On a recent trip to New York City, I was surprised (and delighted) to find many businesses are now offering free Wi-Fi, from department and electronics stores to the local coffee shops as well as national chains like Starbucks.
Although the private businesses in Paris have been slow to catch on, the city of Paris hasn’t been and they offer complimentary Wi-Fi in 400 locations around the city, including public parks and municipal spaces. The Wi-Fi (pronounced wee-fee) is available from 7am to 11pm, or during the hours the park or building is open.
Yet recently I was reading an online article from someone who could not get connected to the “Free” internet network in Paris, and I saw that he didn’t realize that in France, “Free” doesn’t mean gratuit (free); it paradoxically means it’s part of the network of the internet provider Free.fr, and is for their paying clients with passcodes.
So if you wish to go to a public park and log on, here’s how to do it:
-1. Find the network ‘Orange‘ and select it.
-2. Launch your browser (navigateur). A log-in window will appear, with options in English and French.
(Users of Firefox may get a warning they are visiting an unencrypted site.)
-3. Click on ‘Select Your Voucher’ and you will have the opportunity to sign up for a two hour session. Enter your name and e-mail address.
(Hint: You can use an alias for both, but be sure to remember them if you wish to re-log back on with the same coordinates. You can also simply log in with a new name and e-mail address.)
-4. Once that information is entered, you should be online.
The internet is fairly reliable, although some parks, the signal may be weak or non-existent. (In fact, when I wrote this, I was in the Place des Vosges, and it wasn’t working.) Sometimes you can try walking around and find a better signal in whatever park you’re in if you can’t get a connection.
During the log-in process, there may also be a link where you can purchase a Wi-Fi pass good at all Orange hotspots. You can buy them in various hourly increments and at present, prices are €9.90 for twenty four hours. Also the three major telecom companies offer 3G USB keys (clé) which you can purchase for a limited-time basis (sans engagement) rather than by monthly contract (forfait avec engagement).
These can be pricey (you need to buy the USB key, then pay extra for time; currently Orange is offering 20 minutes for €3, 6 hours for €25, although prices for these vary by telecom company) and are available at the myriad of Orange, SFR, and Bougyes boutiques in Paris and across France, as well as via their websites.
In addition, a good number of Parisian cafés offer complimentary Wi-Fi for patrons. Which means you usually have to order something, and they give you a ticket with a code or you just ask the waiter or bartender for it. In some cases, you might only have access for a limited time, and in others you can sit as long as you wish. There is a list in the links below of cafés and other places that offer free Wi-Fi in Paris.
Unlike other European cities, you won’t find too many cyber cafés in Paris, but Paris has quickly become one of the most plugged-in cities in the world and we’re hoping it’s just a matter of time before the airports get wired as well. And almost all of the hotels offer free Wi-Fi to guests as well. Some may even have computers for public use although the French keyboard (AZERTY) is different and folks using QWERTY keyboards, which are standard in North America, may have trouble with them as the characters and keys are in different places. So even if they tell you they have public computers for sharing, like the cyber cafés, you may want to ask if they have English or other keypads available.
Free Paris Wi-Fi Hotspots by Arrondissement (Paris.fr)
Free Wi-Fi Hotspots in Paris (About.com)
Milk Internet: Chain of cyber cafés.
McDonalds: Every outlet has free Wi-Fi.
Cyber Cube Internet Cafés (Website doesn’t work) but a Google search will reveal locations.