World No Tobacco Day?

May 31, 2010 on 1:02 pm | In Health and travel, ThereArePlaces.com, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel news | Comments Off

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. In addition, it is World No Tobacco Day. Skyscanner, a flight search website, researched the topic and revealed their take on the top travel destinations around the world for smokers and non-smokers. Although the list is not exhaustive, the side comments make for good reading.

If you are interested in the World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization (the sponsor) has more information here. One of the goals of this year’s program is “protecting women from tobacco marketing and smoke.”

World Health Organization's World No Tobacco Day sticker

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Vienna – Best Quality of Life In The World?

May 26, 2010 on 10:25 am | In Europe travel, ThereArePlaces.com, austria travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, vienna travel | Comments Off

Today, we noticed that Vienna was rated the top city in the world for quality of life. Earlier this year, we published our new, online Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Vienna, shortly after completing extensive field research in this delightful city. When we returned to our home base, we wanted to hop on a plane and revisit Vienna, as we found ourselves longing for its historic buildings, musical heritage, fantastic museums, dazzling attractions and, of course, those wonderful coffee shops and pastries.

If you are considering a trip to Europe, Vienna may be just the ticket for you. Read our Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Vienna for all the details on why this city is one of the world’s best.

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Flooding in Poland and Eastern Germany

May 26, 2010 on 10:01 am | In Germany travel, Poland travel, ThereArePlaces.com, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings, travel weather warning | 1 Comment

Poland and Germany (Brandenburg State) have been battling flooding over the past week and more trouble seems on the way. If you are planning travel for either area in the immediate future, be sure to read the following news stories from DW-World for more information on the flooding in Poland
and Brandenburg State (the German state surrounding but not including Berlin). The article on flooding in Germany includes a map that will help you to visualize the areas and river basins impacted by the flooding.

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British Airways Strike – Volcano Sleeps

May 24, 2010 on 7:28 am | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know | Comments Off

The British Airways Cabin Crews are now officially on strike this week and two additional five-day strikes are planned for May 30 and June 5. The strike has reduced overall BA traffic by 60 percent and its long haul traffic by 50 percent. See this article by the BBC for details.

On a related front, the volcano in Iceland has gone into a quiescent stage, although no one knows if the eruptions are over, or if the drop in action is just a lull. During the Eyjafallajokull volcano’s last major eruption (in the 1800s), it erupted on and off over a period of two years. For an excellent and informative graphic presentation on the volcano’s eruptions along with the why and how of their influence on air traffic, see this presentation from the BBC.

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This Week’s Strikes and Other Impediments to Travel

May 19, 2010 on 9:20 am | In Europe travel, Greece Travel, London travel, air travel, international travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, volcano travel warning | Comments Off

Another general strike against the government’s austerity plans is scheduled in Greece for tomorrow (Thursday). The prognosis is that the strike will disrupt public services and most transport, except air travel. Read about it at Kathimerini

Also, in the same publication is an article indicating that hotel occupancy in Greece is down 10 percent. In turn, the hotels have responded with price cuts reported at the 10 percent level. We suspect that bargains may be struck by those inclined to haggle (and it could be a prolonged haggle).

In the UK, the situation with the BA strike appears unsettled. Although the strike was banned by the courts, it still caused 20,000 cancellations yesterday and will likely have the same influence today. In addition, the cabin crews are seeking to have the courts overturn the injunction on striking. See this updated article in Bloomberg – Business Week for more details.

The Iceland volcano caused problems over the weekend for flights in the UK and Ireland and yesterday in the eastern Mediterranean. Britain and Ireland have relaxed the rules for flying in “ash cloud” situations. Read this article from The New York Times for more details.

