Using our Netbook in France and Italy

Hello ~
After reading about the demise of most internet cafes and the popularity of Wifi, we are thinking of purchasing a netbook before we leave on Thursday (!).

Can anyone advise on the following:
1) Do they work in France and Italy? Do they need a specific adaptor/converter. What about the WIFI?
2) We have yet to purchase one and we are looking at Costco's selection. Any tips?

Thanks so much!

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6837 posts

All laptops/netbooks are designed to handle all the different worldwide currents, so you just need the adapter plug. WiFi works the same everywhere.

Posted by Carl
14 posts

I can offer a few tips--I have been carrying a notebook computer to Europe for many years.
First, any notebook/netbook will have an ac adapter that works on 110 to 240 vac (doublecheck before buying). You will need a cheap adapter plug to plug your U.S. plug into a European socket that used to be different for nearly every country but now is mostly a two-prong round plug. If you find you don't have the adapter, usually the hotel will have one or you can buy one easily there at a computer or department store.
Connecting to the internet is largely the same as in the U.S., except potentially more expensive. Nearly every hotel will have internet access either through a hard wire RJ45 connector or WiFi or both. Sometimes this is free but usually is about 2X the cost of the U.S. per day. Oddly the more expensive the hotel, the more likely it is not free. Ask before you book. You can still use dialup but it is expensive and not necessary. Outside the hotel, there are many WiFi hotspots that are sometimes free just like the U.S. There are some free locator sites such as that might help. You can also subscribe to a WiFi service here that will have cheaper roaming fees in Europe such as TMobile Hotspot (TMobile is owned by the German phone company so has good coverage in Germany and less so in other European countries.) TMobile charges about $25/month for U.S. service plus roaming fees that are reasonable and worth checking out. Internet cafes are still available but tend to be in the boondocks towns. You might also be tempted to use the cellular network to connect, but this is very expensive an not worth doing. You would need a laptop connect card from AT&T or other GSM based carrier. They will work but you will need to add an international roaming plan of about $100 plus the U.S. cost of about $70 per month for modest data usage. If you have an iPhone, it will work for data but it is also very expensive and is not worth it.
Continued below

Posted by Carl
14 posts

Continued from above/below.
In buying a netbook/notebook, I recommend you go to or and decide what you need, then check Costco. Some of the lowend netbooks come with Linux OS; I suggest you stick with Windows XP so all you existing software will work. In traveling, expecially in a backpack or briefcase, weight adds up so I would say get the smallest size that has a keyboard that's close to normal size. Something like a Dell Mini 10 or 12. Be sure it includes an integrated LAN network adapter and built in WiFi (802.11 a/b/g). Buy as fast a processor and as much memory as you budget allows. Some netbooks come with small solid state disks rather than rotating disks. These offer some additional reliability against disk crashes, but they are not cost effective yet. With reasonable care, a disk crash from a dropped computer is avoidable.
You will need an office/email program. If you don't have MS Office or don't want to buy it, download the free equivalent at
Lastly, always lock up your computer or take it with you. Many hotels now have in-room safes. If not, take it to the desk and ask them to lock it up or carry it with you.

Posted by JumpinBug
BC, Canada
345 posts

I would like to add , in addition to the wonderful advice you've already been given, if you don't need it for file storage I'd suggest something like an iPod Touch instead. Same access to wifi, web surfing, skype, and can hold a decent amount of files, pictures, music, but much, much smaller, and at less cost.

I love and need my netbook for use with pictures, but am also enjoying playing with a Touch. I wouldn't want to be typing on it, but basic surfing is fine.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4871 posts

And if all you have is a Touch you can type on it, it's just not as easy as a keyboard.

Posted by Janis
Grapevine, TX, USA
870 posts

We bought a Samsung NC10 to take on our trip to Greece last month. It usually worked fine -- but sometimes even though the signal was strong, I had to go to the hotel lobby to get connectivity. If it worked well in Greece, it should work in France & Italy wherever they have internet service and/or WiFi. It was small enough to fit into our camera bag -- along with the camera and lenses.

Posted by Iain
Edmonton, AB, Canada
668 posts

I have used a SOny Vaio for several years, but this is my first trip (I am resently in the UK) with a Netbook. I got an HP Mini 2140 and really enjoy using it. It is more expensive than some of the others, but has a large HD and 2 Gig of memory as well a Wifi n. It seems wuite fast and uploads my photos to my website easily - it seems faster at that than my Sony, but the web co may have improved their service since last year too.

