What Are The Biggest Rorts For Casual Wi-Fi For Travellers?

Last weekend, I got forced to pay caravan park rates for Internet access -- and while it wasn't the end of the world, I wasn't happy about it. How much have you been forced to spend to ensure a connection?

I spent the weekend revisiting Nambucca Heads on the NSW mid-North coast, which was one of my holiday haunts as a child. I figured that Internet access would be a no-brainer, since I had a Next G dongle and I wasn't heading miles away from civilisation. While I know all too well that even Next G isn't a guaranteed connection, I'd done testing in this area during the Off The Rails experiment last year and gotten connections on some pretty isolated beaches, so I figured I'd be sweet, if not working at maximum speeds.

In this assumption, I was entirely wrong. My Next G dongle could not scare up a signal anywhere in the caravan park I was staying. It's clearly not a well-covered area; my BlackBerry, which runs on Optus, was able to get a GPRS connection, but only when I sat outside my cabin. That was still better than Telstra was managing.

Nambucca is one of the hilliest coastal towns you're ever likely to encounter, and I'm guessing that is a major factor. But I needed Internet access on my laptop to get a couple of crucial work tasks done, and that meant I didn't have a lot of options if I wanted to stay on site rather than trekking all the way into town and hoping the Next G options might be better.

My caravan park actually offered park-wide Wi-Fi, so that's what I used -- but only after gasping at the prices. A half-hour connection was $6; $10 got me a whole hour. Even more astonishingly, no matter how many hours I purchased, there was a 200MB download limit for any 24-hour period. I appreciate that the service doesn't want tourists endlessly downloading torrents, but 200MB is a really miserly allowance, especially if you're going to be in one place for a week.

Because of my reliance on Next G in recent years with the occasional failover to McDonald's, I haven't actually paid for casual Internet access in quite a while. I reckon $6 for 30 minutes is pretty extreme, but maybe I need to get out more. What's the worst recent example you've encountered? Share it in the comments.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman very rarely stays in caravan parks. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


Comments

    What always amazes me is we'll stay at a $300+ per night 5-star hotel and they'll still try to hit you up for $15 or $20 per day for flaky slow internet access. Then we stay at a modest 3-star hotel in a country town like Inverell, NSW and the internet is solid, fast and FREE.

      North-west NSW pride! :) I live in Moree, about 140 KM/90 minutes from Inverell, and I have yet to see any motel here that doesn't offer free wireless (although I haven't used any so can't tell how reliable they are). I also stayed a night in Armidale, not too far from Inverell, a few months back, and the motel there also offered free wireless; couldn't fault it at all.

    I was at a hotel in Melbourne over the new year period and I had to desperately VPN to my office in Sydney.

    I went to use their WiFi and got charged $40 for 200MB data and it expired in 3 days.

    Absolutely disgraceful. The closest internet cafe was half an hour walk away so I paid it. Luckily I took the receipt and charged the business but those rates are disgusting!

      It's *because* people often charge it as a business expense that it's priced so steeply.

      Prices tend to stay at what the market can bear. If that means people pay it - no matter how much they whine about it on the internet later - then it'll stay at that price (or go up).

      If you want to see prices in an area drop, start supplying cheap or free WiFi in that area and wait for all the other suppliers to follow suit. Of course, they may just decide to get out of the WiFi business and let your free internet attract more customers to their hotels...

    where is the nearest mcdonalds?

      From Nambucca? Coffs Harbour. Not so convenient.

        Next time you might want to try Scotts Head caravan park, just 15 min south of Nambucca. Great beach and while I still had a miserly 24 hr 200mb download limit the wifi access was included in the park price.

      A new Maccas was recently built at Nambucca, but I can't remember if it has Wi-Fi or not.

    For an hours access at the Hilton Hotel in Dubai I paid $25AU. I was pretty annoyed with that - but it is in a different country where their internet laws are tighter.

    When i was in the UK the netcafe i was at was charging 2 Pound per hour, so that actually is on par with them & the connection was good, even with 40 users. I've travelled to many places and by far the most outrageous connection was in Norway, $20 bucks for half hour, only $2 less than the beer i bought while i was there.

