E-mail is the cheapest and most hassle-free way of staying in touch with home while in France. Practically every reasonable-sized town has a cyber café or connection point of some sort, and in less populated areas, the need is being filled by post offices, many of which now have rather expensive public Internet terminals, which are operated with a prepaid card (€7.63 for the first hour).
In addition, France Télécom has street-side Internet kiosks in major cities. Prices range from €2.29 to €9.15 per hour, so it can be worth shopping around.
It's easy to open a free e-mail account with Google (G-mail), Hotmail or Yahoo to use while you're away from home. Caveat: There are privacy issues you should consider when allowing third-party services like these to archive your personal e-mail messages. You are encouraged to read about these issues before using such services.
The existence of Minitel and the relatively low level of personal computer ownership in France contributed to the rather slow adoption of the Internet here, but in recent years the situation has changed and France as a nation has come fully on-line. It is estimated that in 2003, there were 21.9 million people in France connected to the Internet.
Information about practically every aspect of French culture and travel can now be picked up on the World Wide Web: government agencies are now on-line, including even some of the smallest local tourist offices; in the cultural sphere even the most obscure and esoteric associations have discovered the importance of getting their message out over the Web; and the hotel and restaurant businesses have come to realize that the 'Net is a key to foreign markets.
On the down side, many or most of these pages do not have English-language versions, although they are gradually coming to be seen as indispensible in all but the most locally focused sites. As anywhere on the 'Net, persistent combing of links pages and use of search engines will almost certainly get you the information you are looking for.
Directories of Cybercafés in France
Most of the better hotels catering to business travelers will offer Internet services in a Business Center, though competition for a terminal may be fierce during early-morning and evening hours. Some facilities will also offer Internet connections in the guest rooms, though it's best to verify this with your hotel before making reservations.
French universities led the way in being the first to offer non-paying e-mail facilities to their teaching staff and students. Today, students at French universities and grandes écoles are usually entitled to an Internet address. With an e-mail address, the student can send and receive e-mail from a computer at the university, or even from outside the university, via a Telnet arrangement.
Internet Service Providers in France
There are a number of Internet Service Providers and connection choices available, for those who plan to be staying in France long-term in a private residence. Here is a sampling of the most popular options:
France Télécom, through its subsidiary Wanadoo, offers dial-up Internet access for €0.02 per minute without a monthly service contract. Several 12-month agreements are also available, such as a plan offering 120 connection hours for €25 a month. ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line) service is available in select urban areas, starting at €19.90 for a 512k connection speed; 1024k and 2048k services are also offered.
Cable Internet service is offered by Noos.fr for as little as €14.90 per month (1-Megabit connection speed), when combined with cable television services; a stand-alone Internet connection starts at €19.90 per month. Faster services (2- and 4-Megabit) are also available.
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Content edited by Ian C. Mills.
Sources: (1.) Destination Guides © Rough Guides Ltd as trustee for its authors. Published by Rough Guides. All rights reserved. The Rough Guides name is a trademark of Rough Guides Ltd. Content reproduced here is licensed through Discover France's affiliation with certain travel providers. (2.) Égide Agency for International Mobility. (3.) France Télécom. (4.) Noos.fr.
Images: Storefront of La Baguenaude Cyber Café (Paris), from La Baguenaude. All Rights Reserved.