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More Air Travel Woes – Volcano and Strike

May 10, 2010 on 8:15 am | In Europe travel, Ireland travel, ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, personal travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings, volcano travel warning | 1 Comment

Well, the Eyjafjallajokul Volcano is at it again and it is expected that air travel to and in Europe may be disrupted later this week (see this article at CNN). In addition, the cloud of volcanic ash is causing travel disruptions in the UK especially Ireland, as described in this article from the Clare Herald. Finally, it appears that the ash clouds that were causing problems in Europe last week are now over the eastern Mediterranean according to this article in Haaretz.

It appears that there is continued life in Iceland’s volcano and this may spell trouble for air travelers this summer. If you are going to travel to (and around) Europe this summer, this might be the time to consider travel insurance – but be sure that the policy offers protection from acts of nature (most policies do not provide this type of rider).

If all of that wasn’t enough, the cabin crews of British Airways are at it again, announcing four separate five-day strikes in May and June. The strikes are scheduled to begin on May 18 -22, but we can only hope that the matter is settled before then. See the BBC for more details.

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New Travel Warning for Mexico

May 7, 2010 on 7:27 am | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, US Department of State, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings | 2 Comments

Today, the U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning covering Mexico. It is one of the longest and most detailed we have seen. The State Department has added a number of states to the areas that may be unsafe for travelers interested in visiting Mexico. The complete text of the message is provided below.

We have added highlights to help you find the areas and cities mentioned as dangerous. We would like to assert, as does the State Department, that millions of travelers safeky visit Mexico every year and the government of Mexico takes significant precautions to protect these visitors. However, the situation in Mexico appears to be deteriorating and travelers intending to visit Mexico should exhibit significant caution during their travels.

State Department Travel Warning Starts Here

This information is current as of today, Fri May 07 07:55:51 2010.

MEXICO
May 06, 2010

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens traveling to and living in Mexico about the security situation in Mexico, and to advise that the authorized departure of family members of U.S. government personnel from U.S. Consulates in the northern Mexico border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros has been extended. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Mexico dated April 12, 2010 to note the extension of authorized departure and to update guidance on security conditions and crime.

Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year. This includes tens of thousands who cross the border every day for study, tourism or business and at least one million U.S. citizens who live in Mexico. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major drug trafficking routes. Nevertheless, crime and violence are serious problems. While most victims of violence are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well.

It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and who to contact if one becomes a victim of crime or violence. Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where criminal activity might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable. U.S. citizen victims of crime in Mexico are urged to contact the consular section of the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy for advice and assistance. Contact information is provided at the end of this message.

General Conditions

Since 2006, the Mexican government has engaged in an extensive effort to combat drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs). Mexican DTOs, meanwhile, have been engaged in a vicious struggle with each other for control of trafficking routes. In order to combat violence, the government of Mexico has deployed military troops throughout the country. U.S. citizens should expect to encounter military and other law enforcement checkpoints when traveling in Mexico and are urged to cooperate fully. In confrontations with the Mexican army and police, DTOs have employed automatic weapons and grenades. In some cases, assailants have worn full or partial police or military uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles. According to published reports, 22,700 people have been killed in narcotics-related violence since 2006. The great majority of those killed have been members of DTOs. However, innocent bystanders have been killed in shootouts between DTOs and Mexican law enforcement.

Recent violent attacks and persistent security concerns have prompted the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to defer unnecessary travel to Michoacán and Tamaulipas, to parts of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, and Coahuila, (see details below) and to advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution.

Violence Along the U.S.-Mexico Border

Much of the country’s narcotics-related violence has occurred in the northern border region. For example, since 2006, three times as many people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez, in the state of Chihuahua, across from El Paso, Texas, than in any other city in Mexico. More than half of all Americans killed in Mexico in FY 2009 whose deaths were reported to the U.S. Embassy were killed in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.

Since 2006, large firefights have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico, often in broad daylight on streets and other public venues. Such firefights have occurred mostly in northern Mexico, including Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Chihuahua City, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Piedras Negras, Reynosa, Matamoros and Monterrey. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area.

