Using a tablet in France

I am planning on taking a WiFi only tablet to France. I would appreciate advice on whether I need to purchase a tablet that also includes cellular connection capability for parts of France outside of Paris. I realize that most hotels provide WiFi service, but I am concerned about WiFi availability in areas like the Normandy beaches and other less populated centers. I should add that if I take a tablet with cellular capabilities, I am well aware of the high roaming charges via US carriers. Therefore I have already found several European based carriers that provide monthly rental of WiFi mobile hotspots which are less expensive alternatives to US carriers. Any and all advice is much appreciated.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

We've only has wifi electronics with us for the last several years, and have rarely had an issue with no connectivity. Of course, we mainly used wifi for periodically checking email, checking train skeds, etc. We didn't depend on it for life-or-death matters, nor did either of us NEED to be connected (no Facebook addictions, etc!). Now, if you're talking about the actual beaches, for instance, you might not even have cell coverage...so it wouldn't matter. You can always take a photo or video of someplace out-of-range from wifi, then send the picture later when you have coverage. I don't recall one way or the other having any wifi concerns in Normandy...sorry that I don't remember. It must have been fine... If you can make a screenshot/screen capture on your device, you can check weather forecast sites, train skeds, maps, (take a photo of your hotel business card with address/phone info, too) etc., and 'capture' them, then refer back to them later if you lose wifi. So, for periodically (every day or two, or three if necessary) checking your email to keep in touch with your world, keep up with news, check the weather forecast, stay in touch with a hotel...wifi should be fine. You may need to get a password from your hotel desk, and if all else fails go to a McDonalds, etc., buy a drink and use their free wifi ;-) AND their free (with purchase) toilets - never pass up a toilet!

Posted by Paul
Tuscaloosa, AL
877 posts

If you get a tablet with a cell phone radio, you have to be sure that it has the frequencies needed to work in Europe. Unfortunately, making this determination is getting harder. It used to be that you just needed to look for the 900 and 1800 radio bands. With faster data connections, a lot more frequencies are now used (for 3G, 4G, or LTE), and if you don't get those radio bands, you may be limited to a slow connection speed. For that reason, going with a wifi mobile hotspot isn't a bad solution. If you do that, no need to get a tablet with anything other than the wifi bands. I'd look into actually buying a hotspot rather than renting one, though. That is often cheaper. Be sure the data limits you get are sufficient for your uses. My wife loves her Google Nexus 7, if you'd like a recommendation for what tablet to consider.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

You should double-check that your hotels do provide wifi (and if so, is it in the rooms or just in the lobby) and whether it is for free or a paid service. Last two hotels I stayed in had paid wifi. One was 5€/day, the other wanted 2€ for an hour pass. Finding free wifi outside of Paris might prove difficult. But really, do you need it?

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

Bets is a smart, smart woman. If only we were married...;-) And Dina brings up something I meant to mention - sometimes, wifi is only available in the lobby, on a terrace, etc., and you may need to ask for a code (for the entire stay or for each day of your stay).

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

Besides hotels, there are many places to get WiFi in the countryside. McDonalds is one, although I've only used it once. Most large grocery stores that have a cafe attached will have WiFi, and you don't necessarily even have to order something, but at most a coffee will suffice. And even small or modest-sized towns will generally have a bar/cafe or 2 with WiFi; one drink will suffice for as long as you need to stay.

Posted by George
Canada
836 posts

I'm a frequent traveller to Germany and a couple of years ago I gave up on wifi availability, and purchased a Vodafone micro-sim for my iPad. I now have internet capability whenever and wherever I want it. The notion that "free" wifi is everywhere is a bit of a misnomer, not to mention it can be a real inconvenience - find a McDonald's, find a Starbucks - places I'd prefer to avoid while travelling in Europe. The further you go up the star-rating of hotels the more likely it is that the internet will cost.