Now for a rather practical post… but equally important if you’re going to go to Paris, whether it be for a holiday or for life.
Before talking about the imminent topic of accommodation (coming up in the next post!), I thought I’d address the perhaps more subtle needs, such as a mobile phone and a bank account. Of course, if you’re just going for a holiday, why do you need a new bank account and a new mobile?! You don’t… although there are still a few tips in here which will help you.
Bank accounts first. Two choices: set up before you go or when you get there. Being the organised individual I am, I tried to sort out as much as was humanly possible before heading over to Paris. I therefore went with HSBC, that familiar name which pops up in every city, almost like a home from home. Their international banking service was great – create a callback online, then give them a few bits of information, go into your local branch and meet with a member of staff who liaises with their equivalent in the chosen foreign country, and voilà… bank account all set up! I even received a bank card with a shimmering Arc de Triomphe as the background 🙂
If you want to set it up when you’re there, however, there are many different banks who would gladly help you get started. Top tip: arrange an appointment, and then arrive with as many different documents which prove who you are/where you live/what you do as you can (preferably with copies). This should save any frustration about being sent away to make another appointment to come back with the right things…
Lots of my friends used Travelex when they first arrived, which is also great for all you tourists. Being a cash passport, you can top it up online and access your money at numerous cash points, all without setting up an actual bank account. Perfect if you’re touring more than one country too!
A few key differences between France and the UK: 1) it is still acceptable to use cheques to pay in some stores, and so it’s sometimes handy to get a cheque book when you set up an account as they can be extremely handy. 2) From personal experience, you can only get out €20 notes or more at a cash points, and €50 are a lot more socially acceptable than in England. 3) Always try to use the ATM of your bank, as, when using ATMs of different banks, you can be charged (only a small amount but it builds up!).
As for mobile phones, contracts over there are pretty similar to here. I chose a contract with Orange: a capped sim-only one for 12 months. You usually only get a handset if you subscribe for over 12 months, and so it’s handy to take over an unlocked handset to use if you don’t want a lengthy deal. There are also some good sim-only pay-as-you-go deals with Orange, mobicarte, handy if you just want to pop over for a few months.
Another provider is Free mobile, cheaper but with fewer stores, and so most communication is done over the phone (once you have one!)/post.
It is definitely easier though to keep your UK mobile if just nipping over for a holiday, but keep an eye on it! I took over an old Blackberry, and never had it nicked (says more about the phone than the city I think…), but Iphones are particularly popular in certain circles, so I’d recommend taking an older, less desirable phone if possible.
Having treated the more mundane yet necessary aspects of moving, I’ll be chatting next time about the lighter topic of accommodation, quartiers and hotels (with a little bit of CAF thrown in there too – got to mix it up!), all easier to explore once you’ve got your currency and communication sorted 😉