So far I have used Wifi at realatives, but leave for Netherlands and Baltic countries on Friday and will see how it does there. Never had a problem with Wifi before, with the Sony.

Carl's advice is excellent and covers about everything you need.

Posted by Cherie
Bainbridge Island, WA
10 posts

Thanks to everyone for the great information. I was chatting with a friend about my incrediably long list of things to do AND buy before I left, including a Netbook. She offered me her iTouch for the trip, so I am set! Now, I just need to figure out how to use it!!

Do these need an adapter and a converter?

Thanks again!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11274 posts

Touch vs Netbook

According to Apple's website, the "smallest" Touch costs 2/3 of what I paid for my netbook and only has 8 GB of storage compared to over 100 GB on my netbook. Plus my netbook has a much larger screen and a usable keyboard.

I don't use Outlook to get email in Europe; my email provider doesn't even have servers in Europe. Instead, I use Hotmail, which you can get to from anywhere and uses Internet Explorer, which you can get for free.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts


A few further thoughts on using an IPod Touch vs. a Netbook.

The IPod Touch is fine for "light duty" uses but you'll probably find that it's a bit awkward for "normal" use, due to the small screen and the "hunt & peck" keyboard. It is a well designed product but has some inherent drawbacks due to the small size and small screen.

I have to agree with the previous post that indicated that ironically many of the high end Hotels seem to charge for Wi-Fi, while many "budget" places often provide this at no cost. Some Hotels also provide one or more computers (often Laptops) for use by guests, in addition to the Wi-Fi.

I'll most likely be buying a Netbook before my next trip, as I've found that the somewhat limited computer facilities in a Hotel are often extensively used, so it's difficult at times to get access to them. The other issue I've found (especially in France) is that the keyboard layout is VERY irritating for those used to North American keyboards (these vary by country).

I'm in France at the moment and will be heading to Italy in a few days, so my comments are based on my experiences so far on this trip (and previous trips). I do have an IPod Touch, but have used this mostly just for "emergency use" or quick checks of internet sites.

Happy travels!

Posted by JumpinBug
BC, Canada
345 posts

Cherie, one issue may be that you have to pick up a regular plug for it - mine was passed along from a family member, and all they passed along was a cord for charging it via USB. Others can confirm this, but I think that's the standard now. And then you'd need a plug adapter.

I admit, I've been spending more time on it playing Lemonade Tycoon and listening to Rick's podcasts than doing anything else with it. :)

Posted by Lana
Houston, TX, USA
1 posts

I realize I'm on an old post, but hopefully, someone can answer: I'm headed to Sicily in 9 days. Think I'll quit trying for internet cafes and buy a small netbook. This time, I'll probably need it as we re onyl bopoked for the 1st 3 nights and have decided to make zero plans other than to relax and go where we feel like, whenever, for the 2 weeks. Obviously, this netbook request is last moment. I am very low tech. Is it necessary to buy some internet plan on a monthly basis as I have to do for my iPhone? Can I just bring the netbook (Dell?) and find a free WiFi spot or pay a daily rate in a hotel if offered? Is Sicily spotty with covereage? We'll be mostly on the easter side of the island. Grazie!

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2381 posts

....and in Italy, access is controlled. There will be no unsecure signals, meaning at a cafe or hotel, you will need a code to get on. Usually not a problem, in Rome once I entered a Cafe's code at the beginning of the week, I logged on every time I was there with no effort.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

Not only is McDonalds the travellers' friend because it has reliable and clean (mostly) toilets; predictable decent reasonably cheap and fast food, but it and many other similar outlets have free WiFi. That is true throughout every part of Europe I have traveled through, including Italy.

In France, Belgium, and Luxembourg you also have the Quick chain - better burgers, better atmosphere (except Nice near the station which has to be seen to be believed).

If you get a prepay plan at a more expensive hotel, check the options carefully. You may have one hour continuous or it may be one hour over 24, log on-log off. Sometimes a 24 hour card is over actual 24 hours, sometimes finishes at noon regardless. At the Novotel in Monaco we had a 24 hour card which was 24 online hours within our entire stay.

Read the fine print; ask.

Or hop down to McDonalds for a coffee or flurry and go for free.