
If you would like to pre-order and have phones, sim cards or WiFi hotspots sent to our depot, feel free to use our address:[Name of Hirer], C/O SARL Direction France, 10 Promenade de l’Ouest , 89510, Veron, France.
If you come across a new way to get connected in France or Europe please let us know as we’d like to keep this page up to date as this technology is evolving all the time.
Whatever you do, don’t set off on a campervan trip without a working mobile phone! The FMH team are here to help if you run into difficulties or simply need to ask how something works whilst out on hire but you cannot call us and we cannot call you if you don’t have easy access to a phone!