Trip Prep

What to know before you you go…

Download the Essential Apps

  • Install the free app Find My Iphone and test it before you go… it is peace of mind in an app.  There is always that moment when you can’t find your phone and think maybe you’ve been pickpocked… but in fact you just left it in the hotel, restroom or taxi… this app gives you your answer fast.  (for Smartphones, download Google’s Android Device Manager)
  • Uber is so much cheaper and easier than dealing with taxis, especially if you don’t speak French.  Sign up and download the app before you go, and you will not only save on your airport transfer, but you can’t be overcharged, no cash changes hands, and the Uber car can find you even when you have no idea where you are!  Enter this promo code when you sign up for 10€ off your first ride: uber-get-ten
  • Download Skype and buy $10 worth of Skype credit so that you can call local businesses and international land lines easily and for pennies.
  • Like those?  Here is a list of more of the Best Phone Apps for Nice.  Download them before you go so you don’t waste valuable vacation time trying to do it from your hotel room once you’re here…
  • Consider ordering a Pocket Mobile Wifi Hot Spot for your trip. The Nice Tourist office (and other tourist offices around France) have just started offering this great new service: a pocket mobile wifi hot spot with unlimited internet that you can rent by the day and connect up to 10 devices.  It costs around 8€ a day. You book it on-line in English, pick it up at the nearest tourist office when you arrive, it’s ready to go – just turn it on, and when you are done you pop it in the prepaid envelope and drop it in any French mailbox even at the airport. That’s it!  And if you book through the link above, you get 5% off!

Money and Cards

  • Don’t bother taking your Discover or Diner’s Card; nobody has ever heard of them here.
  • Call your debit and credit card companies to inform them of your travel plans so that their fraud department doesn’t automatically block your card when it’s used unexpectedly in a foreign country.  While you’re at it, get their local France number in case it happens anyway (which it does) and you need to call to get your card unblocked.
  • If you’re an American, upgrade your old magnetic stripe credit cards to the new chip-and-pin style, which is standard in Europe.  Businesses and cash machines can handle the typical American magnetic swipe cards, but ticket machines (like at train stations, toll booths, parking garages, parking meters, tram ticket machines, and the Velo Bleus) cannot swipe.  Be sure it has the 4-digit pin and check it before you go.
  • You can get Travelers Checks, but really, the cheapest and most convenient way to get cash from a cash machine with a debit card with a pin code.  Bank of America debit cards are the best because you can use them for free in BNP Paribas machines here (no transaction fees on either end).  A good credit card is Cap One which doesn’t charge any international transaction fees (most cards charge 3%).  Click here for more advice on changing money and cards.
  • Make sure you have two cards that will give you cash and keep one somewhere out of your wallet (hidden in your luggage lining, maybe?) so that in the unlikely event that you get pick-pocketed, the incident will not be compounded by a complete inability to get cash!
  • Make a copy of your passport and credit cards and leave it with someone at home.
  • Empty your wallet of photos, address book, and unnecessary things that would be  a huge pain to replace in the unlikely event that you were pick-pocketed.

Brush up on your French

Start a month ahead and brush up on your conversational French with these great Pimsleur French CD’s; it’s the best and easiest method, there is no book, they take only 20 minutes a day and you’re not supposed to do more than 1 a day.  When I first moved here I tried every system there was, and this was the most helpful. They’re expensive, so if you can’t afford it, just check them out from your local library.

And for fun, download the DuoLingo app for fun learning games to play when you have a few minutes to kill.

Order Essential Accessories from Amazon well ahead of time:

It’s much less expensive to order these kind of things from Amazon at home, than have to buy them for a premium, and pay euro prices, from an airport or hotel sundry shop!

Adapter Plugs for your phone and computer:  Most communication equipment takes 220 as well as 110 volts, so all you usually need is an adapter plug to make your plug fit into our socket.

Curling irons and straighteners, however, might need a voltage converter as well, so better to check before you get here and blow it up.

Most European hotels don’t provide irons, so it’s best to bring a travel iron, or better yet, use my favorite travel tip:  Bring an atomizer of Evian water, lay your clothes flat on the bed, spray lightly, wait 30 seconds, then ‘iron’ with your hand.  It’s miraculous!

Luggage weight restrictions are quite severe, and overweight fees are high, especially on inter-Europe flights with low-budget carriers, so bring along this nifty pocket luggage scale and you won’t be faced with the ditch-or-pay dilemma.

Pick up a money belt to wear under your clothes.  Trust me, you don’t want to be walking around in Europe with a wallet full of cash!

And you might want an extra memory card for your camera… you’ll be taking lots of photos!

Related Pages on Getting By in France:

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Photo Credit: Nice Poster available at

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