Ask Harriet: Wifi and 3G reception in Spain hotels

Travel makes us feel connected to the world. But so do our handheld devices and electronic gadgets—some of us just can’t resist reading the U.S. news, even when we’re away. This month’s question is about Internet access on our Spain & Portugal in Depth vacation.

Q: Do most hotels on this trip have wi-fi? I know they don't have it on the bus. What is 3G reception like? We have all of our phrase books, historical guides, fiction for long bus rides, menu-masters, and even photographs on our hand-held devices.

—Noel Gilligan, 3-time traveler, Chicago, Illinois

A: This trip features first-class accommodations in line with American expectations (to read more, click here). Some feature wireless Internet in the rooms; depending on the hotel, access may be complimentary, or there may be a fee. As always, you should please note that for certain departures, similar accommodations than what’s on our website (hotels with differing wireless internet access) may be featured.

Because you’re in more urban areas of Spain and Portugal, including the capitals of each, 3G reception should be ideal, at least for most of the days on your tour. It’s a great idea to have your resources on hand-held devices—it’s a clever way to save space in your suitcases and carry-ons. But, when I travel, I always like to carry a backup (like a hard or soft-cover book for the plane, and a printed-out list of helpful Spanish and Portuguese phrases) just in case.

Letters to Harriet

To me, great vacations are a balance between planned learning and discovery, and time at leisure to soak in local culture and let the discoveries find you. So it’s wonderful to receive letters like this one from 11-time traveler Mary Bailer of Seal Beach, California, who wrote about such a balance on her Spain’s Cultural Capitals trip.

If you are the type of traveler who enjoys having time to relax and savor the ambiance, then this trip may be for you. By going to only three cities in 14 days, there is a chance to pursue your special interests; you can choose to participate in the days’ events or not. All three hotels were very nice and located in areas with lots of shops and restaurants, and in walking distance to museums, cathedrals, and other major attractions.

If you are a “foodie” you will find much to enjoy on this trip: tapas … the paella, the agua de Valencia (like a mimosa, only better), manchego cheese with quince paste, even the calamari sandwiches (delicious … who knew?). The provided meals were very good, the best I've had on any of my GCT trips.

A shout-out to our guide, Francisco Valle: this self-described “dark and sarcastic” Basque was the kindest, most caring, best-informed guide I have encountered.

If you are looking for an easy-going trip with many choices on how to enjoy your days, well … this is it!

Hi Mary,

Thanks so much for offering that advice for travelers considering a trip to Spain with us. I’m glad you enjoyed the country’s cultural and culinary riches. I’m a bit of a foodie myself, so I am excited to share an authentic paella recipe with you in our Global Kitchen section this month, if you’d like to try and re-create some of what you ate. As for your experiences, I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed our trip, and took some time on your own to explore what Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona have to offer. We always encourage you to make your own discoveries, because you have the power to enrich your own travel experiences (and perhaps you shared what you learned with your fellow travelers in Spain!).

Do you have questions for me about trips you’re taking or vacations you would like to go on with Grand Circle? Please email me at I look forward to sharing what you have to say!