Working From The Road Wednesday – Got WiFi? We don’t..

By Posted in - Big Trip & Camping & Europe & Featured Post & France & Italy & Paris & Working From The Road on September 17th, 2010

Working On the Road As Long As The Battery Holds Out On The Train From Paris To Venice.

Europe is fascinating but finding internet access has been REALLY tough.

Yet again, we are stuck in Europe without access to the outside world. It seems this is a recurring issue on our trip and it has made keeping up with the blog increasingly difficult. Despite seeking out campgrounds and cafes that claim to have WiFi, we are constantly skunked once we have set up our tent or have already ordered drinks.

Here was a typical scenario in Paris:

We would find a cafe that claimed to have WiFi. We’d check the iPod to ensure that they had a signal. A man would greet us. At that time we’d ask, “Do you have WiFi?” The man would say, “‘Oui, Oui,” and give us a password. Ecstatic, we’d sit down, order drinks and try to log in, only to find the password wouldn’t work; go figure.

We’d tell the waitress that we couldn’t get online and she’d say,'”Oh, the Internet is down.” I can’t tell you how many times this happened to us in Paris.

From Starbucks to the Seine, we constantly encountered this bait and switch and it caused a tremendous amount of frustration.

While we did find a couple of cafe/bars that did have WiFi, the problem was that by that time we were so ravenous for a connection we would blow our meager budget on wine, beer and espresso to get caught up with our online work and Skype calls.

One day we got so desperate, we ended up in McDonald’s using their WiFi (Note to Quentin Tarantino: They no longer carry a Royale with cheese.) Turns out McDonald’s had some of the best WiFi in Paris. The only thing they didn’t have was electrical outlets to plug into. Camping in a tent without electricity has definitely caused limitations in our working online ability because somehow we have to find a way to get a charge and it hasn’t been easy. Outlets seem to be a pretty rare thing in Paris.

And now, as we sit at our campground in Deiva Marina in Northeastern Italy preparing to visit Cinque Terre, we find that mysteriously, even though the campground charges 1€ an hour, which we gladly paid two days ago, their WiFi is still not working; go figure! No one really seems to care and no effort is made to reset the button to fix the issue, but yet they still sold us the connection like everything was working just fine.

So, we’d like to know what you do? Do you sign up for a mobile hot spot, pay a little extra for hotel or hostel with WiFi or just say screw the Internet and use a fax machine and snail mail? Our only solution has been to pay extra and get a hotel for a night here and there.

Staying in a hotel is blowing the budget but we get both electricity and a great internet connection so it works out well and saves us a lot of frustration & time. We actually encountered the same thing in two hostels that we stayed at as well. In fact one advertised free WiFi and Beth emailed them to be sure. The answer was positive – there was free WiFi at the hostel. We got there and found out from the owner – “The WiFi is only for me and my friends. All guests have to use the WiFi across the street at the McDonalds.”

Back to McDonalds it was for us.

Update from Beth: We are going to be dedicating a series on Beers and Beans to working on the road. It’s a popular topic among travelers and I can see why – now that we are on the road working is more difficult that I could have imagined! (I mean get scammed repeatedly in Paris for WiFi? Who would’ve thought?) It’s going to be called Working From the Road Wednesdays. We’ll share our tips, frustrations & solutions and hopefully the tips will make working on the road a bit easier for everyone.

We actually wrote this post with paper & pen 2 days ago. Now we finally have WiFi & electricity at the same time and we’re posting it now (even though it’s Friday) along with some upcoming posts for this week. I’m still editing pictures from Iceland but I’m almost done and I have some great ones from Cinque Terra as well that I will try to get up ASAP. Camping is fun & very budget friendly but it is NOT working from the road friendly and so we are rethinking new ways to get posts up quickly.

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(5) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Michael Tyson -

    September 17, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Oh man, is this an issue rather close to my heart – I’ve thought so hard about how we stay connected as we roam around Europe. We too initially planned to rely on wifi but ditched that after similar experiences.

    Our solution is this: We have an iPhone, unlocked, and we buy local SIM cards. Before entering a new country, I do a bunch of data plan research, and so far we’ve done pretty well; we’ve paid £15/100 hours unmetered data in Italy, and currently are paying £25/7GB in the UK (I take notes on all this here: It’s not true everywhere, but where we’ve been, data plans are great. We even had 9GB/month for next to nothing in Tunisia!

    We use the Internet on our laptops via the iPhone’s tethering.

    Having net access from the iPhone is just insanely useful – being able to be in a strange place and look up local shops and navigate around, quickly translate something into the local lingua, and Tweet pictures of awesome stuff; it changes travel for us completely, in an awesome way =) Couldn’t live without it!

    Regarding the electricity situation, I can’t really help you there as we stay places with electric hook-up and plug our motorhome in. Some friends of ours are cycling around the world (…as you do) and are working as they go so I bet they have some nifty tricks up their sleeves. Here’s their website if you want to drop them a line:

    Best of luck!
    .-= Michael Tyson´s last blog ..Part 2 – How a Week Doing Not a Whole Lot Was One of the Best Weeks of our 14 Months on the Road in Europe =-.

    • Bethany -

      September 27, 2010 at 8:48 am

      Thank you so much Michael for your comment! Really you have no idea how this has helped us. We are looking into this now and trying to find an old IPhone. Really thank you so much! I knew we were missing something! @Michael Tyson,

      • Michael -

        September 27, 2010 at 8:57 am

        That’s fantastic! I’m very glad I could offer some advice =)

        Let me know if you’d like more info on anything, like the iPhone tethering stuff, etc.

        Incidentally, if you are going after an iPhone, be sure to get one that’s genuinely unlocked – many unscrupulous sellers will say “easily unlocked” or something, but believe me, unless it’s unlocked, officially and by Apple, it’s a world of pain. The unofficial unlock and jailbreak is doable, but only if you’re techy, and even then it’s a major pain, and error-prone (I write software for the iPhone for a living, and I couldn’t stand doing it).
        .-= Michael´s last blog ..Part 2 – How a Week Doing Not a Whole Lot Was One of the Best Weeks of our 14 Months on the Road in Europe =-.

  • Erica -

    September 21, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    I miss your posts Beth! The hardest thing for our road trip was finding time to set aside specifically for writing posts/editing pictures for the blog. I don’t have a car charger (which I should really invest into) and so our “free” time was quite limited. 😛

    Keep it up! I’m sure you guys are having a blast between your frustrations.
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Road Trip to Burning Man- Burning Man Part 2 =-.

    • Bethany -

      September 27, 2010 at 8:49 am


      Erica you are so sweet!

      Seriously I feel out of touch because of this wifi issue but hopefully we’ll find a cheap Iphone and can use Michael’s info above to help out! Blogging & traveling is really tough!@Erica,