The Hitch-Hackers Guide To The Planet
Beta version. Still awaiting images.
What a lot of people who read my stuff don't realise is that I actually do work for a
living. I do a lot of travelling around the world to different businesses and I have to be
Internet connected with the laptop at the same time. Originally, the first few times I
travelled I didn't have a clue and got caught short on a number of occasions: there was
(at the time) nothing on the 'Net to help me, and a few books (listed in the bibliography)
to help, most of which were close to ranking with a chocolate teapot.
Thus I have written this guide to assist travellers everywhere in using and abusing the
phone systems of the countries I have been privy to visiting, what to look out for, and
most importantly how to connect your laptop up to the various phone systems.
The Survival Kit
The basic survival kit of anyone wishing to use a modem on the road comprises of:
Other things which you might consider:
- A long lead, terminating at either end in RJ11 plugs
- A BT socket to RJ11 socket convertor
- An RJ11 female - RJ11 female connector
- A small screwdriver
- A short patch lead, with RJ11 plug at one end and crocodile clips at the other
- An RJ11 to RJ11 crossover convertor (USA -> UK)
- A double-adaptor, one RJ11 plug into two RJ11 sockets!
- A modem saver
You might not have heard of the modem saver. This is a natty little device about
the size of a fat fountain pen which will tell you if there's current on the line, whether
the current needs crossing over (we'll come to that later) and whether the high voltage on
the line will blow your modem to bits. All in all a useful gadget (available from
IBM as part number 73G5395).
- Acoustic coupler, for when you need to use a payphone
- A six-pack. This might take some time, so you'll need refreshment!
Why the fascination with RJ11? Well, it pays to have a standard connector to aim for -
RJ11 are common throughout the world as a standard for connecting to modems - and also
there is the added bonus that RJ11 connectors usually plug into the base of telephones so,
if you can't get to the phone socket you can still plug something into the line!
If you assemble the kit yourself from parts from, say,
Maplin Electronics then it won't cost you an
arm and a leg. If you purchase them from a specialist travel company such as
TeleAdapt, you get the whole bundle of
gubbins including books, CompuServe CD, etc.
The TeleAdapt German kit for instance set me back £39.99 at Gatwick Airport, an
equivalent kit put together from parts bought from Maplin would come to about
£15 - not a bad little saving!
As a point of note, I've included as an appendix popular part numbers of components you
may need to purchase.
Fun with Hotel Phone Sockets
In many hotels you'll find that there might not be a phone socket: this however is rarely
the case. Take the phone lead and follow it back to where it connects into the wall.
You'll find that the termination point falls into one of these main categories:
- Bare phone socket
This one's easy. All you do is get out your phone adaptor and plug it into the wall.
- Phone socket covered by a screw-in plate
Now's the time to take out your screwdriver! Unscrew the plate, unplug the phone, take
out your adapter and plug it in.
- Wall plate/Junction box
Screwdriver time again. Take the cover off the box and get out your crocodile clip
adaptor. Plug the Modem Saver into the end of the patch cable then start
clipping the clips onto the connector blocks (usually screws). As soon as you get a
green light then you're away!
- Hole in the Wall
These are the worst ones, especially if the phone is an old rotary-dial phone or
similar which hasn't got a connector actually at the handset end. It usually means
that you're going to have to (a) actually open up the telephone and get the croc clips
out, or (b) use an acoustic coupler! Having said that, if you're in an establishment
which still has this sort of thing then the line will be so bad that you won't be able
to get a decent connection anyway, so it's time to resort to the cellmodem.
This section includes country-specific information regarding telecommunications and
getting online. I would appreciate if you could inform me of any inaccurate information!
Contact the Author
You can get in touch with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: All the info given here is incomplete, there's always something
missing. This is basically to cover our own backs, but for someone with a bit of sense it
shouldn't be too hard to fill in the blanks. The authors of this page and the carriers do not
take any responsibility whatsoever for any action you may carry out as a result of you
reading or using this information. Any documentation provided is given for research purposes