Saturday, 13 December 2008

Budget Internet Access Around The Globe

This is one of the more useful articles I have written for and thought I would share it with my readers.

When you pack your bags and head off around the world with only a backpack and a few essential belongings, you become more aware of what you are leaving behind. You forfeit frequent contact with friends and family, miss social events and can feel isolated. With thanks to the World Wide Web, technology has bridged the gap and we are now able to communicate, upload photos and create blogs to share experiences with loved ones from any where on the globe, but how easy is it to find cheap access to the web.

Well this depends on where you are. Having navigated the globe myself, I always kept an eye out looking for Internet access to keep my blogs going, photos up to date, and to book the next stages of my journey online. It was clear how the ease of Internet access varied from one destination to the next and found myself planning my time online.

The USA was flooded with wireless access points in the cities and many hostels offered free access to those blessed with a laptop, something which grated on my nerves when I was sat ploughing dollar bills into the wired terminal. Hostels in New Zealand and Australia seemed also to grant free wireless access to people carrying laptops and yet charged those that did not. I came to the conclusion that people with laptops carried the burden of having to be extra security conscious with their expensive equipment while I travelled for months without the worry. The best free wired spots I found in "The Western World" were local libraries which seem obliged to offer free access even if you are not a member. It is always worth checking where the nearest library as the Internet does drain your wallet if you seek frequent access. Wireless points on the other hand seem to be all over in major cities and very common in airports, budget hotels, hostels and you can even use any house hold connection if people are foolish enough to leave it unsecured.

In South East Asia offered access at the cheapest rates but Internet cafes were slightly harder to find the further from main cities you ventured and free wireless access was unheard of in hostels. This was true for Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia but the number of Internet cafes improved in Malaysia and further again into Singapore. Most towns boasted at least one terminal to burn CDs and a couple with Skype facilities whereas larger towns and cities have plenty. Skype incidentally is a great way to make international calls for the price of the Internet connection time. Be sure to set up an account for yourself and your other party at home before you leave in order to take advantage.

The most expensive access I found was in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. You may be thinking why would I want to go on the Internet in location so beautiful. Well, there is not a lot to do beside sunbathe and swim in the sea, and if you get caught in an afternoon downpour, playing cards soon loose their appeal. The charge was over 4 pounds an hour for rather slow access. Others in the hostel told of how they had spent 10 pounds for an hour on the neighbouring islands of Fiji.

I would recommend if you are going more to "The Western World" on your travels to buy one of these cheap, small, lightweight, low spec laptops (or notebooks) as you will save big bucks on access, and would be good for backing up photos. These are being sold for as little as £150 from manufacturers such as Acer and ASUS commonly with 4GB of flash storage. Alternatively you could invest in an iPod Touch which can act as a web browser, video and music player and general entertainment system all in one.

It is also important not to be glued to a computer screen for your entire journey as there are far more brilliant things to see and do outdoors. After all, you did not decide to travel the world to go web surfing!



At 15 December 2008 at 20:47 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who manages a hostel, I ask you to please understand that it cost a lot of money in upkeep to maintain internet computers. People don't respect what is not theirs and we've had all kinds of viruses downloaded, headsets snapped in half and other abuses. So we try to make sure everyone has internet to use, but there are costs that need to be considered. I think a lot of backpackers think it's like your home computer which is relatively trouble free, but it's not.

At 16 December 2008 at 13:20 , Blogger Alex @ The Travel Blurb said...

It is good to get an opinion from a providers prespective so thank you. There are ways to keep security high and costs low. Open source sofware is a good area to look into (for operating systems, virus protection etc), and you can prevent users from saving to the hard disk or right clicking the mouse but I appreciate it is hard as these as all features users want. Wireless access (free preferably) reduces your costs of software and maintenance but there is still a need for wireless terminals.


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