Internet and WIFI in Paris – tips for tourists and travelers

If only the US were advanced as Europe: great subway systems, Velib bikes, the latest mobile phones, universal healthcare, satellite TV that is truly global, and surprisingly more and more free flowing WIFI (or “wee-fee” as it’s pronounced in France). While in the US, Starbucks is just announcing a few hours of WIFI with purchase after years of that T-Mobile racket, and hotels are still gouging us for $10 plus for a few radio waves, many cafes and hotels in Paris let the WIFI run wild, run free. And that’s as it should be. Increasingly, the world depends on interconnectivity. Who can afford to be away from work, family or personal obligations for even a few days without knowing of when and where to find a connection. Here are a few tips to make sure you are internet-satisfied when traveling.

1. Many many cafes have free wifi allowing you to indulge in an afternoon coffee along with your internet. Try the cafe at the intersection of the rue de Buci and the rue Mazarine, which has outdoor tables. Watch for “Free Internet” or “internet gratuit” signs to guide your cafe choices, especially if you want a quick connection with a Treo, Blackberry or iPhone. Kids feel like an ice cream? All Haagen-Dazs Paris locations are WIFI enabled.

2. Be careful with hotel and apartment rental listings. Many still say, “internet connection,” when what they really mean is that the telephone has an input jack for a dial-up connection. In this case, you’ll need a modem and a local dial-up number (does AOL still have these?) This solution is almost completely useless for most Americans.

3. Look for hotels with free internet, like the Hotel Villa d’Estrees, which has free wifi, using a card system. They hand out the cards for free. Given the state of American tourism, don’t be afraid to ask for free internet when you’re booking, if there is a charge at your chosen hotel.

4. Look for apartment rentals with free internet or wifi. Many private rental apartments, including ours, come with unlimited wifi access. Additionally, many of these data plans come with free telephone service to the United States, which can be a real money-saver. Note, if you don’t have free telephone, apply for a Skype account before you go. You can use Skype for literally pennies a minute, and for free to another Skype user. It’s very simple to use.

5. Be very careful using your mobile phone’s data roaming plan while overseas. The iPhone, especially, uses up enormous amounts of data as it provides up to the minute weather, pedestrian google maps, or web searches while you stand waiting for your spouse at another shoe store. While the phone companies are amazingly understanding about reducing some of these shocking charges (way over a few thousand dollars in many cases), it’s better to be forewarned. Turn off the automatic email downloading and don’t use the other web services unless you are in a free WIFI zone.