    I think by the time hotels realise that Internet access is becoming on par with Pay TV (eg. that it is a feature that people want, not an extra), it won't be needed any more. We'll have fast and reliable wireless internet.

    Angus

    Nambucca has a McDonalds, its on the south side of town adjacent to the cinema - I regularly use their internet on the road.

      Ah, thanks for the update Daniel -- but in any case, as I wasn't in a position to drive/walk into town, that wouldn't have been an ideal solution either.

    Roughly 35 British pounds for 30 mins access in Doha, Qatar...

      I stayed in Doha for ~5 months in 09-10 and I had free internet for the whole time. Half the time was staying in Grand Regency (where admittedly we had a company deal to get free net) and the rest of the time in an apartment where it was also free.

      I am certain that you can get a 3g dongle thingy from qtel - http://www.qtel.qa/Mobile_Broadband.do for a pretty good price...

    A couple of years ago, my wife and I were in Paris for our honeymoon, and we splurged and spent the final 3 days at the Ritz ($$$). Anyway, I needed to check flights and organise money transfers etc, so needed an internet connection. The business centre had a PC available for a measly price of EUD50 per hour. Needless to say, I walked the streets to an internent cafe that cost aout EUD5 for the same experience. I'm sure they have that pricing because most people that stay there don't care, but seriously, that is gouging.

    On P&O Cruise ships they charge 75c per minute plus a $5 application fee. Only viable explanation is that it is via satellite.

    Paid S$10 for 4 hours in Singapore - thought it was quite expensive, but now seems quite reasonable compared to Nambucca!

    Why don't you just not use it then? People are so dependent on the internet and technology and the like these days. Its like they're on drugs. WAKE UP! Or get the new wake up app. It turns your iturd into a neat frisbee.

      "But I needed Internet access on my laptop to get a couple of crucial work tasks done..."

      Maybe THAT'S why not using it wasn't an option? You wake up.

    When we went on a holiday to a caravan park (I won't mention names) they advertised Wi-Fi included for free when staying. This wasn't true as we were charged about 50c per meg that we downloaded, we only downloaded about 50MB and that was mostly Emails, the attachments and a few videos because we had no Television.

    Could be worse.. I waited 2 months for my fruity UK ISP to unlock my iPhone... GBP£8 per MB roaming charges.. ouch!
    Needless to say, I stop using it PDQ when I realised, but they'd already slaughtered me by then (yes, yes, caveat emptor, my fault entirely for believing their "3 working days" unlocking quote and not being aware of the horrendous charges) :-|
    Beyond that, GBP£50 for half an hour's excruciatingly slow 2G from Turkey was memorable...

    I was once charged $5 account set up fee to access the wifi portal page for a place I was staying, despite rejecting the prices they offered and disconnecting without using it

    In the last six weeks I've spent three hundred dollars on a prepaid internet dongle while waiting for the building managers to send someone out to fix the telephone line.

    Just moved down from QLD to VIC, and the telephone wire in the wall doesn't actually CONNECT TO THE BUILDING! So I can't transfer our internet package over (which will take another ten days) because there is technically no line.

    I figured it would take about about a week or two, tops, to have it rectified, so I bought a prepaid dongle because I didn't want to be paying for something I wasn't going to use for that long.

    Two days later, there goes another fifty dollars (for four gigs of data, I require the internet for work) while I keep waiting.

    It's been six weeks... it's been about $300... that's not including the $300 Telstra charges to come out to your place, flick a switch and say "Oh... it's on."

    I sent a very curt email and they're sending someone tomorrow.

    Been on holiday in vietnam and even the crappiest mosquito ridden hotels have fast free wifi with unlimited downloading. I did a 6gb torrent no problems. Also they never bother to change the router password either so you can open the torrent ports if you needed (you normally dont because upnp is enabled by default on most routers)

    We paid $1200 for 2 weeks access, signed up for Vodafone 3g net a few years ago, we only needed it for 2 weeks, but had to contract for 2 years back then, came in handy a few times after that but still.

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