The situation in northern Mexico remains fluid; the location and timing of future armed engagements cannot be predicted. U.S. citizens are urged to exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the region, particularly in those areas specifically mentioned in this Travel Warning.

In recent months, DTOs have used stolen trucks to block major highways and thus prevent the military from responding to criminal activity, most notably in the area around Monterrey. Also in Monterrey, DTOs have kidnapped guests out of reputable hotels in the downtown area, blocking off adjoining streets to prevent law enforcement response. DTOs have also attacked Mexican government facilities such as military barracks and a customs and immigration post.

U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to Ciudad Juarez and to the Guadalupe Bravo area southeast of Ciudad Juarez. U.S. citizens should also defer travel to the northwest quarter of the state of Chihuahua, including the city of Nuevas Casas Grandes and surrounding communities. From the United States, these areas are often reached through the Columbus, NM and Fabens and Fort Hancock, TX ports-of-entry. In both areas, American citizens have been victims of drug related violence.

The Consular agency in Reynosa, Tamaulipas was closed temporarily in February 2010 in response to firefights between police and DTOs and between DTOs. In April 2010, a grenade thrown into the Consulate compound at 11:00 PM caused damage to the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. The Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo and the Consular Agency in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, were closed for one day as a result. The Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo prohibits employees from entering the entertainment zone in Nuevo Laredo known as “Boys Town” because of concerns about violent crime in that area.

Between 2006 and 2009, the number of narcotics-related murders in the state of Durango increased ten-fold. The cities of Durango and Gomez Palacio, and the area known as “La Laguna” in the state of Coahuila, which includes the city of Torreon, have experienced sharp increases in violence. In late 2009 and early 2010, four visiting U.S. citizens were murdered in Gomez Palacio, Durango. These are among several unsolved murders in the state of Durango that have been cause for particular concern.

Travelers on the highways between Monterrey and the United States (notably through Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros) have been targeted for robbery that has resulted in violence and have also been caught in incidents of gunfire between criminals and Mexican law enforcement. Criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles in border areas including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Tijuana. U.S. citizens traveling by road to and from the U.S. border through Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Durango, and Sinaloa should be especially vigilant. Criminals appear to especially target SUVs and full-size pick-up trucks for theft and car-jacking along these routes. DTOs have also erected unauthorized checkpoints on roads and killed motorists who have not stopped at them.

The situation in the state of Chihuahua, specifically Ciudad Juarez, is of special concern. Mexican authorities report that more than 2,600 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez in 2009. Three persons associated with the Consulate General were murdered in March, 2010. U.S. citizens should pay close attention to their surroundings while traveling in Ciudad Juarez, avoid isolated locations during late night and early morning hours, and remain alert to news reports.

There have been recent incidents of serious narcotics-related violence in the vicinity of the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.

Crime and Violence Throughout Mexico

Although narcotics-related crime is a particular concern along Mexico’s northern border, violence has occurred throughout the country, including in areas frequented by American tourists. U.S. citizens traveling in Mexico should exercise caution in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Bystanders have been injured or killed in violent attacks in cities across the country, demonstrating the heightened risk of violence in public places. In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens living in Mexico have been kidnapped and most of their cases remain unsolved.

One of Mexico’s most powerful DTOs is based in the state of Sinaloa. Since 2006, more homicides have occurred in the state’s capital city of Culiacan than in any other city in Mexico, with the exception of Ciudad Juarez. Furthermore, the city of Mazatlan has experienced a recent increase in violent crime, with more murders in the first quarter of 2010 than in all of 2009. U.S. citizens should defer unnecessary travel to Culiacan and exercise extreme caution when visiting the rest of the state.

The state of Michoacán is home to another of Mexico’s most dangerous DTOs, “La Familia”. In April 2010, the Secretary for Public Security for Michoacán was shot in a DTO ambush. Security incidents have also occurred in and around the State’s world famous butterfly sanctuaries. In 2008, a grenade attack on a public gathering in Morelia, the state capital, killed eight people. U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution when traveling in Michoacán, especially outside major tourist areas.

