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You also know that the more you pay for your hotel room, the less likely your internet connection is to be free. And the repeat offenders who make our naughty list year after year are the luxury brands like the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carltons. But there might be an exception to that crappy rule.
When you turn up to stay at the Grand Hotel Wien in Vienna, you'll likely be thinking along the lines of "old elegance" and "grand luxury" rather than "high technology" Ė but you might be pleasantly surprised.
This grand old dame of a hotel has just got itself hooked up to a WiFi network system which claims to be one of the best. (Well, actually it claims to be the best, but we think that's hard to prove). The NonStop Wireless Networking, a Belden brand, has been installed in 140 different access points within the hotel Ė we assume that means that most or all of the guest rooms now have WiFi. The system has actually been extended to the hotel across the road, The Ring, which is owned by the same company.
As we all know, the hotel world comes stocked with contradictions. Case in point: In the decidedly non-tourist town of Zacapa, Guatemala, exists a bare-bones bedpost called Hotel Torre Fuerte, where we stayed recently.
A few, uh, highlights: icy cold water spouting from the shower; a golf-ball-size hole on one wall (leading to lord only knows where!); a thin mattress dressed in thinner sheets. Oh yeah, and free wireless Internet.
Before we comment on the absurdity of a place that lacks hot water but provides the common courtesy of free WiFi, we should mention that Torre Fuerte must be doing pretty well, because theyíre building a new addition (rumored to have hot water!). But like many hotels under construction, thatís still in the works ó like, no roof or walls on half the building in the works, with laborers hammering sun-up to sundown.
So letís recap. We have a hotel thatís part-finished, part cinder block, with cold water (seriously, did we mention how cold the showers were?!). Double rooms cost roughly $23. AND THEY STILL OFFERED FREE WIFI. Though we didnít have our laptops with us ó so we canít give a decent appraisal on the quality of the service ó we can affirm that we spied other guests watching videos on YouTube without hiccups.
If thatís not the best incentive for all hotels to offer free WiFi, we donít know what is. Seriously, people, even third-world Guatemala has you beat.
While we still think its Fd up that a treehouse in the Caribbean can offer wireless internet and a Ritz-Carlton or a Four Seasons in New York can't, overall wireless internet access is improving in hotels.
According to a survey done by the American Hotel & Lodging Association of 10,000 US hotels:
91 percent of responding properties now offer wireless Internet access, up from 35 percent in 2004.
Even better news, only 16 percent of the hotels survyed charge for wireless access which is down six percent from 2004. Meaning there are more places for us travelers to get free WiFi. Holla'!
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So you want free WiFi when you stay in a luxury hotel huh? Good luck! Send us a post card via FedEx overnight instead, it's sooo much cheaper than paying to send an email from your room. Unless you're staying at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris that is.
If you've been following our Best & Worst Wi-Fi Hotel Stories from the past few weeks, the overwhelming consensus is any hotel that costs more than $150 a night charges for WiFi, whereas any hotel UNDER $150 usually throws it in for nothing.
Hey, those luxury hotels do give you Premium internet access for the $24.95 you pay - it lets you feel like you're worth a million bucks while you browse the internet... Ok, maybe not - you just feel like you were robbed.
But! If you stay at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris--a six-star hotel which has been rated as the nicest and most exclusive hotel in the world--they'll throw in free WiFi during your stay! Thats free WiFi in the lobby, in your room, in the ballroom, in the bar, and in the bathroom!
Once again, HotelChatter contributing editor Tim Leffel is moving around Mexico, checking out the hotel scene in the colonial heartland. If you have a question about where to stay in Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende, hit us on the tipline, or just comment below, and we will do our best to get you some sort of answer. Enjoy.
Until two years ago, there was only one luxury hotel in Guanajuato, Mexico. (More on that later.) Then Villa Maria Cristina came along a few blocks away on the town's swankiest street and raised the bar a few notches. This member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World is an impressive space that manages to keep the old world charm elements while adding steam showers, whirlpool tubs, and phones from Bang & Olufsen.
Be prepared to climb a lot of stairs in this multi-level inn with various courtyards and terraces. The formal restaurant and pocket bar are on the second floor. The spa and indoor pool are down a level and more rooms are one floor up, where there is a Jacuzzi for four with a view. Only a few of the guest rooms have a killer view though: most face toward the courtyards.
Room sizes range from spacious standards with a dressing area to master suites with plenty or room for stretching out, at rates running from $180 to $390. This includes taxes, continental breakfast, and--the real shocker for the top luxury hotel in town--free WiFi! Check out the video tour here to get a view of the interior.
Hyatt has been on a roll converting the old Amerisuites brand it bought into swankier new Hyatt Place hotels. Economic downturn be damned--they're going on a building binge as well. The company announced last week that they now have 200 locations open or in development.
You can read where all the new locations are going to be in the press release, but here's a look at a few of them to get a feel. If there's not one in a suburban office park near you, it's probably in the works.
