Mission accomplished…Tip for travelers to Australia…Solutions for us…

This parasitic plant appears to be a face looking up to the sky with leaves in its mouth and throat.

We apologize if today’s topic doesn’t apply to you. However, in today’s world, this subject is important for both business travelers and tourists, technology while on the move.

Three years ago, we found information on technology in other countries other than our familiar USA often confusing and difficult to understand. Each country has its own means of providing Internet service to its residents and the concept of SIM cards is unheard of in some countries.

Although we’ve covered this topic in the past, with our influx of new readers who may not have had the time to go back and read our prior 1104 posts (duh), we share this update today particularly as it applies to a non-resident traveler to Australia which includes Tasmania and a few other Australian islands.

It’s winter here now with fewer flowers blooming than in spring but we love seeing flowers during the off-season.

A bit of review: When we booked the house in Trinity Beach, it listed free wireless Internet access is included in the rent. For the average user, this may have been ideal.

The signal is available in this property via a router in the owner’s house above us, making the distance alone an issue by providing a strong signal in this large property. This is not unlike a router in your own home not providing a strong signal on another level such as a basement or upper level.

Also, we are sharing that router connection with the owners who are often home and online at the same time as us. This creates a very difficult scenario. If we were typical tourists only needing access to email and occasionally searching for restaurants and  “things to do” this wouldn’t be an issue.

But for us, not only posting each day with the inclusion of many data hogging photos and our intensive searching for future travels causes us to run into considerable issues with the slow and inconsistent signal especially if we’re both online on the house’s router at the same time.

Shooting up at our vacation property from our return walk. The owners live in the huge upper level while we live on the ground level smaller though the ideal property.

Within a few hours of our arrival, we realized we had a serious situation that would prevent me from being able to upload our daily posts. As discussed in an earlier post, we had no choice but to head to a local phone store, Telstra, to search for a solution, hopefully using our own global hot spots by inserting one of their SIM cards

Simply put, a SIM card is a small card inserted into phones, routers, and various wifi devices that picks up the local wifi signal for which the user is charged for the data via a prepaid or billed service. Please click the link for a more detailed description.

As it turned out, Australia is locked up with cell phone contracts. There’s no such thing as the use of a global SIM card in this country. Either purchase a prepaid SIM card or a two-year contract from one of the local providers or eels one is out of luck. 

Essentially, Telstra allowed us to borrow a hot spot without a rental fee for the device while we paid for the data which we’ve reloaded on several occasions online through their website. As it turned out, I exclusively use the hot spot while Tom uses the wifi in the house. The cost of data for my use is a cost of USD $102.26, AUD $140 for 16 gigabytes of data.

Pretty bougainvillea we found on a walk in the neighborhood.

I use all 16 of these gigs every three weeks, renewing for an additional 16 gig once it gets down below 2 gigs.  Then, I go online to Telstra’s website: m.telstra.com to easily renew. Tom could easily log on to the hot spot but his data use is calculated exponentially.

It took me a few times to figure out that the online data reload won’t accept a credit card issued outside of Australia. As a result, its been necessary to pay using PayPal, a secure service we frequently use for online payments. 

Once we activated our first SIM card in Australia, I’ve never experienced an outage, difficulty getting online, or an issue uploading posts or photos. Simply put, it works well.

However, before we leave Trinity Beach we’ll return the loaned hot spot while we’ll continue to travel in and out of Australia over the next 21 months. How will we handle our wifi needs when our own hot spots won’t work here and we’ll be at hotels, on ships, and at ports of call during which we’ll be required to pay even higher fees for data for often a poor signal?

Pink bougainvillea was in abundance in Kenya during the heat of the late fall season.

The only logical solution was to purchase our own Australian hot spot (they don’t carry unlocked universal/global hot spots) and reload the SIM card as required. Ultimately the cost of the device itself was the biggest issue.  We already knew the cost of the data.

Upon visiting the Telstra store in the Smithfield Mall yesterday, spending considerable time with a rep encouraging us to take a two-year contract, we ending up deciding on the most economical decision…no contract, buy a device, load data as needed.

With a few devices available we opted for the following device as shown in this photo which includes 3 gigs of complementary data which should see me through a few days and must be used within 28 days from purchase.  Once that data is used we’ll reload the SIM card. Once reloaded, the new data expires in a year.

Our new Australia only hot spot purchased yesterday at Telstra.

Thus,  we’ll be able to be online when we go to the airport in Cairns, when we stay at the hotel in Sydney before flying to Fiji when we wait at the airport in Sydney before boarding the plane to Fiji. Once we arrive in Fiji, the device will be dormant during our entire stay, fired up again once we’re back in Australia in January for a cruise. 

Once we arrive in New Zealand later in January, again, we’ll figure out a solution that will work for us. With Fiji upcoming, we’ll do the same. There’s no country we’ve visited in the world where the wifi was an easy option considering our use, even when we were in Hawaii where we couldn’t purchase an affordable SIM card to use in our global hot spots. Luckily, the houses in Hawaii provided strong signals.

We wondered what was beyond this barn in the neighborhood.

The cost of the hot spot was AUD $99, USD $72.33.  It pays for us. You may think that as a traveler to Australia for a two-week vacation/holiday that this won’t pay for you. However, as a traveler requiring considerable data use or those choosing to avoid paying high wifi per day fees at a hotel with a poor signal, this may work for you, especially for the business traveler. 

Unfortunately, once we permanently leave Australia, we’ll have no use for the hot spot. We look at it this way…we could go out to dinner and spend the AUD $99 without batting an eyelash.  At least for now, this is the purchase that keeps giving.

Many travelers don’t realize that using wifi on their phones results in “roaming fees” that may result in $1000’s in surprise fees on their cell phone bill when returning home. 

We’d seen these droopy topped agave plants in Hawaii, also found in Australia.

We’ve heard from others about their lack of understanding in this area only resulted in a later discovery that each time they called, sent an email or uploaded photos or, logged into Facebook while on a cruise or traveling, they incurred huge roaming fees when outside their home country.

It’s an ongoing process as we move from country to country. Technology is not universal and may never be so.  In the interim, we do our best to figure out the most logical, user-friendly, and economical solutions to best serve our needs.

                                              Photo from one year ago today, August 12, 2014:

There we were at Le Louvre. It was hard for us to believe we were actually there. For more details and photos, please click here.