U.S. citizens should also exercise extreme caution when traveling in the northwestern part of the state of Guerrero, which likewise has a strong DTO presence. U.S. citizens should not take the dangerous, isolated road through Ciudad Altamirano to the beach resorts of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. The popular beach resort of Acapulco has been affected by narcotics-related violence. In April 2010, three innocent bystanders were killed in a shootout between Mexican police and DTO members during broad daylight in one of the city’s main tourist areas. Also that month, numerous incidents of narcotics-related violence occurred in the city of Cuernavaca, in the State of Morelos, a popular destination for American language students.

U.S. citizens traveling to towns and villages with large indigenous communities located predominantly but not exclusively in southern Mexico, should be aware that land disputes between residents and between residents and local authorities have led to violence. In April 2010, two members of a non-governmental aid organization, one of whom was a foreign citizen, were murdered near the village of San Juan Capola in Oaxaca.

Safety Recommendations

U.S. citizens who believe they are being targeted for kidnapping or other crimes should notify Mexican law enforcement officials and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City or the nearest U.S. consulate as soon as possible. Any U.S. visitor who suspects they are a target should consider returning to the United States immediately. U.S. citizens should be aware that many cases of violent crime are never resolved by Mexican law enforcement, and the U.S. government has no authority to investigate crimes committed in Mexico.

U.S. citizens should make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours, particularly the toll (“cuota”) roads, which generally are more secure. When warranted, the U.S. Embassy and consulates advise their employees as well as private U.S. citizens to avoid certain areas, abstain from driving on certain roads because of dangerous conditions or criminal activity, or recommend driving during daylight hours only. When this happens, the Embassy or the affected consulate will alert the local U.S. citizen Warden network and post the information on their respective websites, indicating the nature of the concern and the expected time period for which the restriction will remain in place.

U.S. citizen visitors are encouraged to stay in the well-known tourist areas. Travelers should leave their itinerary with a friend or family member not traveling with them, avoid traveling alone, and check with their cellular provider prior to departure to confirm that their cell phone is capable of roaming on GSM or 3G international networks. Cell phone coverage in isolated parts of Mexico, for example, the Copper Canyon, is spotty or non-existent.

Do not display expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items. Travelers to remote or isolated venues should be aware that they may be distant from appropriate medical, law enforcement, and consular services in an emergency situation.

U.S. citizens applying for passports or requesting other fee-based services from consulates or the Embassy are encouraged to make arrangements to pay for those services using a non-cash method. U.S. citizens should be alert for credit card fraud, especially outside major commercial establishments.

American employees of the U.S. Embassy are prohibited from hailing taxis on the street in Mexico City because of frequent robberies. American citizens are urged to only use taxis associated with the organized taxi stands (“sitios”) that are common throughout Mexico.

U.S. citizens should be alert to pickpockets and general street crime throughout Mexico, but especially in large cities. Between FY 2006 and FY 2009 the number of U.S. passports reported stolen in Mexico rose from 184 to 288.

Demonstrations and Large Public Gatherings

Demonstrations occur frequently throughout Mexico and usually are peaceful. However, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate to violence unexpectedly. Violent demonstrations have resulted in deaths, including that of an American citizen in Oaxaca in 2006. During demonstrations or law enforcement operations, U.S. citizens are advised to remain in their homes or hotels, avoid large crowds, and avoid the downtown and surrounding areas.

Demonstrators in Mexico may block traffic on roads, including major arteries, or take control of toll-booths on highways. U.S. citizens should avoid confrontations in such situations.

Since the timing and routes of scheduled marches and demonstrations are always subject to change, U.S. citizens should monitor local media sources for new developments and exercise extreme caution while within the vicinity of protests.

