Staying connected abroad has a breadth of benefits that can make our time away much smoother and more enjoyable, especially when we are travelling on business. But access to the internet isn’t always the easiest or cheapest to get in some global destinations.
New research from TravelSim, a global alternative roaming service, ranking the top 20 most visited destinations in the world against a series of metrics to show which cities allow people to stay connected with minimal fuss has found that Paris is the best connected destination.
The cities were measured by the number of free Wi-Fi hotspots per square kilometre, the number of airports with free Wi-Fi, the number of hotels and B&B’s with free Wi-Fi per square kilometre, the average internet speed and the average cost per MB of data.
“It’s become increasingly important to stay connected whilst travelling for both leisure and business and with this comes the demand for internet speeds to be as quick as possible. With 95 million photos posted daily on Instagram alone, daily habits like posting on social media are taken for granted when internet speeds are not a concern,” says Helen Lauren, head of marketing and online sales at TravelSim.
Thanks to leading the way with the highest number of Wi-Fi hotspots per square kilometre at 3,547, which is over triple that available in Seoul in South Korea, Paris took the overall top spot by some distance with a connected city ranking of 69, scoring 50% more than its closest rival, Pattaya on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast.
The French capital was also well represented in terms of accommodation options providing complimentary Wi-Fi at 1,847 hotels and B&Bs, second only per square kilometre to Pattaya. It was ranked alongside fellow European destinations as cheapest for data usage, but slipped behind other popular destinations such as London and New York in the airport Wi-Fi access section due to their multiple gateways.
It was only in the average internet speed that it really fell behind others in the rankings, but its 24mbps speed was still just over the world average of 22.95mbps, according to the data. This was behind European rivals such as Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, and a long way behind the Asian destinations of Hong Kong and Singapore where speeds of 43mbps and 81mbps were recorded, respectively.
Elsewhere, Pattaya, scoring 48 out of 100, was ranked second with 33,796 free Wi-Fi hotspots; 1,522 per square kilometre, more than double that of Phuket, it’s Asian neighbour. Barcelona, with a score of 46, was ranked third thanks to 177,583 free Wi-Fi hotspots (1,743 per square kilometre), 1,130 hotels and B&B’s with free Wi-Fi and complimentary access at its airport.
New York with a massive 1.16 million Wi-Fi hotspots was ranked fourth, Singapore fifth, while Milan, Hong Kong, Seoul, Osaka and Palma de Mallorca made up the rest of the top ten. London is notable for its absence from the top positions, falling just outside the top ten in 11th position.
Based on the ranking criteria, in comparison with the leaders the UK capital is let down by its accessibility. Although it has over 705,000 free WiFi hotspots, these are spread over a wider area and mean just 450 per square kilometre. Similarly, there are just 1.09 hotels and B&Bs with free WiFi per square kilometre. Like its European counterparts it does perform well in terms of the cost of data once online, while its mega-city status and multiple airport arrival points, with complimentary WiFi are positives.
“London is both a tourist and business hub for people across the globe, making it critical to be a well connected destination for visitors. Ranking 11th, London needs to continue looking at its European neighbours to improve its connectivity. Cities such as Paris, Barcelona and Milan, all rank higher in the results,” explains Ms Lauren.
The TravelSim research also highlights some other insights, notably which of most visited destinations is the least connected. It is no surprise that Mecca, Saudi Arabia is ranked the lowest, but more surprisingly Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the best connected cities in the world by international air service, is among the world’s worst cities for staying connected online.
The research shows Dubai charges the highest price for one MB of data at GBP4.44 and has an average internet speed of just 8 mpbs. That’s twice as slow as the likes of London, three times slower than Paris, and over 10 times slower than Singapore. Antalya and Istanbul, both in Turkey, and the latter a city dubbed as home to another megahub, scored low in the index, with Istanbul’s internet speed dropping to 7 mbps. Antalya, Turkey has the least number of free Wi-Fi hotspots with only 7,129 across the city, and only five per square kilometre.
We can expect internet speeds to improve around the world through the development of more secure networks. TravelSim’s Helen Lauren believes that access to the internet and the cost of usage will be an increasing factor in travel decision-making, especially among younger generations. As accessing the internet when abroad becomes a bigger priority for travellers, she says “it is important that major cities across the world ensure it is easily available to use”.
“With the rise of people using mobile data abroad, due to its convenience and security benefits, the cost of 1MB is becoming an important factor for travellers when considering their next destination,” she notes.