How do I use the internet on my smartphone while in Paris?

I'll be going to France with a smartphone and want to keep communications as low-priced as possible. Online anyway, I can't figure out what my service provider is talking about! But what I think I'm learning here on Rick Steves' site is that as long as I have a wifi connection and have Skype on my phone, I can call computers in the USA and can also surf the web as much as I like at no extra charge (just as if I were at home). Is there anything else I need to do?? I'm not at all a tech-type when it comes to smartphones. Do I need to have something changed on my phone before I go, or do I just go and go onto the internet once I'm there? Also, I don't want to make or receive any regular phone calls or text messages while I'm there, so do I just leave my phone on "airline mode"?

Any help at all will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Posted by Rosie
Rick Steves' Europe
121 posts

Hi Dottie. All you need to do is go into your phone's Settings and turn Airplane Mode on. Then also make sure your WiFi is turned on. I do this as soon as I get on the plane heading to Europe. Airplane mode shuts off the phone & data so you won't receive calls and texts and you won't get charged for being online. To get online or use Skype, you just need to connect to a WiFi network. These are networks all over Europe, sometimes free in the hotel or the price of a coffee in a café. You usually need a password and then once you're connected, you can surf to your heart's content! And once you set up your Skype account, add about $10 in credit and that should last you a long time since calls are .02 cents per minute to non-Skype numbers and free Skype-to-Skype.

Posted by Dottie
Portland, OR, USA
31 posts

Thank you soooooo much, Rosie. That is exactly the information I was looking for.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
1122 posts

Further, when outside the U.S., I use Skype to call landlines and cell phones, as such calls are very cheap. Credit my Skype account a few dollars in advance does the trick. This is helpful, for example, when arranging taxi rides a day in advance from our nearest airport airport when returning home.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
1348 posts

Just know that hotel wi-fi connections can be spotty -- we were on the fifth floor in a hotel in Paris and could only get wi-fi in the room by sitting next to the hall door. Luckily, they had comfortable chairs downstairs near the front desk so we just camped out there for a half-hour in the evening to get our news fix.

Posted by Dottie
Portland, OR, USA
31 posts

Thanks, all. I'm renting an apartment that the owner swears has very robust wifi -- hope he's right. If not, I'll have to find hot spots. I'm just thrilled that I can use my smartphone with Skype instead of lugging around my enormous laptop. (What was I thinking! Did I really need a number pad on my computer??)