Public Phone Booths
by David Applefield
Over the last several years almost all public coin-operated phone booths have been replaced with a new type that accepts only micro-chipped cards, called the Télécarte, which can be bought in post offices and tabacs (certain cafés which have a licence to sell cigarettes, etc.) in units of 50 or 120 for 40 FF and 100 FF respectively. Buy one right away; they´re very practical! Plus, it´s getting virtually impossible to find a public phone that takes coins (local calls require a one franc coin). If you find yourself caught out, try a café or bar; many of them still have coin-operated phones.
On the last remaining coin phones, you´ll get a round blinking sign or beep on the phone when your money is about the run out. Shove in more coins-one, two, or five franc pieces are accepted. Otherwise, with your télécarte you can call anywhere in the world as long as you still have units left on the card. You can change cards in the middle of a call.
In the Sixties and Seventies, broken phones were occasionally discovered which allowed free unlimited international calls to go through undetected. When the word got around, lines would form with foreign students at all hours of the night to call families and friends around the world at no charge. These wonderful little finds have all but disappeared with the new telephone card. The advantage of the card is that there is no money to deal with. Each unit costs 73 centimes and units are deducted electronically from the micro-chip (puce) of the card automatically at a rate which depends on where and when you´re calling. Télécom´s rates have radically been reduced over the last two years, reversing a former situation whereby the French rates were prohibitively higher than those offered by US companies.