The Mexican Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners, and such actions may result in detention and/or deportation. U.S. citizens are therefore advised to avoid participating in demonstrations or other activities that might be deemed political by Mexican authorities. As is always the case in any large gathering, U.S. citizens should remain alert to their surroundings.

Further Information

U.S. citizens are urged to monitor local media for information about fast-breaking situations that could affect their security.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to review the U.S. Embassy’s Mexico Security Update. The update contains information about recent security incidents in Mexico that could affect the safety of the traveling public.

For more detailed information on staying safe in Mexico, please see the Mexico Country Specific Information. Information on security and travel to popular tourist destinations is also provided in the publication: “Spring Break in Mexico- Know Before You Go!!”

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s internet web site at http://travel.state.gov/ where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers from Mexico, a regular toll line at 001-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). American citizens traveling or residing overseas are encouraged to register with the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the State Department’s travel registration website at https://travelregistration.state.gov/.

For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, please contact the U.S. Embassy or the closest U.S. Consulate. The numbers provided below for the Embassy and Consulates are available around the clock. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. You may also contact the Embassy by e-mail at: ACSMexicoCity@state.gov The Embassy’s internet address is http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/.

Consulates (with consular districts):

Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua): Paseo de la Victoria 3650, tel. (011)(52)(656) 227-3000. http://ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/.

Guadalajara (Nayarit, Jalisco, Aguas Calientes, and Colima): Progreso 175, telephone (011)(52)(333) 268-2100. http://guadalajara.usconsulate.gov/.

Hermosillo (Sinaloa and the southern part of the state of Sonora): Avenida Monterrey 141, telephone (011)(52)(662) 289-3500. http://hermosillo.usconsulate.gov/.

Matamoros (the southern part of Tamaulipas with the exception of the city of Tampico): Avenida Primera 2002, telephone (011)(52)(868) 812-4402. http://matamoros.usconsulate.gov/.

Merida (Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo): Calle 60 no. 338-K x 29 y 31, Col. Alcala Martin, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico 97050, telephone (011)(52)(999) 942-5700 or 202-250-3711 (U.S. number). http://merida.usconsulate.gov/.

Monterrey (Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and the southern part of Coahuila): Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente, telephone (011)(52)(818) 047-3100. http://monterrey.usconsulate.gov/.

Nogales (the northern part of Sonora): Calle San Jose, Nogales, Sonora, telephone (011)(52)(631) 311-8150. http://nogales.usconsulate.gov/.

Nuevo Laredo (the northern part of Coahuila and the northwestern part of Tamaulipas): Calle Allende 3330, col. Jardin, telephone (011)(52)(867) 714-0512. http://nuevolaredo.usconsulate.gov/.

Tijuana (Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur): Tapachula 96, telephone (011)(52)(664) 622-7400. http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/service.html.

All other Mexican states, and the Federal District of Mexico City, are part of the Embassy’s consular district.

Consular Agencies:

Acapulco: Hotel Continental Emporio, Costera Miguel Aleman 121 – local 14, telephone (011)(52)(744) 484-0300 or (011)(52)(744) 469-0556.

Cabo San Lucas: Blvd. Marina local c-4, Plaza Nautica, col. Centro, telephone (011)(52)(624) 143-3566.

Cancún: Plaza Caracol two, second level, no. 320-323, Boulevard Kukulcan, km. 8.5, Zona Hotelera, telephone (011)(52)(998) 883-0272 or, 202-640-2511 (a U.S. number).

Ciudad Acuña: Closed until further notice.

Cozumel: Plaza Villa Mar en el Centro, Plaza Principal, (Parque Juárez between Melgar and 5th ave.) 2nd floor, locales #8 and 9, telephone (011)(52)(987) 872-4574 or, 202-459-4661 (a U.S. number).

Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo: Hotel Fontan, Blvd. Ixtapa, telephone (011)(52)(755) 553-2100.

Mazatlán: Playa Gaviotas #202, Zona Dorada, telephone (011)(52)(669) 916-5889.

