The need for wifi
Without a connection to the world wide web, we are useless. The internet is not only essential for planning while the road, keeping in contact with family/friends, but most importantly, it’s how we make our living. Missing an email even for a few hours can lead to a missed project. Not having enough bandwidth to upload a file can lead to some unhappy clients. And if the internet cuts out while you are on a potential client call, it’s doomed. We need wifi.
It is essential that we always remain connected. We rarely go off the grid for more than a day. We usually buy SIM cards the moment we get to a new country, but supplement with using wifi at our apartments, cafes, and restaurants.
The current state of affairs
There were rumors about the terrible wifi situation in Australia (which we can attest is pretty horrendous) but we didn’t know what to expect when we arrived in NZ. As we would be spending a month in a campervan, our usual set up of wifi at the apartment was out. We knew that we would need a lot of pit stops at cafes/restaurants and likely need to top up our SIM cards a few times.
But what we found is that most establishments didn’t offer wifi, and if they did it was super slow AND you had to pay ridiculous amounts if you wanted to use it for more than 15 minutes/100mbs. It was terrible. On top of that, many of our campsites had no cell service, so even if we wanted to chew through our data plans, we couldn’t. It is great to get off the grid sometimes but working and camping don’t really go hand in hand. The point is to get away from it all. But being full-time digital nomads, we don’t have the luxury of going of the grid unless we notify our clients and “take a vacation” so to speak. We expected the middle of no-where campsites to have unreliable service, and likely no wifi, but were very surprised by the lack of good wifi in most of the major cities like Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
The amazing solution to most of this was New Zealand’s public library system. Almost every town has a library with reliable wifi. It’s nothing fast but at least its steady and unlimited. We spent countless hours at the libraries, enjoying the AC, free power, and the lovely lovely wifi. We have some very funny stories from these studious locations. My favorite being that one time Derek was pretty convinced there was a live chicken inside the library for a good half hour due to the amount of clucking and crowing he heard, only to discover it was a human making the most realistic noises ever. This person kept it up at odd intervals for the entire 3 hours we were at the library. It took all I had to not dissolve into fits of giggles every time it happened.
Dunedin: The City Best City for Digital Nomads
Dunedin was actually a great place to stop and work. There has been a push to make the city a haven for start-ups by attracting them with gigabit speed. They’ve been working on a project called Gig City to bring hi-speed fiber to consumers. The city has an amazing hi-speed network and was blazing fast at the Dunedin Library. We were able to finally catch up on some serious backups to the cloud. It seems New Zealand is aware of their connectivity problem but I wouldn’t have expected Dunedin to lead the charge. It was a nice surprise and was a really nice town. I wish we had more time to visit the Speights brewery while we were there.
The best SIM card in New Zealand
The other saving grace was that we had purchased Spark SIM cards. Spark gives it’s customers an extra gig of data every day, one just needs to locate a spark hotspot. These are found in the form of bright pink payphone booths in most cities/towns. Spark even has app that directs you where to find them (that is mostly accurate).