Writing a travel blog or needing to keep in touch whilst on the move? Check out this guide to where's hot for wifi
The first time I took a laptop computer away on holiday, I was made to feel like a freak. Airport security staff poked it and prodded it, barely sure what it was. My wife rolled her eyes and said I was bonkers. She wasn’t far wrong – I could barely find anywhere to plug it in, let alone get online.
Now tens of thousands of people take their computers on holiday, not just for business, but to stay in touch with friends and family. Whether you want to keep an eye on share prices, or update your Facebook page, it’s getting easier to get connected abroad, with increasing numbers of airports and hotels offering free wi-fi.
One of the best airports is Singapore, which has banks of connected computers scattered around the departure and transit areas, plus ethernet ports for laptop owners.
In America, there is free wifi at dozens of airports including Las Vegas, Orlando, Denver, Phoenix and JFK’s Terminal 6. Other airports that don’t charge include Barbados, Vienna, Moscow, Antigua, Sao Paolo and Hong Kong.
wifi in the air is also on its way. An early version launched by Boeing in 2004 that used onboard satellite receivers failed to prove commercially viable, but costs have since plummeted and American Airlines plans to install broadband on 15 of its 767s, with its entire 500-strong fleet to follow. Virgin America is reportedly planning to offer a wifi service on all its domestic US flights, priced at £5 for a short hop of up to three hours, and £6.50 for coast to coast.
In the UK, the East Coast rail line between London, the North of England and Scotland offers free wif-i on all its carriages. America’s Greyhound Lines – now under British ownership – recently launched a new Boltbus service from New York to Washington DC and Boston. It offers free wifi, leather seats and fares from $1 each way. On the east coast of Australia, Connections Travel offers backpackers on its buses two hours of free web access on a shared laptop.
It is even possible to get online on your way to the airport. National Express says that by the end of 2008 it will have free wifi on its luxury fleet of Dot2Dot coaches to Heathrow and Gatwick. Fares start at £17.50 each way from central London.
Hotels are joining the party. The Art Deco-style Raleigh Hotel on Miami’s South Beach has installed wifi throughout the property, so you can lounge beside its sumptuous pool and ogle your fellow guests while getting stuck into your inbox. Doubles start at £175 per night.
In Abu Dhabi, the Emirates Palace is a monument to excess, so it’s no surprise to learn that you can get online for free anywhere in the hotel, including on its 1,300m-long beach. If you don’t have your own laptop, you can borrow one. Just try not to get sand stuck between the keys.
In Spain, Hesperia Hotels has free wifi at all its city hotels and five-star beach properties, as has the stunning new Peninsula in Tokyo, where guests include Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett. In Moscow, where most hotels still charge for wifi, the new MaMaison Pokrovka Suite Hotel includes it in the room rate.
Even in the Caribbean you can fool around on YouTube while basking in the sun. At the all-inclusive LeSport in St Lucia, you can go online at the bar or beside the pool. In Jamaica many of the rental properties at Treasure Beach have free wifi. And on Grenada, one of the best places to stay is Maca Bana Villas, which has intimate houses built on a hillside overlooking a mile of secluded beach. It has wifi throughout, so you can go online beside the pool or – if you’re careful – in your private hot tub.