Over at Ratty’s Pepper’s Blog he explains the joys and expense of two things very near and dear to me. Hotel WiFi and breakfast. The euro/dollar rate isn’t too bad but the GBP/dollar rate is just over 2 bucks counting exchange fees. We’re getting creamed. Old roadie tip for getting cash on tour, use your ATM card to get the best rate and try to take out larger increments for reduced fees. On withdrawls I get the bank rate, plus a US$5 non bank ATM fee. What that means, is depending on the exchange place, for example the swanky places jazz singer usually stays, I can save US$30-40 on a couple hundred euro exchange. It’s not the same with my plastic accounts as I get dinged an exchange fee on the transaction, for example putting room service and Spanktravision on the ol’ Visa card. The trick to getting the cash is being able to estimate how much you’ll need for the duration of the stay. For short runs sometimes it is better to plastic it, but for longer durations having a few hundred euros, in a place like say, Amsterdam, can be a great asset.
Another roadie tip that the arena rock crowd usually don’t do are included breakfasts at the hotel. Jazz singer’s people make sure our rooms are booked with breakfast included, which is a pretty common thing over there. I don’t see that so much on the rock tours. Granted, a tour that size will take 20-30 rooms (or more) and an extra 20 euros or so per room for the breakfast starts to add up whereas with jazz singer we only get about ten rooms and a suite for dude. There’s dude and five musos, Jose the tour manager, the real estate mogul that’s our FOH dude, moi, Ghetto Einstein the backliner and dude’s dude Kaiyo, whom you met in a previous post. The arena rock kids typcially have tour catering and load in early in the morning and us flabby middle aged men of jazz usually don’t turn up until about noon. It takes that long for the Ben Gay and Aleve to kick in so we can start to become ambulatory.
One thing I wanted to try but was too tired on the way over was the WiFi on the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. It’s about US$40 for the duration of the flight and unless you sit in biz or 1st class you likely won’t have any seat power. I had seat power and a desire to use it but was too damn tired. I figured I’d try it on the way back. One schisim on that thought, they screwed the pooch on my return flight and I ended up with a 20 hour travel day in coach, without use of the lounge during layovers. I was pretty pissed but kept it to myself. I was more pissed when they tanked the 30k or so miles we’d logged that month and didn’t credit them to my account. It’s likely to be several weeks of grief and agony trying to get those back. If I can at all. Back to the spendy Internet access.
WiFi in Europe is very prevalent, but the Europeans don’t seem to have the penis factor thing we do here in the States with showing off our computers. They are much more low key about it and as one of my pals from that side of the pond had said, they were more concerned with laptop theft and used mobile phones for much of the comunication. Between US$30 and US$40 for a 24 hour period is pretty much the standard over there. Swisscom offers WiFi in many of the hotels and most of the airports and is likely the most expensive, slowest service of the bunch. After about a 100 euros worth of time over a bout a week, they sent me a link to a customer satisfaction form where I was able to comment that for those prices, it should be at least as fast as my cable service at home. When it worked at all. Never heard back from them. One bright spot in Spain was at the Tryp hotel chain. They had a deal for 8 euros were you got 24 hours of access, but were able to log off and log on and the username:password was good throughout the hotel chain. The only bummer was that if you were idle for more than a couple of minutes (writing a blog post, posting to the LAB, didn’t change to the next pic in the slideshow, etc) it logged you out and you had to go back through a three page log in process. I was able to fix that by opening a terminal window and pinging back here to the mothership. I left the last week in Spain with about 1000 mins left on that account. Moral of the story, WiFi over there is expensive if you have to buy it. Some do offer it gratis, but that’s not usually the case. Expect to change your surfing habits or spend a lot of dough.
Roaming data is also pretty expensive. Roaming mobile back to the States isn’t too bad, about a buck a minute with the right plan in the right place. OTOH, each of those moblog posts cost about US$3. International communication while better than it has been, is still expensive. Enter Skype. I’ve followed it for a while but still don’t have an account. I think I was the only one out of the touring party of 11 (plus two or three drivers and whatever promoter rep we had with us). The tour production ran from a combination of Skype and mobile phones and email. The Skpe is cheap, but the broadband costs offset it though they need those to be online to get email. Everyone (but me) was using it to call back to the States.
Touring overseas lends itself to some things that that you don’t see over here but if you’re smart about it, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg, just most of an arm.