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Collecting your e-mail while traveling in Australia

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Internet cafe or your own laptop computer?

Many people use Internet cafes or other public-access outlets (for example, in public libraries) to read and send their e-mail. If that solution fits your needs, you’ll have no problems; public Internet access is commonly available even in small towns, although access hours may be restricted. Ask at your hotel or motel (they may have a machine), look around anywhere near backpackers’ accommodation, or ask at a newsagent or tourist information centre. Global Gossip is one possibility in many popular destinations.

Most internet cafes provide ways to upload and download files, burn photos onto CD or DVD, and other services such as connecting your own laptop using ethernet or wireless.

If you want to deal with your mail more privately or leisurely, you may prefer to bring your own laptop computer or other device, or get a mobile phone that handles email. Read on…

Finding a connection

Wireless hotspots are now quite common in cities and popular tourist areas. Here is a list. Some provide free access; others use one of the major suppliers that you have to pay for, which can be quite expensive unless you sign up for a plan.

We’ve also noticed that the backpackers’ accommodation and low-priced older hotels and motels are more likely to include free wireless access in their room charges, while the more upmarket hotels charge a high fee, and “resort” type accommodation often has no access other than dial-up at any price (except in the business centre).

Many internet cafes and tourist information centres will allow you to connect your own computer to their ethernet or wireless, but some will not.

Most hotels and motels of at least 3-star standard, at least in urban areas, have telephones in the rooms, and many of those have dataports for dial-up access. We have rarely seen a public telephone with a dataport, though Sydney’s international airport had a few the last time we looked.

If you are travelling outside the more built-up areas or you prefer to stay in cheap accommodation (or are camping), you’ll have more of a challenge finding somewhere to hook up. Many hotels and motels in country areas, and in particular remote areas, do not have telephones in the rooms.

If you can’t find a phone you can use, the best advice I’ve had is to ask the caravan park or motel managers if you could use their fax line for a few minutes at a time of their convenience; this has worked for us in several remote areas. If you do that, it’s a good idea to have a local dial-in number for your ISP and to offer to pay for the use of the line.

The data-enabled mobile (cell) phone option

The data-enabled mobile (cell) phone option is not the cheapest choice, but it is often the most convenient, at least if you are in an area with mobile phone service. Telstra’s NextG network is the best choice if you are travelling outside major population centres; many small outback communities do not have GSM service. Coverage maps are here.

You’ll also need a data connection between your laptop computer and the phone; whether this connection is infrared, bluetooth, or a cable depends on your computer and phone.

Telstra has special dial-in numbers for data calls using a mobile phone as a modem.

Telephone connectors and adaptors

Fixed phones with data ports, and many wall sockets, take the standard North American style telephone connector, the small RJ-11. Other (much older) wall sockets take an Australian connector, the British-style 610, which has three large blades. We haven’t seen one of those in years, but they may still be around in remote places. If necessary, you can buy an adapter at many stores, including Tandy and Dick Smith’s Electronics, after you arrive.

Page last updated 5 November 2007.