No more paying for extortionate hotel wifi…

Getting online when travelling is often a pretty painful experience. Or at least, a very expensive one, as hotels often charge criminal amounts just to access their wireless network. As if that isn’t bad enough, the connection speeds are usually rotten once you do get online. The irony of course is that 9 times out of 10, there is an ethernet port in your room as well, which has infinitely faster speeds and costs nothing to use.

Having had this a few times in the past when travelling, I decided to look into an alternative. In doing so, I stumbled upon this portable router, which looks like an absolute godsend. You plug it into the ethernet port in your room and it becomes a wireless hotspot for all your devices. So, you get the benefit of a safer wireless connection and faster network speeds by bypassing the hotel’s own wireless routers.

The device itself is tiny (palm-of-your-hand sized) and mercifully can be powered via USB. As well as meaning that you could power it from your laptop when on mains power, it also means that you can use any of your other device chargers to power it as well. Perfect.

For £20, I’d say this is a godsend if you’re a regular traveller. As someone working with bands, I know that they can get near-obsessive about getting online when at hotels. This should make life a bit easier for them. Sold!

After posting this, a few friends replied with some comments via Twitter. A few rightly pointed out that some hotels do charge for access to ethernet, and so this won’t help in that regard (though I’ve been lucky to date in getting free web access with my hotel rooms – albeit often on a slow wifi connection). That said, some hotels even go as far as to charge per-device when using their WiFi, so if nothing else this is one route around that – and, as stated above, it is also safer and faster as you’re not on open WiFi. If there’s anything to take from this though, its that it is worth checking before booking any hotel that your room comes with free (or at least non-extortionate) access to WiFi or a network connection.

So what if you don’t have this portable router to hand? Well, all’s not lost, as it is also possible to use your laptop as a WiFi access point too. Lifehacker recently posted a great article on how to do this, so if you don’t want to buy the router above, go check that article out. I must confess that I’ve had mixed results when trying to use my laptop as a router before now, which is why I bought the router above, but I may well have been the exception rather than the rule. Of course, that solution only works if you’re travelling with a laptop – or even a laptop with an ethernet port, as Macbook Airs for one do not come with one as standard.

And what if the hotel network is either ridiculously expensive, or so slow as to be unusable? Then consider getting an unlocked MiFi device. I bought a 3 network MiFi on PAYG a few months ago, and unlocking it was a doddle. From there I was able to take it to Spain, where I then picked up a local SIM card on PAYG and got excellent mobile internet for as little as €0.01/Mb. Compare that to roaming charges or some hotel internet prices and its a steal. Totally worth looking into. If anyone needs a step-by-step guide on unlocking a MiFi, just let me know in the comments below…

3 thoughts on “No more paying for extortionate hotel wifi…

  1. I’ve been using the 3 Mi-fi dongle since about Jan 2012 and find it a much more flexible option, especially as connecting multiple devices to it is so easy. I’ll have a look at unlocking it before I go abroad next time – will let you know how that plays out in India!
    This also saves paying £100 extra for 3g enabled iPad. Which in turn has made long journeys in a car so much more bearable as my 2 year old daughter can watch iPlayer and YouTube to her heart’s content.

  2. There’s a program called DC-Unlocker which can unlock pretty much any MiFi for about £10. You install it and buy a credit (at £10 value I think) to unlock, and then just plug in your device and hit “go”. Job done!

    It was a HUGE godsend for me when I was in Spain; we had no ADSL so it was this or nothing. In most places you can just get a PAYG SIM and then all you need to do is top it up. I’m in Dublin next month so will doubtless do the same there.

    Sidenote: it actually helped me in the UK too. My MiFi is/was a 3 network one, and I realised that GiffGaff are cheaper, and use O2’s network which is far better for coverage (for me anyway). Where 3 want £10 for 1Gb, GiffGaff only charge £7.50. For me though, the real win was that GiffGaff also offer a 500Mb for £5 option. I’m yet to use more than 500Mb in one month on a MiFi, as I only draw upon it a couple of days a week at best, and even then only for email, so that price-point is definitely the sweet one for me. Love it!

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