Oaxaca: Macedonio Alcalá no. 407, interior 20, telephone (011)(52)(951) 514-3054, (011) (52)(951) 516-2853.

Piedras Negras: Abasolo #211, Zona Centro, Piedras Negras, Coah., Tel. (011)(52)(878) 782-5586.

Playa del Carmen: “The Palapa,” Calle 1 Sur, between Avenida 15 and Avenida 20, telephone (011)(52)(984) 873-0303 or 202-370-6708(a U.S. number).

Puerto Vallarta: Paradise Plaza, Paseo de los Cocoteros #1, Local #4, Interior #17, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, telephone (011)(52)(322) 222-0069.

Reynosa: Calle Monterrey #390, Esq. Sinaloa, Colonia Rodríguez, telephone: (011)(52)(899) 923 – 9331.

San Luis Potosí: Edificio “Las Terrazas”, Avenida Venustiano Carranza 2076-41, Col. Polanco, telephone: (011)(52)(444) 811-7802/7803.

San Miguel de Allende: Dr. Hernandez Macias #72, telephone (011)(52)(415) 152-2357 or (011)(52)(415) 152-0068.

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Hotels and Wi-Fi

May 6, 2010 on 11:15 am | In Wi-Fi and travel, international travel, personal travel | 1 Comment

A recent New York Times article indicated that some hotels now consider Wi-Fi availability as standard an offering as a bed.

Well, that seems debatable. First, many hotels seem to overcharge for Wi-Fi connectivity. Second, the bandwidth available at hotels is usually limited and service is slow. Finally, the Wi-Fi service in hotels is often spotty and not available everywhere you need it. If Wi-Fi at hotels were to become standard, the service would be free, available where you needed it (including public areas, patios, swimming pools and restaurants), and serviced by high-bandwidth connections.

While the article referenced above is U.S.-centric in its coverage of Wi-Fi, you may be wondering whether you will find Wi-Fi in your hotel in Europe. The answer is most likely yes, but if this is a critical issue for you, find out before you book your hotel. There may be a little sticker-shock when you look at the charges, as a 24-hour session usually costs in the range of €20, or slightly higher. While plans for using Wi-Fi only for a portion of a day are usually available, they are very high in respect to the daily plans (e.g. €8 for 2 hours or €5 for an hour (if available)).

In hotels in major metropolitan areas of China and Southeast Asia, you will find the daily rates for Wi-Fi from hotels to be around $25. The prices will be similar in the Australia and New Zealand.

During a recent trip to Vienna, we were stunned to see even higher rates for Wi-Fi at our hotel, but as we dug deeper, we realized that these rates were for business users who required higher speeds and the ability to send large files. In very small print at the bottom of the brochure, we discovered that there was an alternative for connecting, if you did not need high data volumes, but that the procedure for connecting to it was slightly different than described in the main brochure. Once we unlocked it, the service was fine and, best of all, free.

We have found the Wi-Fi connection speeds at hotels, in general, to be slow and subject to degradation, especially in the morning when the business travelers awaken and check their email. Highest speeds seem to be available in the mid-afternoon, late at night and very early in the morning.

Of course, there are other options for finding Wi-Fi and there are many free services available almost anywhere you travel. We have found that the free services generally are not accessible from hotels, but if you are willing to walk to a coffee shop or a public access point, you can get your work done there. Usually the public hotspots are slow, but in some areas the provisioning of the systems produces high transmission rates.

It is important to remember that the Wi-Fi connections at hotels, airports, Starbucks, and other publicly available hotspots are not secure. In other words, there is no guarantee that someone is not “sniffing” the packets sent to and from your laptop. What this means is that you should avoid sending any secure information, such as a credit card number, over these connections. In addition, if you need to supply a password for you email account in order to access it, be sure and change it periodically, so if your password was snagged, you can re-secure your account. Of course, it is always possible that they will snag your password and take control of your account, locking you out, so be as careful as you can when using public Wi-Fi.

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