- Chose a hotel or apartment has free wifi (most do). Verify with them that is is, in fact, free.
- Make all your phone calls through Skype using the free hotel wifi. The Skype app is free, calls to other Skype users are free, and calls to regular telephones (anywhere in the world) are only 2 cents a minute. Choose the Pay As You Go plan and pay for a $10 credit which gives you 500 minutes.
- Locate a few other free hot-spots around town: the ubiquitous McDonald’s is one, and they even have an app ‘McDo France‘ that will help you locate a few in advance. Here is a map of Free Wifi Spots in Nice, from the great little app Free Wifi Cafe Spots. Soon Place Massena will be a giant hot-spot, followed by other major squares in Nice.
- Note that when you pull up your list of available networks, you will probably see ‘FreeWifi’: this is NOT free, ‘Free’ is a misleading brand name and it’s only free… if you pay!
- In Settings, disable your 3G, Cellular Date and Data Roaming (on an iPhone you go to Settings, General, Network to do this), and keep them off your entire trip. This will mean that you can only use your web-based apps (email, maps, google translate) from your hotel or free hot-spot… but if you plan ahead a little, this will be okay.
- Use your apps before you leave your hotel: your apps will save the data even when you’re no longer connected. Look up your destinations on Maps, translate a bunch of phrases (with voice!) on Google Translate, search for Free Wifi Spots, Toilet Finder, train schedules, whatever… click here for my list of Best Free Apps for Nice.
Going the French SIM Card Route If you are going to be here for a longer time, you might want to get a local French SIM card. You’ll need is an unblocked phone (Verizon and Sprint users are out of luck here), and then you can buy a French SIM once you get here.
The best SIM deal is with Free Mobile, which gives you unlimited worldwide calls (incredible but true!) plus 3 gig of web time for just 19.99€/month with no time commitment (sans engagement)… but the catch is that you can only order it on-line (and the site is only in French), and it takes around 2 weeks for the SIM to arrive in the mail (so you also need an address in France, which could be your hotel). Other mobile operators are starting to match the deal, so by the time you read this you might be able to get almost the same deal from a phone store here in France, like the Orange or SFR boutiques.
Photo credit: Fergoweb, licenced under Creative Commons
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