Where do Aussies nick Wi-Fi on holidays?
Surprisingly, McLeaching isn't the most popular choice.
You're on holidays overseas. You didn't want to pay a fortune for roaming on your phone. You need access to free Wi-Fi. What are you going to do?
The answer turns out to be "head back to your hotel room", according to a finder.com.au survey of 1,572 international travellers. Almost half of us (47%) chose that option when we needed to get online and didn't fancy paying one way or the other for the privilege.
That approach reflects the improving status of hotel Wi-Fi. In the quarter-century I've been staying in hotels as an adult, I've seen the shift: no Internet at all (I regularly used to use dial-up from hotel rooms); then Internet that was only available through an Ethernet cable; then Wi-Fi that you usually had to pay for; then finally Wi-Fi that's generally free. While there's still the odd place that wants to charge, these days if Wi-Fi's on offer it's rare to have to cough up for it.
Australia did used to lag behind other countries on the free Wi-Fi in hotels front, but that seems to have improved in the last five years. That said, for domestic trips you can usually rely on tethering from your phone if you need to get online. (Seriously, if you aren't getting 10GB or more on your phone for under $50, go and find yourself a new plan right now.)
After hotels, the next most popular option was to use free Wi-Fi in a cafe or fast food joint, a practice I sometimes refer to as McLeaching. I once spent three hours sitting in a Parisian McDonalds, nursing a 50 euro cent coffee while I completed some urgent work after my hotel's Wi-Fi died. (Proper French cafes in Paris didn't generally offer Wi-Fi at the time, before you ask.) No-one minded, and at least I'd bought something.
Here's the complete list of the places Australians have gone to seek out free Wi-Fi, ranked in order of popularity:
- Gone back to my hotel.
- Hung around in a fast food place (without buying anything).
- Went to a shopping centre.
- Bought something in a fast food place.
- Stood outside a random hotel / hotel lobby.
- Signed up / filled out an online form with some personal details.
- Gone to a train station.
- Use someone else’s unsecured hotspot.
- Asked to use a local’s phone.
A full 10% of travellers have resisted using free Wi-Fi when overseas because of security concerns. Caution is wise, and you definitely shouldn't do online banking on a free service, but a quick flick onto Google Maps isn't likely to cause any problems. As for the 23% who claim they never need Wi-Fi overseas? Frankly, I don't believe you.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.