* Buffalo Grove, IL
* Richmond Heights, MO
* Middleton, WI
* Austin Airport, TX
* Ewing, NJ
* Richmond Airport, VA
* Houston Medical Center, TX
There are a few urban locations though, including Manhattan and Salt Lake City. There's a lot to like about these Hyatt Place hotels, including free WiFi throughout, 42-inch flat panel TVs with 11 high-definition channels, DIRECTV Sports, and a cool connector that allows you to connect your laptop to the TV and watch DVDs or video you've stored.
We're not sure why the company decided to include this Hyatt Place rendering in their press release though. First, why not picture one that's already open? Maybe even offer up a video tour? Second, is it just us or does this look like pretty much every other boxy mid-range hotel lining the nation's interstate highways and strip mall zones?
It took the developers of Hotel Indigo Nashville a while to transform a blocky concrete office building into a hotel with style, but the wait was worth it. We got to spend the night in room 710 (see the video tour here), spreading out in a city view room with plenty of attractive lighting, a hip living room with nods to the 1950s, and free WiFi that actually worked in multiple locations.
But first, what does it look like? Find out after the jump.
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London hotels are some of the worst offenders when it comes to internet access, charging upwards of £18.50 ($37) a day (at the Dorchester) to surf the web.
So we find this bit of news from the Quality Crown Hotels brand encouraging:
Guests can now enjoy complimentary W-iFi internet access at all Quality Crown Hotels -- Hyde Park, Paddington and Kensington -- central London. As a response to guests' demands, unlimited wireless broadband internet access is now available for FREE in all public areas, meeting rooms and bedrooms.
Quality Crowns are four-star hotels with locations in Kensington, Hyde Park and Paddington. Most guests love the central locations but complain about the small rooms (although they are clean). So working in your room with your computer could be a tight fit.
Have your own International Hotel WiFi story to share? Do it here.
While holed up at the Peabody Little Rock, we scooted out to a few other hotels in town to see how they stacked up. It's mostly a collection of chain hotels apart from the circa-1913 Legacy Hotel. (When it was built, rooms were $2 and meals were 50 cents--which shows how much cheaper food has gotten.)
One interesting trend stood out, however: nobody charges extra for Internet access. You would think a tech center like Austin or San Jose would manage this, but no, it's Little Rock Arkansas. We mentioned earlier that the best hotel in town--the Peabody--has free wired access in the rooms and free wireless in the lobby, with no annoying registration process. And you would expect to find free WiFi at the likes of Holiday Inn Select. What's impressive here is that you can also log in with no extra charges at the Doubletree Little Rock and the Hilton Little Rock. And yes, WiFi is gratis at the Legacy Hotel too (as is parking--a big plus).
Maybe none of these hotels will make a magazine "hot list" or win any design awards, but if you're traveling because you are on business, Little Rock gets a big thumbs up.
[photo Rod Murrow]
The hype machine at the new James Hotel in Chicago has been in overdrive since well before the place opened (more on that later), but we like the Easter week deal they're running for $169 a night. You have to book it through TravelZoo though or call the James up and use the code TZOOM.
The other option is to spring for one of their package deals, which are also attractive. We especially like the DINE deal, which throws in a tasting menu dinner, two classic cocktails, and breakfast. Their webmaster is not too on the ball though with the prices and expirations, so you may want to call them to sort it out.
Hopefully they can still afford a good staff after spending so much on publicity. The TravelZoo description is all giddy with this praise: "Since it opened in March 2006, the James has been featured in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, GQ, Condé Nast Traveler and was recently named to Travel + Leisure's 'It List' as one of the world's 15 coolest new hotels."
Call us cynical, but considering Travel + Leisure has a four to six-month lead time on stories, somebody was hyping this as one of the world's coolest hotels before anyone from the magazine had even stepped inside--much less slept there. (If you're opening a new hip hotel anytime soon, you may want to get in touch with Ms. Puck or Ms. Schnabel for a shot of that magic.)
We especially like the amenities at the James though: 42-inch plasma-screen televisions, complimentary wi-fi and stereos with an iPod dock.
The weather at this time of year can be a crap shoot in Chicago, but flying to Rome to visit the Vatican can be dicey too. For $169 a night, lock it down and pray for sunshine.
· James Hotel Chicago reviews [TripAdvisor]
Duncan Davidson has run down the gamut of hotel WiFi and there's no surprise here: "Spendy" hotels charge you too much for WiFi that doesn't work, while cheap motels manage to get free WiFi in their rooms without a problem.
He doesn't say anything that we haven't already said, but maybe you will listen to one of your peers more than us:
I've been noticing a trend lately when it comes to hotel Internet access. The spendy hotels let you on to their network after negotiating a captive portal and fleecing you for $10-$15. Sometimes more, if you're staying at a posh place. And once you're on, there's always something that doesn't work right through the captive portal. That is, if you get on....
On the other hand, the mid-tier hotels have figured out that free Internet is as much a selling point as having lights, telephone, and HBO. It's free, in cost at least....
Tonight, I'm at a cheap motel. It's clean. And the heater is just starting to do it's magic. But boy howdy, I've got free WiFi and it's simple. I opened up my laptop and boom, I'm on. No captive portal. No port redirection. Zippo.