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This is a subject which is difficult to write about as there are so many different companies who provide services in different countries. There are several ways to get on line:
1) Satellite - forget it, we tried it and you still need a mobile connection, it was difficult to locate the satellite, not very fast and was not cheap.
2) Wi-Fi - trot along to Macdonalds or some other hot spot with your laptop and surf for free.
3) Internet Cafe - when you can find one they are relatively inexpensive and sometimes you can find a local library that can provide a free service.
4) Mobile internet - this is currently the best option for a cruising barge.
5)Get yourself a signal booster. We have a WIFI Wand which is specially designed to hang outside on a mast and will pick up a signal several Km distant. You just plug it in to a USB port and off you go. It is made in New Zealand but they do have a UK stockist.
In Belgium you can walk into any of the telecoms companies shops and sign up for a mobile phone and internet connection just by presenting your credit card. The second advantage is that they will offer you a service in French, Dutch or English. We have a mobile internet account with Proximus which cost us about €50 a month for 5Gb of data and I use a Vodafone data card but most companies seem to be supplying USB dongles these days. This is fine when we are in Belgium but stray over the border and roaming charges become prohibitively expensive.
This year we will change the plan over to Eurodata and pay about €25 a month for up to only 50Mb of data. Not much but it should be enough if you only use it for emails and turn off all your program automatic updates otherwise Windows and Norton will bankrupt you. You should also tell your friends "strictly no photo or video attachments to emails whilst you are cruising".
In France you will have to struggle with the French language, you must have a French bank account (Credit Agricole has a service in English) and a French address to get a mobile internet account. You should get the bank to put your French address on the cheque otherwise you will be asked to produce a French utility bill which you will not have. Remember the French invented Bureaucracy! Pay as you go has been introduced but is a similar price to using Proximus with the Eurodata plan. You should be able to use your mooring address and set everything up with SFR so you will still be able to use your Vodafone data card or dongle (SFR and Proximus are both Vodafone partners) and therefore English language software to monitor the connection but not if you get a SFR dongle.