If you're backpacking Australia or visiting Oz on the working holiday visa, you may be wondering if you should bring your laptop.
After carefully considering the pros and cons, I decided to bring mine with me and it was the best decision I ever made. For me, my computer offered freedom, and I do not know what I would have done without it. But everyone is different, so I'll give you a few things to consider before bringing it with you:
1. Most hostels provide computers with Internet access, but they are often expensive and / or slow. If you plan on doing a lot of e-mailing and chatting, keeping up with friends on Facebook, uploading photos and updating your blog, this can get costly. Outside of libraries (and many of those require that you have a card), you will have a difficult time finding computers with free Internet access.
2. In most major cities you can find cafés or wi-fi hotspots that offer free or cheap Internet access – but only if you have a laptop with you. But be warned, it's not as easy to find free wi-fi in Australia as it is in the states and many places in Europe. You may have to ask around or do some research online. For example, in Melbourne, you can find free wireless internet in Federation Square. The library and McDonald's is another reliable place to find free wi-fi in many cities. The hostels do not want to advertise this when they can charge you for internet access, so do not expect much help from the staff. In fact, contrary to logical reasoning, some hostels charge more for wireless internet.
3. Even if you have to pay for wi-fi, if you have a laptop with you, you can cut your costs by working offline. For example, you can write all of your e-mails before you go online, then when you log on, cut and paste, and voila! This saved me a lot of money. Do the same with photos by editing them, writing captions and downsizing them before going online to upload them. If you depend on a hostel computer, you can eat up a lot of time and money just sitting there thinking of the right thing to write.
4. A laptop comes in handy for storing documents (eg resumes, CVs), photos and reference materials.
5. A laptop can serve as your personal entertainment center. In my opinion, this is the best part about having one with you while backpacking Australia. When you're always living with roommates, sometimes you need to have a private time, but that's difficult in a hostel. If you have a computer, you can simply tune out by putting in your headphones and popping in a DVD. It was such a luxury to be able to do this. Many hostels will let you borrow DVDs from their collection. You'll also find it easy to borrow or trade movies with fellow backpackers at the hostel or rent them for free at the library. It also comes in handy when you need to charge your iPod, add songs or change playlists.
And my only arguments against bringing a laptop to Australia:
6. Laptops are a high-theft item. Before you book at a hostel, ask if they have lockers in the room. If they do not have lockers, ask them if they have a safe where you can store valuables. If you are going on a trip where you will not be bringing your computer with you, you need to find a safe place to store it. For example, when I went to New Zealand, I kept mine with friends who were renting a house in Melbourne.
7. Laptops are easy to damage. As you're traveling around, it's easy to drop a bag or have a drunk roommate spill beer on your valuable computer.
I never regretted my decision to bring my laptop with me to Australia, but it is a personal decision. If you are going to constantly worry about having your computer stolen or damaged it, you may be better off leaving it at home. But there are wonderful perks to bringing one with you while backpacking Australia – you can save money on Internet costs, work on documents / e-mails at your leisure and watch movies whenever you feel like it.