3 April 2012

What no Wifi in Sydney?

When I travel, I find wifi a real life saver. My ongoing obsession with social media means that I sometimes wonder if there is any point in doing something unless I can tell people about it on Twitter, Facebook or Four Square.

This applies triple fold when I go on holiday. I'm convinced that my adoring followers will be utterly bereft and lost without my constant updates (yes I do know I live in a dream world). In addition to this, as the iPhone now offers free messaging and FaceTime over the internet, access to a wifi network can significantly reduce your costs when abroad.
This metropolitan city has few wifi spots!
Although the cost of using the Internet abroad has decreased recently, especially with products such as Vodafone Passport which gives you a limited amount of data when travelling in certain countries. However, if you can tap into a free wifi network, it costs you nothing, and you're not limited to a certain data use each day.

Most tourist destinations have cottoned onto this. I recently went on holiday to Santorini in Greece and nearly all of the bars and restaurants offered free wifi and advertised this on their boards and menus. It makes sense to me as, I would be more likely to go into a bar where I can access the Internet for free, and I would probably check into the bar on Four Square and maybe load up some photos of me at the venue, giving them free advertising.

However, on a recent trip to Sydney to visit my brother, I was surprised to find that this was not the case there. I received no free data on my Vodafone phone tariff for Australia and within the first day I had racked up over £10 worth of SMS and data charges. So I was keen to find some places where I could take advantage of their wifi. To my brother's great dismay, I then embarked on a desperate endeavour whereby every bar or restaurant I went into, I would ask if they had wifi, and the answer was repeatedly "no".

View from Top Deck Cafe, one of the places with free wifi
It seems so strange to me that such a busy tourist destination as Sydney does not offer this in more venues. While I was there, someone mentioned that wifi and broadband are expensive and slow in Australia. So maybe that is why more places don't offer it. This may be true as many of the places that I found offering access to wifi limited the length of time you could use it or the amount of data you could download. On top of this though, most insisted that you logged in with a certain amount of personal details before you could used the wifi, and many of the wider schemes in operation were currently in a test phase, which indicates to me some caution around the open use of wifi.

So I thought I would let you know about some of the places I found that did offer free wifi. I hope you find this useful:
  • all Mcdonalds in Sydney offer free wifi. To access it, you simply have to ask for the wifi code when you purchase your food or drink
  • you can just tap into at the top of the stairs outside the Sydney Opera House
  • if you are travelling by train, then the station at Circular Quay in Sydney has wifi for all travellers, you just have to log on and provide some personal details (although I believe this is a trial)
  • many of the Sydney ferries have free wifi. You have to travel in a certain section of the boat, log on with your personal details, you then have a certain amount of data to use. I took the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly which takes around half an hour and used all my allowance just checking into Four Square and uploading a photo
  • Sydney Airport currently has free wifi that is sponsored by one of the travel companies. Again, you have to log in, but with a huge amount of personal details, including flight number and flight time. The log on also kept crashing so it was a bit frustrating but I got there in the end
  • many libraries in Sydney offer the service. I regularly tapped into the one in Balmain, which again asked for some personal details
  • if you can cope with all the people and the smell, the Sydney Fish Market has a pretty quick and easy free wifi service. I found a glass of Sauvignon Blanc helps
  • if you are in Balmain, the Top Deck cafe does a good coffee, has a vew of the Harbour Bridge, and also free wifi
  • in Rozelle, the Bean cafe has good grub, but a pretty slow wifi service
View from the ferry to Manly with free wifi
I went to Sydney in January 2012, so this list was up to date then. If you have any other places you would like to add to help other travellers, then please leave a comment below. Or if any of the places stop their wifi service, then again, just let me know below. I would love to hear from you.

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