Trip Prep

What to know before you you go…

French travel poster for Nice

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 pickpocketed… but in fact you just left it in the hotel, restroom or Uber… 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!
  • Figure out your internet roaming strategy.  First check to see if your data plan has free international roaming.  If not, see if your phone is unblocked to use a French SIM card, and if you go this route the cheapest SIMs with the most data need to be ordered online 2 weeks in advance and delivered to your hotel (details here).  Avoid all this hassle and just order a Pocket Wifi Hotspot for 8€/day for unlimited internet everywhere for your whole family (recommended).  Alternately you can just not use your phone outside of free wifi, and if this is your choice download Skype and buy $10 worth of Skype credit so that you can call local businesses and land lines worldwide easily and for pennies.
  • Here is a list 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…

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.
  • 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 2 copies of your passport and credit cards (both sides) and leave one with someone at home, and one hidden in your luggage.
  • 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 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 plug for EuropeAdapter 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.  While you are at it, get an extra long phone cord… trust me you will be happy you did!

Hair dryers, curling irons and straighteners all need a plug adapter plus a voltage converter.  Even with a converter, anything hot shorts out easily, so maybe just leave your good one at home and buy a cheapie one here that has the right voltage and plug, and then just leave it when you’re done.  All hotels and airbnb’s have hairdryers at least, so that is one thing you don’t need to bring.

Most European hotels don’t provide irons, so check your hotel and if not it’s best to bring a travel iron, or better yet, use my favorite travel tip:  Once you’re there buy a spray bottle of Evian water, lay your clothes flat on the bed, spray lightly, wait 30 seconds, then ‘iron’ with your hand.  It’s a travel miracle!

Portable luggage scale

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.

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

Related Pages on Getting By in France:

Back up to main Practicalities – Miscellaneous Page

Photo Credit: Nice Poster available at

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