"Twenty dollars a day for WiFi? And they call me an international criminal!"
- Sacha Baron Cohen, The Dictator.
According to the Telegraph, around two thirds of hotels, hostels and B&B’s worldwide are still charging guests for WiFi access – with rates as high as £8.50 per hour and £20 per day. Luxury hotels in London were among the worst offenders, with several charging £20 for 24-hour WiFi access – which is the cost of an average monthly connection fee. With profit margins this vast and the economic situation still so tight, hotels and other offenders aren’t likely to drop their prices any time soon. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way around this expensive hurdle. This month, we’ve taken the time to come up with 10 ways to avoid WiFi charges whilst travelling.
1. Search for Hotels that Offer WiFi as an Amenity
Some hotels offer the service free of charge. Others still may charge guests a reasonable daily rate, and offer them a small amount of free daily access. A number of other hotels have adopted a dual approach to WiFi by dangling a a carrot in front of guests. The slower network is free of charge, while high-speed access comes at a cost. If you don't have big internet needs, at least this gives visitors an alternative. Your accommodation on holiday shouldn’t be dictated by WiFi charges, but if you are on a business trip or know that that you’ll be spending a lot of time in your room, it’s not a bad idea to keep WiFi charges in mind. Remember, having internet access can also save you money by giving you the option to download a free movie, rather than paying for it through the hotel’s pay-per-view service.
2. Avoid Hotels With Third Party WiFi Service
Many hotels around the world contract outside providers for their wifi service, who then set the high costs for guests. Swisscom, for example, is one of the largest that is guilty of overcharging guests for WiFi– typically £14-£18. It’s a big business that focuses on making profits and providing a reliable service (which many people would say isn’t true), but this does explain why the rates are so high in this case. Hotels that have their own service are in a position to charge their own guest-friendly rates.
3. Look for Local Coffee Shops with Free WiFi
More and more coffee shops, restaurants and even bars are waking up to the lure of free WiFi for customers. Even two very expensive cups of coffee are still cheaper than paying up to 20 big ones per day for internet access. A great idea is to google "coffee shops with free WiFi" in the city you’re going to beforehand, just to get an idea of what you should look for.
4. Skype WiFi
Skype has formed an agreement with WiFi providers, allowing users to pay with Skype credits for Internet access. Skype’s affordable alternative has set prices at roughly 6p per minute, which is very reasonable - especially in Asia and Europe. By offering a p/minute service, users only pay for what they use. This serves as a welcome alternative to the often ridiculously high prices that WiFi access commands at places like airports and hotels, where you often have to buy increments of 30 minutes or an hour. Skype users can access the Internet by buying Skype credits at one of the thousands upon thousands of hotspots around the world.
5. Look for Local Internet Cafés
Internet cafés were once guilty of seriously ripping off travellers seeking online access, but with the rise in 3G cards and free WiFi hotspots, their prices have come down in places (that’s not to say all internet cafés) and may prove a viable option.
6. Use Your Mobile As A Modem
Most Smartphones and Androids can be used as a modem or a wireless router. The process of getting this up and running varies from "my mother could do this" easy, to "throw your phone on the ground and stamp it to death" difficult. Contact your mobile provider and enquire about 1.) the cost of setting this up and 2.) the steps needed to make a connection. This could save you a ton of cash and a few phones in the process.
7. Subscribe to a 3G Internet Access Plan
You can be totally self reliant with a mobile router, or a "travel router" – a 3G USB key. These create a wireless hotspot just anywhere around the world (with the exception of deep jungles, at the bottom of canyons and in the middle of the ocean), giving you immediate acess 24/7. This way you also know beforehand what charges you’ll be looking at for connection VS. time online.
Another option is to try MiFi (My WiFi), a very fancy new compact router that provides decent service for up to five users within a 10 metre radius.
1. Use FREE Public WiFi
There are very few things of monetary value that come free of charge. WiFi is no exception. Rogue networks offering "free WiFi" are either extremely kind individuals on the road to perfect karma, or hackers looking for a way to access your personal bank account and information. Paying fifty quid a day for WiFi is still cheaper than letting a criminal access your computer.
2. Be Fooled - High Room Charges Doesn’t Mean Low Internet Prices
Staying in an expensive hotel doesn’t mean you’ll get a cheaper rate on WiFi – in fact surveys have shown that fancier hotels are generally more guilty over overcharging for this. Backpackers, hostels and budget hotels are more inclined to be in touch with the needs of travellers – one of them being internet access – and less likely to exploit this.
3. Worry Too Much About It
If it’s just facebook, emails and movies you’re worried about - leave the internet. Nobody even had WiFi 20 years ago and everyone still managed to have a great time on holiday. If you’re going somewhere beautiful and the WiFi costs an arm and a leg, forget about it and enjoy the real world. Unless you’re on a business trip or you need to be in touch with people for something important, the Internet will be waiting for you when you get home.
Last Updated: June 2012