A few weeks ago, travel writer Tim Richards chatted to me about hotel Wi-Fi services. I spend quite a bit of time travelling - I'd rack up about 50-60 nights a year staying in various hotels here and abroad. And that often puts me at the mercy of hotel and airport Wi-Fi. So, Richards asked me which hotel Wi-Fi was better - Australian or overseas?
Richards' article documented some of my experiences and the challenges faced by hotel operators. He chatted with the director of solution delivery at Pullman Hotels as well as getting my feedback.
I've found that network performance is widely variable. Interestingly, I've found smaller hotels tend to offer better bandwidth than big city hotels. I suspect that with fewer people to service, the smaller establishments simply don't have the same traffic levels to deal with.
The variability of hotel Wi-Fi in Australia has led me to changing my phone plan to one that has plenty of gigabytes available. When I was interviewed, I had access to 25GB on my plan. Since then, I've moved to a Telstra business plan that gives me 40GB which is shared between three phone services and an iPad. In general, I can get far better bandwidth over cellular comms than hotel Wi-Fi, particularly if I need to upload.
Some hotels hire out local cell phones with data - one of my friends had one provided for free at the hotel he stayed at in Singapore recently. It's worth checking if that's an option if you head overseas.
If I'm overseas, my plan allows me to access 1.5GB of roaming data each month. But if I'm away for more than a couple of days, I fall back to hotel or conference centre Wi-Fi. But I always connect via a VPN.
I looked at VPN services a while ago and have settled on using NordVPN as it's multi-platform, reasonably priced and their policies state they don't retain any traffic data.
In short, hotel Wi-Fi can suck. It doesn't always but it is variable enough that I try to have a Plan B. I've taken to carrying an old cellular access point for the times when I hotel or conference centre Wi-Fi is too slow and I don't have enough cellular data. Then I buy a local SIM card.
We last updated our list of best VPN providers in 2014, but a lot has changed since then. With Netflix blocking VPNs and privacy becoming more of a concern than ever, the parameters of a good VPN for Aussie users have shifted. Some popular choices have fallen out of favour of late, so we've had a look at what VPN users in Australia are recommending now and for the year ahead.