Caravanning and RVing in Australia
Communications on the Road
I often get asked questions about communication while travelling so I thought I'd put together a page of
Frequently Asked Questions.

How can you access the Internet while travelling?

There are a number of ways to connect to the Internet and the most convenient is to connect a laptop computer or handheld device like Palm to the net wirelessly.
This can be with a cdma device called a MiniMax or now with a Turbo Modem that works with PCs and Macs, a modem card that can be used with a PC or through a 'WiFi Hotspot'. Of course since Telstra introduced NextG and modems to suit, things have changed for the better and access has improved and speeds have increased. 
With 24 month plans the device comes free but if you want to use a casual or cheaper plan you will need to purchase the device first.

There are wifi hotspots at selected McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. and increasingly at caravan parks. Your laptop would need a wireless card to access these. Access to some hotspots is free and the others have a charge.

If you don't use a laptop you can access the net for a small charge at libraries, internet cafes and kiosks, and in some caravan parks. Some of these have facilities for plugging in a laptop and using it through their connection.
WAP enabled mobile phones can be used for internet communication but unless it's for very limited use it is very expensive. They can also be used as a modem to connect your laptop to the net.

The cheapest way to send and recieve email is through a device called Pocketmail. This little device allows you to send and recieve text messages from a normal phone at no cost or from a mobile at the usual mobile rates. You can't send data or photographs or access the net but it's a useful way of keeping in touch with family and friends.

What about mail?
We have found that having all our mail sent to us to a predetermined Post Office weekly or at other intervals in an Express Mail Envelope is the most reliable method. You know that all the mail has arrived this way with no chance of missing any that has been redirected. Of course if you are going to be in one place for an extended period you can use redirection - it's free for pensioners.
Mail moves during weekends so in most cases Express Mail posted on Friday will arrive on Monday.
If you don't have anyone to forward mail there are several commercial mail forwarding agencies. Some are listed here:

How good is CD Radio?
The old AM CB raadios have gone out of fashion and although useful for people travelling in convoy with other RVs is not used much at all these days.
UHF has taken over and is used almost universally by truckies. Don't hog their channel unless you want to talk to a particular driver. Most truckies appreciate RV owners letting them know they aware of the truck behind them and will assist if the truckie wants to overtake.
Caravanners these days seem to favour Channel 18 for their communications and many have stickers on the back of the van with their name and the channel they are on so other users can contact them if need be.
UHF has limited range that is affected by the trees and hills you are travelling through. It is useful if you have a breakdown or other problem. Most truckies will relay a message if you are in trouble.

Mobile Phones?
You can actually talk with one of these things in between playing games, getting stock market reports or taking pictures. Once away from population centres they become of limited use - even cdma coverage is poor or non-existant in many country areas. GSM - the normal mobile system - is even more limited and if you need to be in constant reach of phone access you would have to invest in a satellite phone or HF radio. The new NextG system gives better coverage and is taking over completely when CDMA is phased out
An external antenna can increase the range of CDMA and GSM and NextG phones and in car kits usually incorporate an external antenna. We use one on the roof of our van and bring the cable in through a window.

HF Radio?
These are a bit bulky and still quite expensive. They are more suited to 4x4 vehicles and do an excellent job. They can be used to contact other users without charge and can be patched to the telephone network for emergencies.

Satellite Phones?
These are the ultimate if you want to stay in contact at all times.The handheld ones are reasonably compact and locking on to satellites is quite easy. The price has come down in recent years although calls are still quite expensive. Some are dual band and only go to the satellite when out of range of the cdma network. I'm not sure about the others but Vodafone has these:

I'm sure I could write a lot more on this subject  but this page plus the links should tell you what you want to know. If not the link below will let you ask me direct.


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