This used to be one the most-frequently asked questions that we used to hear about Cannes. At the time, European phones used to work on 900 and 1800 frequencies that were not necessarily compatible with US phones. These days, 3G and 5G are very widely available.
Before, I used to sometimes recommend renting a phone for mid-term stays. The idea of not having one’s own phone available with all its personalised services is absolutely unthinkable these days.
The cost of mobile calls in Cannes
Then there is the more complicated issue of cost. Although local calls are relatively cheap in Europe, international roaming calls can be very expensive – particularly if you intend to use the phone a lot. Remember that if you are using your non-French phone number in Cannes, every call is an international call. Even when you ring a restaurant in Cannes. At trade fairs, you will also find yourself calling people on German, British and Spanish numbers. Plus, ALL incoming calls will cost you money.
For longer stays, it might be worth picking up a French pre-paid card and number. If possible, ask someone local to buy one beforehand. That way you can send this number to your contacts before you hit town. Another advantage with a local number is that your calls will have priority if there’s a bottleneck. This is not something I’ve really experienced, however.
To find a list of pre-paid providers, click over to PrePaid GSM. One other thing you should bear in mind is the validity of the card after you stop using it. If you only come once a year, you can go for a short validity. If you attend any other events such as MIPTV, MIPCOM or MIDEM, you might want to keep a card with a longer shelflife. That way you can at least keep the same number for every time you are in France. The cards with the longest validity are currently Omer Telecom, Virgin and NRJ Mobile. The three biggest players, Bouygues, SFR and Orange, have shorter validities.
Other services you might consider: TravelSIMshop
If you are just dropping down for a day or two, I don’t think it’s worth the hassle. Stick with your usual number and just foot the bill.