Arriving in new Zealand, I was surprised in a bad way when I learnt that in most hostel you had to pay for WiFi. I was astounded that it wasn’t free to use the internet after paying US$7 or less for a hostel in Central America, free unlimited WiFi included. The WiFi was generally pretty good too.
of course there are times when i don’t expect the WiFi to be free, or even available, particularly in remote places, but to have to pay NZ$5 for 24 hours of internet access is ridiculous, and it quickly adds up, increasing that all important backpacker budget when all you what to do is email your parents or catch up with friends on facebook. Luckily, some hostels do offer free WiFi so you can just be pickier about where your accommodation, but it’s not always that easy. Even if you do succeed and get free WiFi, there will probably be a limit to the amount of MB you’re allowed, and I can pretty much guarantee it’s not enough for Skype. Even if you’re lucky and land on your feet at a hostel with free unlimited WiFi, chances are it will be frustratingly slow thanks to all the other backpackers struggling to load a fresh page. I’ve found 5 ways to get free internet in New Zealand, they have some downsides, but it’ll soon save you $$$
Every town will have a public library offering free unlimited WiFi. They’re always easy to find, most have some desks as well as chairs and plug sockets so you can charge as you email. A few even have Skype rooms, perfect for catching up with friends back home without risking getting told off for being too loud in a library (Yes, I’m guilty of this). Remember to take headphones with you, and be considerate of other users. The downside? Internet is only available while the Library is open, so don’t expect to check your emails quickly outside the Library on a Sunday evening.
Surprisingly, many towns offer free WiFi for 1 hour a day. OK, it’s not much, but it’s pretty good if you only need it for a short time. Bizarrely, some places (e.g. parks and benches) even have plug sockets! I have Skyped my parents from the town center on a Sunday morning this way, after being thwarted by the Libraries ‘opening hours only’ free internet policy. It’s also very useful if you’re good at getting lost.
Spark WiFi Hotspots
To benefit from the many Spark Wifi Hotspots around you have to sign up to Spark Mobile. Once that’s done however, you get 1GB of data every day for 30 days absolutely free at hotspots, a list of which can be found on their website, or just look for their symbol plastered on a phone box. It’s not strictly free WiFi, but if you’re planning on getting a New Zealand SIM, this could be the best one for you.
Cafes and Restaurants
Some cafes provide free internet to customers, normally in the form of a voucher code for a certain amount of megabytes. It’s enough to check emails but not usually not much more, so it’s probably only worth getting if you wanted a coffee anyway. For more usage, head to Burger King or MacDonald’s, or a similar Fast food outlet. In New Zealand they provide free internet for customers, with long opening hours it’s more accessible than most other ways to get free Internet in New Zealand.
The free WiFi offered by banks is really just for customers, but if you know it’s there and can use it, why not? Again, it’s only really good for a quick check, as they provide it for customers to do online banking, but it has proved very useful at times. Unlike libraries, the WiFi is accessible when the bank is closed.
Hopefully these tips will help you find free WiFi in New Zealand and avoid the high fees. Internet is expensive to have in New Zealand, (it has to travel a long way after all) and some hostels are slowly starting to provide free Internet, but they are few and far between, which seems crazy as hostels in much poorer countries provide it for free. Where do you go to get free internet access while traveling?