We think that having easy and economical access to the internet while you're on tour is a must for most modern travellers so we've gone to a bit of trouble to help you get connected. If you're in an urban area, you should be able to get an internet connection without too much difficulty. Once you head for the wilderness, it's a bit more tricky. New Zealand, unlike most parts of Europe, has large areas that are out of digital range. The good news is those areas are our most remote and pristine locations so you'll be so engrossed in watching the bird life or soaking in a thermal pond beside a mountain river that you won't be thinking about what your stocks or shares are doing!
You have four main options for getting connected while on tour. Like most things, you can trade off between convenience and cost.
The way to go for seriously connected travellers are either onboard WiFi in your motorhome or a pre-paid mobile internet package. These are most convenient and best value options for regular internet users. You can get connected anywhere you can get a mobile phone signal. The advantages are many including being able to use it at night or from your motorhome parked or on the go near any town. One person can do the grocery shopping while the other does the internet surfing. Or you can all connect at the same time! On a rainy day you can research options from the comfort of your motorhome when your #1 plan washes away down the storm drain.
If you want to access the internet regularly on more than one device, we recommend getting our wireless internet in your motorhome. You can connect as many devices as you want and we offer unlimited data (subject to coverage). Check our Extras & Accessories page for details.
Here's what Wilderness adventurer Dean Johnson from Canada said about the onboard WiFi he hired:
Thank you for the WiFi - it was super efficient and intuitive to use. We could not have planned the trip without it.
Prepay Mobile Handset
If you need to get connected regularly but only have one device, go for the prepay mobile handset option. For more information, see our Extras & Accessories page.
The team at Wilderness highly recommend onboard WiFi for people who can't live without being connected!
For occasional internet use, you can either use a pay-as-you-go service at a holiday park or internet café or try to locate a free WiFi service in the location you are visiting.
We asked our New Zealand travel expert Scott Cook for his experience on getting a free (or low cost) internet connection while on a campervan tour of NZ. "Right now, I would sum up internet access in NZ for on-the-go travellers as “spotty” at best. If you live in a big city and have a broadband hook up then the internet works well. But once you get on the road, free WiFi becomes a much-sought-after rarity. Onboard WiFi in your motorhome or a prepaid mobile broadband package is definitely the way to go if you want maximum flexibility. But nothing is ever 100% guaranteed when it comes to internet in New Zealand. Even a robust signal on your prepaid internet device can be iffy. When this happens, put your device away and go exploring!"
If you’re on a tight budget, you have limited options for free WiFi connectivity. Be advised, most are unsecured networks. Here are the ones I’m familiar with:
Central city business districts
Probably the most exciting advance in free WiFi is the development of wireless hotspots across entire central city areas. First it was Wellington in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Now you can get free WiFi in Auckland, Rotorua, and Dunedin as well. Free access is usually limited to around 30 minutes and then you need to pay to continue. Some have a maximum number of users at any one time and can't perform major downloads such as movies.
We’re hoping other progressive cities will follow suit. When you arrive in a city centre, search for free connections on your mobile device.
Here are a few resources that you may find helpful in locating free WiFi (although I should warn you, none are particularly exhaustive):
- Jiwire iPhone app: a free app for a map of free WiFi
- JaHoog : an open source database of free WiFi in New Zealand
- Zenbu WiFi hotspots: A commercial WiFi provider that has some free hotspots. Search “free” on their map of wireless zones.
Many small-town local libraries are members of The Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa. This service provides free access to broadband internet in selected public libraries and is available to anyone who has access to a public library. It was designed for locals who don’t otherwise have access to internet so they can benefit from accessing, experiencing and creating digital content. However, these islands of free WiFi are increasingly popular at tourist destinations so you’ll see crowds of travelers crammed into the WiFi-room Skyping in every known language. The problems with this service are it isn’t in every town, it only works during daylight library hours (when you’d rather be out playing in the warm NZ sunshine) and it can be busy and run on overload.
Cafes and Restaurants
A couple of years ago, the NZ branch of a major international fast food chain saw a need and filled it by offering free WiFi at almost all their restaurants throughout NZ. This soon became hugely popular, causing increasing problems with system overload and various malfunctions. Since then hundreds of cafes and restaurants have got onboard with the free WiFi gig to sell more hamburgers, coffees, or whitebait fritters. You just need to make a purchase and ask for the free WiFi password. However like most free WiFi, access is time-limited, has limited bandwidth, may not work when you want it to and maybe insecure. Hey, but it's free!
Pay as you Go Access
You can buy internet access either on an internet terminal or via WiFi at internet cafes, Tourist Information Centres (i-Sites), and many campgrounds and holiday parks. Other than cost, the major downsides are accessibility and opening hours.
If you plan to stay mostly at commercial campsites, you may wish to consider buying a prepaid internet card from the Internet Access Company (IAC). They provide WiFi at more than 200 campsites around the country – by far the most. Most of the campgrounds in the three main commercial holiday park networks family parks, kiwi holiday parks and Top 10 have internet access and most use IAC. In fact, all of the holidays parks in the Top 10 group except one (Omarama), have guest internet services (when we last checked). Check the holiday park websites for more information about internet services they provide.
If you purchase a prepaid IAC card, you can use it at any participating campsite or cafe. That way you won't have to purchase internet access each time you stop at a new location. You can just use your access code to log in using your laptop in your camper. Get your IAC card at any participating campsite or cafe.