How Accessible Is Internet Access Whilst Traveling?
Before heading off on a trip, most people like to know how much access they’ll have to the internet (and how much it’ll cost them). In the age that we live in, the internet is part of the lives of millions of people, so questions such as ‘How accessible is the internet in X?’ are to be expected.
Many people go traveling to get away from their life and home and to have a break from everything, so as a result they might want to avoid using the internet. While this is sound in theory, once you go traveling you’ll soon start to miss your friends, family and lots of the things you left behind, so the internet gives you a quick and easy way to stay in touch and to provide regular updates to your loved ones.
While pretty much every country in the world now ‘has’ the internet, this doesn’t mean that it’s easily accessible for the average traveler. It’s good to have some idea of where and when you’ll next be able to get online so that you can plan your internet activities accordingly.
Let’s take a look at how accessible the internet is throughout the most popular traveling destinations around the world and where the best places to go online are:
The USA, as you would expect, has excellent WiFi access for those with a laptop or mobile WiFi device. Most hotels, hostels and coffee shops (among other places) will have WiFi, and it’s nearly always free to use.
Internet cafés are a lot harder to find, but in major tourist areas they can be found. In addition to this, most hostels will have an ‘internet room’ where they’ll have computers set up that you can pay to use.
The cost of using a computer at internet cafés in the USA is pretty expensive, so it’s best to plan out your internet activities beforehand.
Internet cafés are rare in most parts of Europe, but most public libraries will have an area where you can use computers – sometimes even for free.
In major European cities, WiFi shouldn’t be too hard to find, as it’s often available in most hotels, hostels, coffee shops and pubs.
Australia & New Zealand
Internet access in Australia and New Zealand is usually pretty easy to find in the built up cities and major tourist areas (like most places in the world), but outside of that you’re going to struggle to find anything.
Most hotels offer free wireless access to those with laptops/wireless devices, but also have computers that you can pay to use.
The South Pacific
Out of all of the places in the world, The South Pacific (i.e. the Cook Islands, Fiji, etc.) is probably the most expensive place to use the internet in the entire world (possibly because it’s so remote), and you’ll often have a rather slow connection speed.
Sure, it’s true that in such a beautiful place you’ll seldom want to use the internet, but if you’re caught up in the middle of a monsoon and you have nothing better to do you might have little other choice.
South East Asia
South East Asia has perhaps the most accessible and cheapest internet for travelers in the whole world. As long as you stay close to the big cities/towns and the main tourist areas, you’ll never be far from an internet café offering cheap rates.
That being said, as you venturing further afoot you’ll find internet access to be almost non-existent, as the region doesn’t yet have the same technological infrastructure as parts of the Western world.
WiFi is far less common in South East Asia (unlike Europe and the USA), and is really only found in large hotels (if at all). This isn’t usually much of a problem, however, as internet cafés are so common and so cheap to use.
The Alternative – Bringing a Laptop With You
Depending on the kind of trip you’re taking and how much you need to use the internet, taking a small, lightweight laptop/netbook with you can be a viable alternative (providing you don’t mind taking the risk of losing it).
If you go traveling a lot and use the internet a lot it can save you a lot of money in the long run (particularly if you’re traveling in areas where the internet is expensive to travelers – such as in the USA).
Seeing as processing power isn’t as important as portability, these can typically be found for as little as $230 / £150.
If you’re traveling to an area where WiFi is common (such as the USA, as most coffee houses and hotels have WiFi) an alternative to bringing a laptop is to bring an iPod Touch.
These are great because they’re super compact (making them easy to hide from thieves) and they won’t add any real weight to your baggage. While they can’t access the internet like laptops can (through an Ethernet cable), they can connect to WiFi and they have a built in web browser and a touch-screen keyboard, meaning it’s just as easy to keep in touch with your loved ones.
I took my iPod Touch with me last year as I traveled around the United States, and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to find free WiFi. I occasionally had to go on ‘WiFi scouting mission’ – where I ended up walking around the streets to find a building that was giving out free WiFi (as I had to send important emails), but these missions were often short and bountiful.
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