Prepping for Paris

Tomorrow we fly to Paris, where I’ll be based for the next five weeks. To help myself prep, here are a few of my notes from conversations with friends and my own inadequate research…

Mobile phone SIM recommendations are especially welcome. We plan to cripple our U.S. iPhones for the obvious reasons AT&T details here. Our other phones include…

  • Android Nexus One (right out of the box)
  • Nokia E72 (it’s a Symbian phone)
  • Nokia N900 (a computing device that does have a SIM slot and can be used as a phone)
  • Nokia 6820b (an old Nokia candybar-shaped GSM phone that hasn’t been used in years, but works)

Ideally we would like to go to a mobile phone store that can help us equip some combination of these things, for the time we’re there. The iPad too, once it arrives. It will be a 3G model.

Au revoir…

[Later…] We’re here, still jet-lagged and settling in. Here are some other items we could use some advice on:

  • “Free” wi-fi. This is confusing. There seem to be lots of open wi-fi access points in Paris, but all require logins and passwords. Our French is still weak at best, so that’s a bit of a problem too. One of the services is called Free, which also happens to be the company that provides TV/Internet/Phone service in the apartment. Should this also give us leverage with the Free wi-fi out there? Not sure. (Internet speed is 16.7Mbps down and .78Mbps up. It’s good enough, but not encouraging for posting photos. I’m also worried about data usage caps. Guidance on that is welcome too.)
  • Our 200-watt heavy-duty 220/110 step-down power transformer crapped out within two hours after being plugged in. We want to get a new one that won’t fail. The dead one is a Tacima.

Again, thanks for all your help.

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12 Responses to Prepping for Paris

  1. mary hodder says:

    have fun Doc! i hope it’s a blast!

  2. Susan Crawford says:

    I’ll be there too, but just for a couple of days this coming week. I find sitting around in parks to be a fine way to spend time in Paris. Hope you have fun all five weeks long!

  3. With a little bit of luck it will be the Celtics in 6! I know you will be cheering from a distance and French accent!

    Have a great time, blog/tweet/post pics often so that those of us working here can vicariously enjoy Paris…

  4. michael says:

    Have a nice trip…
    God Bless You

  5. Daughter will be in Montpellier for fall semester, so I appreciate your phone tips. I hope to get there briefly.

    A UNC pal of hers waxed eloquently in a couple of places about his time in Paris:
    and at the student paper:

  6. Esme Vos says:


    I posted all my Paris recommendations here;

  7. Esme Vos says:

    To make life easier, here is a post I wrote about reasonably priced, excellent bistros and brasseries in Paris:

    Here is the post with a comprehensive list of restaurants, cafes and (most important of all), ice cream places:

    Here they all are in a Google map:

    I know you will enjoy Paris.


  8. Brian Benz says:

    Have fun!

    My top 3 travel tips for Paris:
    -Ste Chappelle, hidden away near the Notre Dame on the ile de la Cite. -Great cheap shawarma on a baguette on any side street on the left bank
    -There are amazing delis in the hidden, mostly unmarked basement grocery stores of the department stores downtown.

    Top 3 things I’ve found useful on the road lately lately when looking for free wifi and sharing:

    -Hawking external wireless-N adapter – powerful antenna that will pick up signals that your regular Wifi can’t:

    And if you want to get really serious, here’s the real reason why you want that adapter….you can unscrew the antenna and add an external high-gain uni or omnidirectional antenna to get even more coverage…

    If you have wired, get this amazing little thing:

    And the fourth of the three things you will need – modern power. Forget all the adapters and voltage converters, You just need one power adapter and one of these:

  9. Brian Benz says:

    Ok one mroe travel tip – if you tire of coffee, order citron presse in the cafes – DIY lemonade.

  10. Bertil Hatt says:

    Apple’s historic provider is Orange, the incumbent (aka France Telecom; Itineris or Wanadoo are extinct brands of the same group). Service, pricing and offers varies a lot from on agency to the other (simply because the company has six times too many employees that it crumble on its own middle-management) so if you think something makes sense but you can get it, do try another agency. There are more expensive than SFR or Bouygues (the other two main cell phone operators), though.
    The recently refurbished flagship, where they will have English-speaking staff is in Madeleine—that’s 3 min. from my place, so feel free to ping me if you’d rather have a third party.

    I don’t know about the travelers SIM or international solutions, but they seem expensive to me, but include numbers to be called on from abroad. If you want to have a temporary data access, pre-paid is called ‘Mobicarte’ (it’s actually Orange’s brand, but that’s the only name people use) and they come with data plans. Your phones have to be un-Sim-locked, though.

    “Free“ is the brand name of one of the ISPs (actually, the ruthless one that the world envies us): they pionneered a Fon-like access network for any of their (paying) user through any of their privately-installed, not really-owned ‘FreeBox’ (the brandname of the DLS Router). Some people abuse the system and give away that access code to friends: most places in Paris would get a decent signal from their neighbour’s Box that way — that might be arranged with your host if you have a Free where you are.
    SFR (who merged with Cegetel ISP couple of years ago) has the same system, so you might see private wifi called “SFRBox’ or ‘CegetelBox’ with a similar offer, too. Orange’s routers are called LiveBox and they don’t have it (so I can’t help because that’s what I have). You also have “DartyBox”es disappointing in the same way and… I guess that’s all.

    Park wifi acessses are insufficient at best, and there used to be a surprising number of hackers that had installed sniffing networks in the same areas, with similar sounding names… so I’d stick to Orange HotSpots (Business-oriented, generally included in data plans), McDonald’s (I know, how ironic): Starbucks have over-priced but functionning access;.many cafés have Wifi, too: you can see the logo — but you know the legendary attitude of waiters… now try to get the passcode from them ;). Trick about that: always try to talk in French first. It doesn’t always work (nothing will prevent you from the attitude if they had a bad day) but proving that your French is worst than their English generally gets points for efforts.

    If you insist on buying your iPad in an Apple Store, we now have one! It’s under the Louvre, in front of (one of) the queue to get in, so you won’t miss it. I’m actually mid-way between there and Madeleine, so the offer stands there too…

    Fnac is great place for cultural goods and some electronics, but most electronics are in “Fnac Digitale”, a spin-off. There’s one on boulevard Saint-Germain (heart of Quartier Latin). I’m not sure about power-adapters, but most of such hardware needs can be resolved in the basement floor of BHV (next to the Town Hall, “Hotel de Ville”).

    Good point about La Cantine: Wednesday morning is the most academic or many meetings (in French, alas) with mostly people from Orange Labs (same ISP, no connection to the commercial pandemonium) — so if you want to meet the team of social scientists whose work you paid thanks to your overpriced access… we always enjoy American connexions.

  11. jj1 says:

    Most cafes offer free wifi even if you are not a customer. You can also find more hotspots in here:

  12. Rynda says:

    Great info here! thanks all!. I am in Paris working for a few months and I know Paris pretty well… -get in touch on twitter if you need anything! Twitter> @rynda

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